Back when I was in college I worked at a local department store and got to do the in store announcements promoting sale items for the week. I loved it, and ever since have had a fascination with voice over work. I have a great respect for voice over artists, so I was excited to be introduced to Nicole Fazio, who not only is a successful VO herself, but teaches others as well. While you may not recognize her name or face, you’re sure to recognize her voice from her national commercials for cars, beauty products, and more.
Tamara Woods is a Pennsylvania-based stage and film actress. She’s also one of the many volunteers for The Narrow Way Film Festival, and I was hoping to get to meet her last weekend, but our paths didn’t quite cross. Tamara is a fascinating young woman using her artistic gifts wherever God calls her including a US military base in Kuwait.
We were blessed to have Juli Tapken play the leading role of Rachel in Providence. She truly brought to life Rachel’s struggles as a single woman dealing with work, dating, and her relationship with her mother. She’s transparent and real and her compassionate and sensitive spirit that shows up on screen is equally evident behind the scenes when the cameras aren’t rolling.
Amelia Mann is a high school teen who divides her time between school, dance, and film acting. Her film credits include Flowers for Fannie, Season of Miracles, The Good Book, and The Gospel Writers’ Autographs.
What was your first film role? The first film I did was Calling all Zeros.
What faith-based films have you been involved in? The faith based films I have done have been Flowers for Fannie, Season of Miracles, The Good Book, and The Gospel Writer’s Autographs.
What was it like playing a teen mom in The Good Book? Playing a teen mom was really hard because it brought back many memories about what I was told about my being adopted. I really felt I did connect with the role, although my birth mom was not a teen, but I know what it is like to be adopted to a good family that loves you and cares what happens to you and tries to give you a good life.
What is your favorite aspect of film acting? What I like about film acting is that you can be many different characters and have many different dialogues and scenes. Also, at times we get to travel to other locations.
What would be your dream acting role? My dream role would be getting to be the voice of Winnie the Pooh, because if you really know me, you know I love my Pooh Bear and still sleep with him at night.
What do you do when you’re not acting? When I am not acting, I am in dance classes. I dance 4 nights a week. I am in dance troupe, and Dance Company. I also am an assistant teacher in a little ballet class at my studio.
What are your plans for the future? I plan on going to WKU and majoring in Dance and minor in Theatre/Acting. I hope it is more acting/film but don’t know if they do anything other than musical theatre there. I want to improve my acting and dancing.
Anything else? I hope you write many more movies that we have a chance to do because I really enjoyed working with you.
Apolonia Davalos is an actress who is equally comfortable on stage or in front of a camera. Her formal training includes the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and the Apprentice Program at The Barrow Group Theatre Company (TBG) in NYC. She plays lead role Marion in The Good Book movie.
When did you first discover acting?
I was nine years old. I attended my older sister’s high school production of The King and I and knew there and then I wanted to be an actress. The jovial music, colorful costumes, and acrobatic dancing invigorated and enlivened my soul with the spirit of revelation. My career goals became so clear to me at such a young age and God’s grace of such clarity continues to be a blessing!
What was your first acting role?
Professionally, my first acting role was the lead character of Beatrice in the original faith based comedy Sisters of the Church produced by the Afrikan Women’s Repertory Theatre. This production was particularly exciting because my very first show premiered in Times Square; the heart of the Big Apple. The rehearsal process and debut seemed to go by so fast, corroborating NYC’s fast-paced reputation that all residents are forced to embrace. It was an eye-opening and much learned opportunity in truly experiencing theater in the real-world versus a collegiate production. A blessing indeed!
How have you trained as an actress?
My formal training as an actress commences from the stage and film conservatory the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and the Apprentice Program at The Barrow Group Theatre Company (TBG) in NYC. My craft today, more significantly, stems from the roots of momentous lessons inspired by talented fellow thespians. To name a few, they are: Lee Brock and Seth Barrish (Artistic Directors of TBG), Sheila Head, Kristine Sutherland, James Rebhorn, Joseph Cullinane (Choreographer and Actor), Ray Virta, and Denice Hicks (Artistic Director of The Nashville Shakespeare Festival). Experience working alongside dedicated actors is the best education and I apply distinct methods motivated by and defined for each specific role. My consistent tool is classic textual/script analysis. It’s my priority to research and pinpoint (especially for film when scenes are not shot in chronological order) the arc of the character in relation to the entire story. Then, for each scene I check in and ask myself, “Am I being true to the story?” TBG has helped me the most in this endeavor with an approach that “acting is easy”. Once you do all the work, let it all go and just BE; truly LIVE within the moment. My best acting bits are sparked by genuine surprise (in character) of my actions and the actions of the individuals I’m engaging with. Acting is a team sport and LISTENING is the key skill. Imperfect and unpredictable, in real life as human beings we cannot plan our physical or emotional immediate reactions towards people, opinions, and events. So why try to do that in a scene? However, what we can know is thyself!
Tell us some of the highlights of your theater acting.
Most recently, my theatrical career highlight was starring in the role of TITANIA in The Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s 2013 summer production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Centennial Park. We performed for over 15,000 Shakespeareans (my term for all who attended). We did a whole lot more than just act. Our cast interacted with the audience and reportedly enriched the lives of the whole community with joy, laughter, dance, and classical culture. Our biggest HONOR was learning how our patrons loved and reveled in their experience so much, that they kept returning again and again to relive and unveil the “Midsummer” magic with more of their friends and family. Children were dressing up as fairies and families were packing “fairy-food” to feed Puck, Oberon, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed, Kudzu, and Cicada. I surprisingly discovered how the magic extended beyond the park when I met Julie Higginbotham and her daughter Bella at a workshop led by Jenn Gotzon for The Good Book movie in Springfield, TN. Bella drew me a most colorful picture of the Fairy Queen that I treasure and still hang on my fridge today. Additional theater highlights include: Off-Broadway – Looking for Billy Haines (Theatre Row); Off Off-Broadway – Sisters of the Church (Theatre 54), Normalcy Has Been Restored (TBG Arts Center); Regional – Metamorphoses (Boston Center for the Arts), The Crucible (Salem Theatre Company); to name a few.
How does theater acting compare with film acting?
Theater and film acting definitely exercise two different acting muscles. One of the biggest differences is the process for how the performing artist develops his/her character and the time that is spent with your co-stars. In theater, thespians have the collaborative opportunity to develop their character opposite their peers over time and under the tutelage of the Director prior to the premiere of the production. The character and the portraying individual have the rewarding gift of extended time to develop an unbreakable bond between oneself and his/her fellow actor. In film, you may be introduced to your counterpart for the first time on the very first day of shooting. In which case, a lot of the preparation for the character and scene work is developed privately; and working independently requires a lot more discipline. Film and theater require their own unique demands of the professional but I thoroughly enjoy the process and performing in both.
What faith-based films have you been involved in?
The Good Book is my debut ‘faith-based’ film performance. I’m looking forward to many more!!!
Tell us about your role in The Good Book.
In The Good Book I had the HONOR to portray the lead role of MARION. Director/Writer Sharon Wilharm’s enthralling script rested in my hands until I literally read “THE END”. My heart melted when the tragic struggles of MARION’S life were unveiled to me with each turn of the page. I myself was inspired with how, whilst overcoming overpowering despair for the loss of her first born baby boy, she embraced God’s grace and opened her heart to life and love once again. I was her personal cheer leader. I remember thinking, “I want to do her justice.” I fully accepted the earnest challenge to portray such a dynamic character for a silent feature film. The role and overall story still resonates with me today. I know many people in my life who can personally relate to MARION’s circumstances. When people see this film, I pray they walk out of the theater wholeheartedly accepting and knowing that everything and anything is possible with God.
What are your career goals?
My ultimate career goal is to spend every waking day on set for a stage, film, or TV production; whilst significantly contributing to a collaborative team of artist and industry professionals eager to create great art that inspires and enriches every living soul! My dream is to work as an international actor learning and performing works in other languages!
Being cast for a lead role in The Good Book continues to truly be a blessing! I’m so HONORED that Director Sharon Wilharm had such faith in me for portraying MARION. I pray this original work of cinema becomes a renowned household name. This beautifully composed SILENT picture is faithfully inspiring. See YOU at the premiere in 2014!
Mandi Lyn Toan is a young woman learning the filmmaking trade through education and on-the-job training. She’s a junior at University of Southern Indiana getting a degree in Communications/Theater. She’s also involved in numerous upcoming feature films including Gospel Writers Autograph, The Tomorrow Saga, and The Good Book.
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be involved with films in some way. Acting, directing, producing, casting, assisting, music, anything at all I wanted to be a part of it. The very first movie I remember watching as a kid was The Wizard of Oz. I have a great passion and appreciation for acting. I started theater when I was about 11 years old. I began learning different musical instruments and continued on with theater throughout my high school years. After graduating high school I attended a community college that does not have acting classes or a theater to perform in so I unfortunately had to take a break for about 2 years. During my second year of college (2011) I found out about the local Civic Theater and was thrilled to pick up theater again. Then during that same year I met someone involved in a local independent film who said they were in need of volunteer Production Assistants. We were working 10 plus hours a day, barely eating, staying up working through the night sometimes on 2-3 hours of sleep but I loved being able to say I was working on a film! Since then I’ve worked on music videos, commercials, TV shows, shorts, feature films and a web series taking on various roles from actress to Production Assistant to Assistant Director and more!
To date I have worked on two completed faith-based films with several more lined up in the next few months. My first was Right to Believe starring Jenn Gotzon with Director Chip Rossetti as his Assistant Director and soon after Chip, myself and a few others, entered into the 168 Film Competition with our submission of our short film Broken where I was his Assistant Director as well. Recently I have been working alongside Chip again as his Assistant Director for his next feature The Gospel Writers’ Autographs. I will also be working on The Good Book with Director Sharon Wilharm, The Tomorrow Saga with Director Gunter H. Sanderson, and more!
Tell us about a typical day on set as a production assistant.
A day on set as a Production Assistant can be very challenging and stressful sometimes. It also depends on what kind of project you’re working on. Personally my jobs have included anything from getting people’s coffee and lunch order, getting releases, running errands all the way to filling in for actors and other crew members. Don’t go in expecting anything to go a certain way because every project is different. Working as a PA on a reality TV show I started out one day simply picking up people from the airport and driving them to their hotels. Then another project I simply followed the Director around and did whatever he asked me to do. Some things you can prepare for are long days because there usually isn’t a guarantee that everything is going to be on schedule. In fact 99% of the time it’s not. Other jobs you can expect to do are lots of running around, loading and unloading equipment and crafty (food services), lugging around the equipment, making sure people and things are getting where they need to be. The list is endless when it comes to the responsibilities of a PA. But it’s also a very rewarding and humbling role and no project could be accomplished well without one!
Without a doubt so far my favorite film crew job was my first faith-based film Right to Believe with Chip Rossetti. Working on this film literally changed my life! I reclaimed my faith, grew closer to God, was able to work with Chip for the first of many times, met the incredible and lovely Jenn Gotzon who became a great friend and supporter and above all working on this film helped save my life! Sounds a bit overdramatic I know but I was heading down a very dark path in my life at the time and being able to work in such a positive, empowering and uplifting environment with such amazing people brought me to a better and brighter path. I met new friends and had some of the most memorable experiences of my life and it has changed me for the better ever since!
What do you enjoy most about working on a set?
What I enjoy about working behind the scenes of a set is seeing things from a different point of view. Instead of being in front of the camera you are behind it, not just watching things happen but MAKING things happen! Watching the movie being made right before your eyes, looking through the camera, seeing the impact of sound and lights and how they affect the scene and so on. Working behind the scenes gave me an appreciation on what it really takes to make a movie happen! Being able to see the finished project and say “Hey I helped make that!” is one of the best feelings ever.
My ultimate career goal would be to act and make movies full time as my career. It’s what I am going to school for and what I’ve always dreamed of doing. There’s something I think everyone can understand and relate to, and that is being passionate about something. I believe God gave me these gifts and talents for a reason and I am passionate about it! It’s such a hard industry to get into and live successfully and comfortably but I believe it’s what I am meant to do. If what I do spreads a great message, makes someone laugh, cry or feel moved in some way than I know it’s worth it. It’s my dream and I won’t give up.
A few weeks ago my family was hit with something very devastating and life changing. My sweet 4 old nephew Josiah Valen Hodges was diagnosed with Leukemia. It started out as Acute Leukemia with a good prognosis but just last Monday the doctors changed the diagnosis to a very rare form of cancer, with a not so good prognosis. He went from standard risk to high risk and will need extensive treatments of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant as well with at least 3 years of chemotherapy ahead of him. My sister and her husband also have 3 other children and for the past few weeks they have been separated from each other. My sister has been staying with Josiah at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis while her husband and the other children stay at home, which is 3 hours away from the hospital. The family has also been dealing with the fact that they don’t have any health insurance and while we can’t personally heal Josiah, we can however relieve some of the financial burdens they are and will be facing for a long time. We have a prayer page on Facebook called “Pray for Josiah” where people can receive updates on Josiah, how he is doing day to day, offer prayers and encouragement, and it also has information on different ways people can help. Chip Rossetti is going to donate 10% of everything his next film Gospel Writers’ Autographs brings in, there are several websites where people can help support and donate and we are setting up a concert to help my sister and the family as well. First and foremost what we ask for are thoughts and prayers to the family. If people could also spread the word about the different websites it would be greatly appreciated. We have been blown away and overwhelmed by the love and support from everyone we have received so far and are very grateful.
Faith Flix interviews actress Erin Bethea at International Christian Retail Show about her role in “Fireproof” and her upcoming movie “The Redemption of Henry Myers.”
I had the privilege of meeting Jenn Gotzon at the Roanoke Arts and Entertainment Workshop and was excited to do my first ever Facebook instant message interview with her. She’s a delightful young woman with a God-loving heart who is truly impacting lives both on screen and in person.
When did you first discover a passion for acting?
I was 15-years-old when I started to get a passion that electrified my heart and soul after watching an inspirational movie in the movie theater. I’d walk out in tears and I’d pray nightly for the Lord to let me do that for other people… inspire them through movies.
Tell us about your first audition.
Naturally, the place to start when desiring to be an actor (living truthfully under imaginary circumstances) would be in your school play. I auditioned and thought I was brilliant (lol). Actually, I felt I did a decent job even though I struggled on line lifting (reading lines off the script while keeping your focus on who you are talking to). I showed up the next morning where they posted the audition notices… and my heart sank into my stomach when I didn’t make the cut. I cried and went home and prayed, “God if you want me to be an actor, please give me a sign.” All of a sudden a vision came on my heart to contact the local murder mystery dinner theater held in Allentown, Pennsylvania at The Ramada Inn. Through my sniffles and tears i asked when they were holding auditions. The sweet lady on the phone said, “We are auditioning right now for another thirty minutes.” I jumped in my car and zoooooomed…
Well, I would say that was certainly a sign. Don’t you love when God works that way?
I learned I was cast underage at age seventeen because they really liked my performance. That began my professional career journey where the Zarneckis, Kilfoils and Strubels took me under their arm and guided me as an actor. I performed in several murder mystery runs back to back from 1996 to 1998.
You then went on to study at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. What was the best advice you learned there as a student?
The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts was one of the best educational experiences EVERRRRR! Living in the Big Apple in an apartment with a balcony overlooking the Trade Center and studying in my blowup vinyl purple chair was amazing!
I learned so much from how to act, emote, work with cameras, edit, improv, character build, business and strategy, voice, and speech which I consistently use daily when I’m on set working.
If I had to pick one jewel of wisdom New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts sent me into the world with, it was the art of continuity (emotional, physical, & vocal) – oh, its hard to pick just one. Let me also add emotional preparation. They showed us when we draw on truthful past memories to create emotion, we lose creative control of the scene because our emotions become ‘affected’ (is what Richard Suthern explained it to be). I remember doing a scene and actually worked from a traumatic experience currently in my life where I was being stalked. When i brought that into the scene work, I lost control emotionally and the ART of the scene’s arc wasn’t clear. It was muddy. We as actors think if we cry, then we are good actors. I was told that by a teacher early in my journey and believed it (which is probably why I have such a heightened focus on emotional vulnerability and transparency in my work). But this is NOT true..
You gave that advice at the Roanoke Arts and Entertainment Conference and I felt that was very valuable because generally, that’s what people tell you to do. I like this approach a lot better.
To be a good actor is to be able to live truthfully the writer’s story, riding on imaginative impulses / creative clear choices which allows the audience to understand how you feel, and having an emotional transparency so they can feel what you feel. Then being able to take direction with deep comprehension from the director because the movie is his vision of telling the story, and we are used as paint to paint the moving picture
What a wonderful illustration!
Thanks, Sharon. Stanford Meisner explained how we can draw upon this formula. Take someone or something very important to us (we have emotional connection to) and CREATE something they say or do that would affect our emotional response. Our imagination (when we surrender to our analytical part of our brain) will believe it as truth and emotional response will be the result. Ideally, it’s then taking the given circumstances of the script and fully playing make believe like when we were kids and you will feel that heated breathing dragon on your neck, just like when we were youngsters ‘saving our friend in the tower from the fire eating dragon.
Fun! So what led to you involvement in faith-based films?
A few years ago I went through a death to self season – dying to my own will to follow whatever God’s will would be type of thing. (The book “The Dream Giver” nails this on the head) After winning best actress for “Julie and Jack”, living the dream, moving to LA, God said loudly in my soul, “What if I called you to be a missionary in Africa? Would you go?” And I said truthfully, “I’d rather die than go to Africa.” And then i realized, wow, God has been BLESSSSSING my career, but obviously i was missing the boat.. lol
I took a several month break off from acting to get my heart and priorities refocused. I started to work for Google before they went public and had 700+ employees. and Charlie was still the cook making insanely amazing desserts – lol. I worked in New Hires and was on a fun team researching what made Google’s culture so the nooglers (new hires) would best get acclimated into the company. I worked with an amazing lady named Rachel Lambert as her coordinator and she taught me a lot — ahh fond memories… Ok, back to the story about how I got into faith-based films…
I moved from Silicon Valley working for Google to Marina del Rey working for Google in Santa Monica. Then a friend said to me, “Why are you not pursuing acting, Jenn?” I remember saying, “I am pursuing. I’m submitting my headshot and building a branding campaign to help stand out against the gazzzilllion trilllion other gals that look identical to me in this town. (seriously, that’s what I said. lol) My husband jokes with me because I worked for two weeks on this film strip and the big decision factor was whether or not there should be a lens flair. So my friend, who was my husband’s best man in our wedding, Mick Wingert (who is the voice of Po in Kung Fu Panda tv series.. he was just cast a few years ago.. yay) said boldly to me, “Jenn, why are you not acting?” and I said that, and he said, “SIT DOWN AND SPEND QUIET TIME TALKING TO GOD AND ASK HIM FOR DIRECTION FOR YOUR ACTING CAREER.”
So I did, and during that time of several hours of tears, journaling and confessing to the Lord, He showed me He NEVER LEFT ME. It was me who turned away. He showed me He was right there next to me through all the challenges I faced. Then He said to my heart, “Why do you think I will leave you now? I want you to bring my light on screen”
When I heard the clarity of bringing God’s light on screen through the protagonist characters – emotionally complex characters who are broken, and in the climax of the story find hope, truth, revelation, then they have a change of heart and transition…
So that began my FOCUS on what films I wanted to pursue and pray to pursue films that: 1) inspire, or 2) impact, or 3) have redemption. I’m interested in excellent cinema that alllll audiences can enjoy, with a Christian world view, and inclusive to everyone’s heart strings. Faith-based movies fall under this category, and being a strong church go’er and follower of Jesus, it’s a nice fit, though my calling is movies like “The Blind Side” and “The Help”, big mainstream Oscar-awarded films because they are deemed excellent and touch/ impact / inspire everyone across the world.
So, how many films do you have coming out this year and next?
Let me count…
“Gods Country”, “Alone Yet Not Alone”, “Doonby”, “Dragon Day”, “Untouched” (festivals), “Right to Believe”, “September Skies” (tentative planned for this year, but keeps getting pushed), “The Screenwriters” (tentatively planned also). Six films definitely being released this year (including “God’s Country” which already released). “September Skies” and “The Screenwriters” may come out this year. If not, it will be next. Oh, and then the realllly super cool music video I just filmed (played the lead) will be out everywhere with potential grammy winning, new on the scene artist, Sean Guerrero. Moody Brother’s record label Lamon Records launches artists and will have Sean doing the big PR tour. Hopefully, he and his band will be on Letterman and evening talk shows. This was my first big music video and the character was right in line with my passion – broken who finds hope. The song is about losing a loved one and wrestling with hopelessness/suicidal thinking. Sean and his band LOVE LOVE LOVE Jesus and are strong Christians. Their music is made for mainstream audiences.
Wow! I know that many people in the Christian world are just now discovering you thanks to “I Am Gabriel” and “God’s Country”. Can’t wait to see how your career explodes once more people see you in action. So, anything I didn’t ask?
People can reach me at my Facebook public page www.facebook.com/jenngotzon.fanpage
and on Twitter www.twitter.com/jenngotzon.
and on my website with my reel www.JennGotzon.com/acting-demo-reel.htm
I love using my Facebook to help mentor people who have questions regarding acting or how to get plugged into Hollywood. My heart wants to pour back and encourage.
Oh, we can mention the program i’ve started called “Inspiring Audiences” where I travel to schools, churches and festivals using my movie star in as a platform to share my testimony of overcoming challenges to pursue my dream as an avenue to inspire the audience they too can think big and live their dreams. There’s a strategy Ishare that has helped me along my journey and have seen others incorporate it which has helped them take huge steps towards their dreams. Then I sign photos personalized to each person and find a way to match them up with a mentor. We’ve brought this program to 15+ schools in the New Orleans area to help build up the student morale especially after Hurricane Katrina devastated so many, and their families are still recovering. I’ve shared this program at churches and colleges in Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, California, and Washington, and always looking for more areas to use the movies as a ministry.
Oh, can we mention “Gods Country”, masterfully directed by my husband Chris Armstrong (soo proud of him!) is available everywhere across the country in stores? Blockbuster, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Nobles, Christian Family Book Stores, Amazon, and Netflix. This is his first feature film he’s directed.. and he did sooo good that the movie received wide distribution everywhere!!