In part 1 of my chat with actress Petra Bryant, we talked typecasting, Pittsburgh and colostomy bags (it’s not as weird as it sounds). For the second part we look forward into Petra’s future working within the industry. For starters, Petra has been commissioned for a TV pilot that will begin shooting later this year, but she describes it better.
“It’s based off my book I’ve been writing called Girl On A Rocking Horse and I’m going to be shooting the pilot for it later this year in London. I’m hoping I will get a proper TV series out of it because that is the way the script is turning out to be. It’s all written by me and I plan to direct it too.”
“I’ve done my fair share of being behind the camera (she’s produced a few films), learning as well while on the job, but where it’s my own project, my book, it’s my baby I need to raise it myself.”
It is that tricky thing of where you write something yourself, it’s difficult to send it out into the world.
“It becomes too precious to give it to someone else and to change it, I don’t want them to change it. You have a very clear vision of what you want and nobody can see inside your head and you want to be in charge of all the creative decisions. That’s every important to me because as an actor when you get directed, you get told what to do, told what you say and you don’t have that much control over the vision, so if I can write it, produce it, direct it then hell yeah.”
Being an actor first, Petra can become an actor’s director and will think on the same wavelength as the actors when it comes to the vision of the project.
“Definitely and I can be very hands on the creative side. I’m very excited about it and I haven’t told many people, I kind of want to do it and then tell people about it. Also what’s so lovely about having my own project is that all the friends of mine that have help me through my career, they can be in this as actors, especially the people who have struggled to be an actor. I can give them a role that is tailor written for them and it’s my way of saying thank you, I like your acting, I think you’re awesome and be in my project. You already have chemistry with these people for years and you know they aren’t going to moan like ‘I don’t like my sandwich, I’m walking off the set’. I think it’s going to work out very well, people do say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, but I think in this matter it’s okay.”
At the look of it, Petra always seems to be busy working, so where does she find the time to relax; does she have any down time?
“Well my down time is usually where I write my book but I do manage to get out and see people, I do have some social life. In Pittsburgh, I have a few friends there who are not in the industry. They kind of look at me as somewhat strangely exotic, they work like in a bank and I say ‘Sorry I couldn’t see you the other week, I had so many auditions and then I had to finish a chapter of my book and write for eight hours straight’ they kind of look at me and think it’s so odd.”
They’re probably at work transponding numbers; I don’t know what a banker really does.
“Yeah, to me they are like Chandler from Friends, no one knows what they do.”
“I always get people come up to me and say, ‘Oh you look like that actress, what’s her name?’ and I just reply, ‘Is it Naomi Watts?’ with almost disgust, it’s a huge compliment because she’s amazing but I hear it too often it’s almost an insult.”
I will admit I was watching Birdman and when she was on screen I was like, ‘Yeah, I can see the similarities’.
“In certain angles yeah. But second one I get is Diane Kruger, I have the higher forehead like her and she’s German and I’m Czech so it’s that whole European blonde thing.”
They think, ‘Blonde European, Diane Kruger’.
“Exactly, but I actually had some pictures sent to me recently and they were pictures of Diane Kruger on a red carpet and one of my friends said, ‘I found a picture of you’ and I’m, ‘That’s not me, that’s Diane Kruger’.”
In her spare time, Petra has a blog that she writes also called Girl On A Rocking Horse, but how has having a blog helped her in recent years?
“When I started my blog it was an outlet for my creativity, when ever I had writer’s block for my book, I used to just go to my blog. I like beauty products and fashion and talking behind the scenes whenever I do a project. It’s kind of nice to give a realistic peak behind the scenes instead of glamourising it; I will put out pictures that are not airbrushed, where you can see that I’m tired or I have spots. It’s me being honest and that’s what my blog is about. It’s my hobby, I don’t treat it like business, and if I did I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much. Also I would have to upgrade my standards, right now all the photos are taken on my phone and the bloggers, the hardcore bloggers, they have amazing equipment and spend so much time taking pictures.”
For some of them that’s their full-time jobs.
“I know, but I don’t want to be a serious blogger, I want to say I’m an actress with a blog.”
“Definitely and it’s like my little black book of things I like or do. I also used to do YouTube videos as an extension of the blog, I had about 130 videos on there but I had to take them all down because at auditions they would get confused, are you a blogger or an actress? But I still have my blog and my book too to let my creativity out.”
How far along are you with your book?
“I have 100,000 words, which is not too bad, but pages wise, I’m guessing it’s around 160 pages, A4 pages, but I am going to add a bit more. I have to do some hardcore editing, which is going to be so tough. You know when you write something, everything is so precious and you don’t really want to cut it out.”
But sometimes you have too; if it doesn’t work with the story, it has to go even if you love it.
“Yeah, you have to be a little bit objective even though it hurts. I had a first draft of the book and I hated it, hated the writing style, hated the way the story was headed and at that point I had 16,000 words and I deleted the whole thing and as I was deleting it, I was screaming and shaking. It was a full body experience deleting that and once it was deleted I was slumped over my desk like, ‘Oh my God what have I done? Do I have a back up?’ and I just decided, no, I’m going to start from fresh and I’m happy with it. So sometimes you have to take a surgical knife, get a head off and start all over again.”
Petra has been acting for quite a few years now so what was the best advice she could to anyone thinking of joining the crazy world of acting?
“I think it depends if they are writers as well as actors. I think the best way to get into acting is to maybe write your own short films and get creative, it’s give you practice and you find out more about the process of filmmaking, being on a set, how things work, what’s required and you can you write the part that’s perfect for you. Because of my typecasting it’s tough to break out of that role and by writing a part for myself, it’s allowed me you show that I’m so much more. So if someone is struggling to get work in film, maybe they are doing theatre and want to make that transition, then make your own short film, I believe it’s the best way. What’s great about it is you are in charge of your own luck; your own fortune and once you start making your own opportunities, people will start to knock on your door and not the other way round. This something people don’t understand, you can’t wait for a call by your agent, it’s not going to happen that way, unless you have amazing connections or unique looks or talents or rich.”
Being rich always helps.
“Yeah, you can just produce your own feature and make your own luck, and I firmly believe that. When I started making my own shorts, things started to happen. When you create some kind of energy around you and buzz, other people want to work with you and not when people ask you what you’ve been doing you don’t have to reply with, ‘Well I haven’t worked for six months and I’ve gained 10 kilos from eating crisps but I’ve caught up on lots of films’.”
“And also it keeps you mentally in-shape.”
Oh yeah, without the website I’d go insane.
“That’s what happens to loads of actors, because it’s very easy to slip into a depression when you’re not working and you start thinking ‘Oh my career’s over, I’m no good, my looks are fading, nobody wants to work with me, I’m not getting any auditions, I’m so depressed’ but when that next audition comes around you blow it because you put so much pressure on yourself. But if you are constantly doing something, it’s so much easier.”
It takes your mind off all the bad stuff, my philosophy is, hide the negatives, accentuate the positives.
“Exactly and being in the US, I’ve realised that everyone is more positive and focused on achieving their dreams, while in London you are told to be more conservative and modest and people in the UK like saying no a lot. People like to close the door here while in the US it’s a lot more open, people are ready to work hard and it’s why a lot of Americans are so successful. It is difficult to work in the film industry in the UK, despite it being probably at it’s peak at the moment but in the US, for example, getting an agent is a lot easier, I have one in New York and one in Pittsburgh and it didn’t take long, they are willing give you an opportunity while over here you have to have a load of credits and connections and ask a casting director to recommend you and no casting director is going to call up an agency and recommend someone.”
It’s similar with scriptwriting, no agency will hire you without a professional credit, but no one will give you a professional credit without an agent, it’s this horrible Catch 22.
“It’s a crazy Catch 22, it’s a like vicious merry go round, and it’s psychotic. How are you suppose to get experience without people willing to give you experience and that brings me back to my point of creating your own opportunity and that way it will work it. If it doesn’t, at least you’ve try your hardest.”
Despite only being in the industry for a few years, Petra has gain some valuable experience in what life in the film industry is really like, how to take control of your career when you aren’t getting what you want and learning important lessons along the way. Even though our interview was only about half an hour, we did end up talking for nearly two and half hours, talking about films, the industry and reminiscing our time working together on Abduct. I’m glad to call Petra my friend now, which is something that doesn’t happen too often with cast and crew.
But before I finished the interview, I had one more question to ask, is Petra Bryant with geek?
“Yes, I’m with geek.”