We were lucky enough to catch the talented Rachel Kim Cross for a five minute chat about her HI experiences, auditions in LA and her recent successes. Read more below.
You recently shot the feature How Do You Know Chris in Melbourne. Tell us about that journey and all about Christal the character you played.
‘How Do You Know Chris’ was a very special experience for me. It was my first lead role in a feature film. I was thrilled to be cast as Christal. The exciting part was understanding and inhabiting Christal’s mindset and the way she saw the world. She’s fiercely intelligent, dark, bitchy and fragile. The entire film is set at a party, in 2000 where the protagonist, Chris Black, invites an assortment of people to a celebration at his Collingwood apartment. Most of the guests at the party aren’t familiar with each other. Just like Christal, who is Chris’ ex-girlfriend. We see her journey as the night progresses and her complicated past with Chris, who she holds incredibly close and gets her only affection. We had a week of rehearsals before shooting and that time was invaluable for us to be able to film this in the short time-space we were shooting, I flew back from Los Angeles for the shoot and lived in a house with some of the other cast members that weren’t from Melbourne for 5 weeks. It was wonderful to live and work together with everyone. We all became a close family.
You’re a 2 time HI participant joining us in October of 2014 and then again in February of 2015. What take aways did you have from HI? Was there a particular thing that stood out for you?
Hollywood Immersive was the perfect introduction for me to Los Angeles. Coming over here for the first time and doing a program that supports your transition is invaluable. I often have other actors ask me about if they were to do the program and I honestly can’t recommend it enough, especially if they haven’t been over to experience Los Angeles before. That’s why I did it twice! Both times I learned about the industry here and what steps I needed to take if I wanted to move here. It’s a very supportive environment and truely was the best steps for me to take to learn about how to transition here. I was constantly inspired by all the mentors from Beverly Hills Playhouse, industry coaches, speakers and the other talented actors from all around the world on the course. I think the thing that stood out for me the most was that I could move over here and pursue a career. I secured management in LA and started working on getting my visa as soon as I finished the second program.
You’ve had a really successful career in Australia in modelling and acting. This really started to flourish in 2015 and then suddenly you were everywhere! Tell us about that journey.
When I got back from my second Hollywood Immersive program in Feb 2015 I had secured representation in LA and I was inspired and my number one priority; i.e.moving to Los Angeles and how I could make that happen. I initially started modelling to build up my portfolio, save and work with as many people as I could in the industry in order to get my O1 visa. I never thought it would kick off quite like it did but it was awesome! I enjoyed how my modelling and acting gigs always informed each other. I’ve met and worked with amazing people in the lead up to moving to LA. That definitely boosted my confidence and enabled me to feel like I was ready to make the move and book jobs in the US. This industry is challenging but so is anything worth pursing.
Now you are in the US – 01 in hand! You’ve got a great manager and you’re getting out there for some big roles and booking already. How is the transition going for you?
It’s been wonderful so far! Having come over here 4 times before moving, I had some idea of Los Angeles and connections with people from Hollywood Immersive. I think that really helped the transition for me personally. Also, having a wonderful management team before moving here was definitely a bonus. I self taped for a lot of US projects in the lead up to moving here, got comfortable with the accent. It’s really exciting going out for auditions several times a week, I’ve never auditioned so consistently in my life as I have in the US, the industry doesn’t compare to Australia. I absolutely love working in Australia and I would always go back there in a heartbeat for the right projects – there are wonderful shows being made there but the opportunities for me in Los Angeles allow me to see a bigger future in this career.
Tell us about the job you recently did and who you ended up meeting as a result?
I recently shot a big commercial which was another fantastic experience! I was directed by Mark Romanek – he wrote and directed one of my favourite films One Hour Photo with Robin Williams. He directs all of Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and Jay Z’s music videos. The cinematographer was Sam Levy, who most recently shot Ladybird.
It was amazing to make connections and work with such incredibly talented people in the industry. I kept pinching myself that I’m in Los Angeles working with these people! I had the biggest smile on my face! The energy on that set was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
How do you compare auditioning in the US vs Australia?
Auditioning here is a lot more fast paced than Australia. You usually only get one take per scene and you just have to go in and make a bold choice. I really try to take my time in the room and not rush it. Everything is very last minute here and I have been getting used to getting auditions through very late at night or the day of the audition. I am in a position now where I have the time to prepare properly for the audition where I can which is really great – and I don’t have to work around the constraints of a job which is such a bonus.
What’s coming up?
A TV series that I shot late last year called Mr Inbetween premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2018. It’s been picked up by FX and it’s premiering this September in the US and Foxtel in Australia. It’s also being screened at MIFF in Melbourne. It was directed by Nash Edgerton and is starring Scott Ryan who was also the writer, Brooke Satchwell and Damon Herriman.
What bit of advice would you give to a 19 year old Rachel?
To love myself. I was very insecure at 19. I always knew I wanted to be an actor but I was often quick to judge myself, influenced by others around me and was told to go to University and do something else other than acting. Eventually I forged my own path and went to acting school, but it took me a couple of years to listen to myself and do what I wanted to do, not what I was expected to do.
We caught up with the super talented Guy Williams recently. Guy has just come off a feature in Australia and has many other projects in the works. He gains inspiration from creating opportunities and works to inspire others as well.
Enjoy this interview with our friend and alum Guy Williams.
We know you to be extremely motivated, and you never stop working or creating. What keeps you going?
The drive to “create” or to keep pushing forward so to speak can only come from a place that is grounded in being your true self. That is inherent to any profession not just the entertainment business. Once you find where you want to be the effort to move forward becomes part of the whole and not a singular chore that must be done. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work your butt off! But the work that you do has a relevance to the journey and to yourself as a person first and then a relevance to the industry second. Also, not being tied to a timeline or the classic phrase of “Once I get this role it’s all going to happen” etc. etc. is a perspective that I’ve always taken. Once you are content to move forward knowing that this business is the thing you are going to do for all time then there is no pressure there is only the work you need to do that’s right in front of you. It’s not sexy or glamorous but it will make all the difference in the long haul because that’s what you are in it for right?
What drove you to Hollywood Immersive? What did you want to gain?
I saw HI as a great opportunity to learn and grow. For me within this business it has always been about brutal honesty and evaluating where you are at. HI is brilliant for that as you are learning from the industry’s best and most experienced operators in their chosen fields. It was also getting a little direction of figuring out where I fit within the market place and how to move forward towards that.
You have an incredibly positive attitude. How important is attitude in achieving your goals?
Attitude is everything. You and you alone are responsible for your own attitude and perspective on life. Life most definitely can be difficult especially in the entertainment business but how you view those times and how you learn from them is what’s most important. Personal responsibility is everything. Win, lose or draw it’s on you.
You have many skills, including fighting, weaponry, and of course acting. What is your discipline for learning and practicing?
Discipline is about doing the stuff that’s required away from the “bright lights”. In simple terms, no one can do the work for you. To have the freedom in front or behind the camera takes thousands of hours of accumulated work. I really don’t have an answer to why some people get up and do the work and others have to be pulled kicking and screaming out of bed to get it done. A simple question though to ask yourself is “Would I want to do this anyway if all of it wasn’t associated with acting at all? “If there was no pay day, no premiere, no recognition, nothing, nothing at all but your own personal growth and the positivity and value that you can contribute to everyone around you. When you can answer “yes” and you would still do it all then the work is just a part of your everyday life. This comes back to a point I made earlier. What you do in life must not be the thing that makes you whole. Acting cannot be the thing that defines you as a person….it must always be a pathway to enhance who you are.
What advice can you give those who are looking to break into the business?
Just jump right in!!! Be target specific. Seek out great teachers and mentors and go and learn and be open to learning (there is a difference). Be brutally honest with yourself and your work and be PATIENT. See this as a lifelong pursuit (that should give you immense joy and growth). A very important point for actors is to find where you fit within the market and run with that. The best thing you can do is be you. The roles will come along or you will create your own. I’m not saying turn down roles that you want to do but follow your instinct and once again find out who you really are. You are your own business and you should act accordingly. I see too many actors give away everything to an outside entity in the hope that they will get them work or make the stars align. Once again YOU are responsible for all that you do or don’t do. Don’t be afraid to say no and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s a cliché but surround yourself with great people that will be honest with you and drop anything or anyone that is an unnecessary drain on your energy and just be useful!!! Always look at what you can bring to a project or situation not what you can get out of it. Give without expecting something in return. I would add as well to be as financially viable as you can with your “day job”. You are doing yourself a disservice if you cannot pay your rent or put fuel in your car. Having a day job does not mean you are giving up on your dreams you are enhancing them. The job you are doing is giving you the freedom to have the resources to chase down what you really want to do. The balance will slowly shift over time. Desperation is not a good thing in this industry…take care of your home life and your acting life will then take care of itself.
What inspires you to keep going?
Inspiration is a funny term for me. You either want to do something or you don’t. Actors and those in the entertainment business have a real knack of over complicating things. Inspiration for me simply comes from having an opportunity to do something that creatively fires new neurons and also offers so much growth in so many different ways. And let’s face it it’s fun as hell!!! The fact that I even have that option in this life is a massive source of gratitude and therefore a massive source of inspiration that is not to be wasted. I also draw great inspiration from anyone who just gets out there and has a go no matter what the industry. In film, it is all about doing and forward momentum (or sideways ha!). The more you move the more you will create and the more opportunities will present themselves and be created. If you sit and wait for the “best” time to do what you want to do then it will never happen. The availability of technology and the platforms that go with it means that in this day and age we are unbelievably fortunate to be able to create something with virtually nothing. So, go out and get going you might just inspire someone else to do the same!
Please tell us about your upcoming projects, and when we can expect to see more of you.
I just wrapped on a feature film titled “The First Detectives” which is a period piece crime drama set in the early-mid 1800’s. It’s scheduled for an early 2019 release. I have a short film that is due out very soon which is part of a trilogy of films titled “The Devil May Care” which was one of the most amazing projects I have been a part of to date! It covers the rise and fall of an Irish American Crime Boss through three interconnected short films of which I play the lead character in the second film entitled “Lust”. I also had a great meeting very recently with a writer/ director about a very cool feature film/ series that is rolling along nicely toward the start line which I am extremely excited for but can’t say too much more about! The thing I am also most excited about is the film we shot a couple of months ago which is a precursor to some great projects that we have in the pipeline. I also had a hand in co-writing this film with a great friend and mentor James Richards (who also directed it). I also produced and acted in this one and we had the brilliant Josh Hoareau shoot it! We brought together an amazing cast and crew for this one and it’s looking fantastic!
Fast forward 5 years – what should we expect to see from Guy Williams?
More of the same I think! More films, more producing, more writing and I think a move into directing at some stage as well.
What would be the legacy you would like to be known for?
To be remembered with a smile and as a man who always gave more, cared more and contributed more to those he came into contact with.
Guy’s tips on what you can do to further your career!
Producing your own content is King!! The more you have a hand in creating your future the better. Great story and performance will always shine through so let that be the base of your creative journey. Too many people go for the window dressing of flashing lights and expensive cameras and add ons etc. etc. etc. The list can go on!! Everything always comes back to a brilliant narrative executed well. You can have a $200 000 000 film that is terrible and you can have a $100 film that is remarkable. It is very difficult to dress up something that has no substance. So always start from your foundation which should be an epic script/ story!! Everything will flow on from that.
Have an eye to contain your process. What I mean by “containing your process” is keep as much of the work flow of making your project in house. Seek out great operators that can move a project from start to finish i.e.: DP’s that can shoot, edit, colour and do sound. The more times you have to “farm “ out your project to other entities to get work done the harder it is to control and the more time it takes. So, from the start ensure you have enough in the tank to get the right operators on board to finish your film!! If your team is small then you can move and shake with ease and keep everything moving toward where you want it to go. By nature, film is an extremely wasteful industry. Look to where you can be more efficient and to where you can get the right people involved that will benefit all aspects of a project. It’s not rocket science and it always comes back to management of people. So, get great at managing and leading your team and leading by example.
Recently we caught up with our friend and two-time Hollywood Immersive alumni, Taya Calder-Mason.
As an actor, singer, composer, writer, director, and producer, Taya is quickly becoming a major force in the entertainment industry. She just finished her short film, “Fight Like A Woman” which delivers a very powerful message. We were excited to hear more from this talented artist.
You have joined us on HI twice for music and acting as a teenager, and you have always had a no-nonsense, take no prisoners attitude that impressed everyone. You’re mature well beyond your years. Where did that come from?
Probably my Mum or my childhood. Growing up with two older brothers teaches you a thing or two about standing your ground. I swapped schools 4 times before leaving at 16, so I had to build a strong sense of self, meeting new kids all the time.
Most recently, you wrote, directed and starred in a short film called “Fight Like A Woman” about a female boxer competing against a man. It puts women’s equality in the forefront. What do you want people to take away from your film?
That women don’t want special treatment, they just wanted to be treated as an equal with respect. It was really important for me not to make a film that is like ‘women rule and men suck’, it’s just about shining light on equal opportunity between men and women.
The fight scenes looked very realistic. Were you influenced by other boxing movies when choosing the direction for this film?
Surprisingly no. I didn’t decide to make the film because I’d watch something that looked cool, I made it because 3-4 times a week, for 4 years I’ve been heading to my local boxing gym and wanted to mix my two loves together.
Singer, composer, producer, actor, writer, and director. How do you stay focused on your career?
Being successful has always been high priority for me. I’ve never liked being second or doing something half-arsed. I remember in Year 2 (6 years old) at school everyone was asked what they wanted to study at University and I just knew that wasn’t something I was ever going to do.
What advice would you give other young artists who are just starting their careers?
Don’t wait for someone to give you the opportunity to do what you love. Why is it always someone else’s choice? Learn that it’s a career, there are
ups and downs and only those who persist when everything is going to sh**, will be successful.
Who are your inspirations?
Professionally, people like Greta Gerwig, Jane Campion, Elizabeth Moss, Margot Robbie. Personally, my Mum and Nan.
In this very competitive entertainment industry, creating your own projects is very important, and is a key way to get yourself out there and tell your own stories. What stories do you want to tell?
I think one of the best parts about being a filmmaker is you get to be incredibly selfish. Make the things you like, shoot the way you like, write the characters that you want to play. I just want to entertain, start conversions and have fun.
What is coming up next for you? When can we see more of your work?
Next project is a thriller called Harrows Forest, which we shoot in August. It’s a really fun, creepy short that follows a group of 4 people as they try to uncover the truth behind a supposedly haunted forest. I actually hate horrors and scare very easily so this should be lots of fun…