The star of the “Fear of Clowns” movie franchise
sits down for an in-depth interview on her career.
Interview ©2005 by Leanna Chamish
Leanna: Jacky, how long have you been performing as an actress? What got you involved with it? What was your first project?
Jacky: I have been acting since I was in first grade. My parents refused to let my sister and I own a Nintendo or video games, so we resorted to our imaginations for amusement. That transcended into creative writing – and eventually plays. We would perform our scripts in front of the neighbors, charge admission, and serve refreshments. Since then, I’ve always sought out plays, films, and any other form of dramatic expression to satisfy my creative needs.
Leanna: As an actress, how do you go about preparing for a role? Does the director or screenwriter supply you with a back story for your characters?
Jacky: I usually prepare for a role by researching the character-their hobbies, careers, hometown, etc. I like to talk to real people who might have been from the characters’ town, or shared their profession. When I was in a play about the Holocaust, I had the honor of meeting three Holocaust survivors. They helped me find the strength to tell their incredible story–and realize that even in such intense tragedy, people can maintain their humor, optimism, and their faith in humanity.
Leanna: Have you ever gone into a role feeling unprepared?
Jacky: I’ve never felt unprepared for a role. There is usually a lot of rehearsal for theatre, and with film…the shoot is broken into small snippets, so you can really break apart a script and find the nuances of each moment. That is not to say, by any means, that my work is perfect. Far from it. I have so much to learn, and I haven’t ever been totally pleased with my work. Still, I have learned a lot from my mediocre performances. You learn what NOT to do.
Leanna: You have gone to auditions for various different acting gigs. How do you prepare for it? What do you bring with you? How do you dress for it? Are most auditions standard, or are they unique in their own way?
Jacky: Auditions are always different. Some are cold reads, others are prepared monologues, sometimes you have to improv, other times…you are cast strictly from your headshot and have NO audition. To prepare I usually review the sides or practice my monologue as much as possible.I always dress according to the character I’m auditioning for. I want the director to see the character, from the moment I walk in the door.
I always bring a copy of my headshot/resume, and a map. I never want to be late, so I always plan out my trip ahead of time, bringing a map in case there are detours. I am anal like that!
Leanna: This is a delicate question; as a woman, have you ever been approached with the “casting couch” in order to get a part? If so, how did you handle this kind of a situation?
Jacky: Yes, I have. But not in the form one might imagine. I didn’t walk into an audition and have a director try and get me to perform sexual favors. But, I have had producers/directors ask me out to dinner or a drink to talk about the business. For me, it’s so important to draw that line, and I’ve found whenever you meet up with someone at night, their expectations usually have nothing to do with your career. I want to be taken seriously as an actress, and I’ve learned that a coffee date during the day usually sends a clearer message than a dinner date at night.
Leanna: How is costuming handled on a project? Is it “everybody wear what you want to wear” or are the costumes actually cleaned and put back on the rack at the end of the day? Does the cast supply their own costuming, is it supplied to them, or do you have a wardrobe allowance for them?
Jacky: Again, this depends on the film’s budget. I’ve worked on shoots with costume designers. They did everything from design and make the costume, to making sure it was dry cleaned each day of shoot. But, I have been on low budget films where I supplied my own costume…which is nice, because then you have some creative control over the character.
Leanna: Jacky, you have worked both within sets and natural locations. What are the pros and cons of both?
Jacky: Sets are SO much better, because it is a controlled environment. Whenever you are dealing with nature…anything can happen. Rain, noise, clouds, a barking dog, they can all control the shooting schedule and ultimately change the course of the film’s shoot. Sets also can be lit better and the sound is controlled. I can’t think of a con of working on a set!
Leanna: You’re on the set, miles from civilization, and “nature calls”. In your experience, has your production team taken necessary measures to have proper facilites available, or do you have production horror stories of poor planning?
Jacky: I’ve never had a situation where a production team was not prepared for “nature calls.” But then again, I’ve never shot a film in the middle of nowhere, but I wouldn’t be afraid to relieve myself among nature…if nature did indeed call!
I did work on a show with very poor production planning. I actually drove for an hour, got to the location, only to have the director tell me he FORGOT the camera! But, then again, it was a favor I was doing for a friend who produced a local tv show, and that would never happen in the professional world.
Leanna: What kind of food prep or catering is usually available to you on an independent production? Does it vary greatly from company to company?
Jacky: Again, this always varies. The one staple item that has always been provided is, “bottled water.” But even on the zero budget films, I’ve always been fed. I’ve been fed everything from yogurt to steak. I must say, my experience working on the “steak” film was more positive all around.
Leanna: While they may have employed special effects artists and make-up artists in productions you have worked on, have the various production companies ever used a make-up artist for the glamour of the actors and actresses, or is that up to the individual performer to do?
Jacky: Make-up artists are used quite frequently. The higher the film’s budget, the more likely there will be a make-up artist working on set to make the actor’s look beautiful. When a makeup artist is not present, the Director of Photography can light a scene well to make you look more attractive. And then of course, there is always the “beauty lens” that they can add to a camera to make you look softer, and more beautiful. I’ve done my own makeup on several occasions. I was trained in college to do stage, film, and special effect makeup. I am so glad…because on low-budget films…you still want to look your best.
Leanna: Have you ever had to do stage fighting or stunts in any of your features? How do you prepare for that? Have you ever been hurt?
Jacky: I am S.A.F.D. (society of American fight directors) certified, so I do have experience in stage combat. In film, I’ve done a few “stunts”. I had to faint, slap someone, and shoot a gun. I’ve never been hurt on set. However, I’ve worked on a set where an older actor had to get tackled by a younger guy. The older actor had the wind knocked out of him. It’s just never a good idea to stage any sort of “fight” or “stunt” if you don’t have some training or certification in it.
Leanna: Have you had any formal training in acting or improvisation? What do you suggest a person does to preprare as an actor for independent genre films, or just acting in general?
Jacky: I have been acting my whole life. I’ve taken classes in the craft since I was 9. I majored in theatre in college and post-graduation I studied on-camera, improv, teleprompter, etc. My advice, and again–I’m no expert–but my advice is to get yourself out there as much as possible. Take courses, audition for a play, get involved. And get involved as a crew member if you don’t get cast on a certain project. I’ve learned so much about acting from being on the crew. You can really see how what occurs behind the camera, greatly effects what is on camera. As an actor, that information is invaluable. I developed a lot of my improv skills through working on a sketch comedy show back in D.C. But you can also develop improv just by carrying on inane, ridiculous conversations with your friends.
Leanna: Do you have an agent? If so, how did you go about getting one?
Jacky: I was represented by an agent when I was back in DC. I just moved to LA, and unfortunately it’s a lot harder to land a GOOD agent here. Landing the RIGHT agent is of utmost importance. There are a lot of shady agents out there that ask that actors pay them upfront. NEVER NEVER NEVER pay an agent. I cannot stress this enough to those starting out. A reputable, REAL agent will NEVER ask for money upfront. Real agents are paid a percentage based on the work you book. An agent whose bread and butter relies solely on you booking a gig, means one thing: they are going to only select the best of the best–someone they know they can get work. That said, landing a good agent often does not happen overnight.
Leanna: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a union or non-union actor?
Jacky: I am not yet SAG, although I am always working towards that. My SAG friends say that often the competition is much higher with SAG, as you are dealing with a different pool of actors. At times, there are fewer opportunities for SAG. So much of television has become Reality TV, and on top of that, most sitcoms have star names attached. That makes it very competitive for those looking to break into television, and the roles left available to them. But, becoming SAG is one of the goals most serious actors are trying to reach. Most agents won’t accept non-union actors, so a SAG card is a benefit. Being SAG gives actors the opportunity to get health insurance, to get a certain amount of rest time between shoots, and higher pay. But non-union isn’t all bad. There is much that can be learned from smaller scale projects. Actors are often more involved in the production side of the film and often have more creative input, than one might have in a higher budget SAG film.
Leanna: Do you feel you are a leading role person or more of a character actor? What age range do you state you can perform within? What kind of roles, on average, have you been getting? Are there any kind of roles you wish you were getting? Are there any type of roles you will refuse to do?
Jacky: I am more of a leading role person. Character actors are, quite often, very unique looking. Because I possess an All-American look, I tend to get cast in the straight, leading roles-the girlfriend, the girl next door, the wife. Your looks play a very strong role in the opportunities available to you. While I might be able to play a “character” role, I probably would never be called for one if I submitted my headshot. As an actor, you have to know what genre your “look” falls into…and chase after those roles. It is my personal opinion, that actors are rarely considered for roles outside of their “look”, until they have proven themselves in the industry. I would like meatier roles. I’d like to play a tormented introvert, a drugged out prostitute, or even a quirky/zany sidekick role. I would never refuse to play any role, unless I felt the script was poor…and then I’d simply refuse to work on the project.
Leanna: How much importance do you put on proper diet, physical fitness, stimulating mental activity, and getting enough sleep? Do you find this a necessity for staying primed as a performer?
Jacky: In my opinion, all of these things are critical for an actor. Our looks, mental state, talent, voice, etc. encompass who we are and what we bring to the table. For some people, being in shape is NOT good for their careers…because they are cast as the overweight wise-guy. It all depends on your type and the work you are striving to get. For me, I have too much of a sweet tooth to be on a strict diet…(but I am working on it). I do need to stay in shape and exercise…not just to keep my body thin and toned, but also for my own mental state. I’m limiting my opportunities if I gain too much weight or let my physical appearance fall to the wayside. And sleep…sleep is more important than anything. I never get less than 8 hours. I don’t care if I work from the moment I get up until the moment I go to bed. I’ll get the 8 hours of sleep if I don’t do anything else! People always ask where I get my high energy and enthusiasm for life. I attribute it entirely to my sleep!
Leanna: What other skills do you have that you feel is important as a performer? Do you think a person should have many different skills, experiences and such
to draw from?
Jacky: Absolutely! The best advice my old acting coach gave me, was to read and travel as much as I could. Life experience is so important for an actor. People watch. Go on a trip alone. Read, read, read. Never stop learning. Take on a new hobby. The more you do, the more you learn about yourself. Knowing yourself is so important for an actor. If you don’t know who YOU are, how are you going to know or understand who someone else is?
Leanna: To remain competitive, do you keep your head shot updated? Do you have business cards and promo slicks of yourself as your various characters? Do you have a website?
Jacky: I get my headshots done once every year or so. It’s important that your photo represents who YOU are….not who you were 6 years ago. I do have business cards, but I have not gotten a zed card or promo slicks. Right now, I’m feeling my way around LA and the acting biz here. I am sure if you ask me those questions in a few months, I might different answers. As for the website, I’m working on it now. I don’t have the money to pay a professional to do one…so I’m building a basic html site with photos, my resume, and some production stills.
Leanna: Have you worn any other hats on the various productions you have been a part of? What were they?
Jacky: Yes! I’ve been very involved the crew on several theatrical productions: stage management, light board operator, costume assistant, and director. I think it’s critical for actors to work on the crew. It gives them a deeper appreciation for the work that goes into a production.
Leanna: While perhaps most of your acting gigs might be from your local area, have you ever had to do films out of the area or state? Does the production company put you up in a hotel?
Jacky: I was put up in a hotel when I worked on “Fear of Clowns.” I lived over an hour away and the commute would have been brutal. It was in their budget and they took really good care of me! Most struggling actors aren’t made of money…and I haven’t ever heard of a production that didn’t put out-of-towners up in a hotel…or at the very least, find temporary living accommodations for them in someone’s home!
Leanna: Jacky, what genres do you enjoy working the most in?
Jacky: I love working on dramatic pieces, but I tend to get cast in comedy! I think that’s because I come across as very goofy and energetic. While I am in LA, I am actively seeking some really creative and interesting indie film projects. Indie films often let actors take more risks in their career…and I’m all about taking risks!
Leanna: Have you done nudity or had to deal with nudity on the set? What is the proper conduct and the way to deal with this matter so everyone involved is
comfortable, and the company get the shots it needs? What are your views on nudity in independent genre films?
Jacky: Nudity is totally natural and fine, if it is essential to the film. I have never done real nudity, nor do I think that I’ll be doing that in the near future. In “Fear of Clowns,” there is a brief shot of my ass, but it’s very basic nudity…and it’s so quick, you barely see it (thank God!). When shooting a nude scene, I really think an actor tends to have more control than they might usually on the set. On most sets I’ve worked on, the actor shooting in the nude, could make special requests about who was present on the set. I’ve never worked with a director who wasn’t totally respectful and professional about it. And after about 14 hours, shooting that same nude body…everyone becomes somewhat desensitized.
Leanna: Do you shoot just weekends for a feature, or have you had a scenario where everyone takes a week off to shoot the full week or two non-stop?
Jacky: I’ve had to take a month off of work to shoot a feature. Shooting on the weekends could mean you are shooting the film for a year. And when a shoot gets prolonged like that, more and more potential conflicts and challenges could arise. But, I still wish there were more projects available that did only shoot on weekends, as that would have given me a lot more opportunity to delve into interesting projects while I was slaving away at my 9-5 job.
Leanna: Have you had to deal with unprofessional people (by that I mean people not taking the job at hand seriously) or prima donnas on the set? How was such a scenerio handled?
Jacky: Unprofessional people really annoy me, mainly because I care so much about what I do, and I hold everyone to that same expectation. I get annoyed by people who act for FAME or for some superficial purpose…and not for the true love of it. Those tend to be the least motivated people I’ve worked with. I have been around prima donnas on some VERY LOW BUDGET films. There was this one girl who thought the world started and ended with her. She made the crew do food runs for her when she wasn’t happy with what the actors were fed. She complained incessantly about everything. She just exuded negative energy. The way I dealt with her, was to stay as far away from her as possible. The director never said anything to her, because for some reason he thought she was doing HIM a favor…when he could have easily recast the role with someone who was actually grateful and excited to be there.
Leanna: What is has been your best experience on a film?
Jacky: My best experience was working on “Fear of Clowns.” The entire experience was really fun. We worked with a skeleton crew and we worked VERY long hours, but everyone was so great. People’s attitudes can totally make or break the situation. When you work with exceptional people, no matter how tough the production might be…it’s going to be an exceptional experience.
Leanna: What has been your worst?
Jacky: My worst experience was working on this commercial in DC. It was for the owner of a window company who insisted her two kids be in the commercial. Neither of her kids were actors, and they were the most undisciplined children I’ve ever worked with. They didn’t follow directions, talked at the most inopportune times, and threw tantrums. It only took 3 hours to shoot, but that was the longest 3 hours of my life. I can remember looking up at the camera crew during one shot, and they just stood there rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. It was suicide!
Leanna: Jacky, is there anything else you would like to add to those who are trying to get into the independent film industry?
Jacky: Be persistent. Audition like crazy. Have realistic expectations. There are a lot of amazing indie films out there…but there are also a lot of bad ones. Do your research. Make sure the script is good, take a look at some of the director’s former projects. Be discriminating. It will be a waste of your time if you work on a film with someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, wastes your time, is unprepared, and completely inexperienced. That’s not to say all new filmmakers are bad… NOT AT ALL… just ask a lot of questions. Make sure that person is prepared, has a clear idea for what they want to shoot, and is someone you want to work with. GOOD LUCK!
Jacky Reres was born and raised in Chantilly, VA (a suburb outside of the Washington, DC metropolitan area). Up until her recent move to Los Angeles, the only time she lived outside of northern Virginia, was during her undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She now resides in West Hollywood and is pursuing a career in television. She’s not a working West Coast actress yet…but that’s the goal! To pay the day-to-day bills she works providing technical support to clients in Australia. She has appeared in commercials, infomercials, motion pictures, and was a regular cast member on the DC comedy series ‘The Higgins Show.” Her first love is the stage.
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