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Followed

The Featured Presentation

Sam Valentine

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Photo By: Amanda Peixoto-Elkins

There was a great shift in the world of entertainment when Covid-19 hit. Movies were bumped from the release schedule, productions delayed, and theaters left empty. For those films still brave enough to venture into the socially-distanced fold of the cinematic experience, audiences – albeit smaller than the norm – were waiting to participate in the best form of escapism. For the independent horror hit Followed, that meant being #1 at the box office when it finally opened in June, which was a pleasant surprise for star Sam Valentine, who like everyone else, was navigating the highs and lows of 2020.

I do think that being one of the only new films dropped during this time has really helped us find a much bigger audience than we could have imagined with an indie horror feature, so you have to count those small victories,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Valentine to discuss giving people an escape, how she has kept her career in focus during quarantine, and why she chose to start the podcast One Broke Actress.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project Followed was released in the middle of a pretty tumultuous time for not only the country but the world as a whole. In a way, is it nice to be a part of people’s escape during all of this – to be their outlet to what was “normal” once?
Valentine: Absolutely. The film focuses so hard on social media and how we consume it, which I think is especially relevant in a time when that is one of our only connections. And being able to give people a fun and new (albeit kind of terrifying) piece of content to enjoy right now feels like a relevant contribution. On a personal note, this movie has been such a long time coming for all of us involved (we shot it back in 2016!) so it was such a great personal high note.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, social media is given a horrific spin in Followed. For many people, social media can be a love/hate relationship with its own share of real-life scares. What’s your relationship with social media today in 2020?
Valentine: Much like all of our emotions over the last few months, I have highs and lows. Sometimes I cannot imagine my life without the learning opportunities and incredible relationships I have made online. And then some days I leave my phone on airplane mode until the last possible moment. I will say diversifying my follows (specifically Instagram, the platform I use the most) has helped me come to a better place. During the height of the protests for Black Lives Matter, I made it a huge point to follow more BIPOC accounts, more body positive influencers, and just generally “clean house” on the content I was consuming.

TrunkSpace: Walk us through what the experience was like to see Followed brought to fruition, because like you said, you originally worked on it back in 2016. Was it a surprise to then see it released four years later and to ultimately find an audience?
Valentine: It has been a journey! This was the first film I was cast in after I joined the actors union SAG-AFTRA, so it felt like a big step in my career. But one of the hardest lessons actors have to learn is that nothing is on your planned schedule… ever. Our director, Antoine Le, has done an amazing job of keeping us all informed and up to date over the years. We even had a private friends and family screening with an early cut of the movie because they knew with the festival circuit planned before distribution, it would be a while before Followed got out into the world. And then we finally had a big theatrical release planned for April… but we all know what happened there! I do think that being one of the only new films dropped during this time has really helped us find a much bigger audience than we could have imagined with an indie horror feature, so you have to count those small victories!

TrunkSpace: A person can change a ton in a four year span. What would the Sam Valentine of 2020 have done differently with her performance in Followed? What choices did 2016 Sam make that you wouldn’t make today?
Valentine: That is such a hard question. I have definitely grown up quite a bit and found a lot more of my personal confidence, not only in my work but in my life as a woman in Hollywood. Of course you can always critique yourself the more time you have to reflect, but to me, the character of Danni will forever belong to 2016 Sam.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Followed thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Valentine: Honestly, it would be the relationships established from that set. Our cast and crew had to fall in love in a two week span to make what we did, and I think those kinds of connections last a lifetime. Matthew Solomon (Drop the Mic) and I still have a close relationship and are always semi-joking about constantly looking for our next project together.

TrunkSpace: As an actress – a profession where you generally are required to work directly with other people in a scene – how have you kept the tools in your toolbox sharp during this extended period of isolation?
Valentine: I am still in my acting class every week at John Rosenfeld Studios – having a deadline to hit with a script and scene assignment has been vital for the days that everything feels messy and far away. I also have a self tape partner Jenna Michno who I have done some socially distant self tapes with during this time – we help keep each other in check and motivated. And lastly I have made a big point to continue to study film/TV and read a ton of books. Listening, being emotionally invested, and responding honestly are all skills we can practice… even at home!

Matthew Solomon and Sam Valentine courtesy Followed

TrunkSpace: You also run the blog/podcast called One Broke Actress. Creatively, what does this outlet do for you that you personally that you haven’t been able to achieve in you career? What does it accomplish beyond listeners?
Valentine: It gives me a job I can’t get fired from! (Laughter) Just kidding.

I have always felt there was a massive hole in terms of honest information about the day-to-day life of working actors. You can find thousands of articles and videos now from women being “real” and “authentic” and showing their scars and stretch marks and just being human. And I thought, “Where is this for actors? Why do we feel we are the ones who have to maintain a perfect image for casting/producers/etc?” So I decided to be the face of that movement and share as much as I can about this world I function in while inviting others to do the same. Too many success stories are written after they happen, so I get to write mine while it’s in progress.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest misconception people have about a career in acting? What do those in your life – family and friends – who are not in the industry get wrong about your journey?
Valentine: I think the worst conception anyone has about this business (including people in it) is trying to map it out on any kind of time table. We can control who we are and what we choose to focus on, but the bookings, the “timing” of successes, that is all out of our control.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Valentine: It’s funny because you would think this answer would be some big premier or my biggest paycheck, but it’s actually when I was on set for a non-union allergy medicine commercial my second year in LA. We filmed the whole thing outdoors and I was on a zip line all day. I probably did 30 to 40 runs on that thing. I remember driving home and thinking, “Wow… I just got paid for something I would have paid to do… now this is the life!” I think finding the joys in the moments that don’t involve an audience is really the place success grows from.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Valentine: Nope. Firstly if you have seen any movies, very little good comes from time travel! (Laughter) But no, I have such deep faith in my long term career and life that seeing it in a moment wouldn’t do justice to the journey to get to that point. And I really love that I have today and tomorrow.

Listen to the One Broke Actress Podcast here.

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Next Up

Caitlin Grace

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Photo By: Nagel Photography

Name: Caitlin Grace

Hometown: Lodi, CA

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Grace: I knew as a young child, that acting was something that I had to pursue. I always felt that I could tell stories as well as those cast in parts on my favorite shows. I remember, “Who’s Afraid of The Dark” for sure, and I wanted to be on that show so bad!

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Grace: Absolutely, for what really sealed my inspiration was Kirsten Dunst and when she played, Claudia, in Interview with the Vampire I was so thoroughly impressed with her performance and felt, “If she can do it, I know I can do it too.” Boom.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Grace: Oh boy, this is still a tough question after all these years. I knew, that if I didn’t at least try to pursue acting, I may live in regret for the rest of my life. I remember feeling that as young as age nine. My father really wanted me to study and become an engineer. I toyed with the idea of getting my law degree, and I remember Pops saying, “You can do it, all you need to take are baby steps.” When I did apply to San Francisco State University, it was for a Theater Arts Major. Funny enough, I didn’t elect to have an academic counselor when I started, and two years after my receiving my Associates Degree, I realized that I had fallen into Psychology. It was difficult to get into theater classes after my first two years. I should have signed up for those courses freshman year. But honestly, I didn’t have the confidence, at all, to pursue it in college. But Psychology has served me very well in my study of the craft of acting, for one must know, how and what, motivates people to do the things they do. So, plan wise? I just had to remind myself that acting was to be pursed in baby steps as well. I feel I have to remind myself that acting is NOT that same formula as getting your Doctorate or a Law Degree. Where one gets their BA or BS, then Masters, then Graduate Program/Med School, then the tests to tell you’re ready to get a residency or internship. Acting is NOT the same. I don’t feel that there is a true tested formula for making it as an artist. It’s a matter of plugging along and seeing what does and doesn’t feel right, and trusting your intuitions along the way.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Grace: I went to college right after graduating from high school. My last semester in college, a friend of mine who did study entertainment, mentioned she got an internship at a casting directors office and was moving to LA the summer after graduation. I hopped on that band wagon and moved here with her. I was freshly 21, and still had A LOT of work to do, not only in making moves in the industry, but on myself as well.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Grace: It was easy in the sense that we ended up moving in with a lovely friend we had both met in college. She had a few extra rooms in her childhood house that her parents left to her and her siblings when they bought a second house a few blocks away. They were very patient with me, as I was really going through and experiencing my own demons. I ended up moving in with my grandparents a couple months after moving here, which was a blessing. I am lucky enough to have family here that has always supported me. But as much as others wanted to help me, I found myself pushing away, still not feeling that I deserved any help from anyone. I did feel alone for years, despite meeting some very amazing and patient people, it still took me some time to allow myself to trust others and let them in. But it became easier when I started studying at Beverly Hills Playhouse. That’s when the walls started to crumble down.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Grace: I went on an audition for a feature and it was improv. Very basic, you need for your scene partner to stay with you, but they for sure leave at the end of the scene. I remember sitting in the waiting room and writing down all the logical reasons why that character should stay with me. I did my homework, and I remember feeling like I nailed that audition. In fact, I did a happy dance walking back to my car. A few weeks later, the director, Antoine La, called my back in to read with nine other people they were casting for the opposite role. And to my absolute delight, Tim Drier, whom I’d worked and studied with at BHP for the past couple years, showed up to read for that part! It was a wonderful experience! Though I didn’t hear back immediately, I was okay with that. I did what I could and I figured they went with someone, probably younger, for that role. Tim told me to keep my head up. And a couple weeks later, Antoine reached out and told me that, though they went another direction for the part I originally read for, they actually wrote in a part for me, based off my auditions. I’m telling you, THAT was the moment I knew that I was REALLY on the right path, and I am so happy I stuck it out for as long as I have.

P.S. Tim booked his role too and we filmed our first feature, “Followed,” with the most FANTASTIC team, produced by Viscape Arts! Stay Tuned, it’s almost wrapped in post and slated to release 2018! #followedmovie baby!

Photo By: Nagel Photography

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role youd like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Grace: I love all genres, honestly, and as long as I gravitate toward a storyline, I’m happy to play and experience the role.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Grace: I find that the greatest strength one could ever have, is to TRUST and have absolute faith and confidence in yourself and the choice you made to pursue your craft and dream. It’s a very hard road, and not only will others doubt your resolve and your ability, you will too. YOU can’t let that doubting dialogue become your fear or your demise. You know you’re true heart and passion, and you need to trust that. And remember, you could be the best actor in the room, but that doesn’t promise you’ll get the part. So realize, it’s not rejection if you don’t book, you just weren’t what they were looking for, but that DOESN’T mean you aren’t good and you don’t deserve it. But babe; I’ve seen and met a lot of jaded people trying to make it in this industry. TRUST when I say that you can’t let your ego get the best of you. You will be you’re own worst enemy. Don’t let your fear and self consciousness overwhelm you. Remember, you know your ability, so again, it’s all about trusting yourself.

Did I stress that too much? Did I say trust too many times? (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Grace: My ultimate dream when it comes to my acting career is simple. When I watch a show, or movie, or play, and I am moved, I feel a sense of catharsis. My dream is to do the same for others, to help them realize something about themselves, and maybe learn a little life lesson from the story I’ve helped to create and tell. I want to move people. And walking down the red carpet and up to that podium of course! I’ve been visualizing it for so long, I’m so excited for it to manifest!

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Grace: You have to be prepared to be very very patient. Be patient with learning technique and studying your craft. Be patient to get the right head shots and develop a good reel. DON’T give yourself a timeline: i.e., “I’ll give it two years.” If you really really want it, “It takes a super human effort,” said Alex Craig Mann. So be patient AND persistent. For don’t forget, this is the industry of “hurry up and wait.” And, take it easy on yourself. You may go through a year where you are booking left and right, then the next year, it seems like it’s all dried up, and you haven’t been called in for auditions, or you can’t find a new agent, or a manager. There are ebbs and flows in this industry, be prepared to ride them and not fight them.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Grace: You can check out my website, www.caitlingraces.com, and/or connect though Instagram and Facebook.

I am on Actors Access, LACasting and IMDb.

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