This Month's Special Page Features Actor Bianca Barnett
What's it like to be a Scream Queen?
IN THE "SPECIAL PAGE" ARCHIVES:
Bianca Barnett tells The Horror Zine what it's like on the set
I am extremely thankful to be given the gift and opportunity to follow my dreams. Life as an actor can be exhilarating and rewarding, but with the illimitable highs come substantial lows. I am often asked by others for advice on how to “make it.” Personally, I am still learning something new every day, but I hope to share with others what I have learned so far.
First, let me give you my most recent credits. I had the opportunity of being in Emily Hagins’ My Sucky Teen Romance which premiered at SXSW and recently played at the Gold Coast International Film Festival. I also made a brief cameo in the film The Dead Inside which was created from the dark, artistic visions of Pearry Teo and Chad Michael Ward. I worked with Dennis Willman and Jeff Hughes for the comics, Ginger Stein: Rise of the Undead and Goldilocks in Zombieland. The film Albino Farm played on Showtime’s movie channels. I have won a Golden Cobb Award for “Best Rising B Movie Actress.” Filming for Anthony Brownrigg’s Archaic Redemption was quite an experience. It has been a busy and fruitful year for which I am truly thankful.
So, how did I get my start? My first experience getting paid in the entertainment industry was as teen when I worked as a model. After high school, I attended college hoping to pursue my dream of being an indie film maker. (Growing up in the nineties, I watched so many independent films. I wanted to be the next indie darling, but I also wanted to write my own screenplays and direct. I later realized that my true passion lies in creating and becoming characters, so I shifted solely to acting.) Unfortunately, that school focused more on television rather than film, so I dropped out and moved to California.
I signed with an agency in Los Angeles fairly quickly and I began auditioning for music videos, commercials, and television roles. I gained experience from a few years of student films, theater in school, and background acting (an extra). It was not until I got the part of Pig Bitch in Albino Farm that my career started to take off (look at the upper right at the top of this page to see my role in Pig Bitch).
A typical day of working on a film is anything but typical and generally there is no consistency. Work days can last fourteen hours with only one day off a week. This schedule can sometimes last weeks or months! It is even more grueling when you throw in travel or wearing heavy prosthetic makeup. Sometimes I even get sick and run down right after filming a movie.
I get to travel a lot...I have been living a nomadic life ever since I began acting professionally. Normally, I am flown to whatever city I am working in the day before. I get picked up at the airport by a runner or personal assistant and dropped off at my hotel. Call times vary, but they are generally early morning or afternoon. Upon arrival, I get a quick tour of the location. I am then introduced to the cast and crew, who on average, consist of fifty to a few hundred people. I try to remember everyone’s name and what their job is. I usually do not. :)
I get whisked to hair, makeup, and wardrobe, which takes anywhere from two hours for straight makeup to six hours for extensive prosthetics. Then I get glanced over by producers and the director to see if any changes need to be done. What comes next is the old acting cliché: Hurry up and wait! Sometimes I have to wait hours before I am called for my scene. During this time I make good use of my time by running lines and rehearsing with my co-stars.
As a general rule of thumb, I expect to be on the set twice as long as I am told I will be. For example, if I am told my scenes will be wrapped in five hours, I plan on being there at least ten. Being on the set can warp your sense of time and reality! Most scenes are shot on a set where light is altered and phones are off, so it is easy to forget to eat regularly or stay hydrated. Craft service is generally heaven but it is rarely healthy stuff, so I try not to gorge.
When it is time to head to the set, the actors get blocked (actions, movement, positioning--all of this changes often) and lighting will be tested, a walk-through of the scene is done, and the director will decide what should be changed.
If you are argumentative or cannot follow direction (surprisingly, this happens a lot!), acting will prove to be a challenge for you. It is crucial to be able to listen and to follow instructions, perform actions, and deliver your lines naturally. It is also important to remember what you did sequentially--for example, if you pick up an object, return it to the original place after the scene. Depending on the director, you can do anywhere from three takes to fifty or more, Kubrick-style.
On that note, drama (the real kind) happens--both on screen and off--but I try desperately to avoid it. There are a few occasions where I have been called a diva. Early in my career, I deserved it because I was unprepared for work or I let my personal life and problems interfere. So I made a conscious decision to get myself together and see this as what it is--a lifelong career. It is a high pressure job where everyone is stressed, money is tight, and time is of the essence. Team work is vital in this industry--if you cannot work with other people or take direction, you will probably not be successful as an actor.
In this industry you not only have directors, but producers. Investors who are not very experienced in film making will demand changes from a director, hence the “director’s cut.” I see a lot of head butting behind the scenes and sometimes people quit on set. On one particular movie, a producer threw a chair at the director just before quitting!
Drugs, especially alcohol, are pretty common during or after shoots. I have found that my biggest challenge is to avoid the partying aspect as much as possible, but peer pressure can be challenging and I still struggle with it. Many people ask why substance abuse is so prevalent in Hollywood. I think it is probably a combination of people prone to addiction combined with the extreme pressure and stressors of the business.
I am very grateful for the people that helped me help myself to avoid drugs and alcohol. It takes a lifetime commitment and hard work to stay clean and you have to surround yourself with positive people who respect and love you enough to not use drugs around you. Recently my fiancé decided that he will travel with me anytime I go to set.
Other than mind-altering substances, drama on the set, and last minute changes from directors and producers, there are other things that can be stressful. Not knowing when you will work again, where your next paycheck will come from, or how successful a film will be are all extremely nerve-wracking. Fans, family, and friends always want to know when they can see you next or why you have not “made it” BIG (this usually equates a movie played in a theater). Add to that managing your own career, finding your next job, running a website with blog/shop/gallery, and keeping in contact with media, fans, and business prospects… Did I mention that I am a full-time student working hard to maintain high marks in my classes?
I know of a lot of actors that are struggling because they cannot find an agent to represent them. I think that perhaps some actors are not marketing themselves in the best light possible. Most people want to be leading types, but honestly, they are more suited for character acting. Many agencies will not work with you if you are not a SAG (Screen Actors’ Guild) member. I plan on joining this year but might choose to work on non-union films if they are lucrative. Be wary of anyone who claims to be an agent but does not have the credentials. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
After reading all of this you may think I am crazy to keep chasing my dream. There are days when I ask myself, “Is it worth it? Are you happy? Is that what you want?”
Now, after I have outlined the negatives in this article, I want to tell you the positives. An actor needs to be an optimist. I get excited when I see a finished project on the screen. What an accomplishment! There is nothing else like it. Life as an actor is always full of adventure.
These days, I am becoming more selective of the projects I take. I am done with low-budget film making as it generally ends up being more trouble than it is worth. I would much rather make one well-financed picture that is seen by a large audience than fifty low-budget films that look amateurish. I understand the desire to want to work as an actor, but my advice is to pick and choose wisely. Film is forever.
Each time I start to question my career choice, suddenly a new email arrives with encouraging words from a fan or news of a potential project or opportunity. I can honestly say, I could not imagine doing anything else in my life because I love the thrill of acting and interacting with people so much. It is quite the challenge but when all is said and done, nothing feels better than to see your film up on the screen. I plan on coming to a theater near you soon!
Actress and model Bianca Barnett was born Bianca Evans on August 26 in Garland, Texas. Her parents named her after Bianca Jagger, and her favorite holiday has always, of course, been Halloween.
During her childhood, her parents owned a successful model kit company, Lunar Models, through which she first developed an interest in fantasy, science fiction and horror. Her thirst for film making was also fueled by her father’s video camera, with which Bianca would create and star in her own no-budget amateur movies. This led to an interest in cinema, which prompted the wannabe director to enroll in college but, after realizing that her true passion was in front of the camera, dropped out of film school and moved to Los Angeles.
It was announced on June 27, 2011 that Bianca has won a 2011 GOLDEN COBB AWARD for Best Rising B Actress HERE
See Bianca's newest film titled Archaic Redemption HERE
See a complete listing of Bianca's films HERE