As part of our Women in Film series, I’m excited to have interviewed Filmmaker Krystal White. Krystal’s feature script is an Official Finalist of the 2015 World Series of Screenwriting competition, and, A Most Suitable Applicant, Krystal’s short comedy, is an Official Selection of the LA Comedy Festival. Krystal’s passion for creativity is intoxicating, and you’ll find her to be incredibly inspirational as well. She’s already made her mark this year with her first few films, and heading into the new year with such momentum it will be a gift to all of us to follow her work.
I know that your love for creativity started at a young age, can you share a bit more about what started it all? Was there a specific moment when you knew this is what you wanted to do? Or is it a result of many things over time?
Hmm. By the age of 5 or 6 I think it was pretty obvious I was an artist. I loved riding horses (started age 5), I loved to draw… By the end of middle school I was writing my own short stories and making little “films” using music and still images on Power Point (no one ever saw these, haha). In high school I was playing cello and piano. In university it was tango and Kung Fu. By then, I was desperately wishing I could clone myself so that each clone could focus on one of these artistic skills I so loved.
I can only describe it as a constant desire to create something beautiful and to breathe something that resonates deeply – and there are so many ways to do that – whether it’s dancing, painting, writing, singing, martial arts, bonding with animals, playing a musical instrument… filmmaking. One thing that drew me to the film industry, apart from the powerful magic of offering people an escape into feeling (be it fantasy, laughter, tears, joy, thrills), was that a career in film could possibly allow me to utilize many of the artistic skills and passions I had started developing and loved. For example, my latest film A Desert Sonata (which I shot this summer). The idea for this film came to me in a dream. I saw two dancers passionately dancing in a dark theater, and then someone being dragged in a desert. I woke up thinking, “That’s a film.” And my next thought was, “Okay, I’m going to learn some ballet.” Something I’ve always wanted to learn as well. So, while I had about 30 days to find and secure locations, finances, cast, crew, and so on, I did a few ballet workshops, and several privates with my amazing co-star in the film who is a wonderful dancer and choreographer. And, I got to dance.
Tell us a little more about starting out, especially training in the wardrobe department for Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix and Mamma Mia!
I knew, in my teenage years, that I wanted a career in film. I just, of course, couldn’t tell anyone. I was growing up in Greece, and had no family members or friends who had anything to do with filmmaking. So, even suggesting it out loud would sound ludicrous to the adults in my teenage world.
I remember watching Shakespeare In Love, and being blown away by the costumes. I thought, “Okay, I’ll study costume design.” I figured it would be more accepted by my family than if I had suddenly announced, “I want to be an actor!” I bought a bunch of books on Amazon about designing costumes for film, and I drew a portfolio on my own that actually got me into a very respectable costume design course in the UK. But, I chose not to attend. Instead, I sent a letter to the wardrobe department of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and they invited me to come intern! This was just after I graduated from college. I spent two weeks at Leavesden Studios and that’s it, I was hooked, the amazing sets, the buzz, “movie making magic” in action!
Not long after that, I got a call from the wardrobe department of Mamma Mia! (the film with Meryl Streep). I was told that they got my resume from someone on the Batman set who got it from someone on Harry Potter, (The crews of the U.K. seem to stick together.) The fact that I spoke Greek stood out to them. They invited me to be a wardrobe trainee and for three incredible months I worked with them at Pinewood Studios and then on the Greek islands. Literally, a dream job. I already knew though, that I didn’t want a life in costumes. When we’d be dressing the actors, something in my gut was telling me I was on the wrong side of things…Not long after, I was on a plane to LA.
Krystal, you are a true filmmaker, you are involved in all aspects of film from acting, to writing, to directing. Can you share with me what you love about each element? Also, can you share what the experience is like wearing those hats all at once?
Flying out to LA, all on my own, was scary enough. But joining an acting class, seemed even scarier. For two years, I did a little more wardrobe, went into script development, and interned at production companies. But something was still tugging at my gut. So, I finally joined an acting class. And suddenly felt at home, in a strange way. I love acting – however, in acting… you are a part of creating someone else’s vision. Which can be wonderful. But, I have so many visions of my own, so… I am equally drawn to writing and directing as well.
What I loved about making A Desert Sonata was that I had complete control of the entire vision. I dreamed it, wrote it, produced it, found/chose locations, I cast it, starred in it, directed it. I did this, in part, because it was low budget. In all low budget projects, you end up doing the jobs of 3-6 people (at least) because you can’t afford to hire those people. But, it was also because I wanted to do all these things myself. I was so clear on what I wanted. Even though the stress of wearing so many hats at once makes you think you’re gonna die by the time you’re ready to shoot, haha. I don’t recommend it! But, in the end, I’m very proud of the final film. And, have just begun to submitting to festivals.
Let’s talk about your films. Will you share with me a little about each one, and maybe also what inspired you to write each? And, given A Most Suitable Applicant is having such a great festival run right now, if you can talk about that, the festivals and the responses you have received.
A Most Suitable Applicant happened very differently from A Desert Sonata. I decided, this past spring, it was time to try my hand at comedy. I wrote the script (in my head) while I was stuck in traffic one afternoon. Within five days I had my cast and crew and was shooting. This was my first time directing. And my first time writing and acting comedy. The response to it has been incredible. It has, so far, been accepted into two Academy-accredited festivals and the LA Comedy Festival. I think, part of this film’s success was the fact that we just had FUN with it. Also, we
only had about 2.5 hours to shoot it! Which, is crazy. But, instead of that creating anxiety – I think that somehow forced me, as an actor, to really just go for it and not overthink. It helps that I had two terrific actors working with me. Pete Gardner and Johnny Wactor. Seeing strangers burst into laughter at my little comedy has become one of my new favorite feelings.
I‘d love to know what/who inspires you both in life and in your career.
I am inspired by a stark awareness that life is short. If you have a dream career, go for it. Fear is the biggest time-waster and the biggest inhibitor to success and happiness. I regret how much power and energy I’ve given to Fear. I still haven’t conquered it. But I’m working on it every day and it changes everything.
What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to in the future?
I started writing just in the past year. My two first feature-length scripts are finalists in some really awesome international competitions. I want to give those scripts wings. So, I’m working on that. And it looks like next year will see an exciting festival run for my short films.
I’d really love to talk for a minute about women in film, your perspective, do you see positive changes happening, is it still moving too slow from your perspective?
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve been in this industry long enough to offer a real perspective on that. One thing I do hear, now and then, are disturbing comments dropped by industry people, mainly in conversations about actresses, along the lines of “Oh, if she hasn’t had her big break by 35, she’s done.”
I even had a manager once tell me that “as a woman” if I don’t book my first TV co-star role by 30 “then you can forget it.” And, this manager was a woman. But, I guess some women are saying it because it is being projected onto them by men in the industry? Thing is, I know men who feel under pressure too. Male writers who are successful now, have confided in me that they felt under a lot of pressure to get their major break as writers by the age of 40 or else it was “over” for them. I honestly don’t understand any of it.. The only time I see age being something that
actually matters, is if there’s a role for a character who is 25, then sure, someone who looks 40 shouldn’t play it. Yes, age (the age you APPEAR to be, actually) is relevant in such a case. But, in any other case? I honestly don’t get why people are so damn hung up on age. And don’t even get me started on all the Botox I see women subjecting themselves to after a certain age. Wrinkles are sexy on a 50 year old male movie star. But, Heaven forbid, a female movie star who is 40 have a little crows feet. It’s just ridiculous.
Along with that, I admire you going out there and creating your own films, your own characters, showing that we have a ton to also offer the world. We aren’t going to wait for something to happen, we are going to create it and make it happen ourselves! Share with me a little about your philosophy on this.
As an actor, I quickly got tired of waiting for “that phone call”. I’m constantly burning with a desire to create and make my own art and to helm projects and try new things. I’m terrible at sitting and waiting. So, I don’t. This year, I really dove into creating my own projects. I started writing, acting in my own films, and directing. And it’s the best thing I could’ve done yet. And I feel like it’s just the beginning.
Share with me something about yourself most people might not know!!
Hm. I can do that really gross and weird thing where I can make my eyeballs look like they’re vibrating. It freaks people out! haha.
Thank you so much Krystal!!
Learn more about Krystal: