In anticipation of the short film THE AUDITION, we caught up with producer/actress Leilani Wyatt. Georgeous, sweet, and down-to-earth, this Aussie spells out her journey from being a dancer to a model and actress, and making it on two continents. Meet Leilani …
WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker?
LW: I grew up in a small town in Australia with 4 sisters and 5 brothers. We lived a very simple life and I think that helped to develop my imagination as we had to amuse ourselves a lot.
WMM: When did you know you wanted to pursue your craft as a career? Were you supported in your dreams?
LW: I’ve always wanted to be a Bond Girl! Haha! Though I was very shy and nerdy as a child, I performed in the school plays and for me that was the first time I felt like I could express myself completely. Plus I enjoyed the attention, something I was deprived of in a big family. My family has always been supportive, though it’s difficult for them as well as me, as we don’t see one another very often… thank god for Skype!
WMM: Did you study anywhere in your field? Where? Any notable stories / experiences / peers / teachers?
LW: I went to drama school for two years full time at “The Actors Workshop” in Australia. I am forever thankful for the training. We learned everything from Mime, Shakespeare, Script Writing and Stage Combat. It gave me such a great knowledge base, and many different tools to call upon. My teacher Lyn Kidd, always instilled in us the importance of creating your own projects, and many years later I’m finally doing that.
WMM: What else do you do besides your craft? Day job?
LW: I’m a Nanny, which provides a nice balance to the crazy world of showbiz .. and I think it makes me a better actor because kids remind me how to play.
WMM: What is the lowest budget you have worked with? Highest?
LW: I have worked for praise and coffee, and not much else! I think every actor has done a lot of “passion projects” as they hone their craft (well they should!). The most money I’ve ever been paid was body-doubling for a very well known actress … though I can’t say who!
WMM: Describe your first foray into professional film making/acting? First screening? First show?
LW: The first short film I performed in was while I was still in drama school. I played an amnesiac searching for her identity. I was nominated for a best actress award for that role. I had a really great director.
WMM: What is the most stressful situation you have found yourself in as an artist? Most rewarding? Most memorable?
LW: Usually the worst experiences are the ones that make the best bonding experiences and become the most rewarding.. However the most stressful shoot I’ve been on was the first commercial I shot in LA. I was on a beach being scorched by the sun, whipped by the wind and sand, being yelled at by the director because my accent wasn’t 100% perfect. Learning a new accent is challenging, and I was very new to LA. They knew before they hired me that I’m Australian, AND they changed the script on the morning we shot, so I didn’t have time to meet with my accent coach. It’s the only time I’ve cried on set for real …
WMM: What are your current project(s)?
LW: I just shot a short film on the weekend called “Gloriana”. I am an executive producer and also lead actress. It’s about the first female army ranger defending herself in court because she was blamed for the death of her men, solely because she’s a woman. It deals with issues of equality and the fact that women were not allowed in combat until recently. It has been the most challenging role I’ve ever performed. Coincidently, on Monday Sept 15th, the army has just announced that it will open up the elite ranger training to women … a very historic event!
WMM: How has WMM influenced / shaped / supported you with this process/project?
LW: WMM is a great collaborative playground. I have met so many great writers, directors and actors who I intend to work with in the future!
WMM: Who are your biggest influences? Directors? Actors?
LW: I love Cate Blanchett! Not only is she Australian, but she’s also one of the greatest working actresses of our time. I did background work on Terence Malick’s “Knight of Cups” just so I could meet her!
WMM: What are your top 5 films?
LW: Cinema Paradiso, Gone With the Wind, Amelie, Braveheart, Team America
WMM: What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?
LW: I like to leave my “favorite” project as a future possibility … perhaps I will get to be Bond Girl after all!
WMM: What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory?
LW: Like most people in this business I would love to work more. If I could wake up every day and be on set or be actively rehearsing a role, I would be a very happy woman.
WMM: Any advice for filmmakers?
LW: Study, train, do as many student and independent films as possible, be as versatile as possible, travel, live a full life so that you have your own experiences to draw upon, find other creative outlets as well, get your heart broken, be prepared when you get to set, be on time and be nice. And above all, respect yourself as an artist; We provide a very valuable service to humanity.
WMM: What is your favorite thing about WMM?
LW: I love love love coming to WMM!!! I look forward to reading and hearing new material. I love meeting other passionate professionals, and the vibe is definitely nurturing and positive. It keeps me motivated and focused! And getting cast to read, definitely helps with my cold reading skills. Oh, and I do love wine!
WMM: If you were stranded on an island for 6 months, what 5 items would you wish you had on your person?
LW: Sunblock (I burn easily), a hat, a machete, my phone (to call for rescue), can we have internet on a desert island … ?
WMM: If you were not doing what you do now, what would you want to be doing?
LW: I have thought about this a lot lately actually, and the only answer I can come up with is this: I’m an artist, it’s my lifestyle. I wouldn’t feel fulfilled if I wasn’t working creatively in some capacity. I can’t imagine myself not making films and telling stories, so while I may not be an actor forever, I would transition to another role in this crazy business … probably directing … or writing … or casting … ?
WMM: What’s next for you now?
LW: Once post on “Gloriana” (my most recent film) is finished, we’ll be looking at submitting to film festivals. Also, I have a small role in a feature thriller “Sweet Darling” coming up in October. Other than that, just back to the daily grind of being an actor in LA.
Describe yourself with 3 adjectives.
LW: It’s probably best for someone else to answer this question … preferably someone who likes me 😉
WMM: What, other than your craft, brings you joy?
LW: Travelling the world, my nieces and nephews, dancing Ballet and Interpretive Dancing … seriously! I consider myself an interpretive dance-off champion! I will accept the challenge anywhere, anytime, to any song! Lol!