Different Sides of the Camera: Actor/Director Wendy McColm Says It's All About Trust

Wendy McColm & Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in Pink Grapefruit Sundance 2015
8,000 short films were submitted to Sundance this year -- 60 were accepted. Among those is Pink Grapefruit, a film by Michael Mohan starring actor/filmmaker Wendy McColm.

The film is about a young married couple that invites two of their single friends out to a desert house in Palm Springs for the weekend. As the logline suggests: "Things do not go as planned." Check out the trailer here and our interview with Wendy below:

NFS: This is your first appearance in a Sundance film, but I know you've been acting for a long time. I think it's important to be reminded that it just doesn't happen overnight. How long have you been at it?

Wendy: I grew up in Long Beach and I moved to LA when I was 19. I didn't have an agent, I just started with LA Casting and did extra work. That moved into studying at UCB for 3-5 years, being on a team there and getting better auditions and opportunities from that. So, it's been about 8 years.

NFS: How did you get involved with Pink Grapefruit?

Wendy: I followed and contacted Michael Mohan on Twitter the day after he happened to see me in a short film I did for Channel 101. It was just perfect timing. Then a year later he asked me if I wanted to be in a film, and I said, “Duh!”

NFS: When you got the job did it feel like just another job or did it feel like something bigger?

Wendy: I knew it would be bigger because Michael clearly has a vision that's different and unique. I felt it was the kind of thing I’d always wanted to be a part of but I hadn’t got the chance until now.

Wendy McColm & Nathan Stewart-Jarrett for Pink Grapefruit Sundance 2015

NFS: How did you approach the project differently because of this?

Wendy: I usually voice my concerns or opinions before filming, but in the past I have had directors not like that. So, I thought for this I wouldn't do it at all -- try something new -- but then Michael told me right up front: “No, no, no, that’s how this works.” And I was like, “What? You want to hear my thoughts?” So we sat down and talked about character, we discussed what we thought this project and character could be. I think having open discussions between actor and director builds trust.

Sometimes knowing where the edit point is helps me get into the director’s head more.

NFS: What was the biggest challenge working on this film?

Wendy: We were in the house for 3 days and I wanted to make sure the chemistry was right between Nathan [Stewart-Jarrett], who plays my love interest, and me. That was a challenge to balance that and I wanted to give all of my efforts to that. I wanted this love to be real for me. It hurt, I feel like when it was over I was rolled over with a steam truck, but it was worth the pain. Ha!

I would take in any experience that a director wanted to give me as long as we trusted each other.

NFS: What’s a strong memory from working with Michael Mohan?

Wendy: I remember doing the first take of the shot they used for the poster. He gave me a very specific direction, and I was just looking straight into the camera. I don’t know why I’ll never forget this moment, and I don’t even remember exactly what he said but it was very specific. And I don’t know why, but I felt something, and it was great to receive that solid direction, and I just went somewhere.

Wendy McColm in Pink Grapefruit Sundance 2015

NFS: You’re also a filmmaker -- you write, direct, edit and more. How does having filmmaking experience help your work as an actor?

Wendy: Sometimes I just ask things like, “How long are you zooming for this shot? How long do you need from me?” I would know what he’s going to cut on, so I think having editing experience helped me with those kinds of things. Sometimes knowing where the edit point is helps me get into the director’s head more.

NFS: So, that helped you?

Wendy: It helped me. It might not help other actors. I’ve heard you tell me that you don’t like the actors to be thinking about anything technical when shooting, and I’d be open to that, too. I would take in any experience that a director wanted to give me as long as we trusted each other.

Wendy McColm at Sundance 2015

NFS: How do you approach the festival while you’re here?

Wendy: I just try to be as friendly as possible -- I’m not faking that, I like to be friendly! My favorite thing to do is to be as outgoing as possible and to not be afraid of talking to people I want to talk to. I think it's important to not be afraid to hand out business cards, too. I dunno -- isn't it all a hustle? Everyone is here doing the same thing, but if you’re genuine and you’re just trying to meet people then it'll be okay.

NFS: Advice for aspiring multi-hyphenates?

Wendy: I think “keep going” is the most helpful quote I can give. There's no one way to do anything! It doesn’t matter what project was last, it's your experiences that matter; are you making the best of them? Are you trying everything you can? Are you doing the best you can? If you are -- if you love it -- then you shouldn’t be worried about how long it takes to get there.


Check out Wendy's work as a filmmaker here.

For those of you in Park City this week, check out Pink Grapefruit, playing in Shorts Program 3 today (1/27) at 2:30pm & Friday (1/30) at 1:00pm.     

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Cool article.

July 17, 2018 at 4:10PM

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Gusto Lopez
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