One of my favorite things about going to a convention is meeting new people. Last year while I was having a drink at the Wired Cafe during San Diego Comic Con I met a woman named Luciana Faulhaber. Luciana is an educated actor, writer, and producer who’s journey from Brazil to Los Angeles is like a movie itself. At the time we discussed the importance of female empowerment in the world and in the media, and how to this day it is still an issue that needs to be discussed. Needless to say, we hit it off. We’ve kept in touch since then, and now Luciana is working on a project that not only highlights this important issue, but to put it simply, sounds really cool!
In this interview Luciana talks about her journey from Brazil, to New York, to Los Angeles, her motivations for becoming an actor, female empowerment in front of and behind the camera, breaking gender stereotypes, and an upcoming post-apocalyptic project,Â Willow Creek.Â Not only is Luciana a thoughtful and intelligent artist, but definitely someone to keep an eye on.
Defective Geeks: What inspired you to become an actor and storyteller?Â
Luciana Faulhaber: Iâ€™ve always done it for fun while growing up but I have to say I remember the exact moment I decided this is what I wanted to do with my life. I was watching Spring Awakening on Broadway with all original cast. I sat through it in that dark theatre and wept through most of it. But it felt ok because it was dark and it was really all about the show. But in reality my chest was tight and in my heart I just knew I had never felt that way and thatâ€™s what I wanted. So I started changing my own life.
I know itâ€™s a romantic idea but I realized it then that what the world needs more than anything is to be remembered of their humanity. One canâ€™t change peopleâ€™s hearts if they have no heart to change. The two main words I live by these days are kindness and honesty.
I continue to walk into the theatre, stage or film, and experience something that helps me learn about myself and want to be a better person. Thatâ€™s what storytelling is about for me and I hope I get to do that for other people too. I feel so silly for sharing this idea! But you know, I give up so much time with my family that is still in Brazil to be here and do this I wouldnâ€™t do it if it wasnâ€™t bigger than me, bigger than money and fame.
DG: Originally, you are from Brazil. Tell me about how you came to be an actor in LA?
LF:Wow, from Brazil to LA seems like such a long journey. I came to America originally to New York City with a scholarship to study Biology at Fordham University. I was always curious about the human experience, physical and otherwise, that it was just a nice and easy fit. But not knowing what to do with that I went into teaching elementary school science and Special Education. I had a chance to work with wonderful people during that time and I have to say I learned some of my most valuable lessons from the kids. I think of them constantly and hope they are growing beautifully.Â During that time I got a scholarship to attend Columbia University Graduate School now in the field of politics. I believe in the power of education and that it can promote peace, freedom and social change.Â If it wasn’t for the education my mother gave me I would not be here today.Â Pedagogy of the OppressedÂ by Paulo Freire is a book I still read from time to time to remind myself of what I believe.Â In the field of politics I wanted to create programs that fostered independent thinkers who could not only be self-sufficient but also create new ways to see the world. It was a rude awakening when I realized politics was not the way to make this happen.Â During that time I had started taking night classes with Bill Esper at the Esper Studios in New York City just for fun. Sorry Bill but it was true at the time! By the end of that first semester at Esper I knew myself better than ever before and things began to change. I quit school, my teaching job and my relationship at the time and started again. From the bottom up. It was really hard, Iâ€™m not going to lie. Most people in my life couldnâ€™t understand why I wanted to give up my perfect life for this messy one. But it is true what they say out there. That who loves you will love you no matter what. And the love is mutual.
So I began to do gigs and to go to acting school full time to learn the craft. Acting IS a craft although I have heard some scary things here in LA. I believe we need to be educated in what we do the same way we need to have a cake recipe to bake a cake. Only once you have all the ingredients you can know what to giver or take to make it better, to make it more of your own.
I started to act on stage to put those teachings inÂ practice to learn what acting was all about. I believe who can do it does it live and does it every night. After a successful run of my last Off-Broadway showÂ The Smell of PopcornÂ which I started in with amazing actor and person Javier E. Gomez under the direction of Jorge Merced, I knew I was ready.
The night before we openedÂ The Smell of PopcornÂ I told the director I was very nervous people wouldnâ€™t like it. He turned to me asked: â€œAre you doing this for you or other people? Cause You got to decide that right now. Are you the kind of actor that makes art or the kind that needs to be liked.â€ I responded I was doing it for me and never looked back. The run was wonderful and it didnâ€™t matter what people think of me it mattered how it helped them think about themselves.
It was then I knew I was ready to walk into any room and do what I do, be it with a classmate or George Clooney, without being intimidated. So I moved to LA.
DG: What are the kinds of stories that you want to tell?
LF:Â It depends on the day. I want to tell stories that have heart and meaning but I also want to tell stories that are fun and light and help people forget how hard life is sometimes.Â During the production ofÂ The Smell of PopcornÂ I learned that drama has a lot of impact on the audience but it is very taxing on a performerâ€™s instrument.Â So a balance of drama and comedy would be ideal. Is that too much to ask? Although I have to say, I am growing a real soft spot for action films and would love to work on those. They seem to have both, drama and comedy, plus an ass kicking element that my I would love to indulge in.
DG: You have recently partnered with writer Julia Camara to produce a film called Willow Creek. Tell me about the story of Willow CreekÂ and why you wanted to be involved?
LF: Julia and I met through a mutual friend. We immediately hit it off both in a personal and professional level. Julia has written two distributed films, Area Q and Open RoadÂ and has had the opportunity to work with people like Andy Garcia and Juliette Lewis. I off course was totally oblivious to all of this when we first met. I thought she was a great person and we stayed friends.Â Then one day we were chatting and she said she had this idea for a script for a while and after meeting me she wrote it with me in mind.Â That was Willow Creek.Â It stayed on the back burner for a little bit as we were both working on other projects at the time and even shot a short film together called PrimaveraÂ writen by Anna Clara Chermont screening this month on the HBO Latino Film Festival in New York City. Julia directed that piece and Tim Aldridge, her husband, was our director of photography. We had such a wonderful time working together that day that I knew this was a team I wanted to continue working with. Not only do we have the same idea of what being professional means, we also care about the people we worked with equally regardless of their position. So after a few bad experiences we had working with other people Julia Camara, Tim Aldridge and I decided to partner up to produce Willow CreekÂ and we could not be more excited!
LF:Â I think it was when I went to her house for the first time actually and saw the posters of her films on the wall. I was like: â€œYou go girl!â€ and she just laughed. My friends know how much of a goofball I am and I am usually so focused on the person when I first meet them, what they are telling me about themselves, etc., that I donâ€™t pay attention to anything else. Julia had mentioned when we had lunch she had a couple films produced but I thought nothing of it. That seems to happen with me a lot in Hollywood. I sit to chat with some nice person and it turns out they are someone everyone else wants to talk to. The only rule I have about people I randomly meet is this: I donâ€™t care who you are and what you do if you are not a genuine person I am not talking to you. Not even if you are Madonna.
Juliaâ€™s writing talent speaks for itself and she is currently negotiating many other deals. However Willow CreekÂ will show the world Julia Camara is also a very talented director.
DG: What sets Willow CreekÂ apart from other post-apocalyptic stories out there?Â
LF:Â Well, how much can I say without giving the story away?! Willow is really about connection, survival, and discovery. This is a movie that will not only keep you guessing until the end but leave with a message that is very human.
Have you asked yourself these days, â€œHow much you really need to survive and why you lead the life you do today?â€ Thatâ€™s what we are proposing with this picture.
DG: Something that you and I have talked about was the importance of female empowerment. Tell me how this film, either in story or the process of its inception, embodies that kind of empowerment?
LF: Casey, my character, is a very brave young woman and a character I am looking forward to playing. She is raised by her father who still treats her like a little girl when in fact she is a young woman dealing with all that it comes with growing up. In the process of discovering her world, Casey learns to fight for herself and that is something I think women are still learning to do everywhere.
On the production side this is a film produced, written, and directed by women. Can we get more feminists? (laughs) Hollywood seems to be tired of the gender conversation, but after moving here I think itâ€™s still relevant. Women are usually put into two separate categories here: pretty or smart. But guess what?! These two genes are not biologically mutually exclusive. There are of plenty smart pretty girls out there. So you are welcome to look as long as you are also listening.
But regardless of gender, this is a very talented group of people I am working with and thatâ€™s what matters most. I could not be more fortunate.
DG: How can we support Willow Creek?
LF:Â Willow is being shot in October and we are currently looking for Brand based investment and sponsorship. Beyond that, the audienceâ€™s love and support is what we need. So keep an eye out for us and spread the word. Willow Creek should be hitting the festival circuit next year.
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Photos byÂ Tim Aldridge of TMAPhoto.