FYIG recently had the chance to chat with actress Erin Carter about her new movie Suck It Up, her love of 35mm photography, and much more!
Tell us a little bit about how you got started in acting.
I distinctly remember auditioning for the grade seven musical and not getting a part, and I mean, not even a pity part. This was the beautiful beginning of an actress’s very complicated relationship with rejection. I swear I thought about my audition song for the grade eight production all year. For the next five years I would find myself in all of the school productions, and sometimes I think about that, and whether I would have worked as hard the next year if I’d actually been cast in that seventh-grade production. The answer is probably yes… but I like to think maybe it fanned the fire in my belly.
At what point did you realize that there was a potential to make a career in acting?
I was not one of those kids that started acting professionally at a young age. Of course, I was always in the school productions, but I never took that too seriously. I really didn’t think of it as a career path until high school. I grew up going to a school where the acceptable career options fell in the Doctor or Lawyer categories. I was really lucky to have had a drama teacher in high school who pushed us to believe the arts were a valid option as well. We always dealt with really mature and progressive pieces in class, and it really opened my eyes to the kinds of roles that were out there. By the end of high school, there was really no question in my mind that this is what I wanted to do.
I read that you were a student at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. How did that experience shape you as an actress?
I did yes, I went to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts right out of high school, and it was a lovely place to go when all you’ve had prior was a high school theatre that also doubles as the cafeteria! It was exhilarating to have classes all day, every day, doing what I was passionate about. It felt freeing to know I was pursuing what I loved.
Talk to us a bit about your latest film, Suck It Up.
Suck It Up really was a dream project for me, and I’m so excited to share it. The film follows Ronnie and Faye, two best friends, a few months after they suffer a hard-hitting mutual loss. Which for Ronnie means an epic drinking spree, but for my character, Faye, it means pushing aside her own feelings and taking care of her best friend Ronnie. The two end up in the quaint town of Invermere, BC, due to a rash decision on Faye’s part, and they’re then forced to face their grief there, at Ronnie’s childhood cabin.
The conception of Suck It Up really started with Grace Glowicki and I having a similar frustration with the female roles out there. We had a tiny kernel of hope that we could create something that transcended the one-demential female characters we were so used to seeing, but as it grew it became so much more than that. It was such an amazing team and an amazing experience to shoot. Grace and I had both spent time in Invermere throughout our childhood, and when we first discussed making a feature, we both agreed It would make a spectacular location for a film. We even made a list of locations in the town for our writer, Julia Hoff, that we thought would be particularly full of character. Julia really ran with it, and I think the film has a very distinct small town feeling and a very intimate vibe to it, despite her having never been to the town prior to shooting! The film deals with so many themes that speak to such a wide array of people. So many of us deal with loss and the lack of tools to deal with it. It’s a project with so much heart, and laughs, and tears, and I was absolutely honoured to have worked with Jordan Canning on it. The depth her directing gave to these characters journey’s was so humbling, and I can’t help but cry every time the credits roll. I can only hope all the movies I am a part of feel this special.
You’ve done work behind the scenes as well as a producer on Suck It Up and producing and writing Bonfire. Do you prefer having a hand in both sides of a production?
I think, for me, this might be a symptom of changes that have occurred in the film industry, a kind of adaptation on my part. I remember when web content was new and just coming up, it was such a phenomenon, the idea that anyone could pick up a camera and shoot something. The accessibility of film was so invigorating to me, the fact that I could take my career into my own hands. It definitely started as a way to act more, but along the way, I realized that although acting is my first love, I very much adore every phase that a project goes through, from script to screen. I have been so inspired throughout the years by artists like Lena Dunham, Jenny Slate and Issa Rae, women who contribute on both sides of the camera with such strong voices. I love having a hand on both sides, I love the conception of ideas and having the opportunity to tell stories that mean something to me.
Speaking of Bonfire. Tell us a little bit about that short.
Bonfire was really born with two other friends of mine Mandi Nicholson, and also Grace Glowicki. Again, it was conceived over a few drinks and a heated conversation about our frustration with the roles we were getting at the time. Mandi and I had actually known each other since middle school and we had spoken so many times about the oddities of young girls. We always saw Bonfire as an homage to how much young women seek to be a part of something, and how much they seek to please each other. Bonfire is very much a satire of what it is to be independent. Or at least what independence might look like through the eyes of our specific characters. When coming up with the characters we loved the idea of showing girls who wanted so badly to separate themselves from the herd, but in the search for independence, they ended up losing a lot of themselves. I think it’s something a lot of girls, and unfortunately, even a lot of women can relate to.
Are there any differences (beyond the obvious) between filming a short and doing a feature film? Do you have a preference?
For me short films feel like a very specific space in time, usually a moment or distinct experience in my life I would like to talk about. But features feel like a much wider exploration of a theme, something you can sit with for years. It’s funny because looking back, I actually think Bonfire was more of a feature-length idea, but I definitely didn’t have the means (or the confidence) to pursue a long-form script at that time. The shorts I write now are very contained and tend to be little slices-of-life that keep me going between the bigger projects. Shorts are by no means easier, but they are definitely quicker. Suck It Up was a three year plus journey, and as far as features go that’s not even that long! It’s a huge commitment to carry a story through years of development and in order to spend that time and care on something it absolutely has to be something I’m deeply passionate about. I have no preference, but one does serve a different purpose than the other for me for sure.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?
I would say that being yourself is the best thing you can do. I spent so much time trying to be what I thought the industry needed or what the role called for in the eyes of the studio, or some bullshit like that, and at the end of the day, the people booking the roles are the ones who are bringing their own strengths and quirks to the characters. Don’t shy away from those, you’ve got to lean into it.
What are your long-term goals in acting?
Ultimately I would love to have a production company that fosters new, fresh and diverse content. I am very passionate about female-driven work and have often looked to amazing actresses before me like Reese Witherspoon or Jessica Chastain who both started production companies with very personal mandates. I will continue to seek compelling and complicated characters to play in other peoples work, but through the years I would love to help new voices, and experienced ones alike, bring underrepresented stories to life.
I’ve read that you’re interested in 35mm photography. Any possibility of a side-career in that?
Oh wow, I wish! It is very much a hobby for me. I am pretty willy-nilly with my settings, and I don’t approach it from a place of perfection as far as light and focus go. That’s what I love about it. I love the mishaps with exposure and the mystery of it all. In a culture where we can take a picture and have anybody we want see it within seconds, I love that there is no instant gratification with film. The anticipation is the best part.
Let the readers know where to find you online.