Mastering The Standard Generic12 Aug 2014, Posted by in ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
|Mastering The Standard Generic
Cannes Film Festival 2004
by Elspeth Tavares
The Business of Film, July 19, 2004
|New Zealand Film celebrates 25 years of attendance at the Cannes Film Festival. Once Were Warriors is one of the first great New Zealand movies that contributed to an international awareness of the richness of talent in that country. Star of Once Were Warriors, Rena Owen, who has found success in Hollywood and kept focused on her aim to do quality work, talked to Elspeth Tavares.With Warriors, I was very blessed with a wonderful script and a phenomenal director. I was so ready for that role – it was my great privilege. After Warriors, I should have been based here [in Hollywood] to further my acting career, but I chose not to be. For me, Hollywood is not the only place where they make movies. I would go to Timbuktu for really good script. After Warriors, it was not about going to Hollywood, so to speak. I always knew and felt that filmmaking was a big part of my future, so I maximized the opportunity afforded me by the success of Warriors and forged relationships with distributors, financiers, and film festival directors. This all comes into play now with a project I am currently working on. It was four years after Warriors that I was offered a job here. I was reluctant, but I knew I had to do it. I have being working steadily. The role in Star Wars Episode Two gave me a following, and as a result I am often cast in the Sci-fi genre because of my exotic look. I have an unusual voice, but for Sci-fi futuristic roles that doesn’t matter. It is more difficult for dramatic roles. I have a mixed blood look, and I don’t come in a box, so it is very difficult to find good roles. I have a lot of hope riding on young Kersha in Whale Rider. Perhaps, with the acceptance of more foreign films, her nomination, and the success of The Lord of the Rings, she could be the first Polynesian actress to break the traditional mold in the US and work across the board. It’s still difficult in America. Only Morgan Freeman and a handful of African- American actors are able to play straight character roles. I constantly go out for roles, and they appreciate my acting skills. But an exotic looking actress at 40, trying to work in serious roles in Hollywood? No one has crossed that line yet. Very few actresses in that age bracket get opportunities – Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange are exceptions to the rule. It’s not the audience. They don’t care. If they love you, they love you, and they don’t care what you look like. I think it’s because Hollywood has to put a label on what it does. Unfortunately, the town is still ageist, sexist, and sadly racist. The directors with vision jump on the new energy and use the multi-faceted talent that is Hollywood, but they are not necessarily the ones able to green light the projects. They don’t have to be accountable. I think slowly that will surely change.
With the traveling I did after Warriors and my background in theater, Hollywood was a great place to find out how the craft actually works. There are countless lectures and workshops around town, and this wealth of information enabled me to move to my next stage of involvement – the filmmaking process – rather than just behind the camera. One of my passions is writing, and I am currently working with collaborators on a tremendous script for which I am trying to finding the financing. It’s a period piece set in New Zealand in the time of Captain Cook. Unfortunately, there isn’t a part for me because I have too much European blood. In New Zealand we have a wealth of Maori actors and the only Caucasian’s face will be Captain Cook. I am blessed in that I am not a 24-hour actor. Acting is a mission for me, a way to come out of myself. I think it’s an art that provides a path of discovery and healing for me. I have always had an interest in the other areas of filmmaking, and with this project I hope, having had a successful career in front of the camera, to find the truly fulfilling one behind the scenes.
|The Business of Film|