Actress Camille Thornton-Alson is seeking like-minded addictive personalities. Okay to clarify, she is actually looking to get you hooked on her new comedy web series “ACT-ANON,” which offers tales of the members a fictional 12-step program designed to help friends, lovers and family of actors addicted to their craft.
A classically trained actress, Camille has appeared in numerous productions, including the North Bay Shakespeare Company’s “Twelfth Night” as Olivia. She has earned high praise and recognition along the way, winning awards and scholarships throughout her years of training at UC San Diego, the S.T.C. at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the British American Drama Academy in London, the Sarah Lawrence Grant for Artistic Studies in Paris and finishing at the University of Washington where she earned an MFA in Acting.
We recently caught up with Camille Thornton-Alson to find out more about her new web series “Act-Anon” and the goal behind it.
Can you give us an overview of your new web series “Act-Anon”?
CAMILLE: “Act-Anon” takes a comical look at how the friends and relatives of actors cope with the insanity of being in relationships with such a unique breed of human beings. Each episode highlights a particular 12-step member’s story.
“Act-Anon” is inspired by Al-Anon, a 12-step program for friends and relatives of Alcoholics. In this series, the addiction to alcohol is replaced by the addiction to acting, which for most Los Angeles actors, is equally as consuming and, to their friends and relatives, equally as crazy making.
You act in the project, but you also wrote and produced it…what was that like?
CAMILLE: It was incredible. I learned that there are so many different ways in which you can involve yourself in the creative process. It was a really important lesson for me, because in all honesty, I was very resistant to writing or developing my own work when I first moved to Los Angeles. I think I had this concept of what an acting career should be and in my mind I was given the scripts -- I didn't write them myself.
This experience has really helped me to expand the idea of what I want, and what success means. When you are raising money, making sure people are fed, cleaning, doing rewrites, writing checks, registering a production company -- suddenly all these different facets of who you can be are explored. What really amazed me is that as much as I love acting, this project really became much bigger than my own desire to develop a professional acting career. When you see talented, intelligent and creative people working so hard in order to make something you created come to life -- that's when it becomes awe-inspiring -- and that was by far the best part of the process.
Did you pull from your real-life experiences to create the storylines or where did you find the inspiration for the project?
CAMILLE: Yes! Absolutely, I took from many real life experiences. Moving to Los Angeles that first year after grad school was, if I am perfectly honest, ridiculously hard. I think everyone who goes to actor training school will probably relate to the shock of making this career path work, understanding how to make money with different jobs and essentially how to get into the business side of the acting world.
The question is how to show up as the CEO of you? Well...that sure takes a ton of confidence. And at that point of my life I was in the middle of dealing with some pretty heart wrenching life transitions. Working for a small bakery on Beverly, I found myself reading inspirational books on my down time, filling my mind with something other than the strong negative emotions I felt about L.A. and life in general. I kind of reevaluated. I knew I needed to write and while I was practicing monologues as I filled the cakes in the front of the bakery, with an oversized chef's smock and a hair net, I couldn't get over the irony of being such a classically trained actress and yet feeling so powerless.
That sense of powerlessness led me to think of how I could write about the actor’s brave journey with love and some fun along the way. I couldn't think of a better format than the 12 step meetings, where people are steeped in recovery and bravery dealing with their own lives. It was tricky too, at first I thought I could create an A.A. type of program for actors but the thing is, I love actors and their journey and I didn't want that love to get misconstrued into anything negative, so I figured through their loved ones speaking -- their stories might be better served.
You brought in some talented people to help you create the project both in front of and behind the camera. How did you get them on board and what was it like working with them?
CAMILLE: I was really fortunate to work with such a talented cast and crew. Pete Goldfinger, my screenwriting teacher, linked me up with my director Courtney Cunningham. She had just completed a short and he stressed that she was excellent at comedy. I, however, was sold when I heard she also performed a clown show and was classically trained as well. Clowning is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult forms of acting and one of the most necessary in training because it demands a level of transparency and truth that cannot be glossed over. Funny-- right? Most people wouldn't expect that from clowns.
When I first met Courtney, her meticulous attention to detail intrigued me and because of her training I knew she would pull out the physical comedic moments of the script. All the episodes are relatively subtle but there still needs to be humor within the truth of the situations presented. And she did! Courtney lived in New Mexico and worked with Corey Weintraub, our Director of Photography, on a number of projects and sent him the scripts. He came to Los Angeles right after wrapping his season with "Breaking Bad." He was phenomenal to watch work. He was calm and precise and brilliant at changing lighting, dressing a room and giving feedback and direction. I never realized how important the DP is to the look of the project. Most of the crew was assembled through Courtney's connections in New Mexico and then some were found through referrals.
The crew was phenomenal as were the actors. Katie Featherston is a dear friend of mine and I admire her grace, spirit and success in her own acting career. I was so happy when she agreed to play Hope, not simply to have her beautiful talented presence within the project but also for my own peace of mind. Looking at her and getting a big smile calmed my own nerves as I was running around helping out and generally making sure everything was okay! Matt Iseman came into the project through Courtney, we were trying to find a Gio and Matt came to Courtney's mind, she pulled up one of Matt's hilarious sketches on youtube and we thought it would be great to hear him read for the role. Or course, he didn't disappoint. He was wonderfully gracious as well coming on board in between a hectic travel and filming schedule.
What was so amazing though is that every single person was wonderful, it was like the perfect puzzle and the energy on set was so fun, everyone loved the scripts and you could feel that excitement as we were filming. It’s fun for an actor to poke fun at themselves and you could really feel that.
What do you hope audiences take away after watching the new show?
CAMILLE: What's been so great about “Act-Anon” and its development is that it has really grown into something unexpected. It began as a small idea that grew and grew. I am really curious to see who enjoys this show, because it is very specifically targeted towards actors and those involved within the industry. However, those who are family members, lovers and friends of actors will most likely love this too. My mom laughed hysterically--- but then I am her daughter and I am an actress.
My greatest hope is that this series encourages actors to continue on in their own personal journeys with humor and love redefining the meaning of success and expanding their own views of what they are capable of doing with their creative talents. I'd like people within the industry: writers, producers, crew, designers, casting directors, directors, acting teachers....to enjoy “Act-Anon” as a little gem on the web.
That this could be a destination for watching newer talent and a place where actors can earn SAG cards and experience working with incredible professionals is another hope of mine. But mostly I hope people enjoy the show, I am excited to see what happens to “Act-Anon” along the way.
And finally, how can audiences keep up with you and this new web series?
CAMILLE: You can like us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ActAnon
Follow us on twitter: @actanon2013
Or for more detailed information go to the “Act-Anon” website at: www.ActAnon.com
And finally please check us out at http://www.youtube.com/iheartactors
Beginning October 2nd there will be a new “Act-Anon” episode for the next 12-weeks.
Please enjoy the show and help us spread the word. Thank you!
No, thank you Camille! We’re addicted already and it’s only just started!