Ciera Danielle is making moves. With a role in the James Franco film Child of God, and working on her own next film entitled Subway Suicide, she has a lot to talk about, and she says it all with thoughtfulness and grace. We sat down with Ciera recently to talk about both projects and the ultimate direction for her expanding career.
"It's based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, who is just such a tremendous writer and such a tremendous artist," she said of Child of God, in which she has a supporting but memorable role credited only as Salesgirl. "Just working with James and Scott Haze, who plays the lead - they're friends of mine and they're such wonderful artists. You don't often get an opportunity like that."
How different is it when you're being directed by a fellow actor? "It's like worlds apart," Ciera explained. "Working with James, we studied at the same acting school, so not only is he an actor, but we studied the same technique. It's like you speak the same language.
"I think a lot of times, directors don't understand where an actor is coming from. [Directing] can be about so many different things; they're thinking about the editing process or the lighting, and acting is just a tiny part of that," she continued. "Directors who are actors or have worked closely with actors, it's night and day. It's so refreshing to work with a director who's an actor.
But that's also a two-way street: "Most actors are so oblivious to how challenging it is to be a filmmaker," she added.
Ciera would know: she's already written and directed one film, Daisy's, which released earlier this year, and is currently working on another project. "The film is called Subway Suicide and I'm directing and acting in it," she told us. "It's based on a play of the same title, Subway Suicide: A Love Story, and it's written by Anthony Montes, who's playing opposite me. We did it as a play at The Sherry Theater, which is actually Scott Haze's theater.
"It's a love story between two people who meet at the beginning of the film [when] they're both about to jump in front of this train. This reluctant love story sort of unfolds and it challenges them to believe in life."
She'll readily admit that directing and acting in the same project is no walk in the park. "It's so hard. It's really, really hard," she laughed. "I guess I'm just either a control freak or I think when I feel really passionate about something, I'll do it all. I'll do anything to make sure it gets done."
It's that same desire to be proactive which led Ciera to become a multi-hyphenate in the first place. "I began in the acting world, and that's where my heart really is," she said. "I've written my whole life, but the directing thing came about because I was just so tired of waiting for a part. I just did it myself. Thankfully, I seem to be good at it!"
Her attitude toward her career is a refreshing one; she's not meticulously planning toward a specific future, not pinning her self-worth on any particular professional goals or what anyone else thinks she should do. Rather, Ciera is just going with the direction that comes, and finding fulfillment in things that aren't the commercial bottom line.
"The first thing that comes to mind are the really hilarious, fun times on set or in the theater with my fellow artists, my fellow actors. Moments that are shared between us. Moments that just come out of being in the trenches together," she told us. "I think it's the adventure - the adventure of a bunch of crazy adults who are acting like children, daring to do something special that means something to them. Every filmmaking experience or everything you do, it really is like a wild adventure, or it should be."
Whether it's in front of the camera or behind it, whether it's a supporting role or a lead performance, Ciera is clearly passionate about creating art and helping bring others' creations to life. With her proactive spirit and her positive attitude, it seems likely that she's set to have plenty more adventures in her future.
What does she want to be able to have achieved ultimately? "I think knowing that I lived a life of integrity as an artist," she reflected. "I learned early on that fame and accolades [don't] do it for me. Maybe for some people and that's awesome, but I tried that and it just felt like it wasn't it. I'm very proud that I've built a life around being an artist and doing my art with integrity."