The L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival arguably boasts a very passionate group of co-founders and producers with Gary Anthony Williams, Jeannie Roshar, Ryan Higman and Kelly Frazier at its helm. Along with a fun-filled weekend featuring film screenings and fabulous parties, the festival offers invaluable industry panels to aspiring filmmakers and participants in which producers, digital media gurus, actors and writers offer sage advice and graciously participate in an audience Q & A.
The 2014 LACS celebrity panel featured some incredibly talented actors and actresses including Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live”), Jon Huertas (“Castle”), Michaela Watkins (“Trophy Wife,” “Benched”), Melissa Peterman (“Fargo”, “Baby Daddy”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Community”) and Tara Strong (“Family Guy,” “Rugrats"). L.A. Comedy Shorts Festival Co-founder and Artistic Director Gary Anthony Williams (“Boston Legal”) moderated the funny, informative and engaging discussion which covered a wide range of topics including how the actors got the performing bug, their comedic heroes, business advice for the aspiring filmmakers and what they like to do in their off time.
The busy, charismatic actors all cherish their down time and spend it in different ways. Melissa Peterman likes reading and sharing time with her son. Yvette Nicole Brown plays catch up on TV, Chris Kattan writes, Jon Huertas enjoys playing co-ed flag football and being physically active, Michaela Watkins likes spending quality time with her hubby and friends and Tara Strong enjoys hanging out with her 9 and 12-year-old sons.
Laughter rippled through the room throughout most of the candid discussion and it was really fun to hear Jon Huertas repeat the pronunciation of his last name (when prompted) in the smooth, sultry way that only he can. The ladies on the panel and in the audience couldn't help but swoon.
I recently caught up with Yvette Nicole Brown and Melissa Peterman outside the festival’s main venue at the Downtown Independent Theatre L.A. and in the attached video, they graciously shared their love for Gary Anthony Williams, with Yvette dubbing him a “ball of love” and Melissa calling him “America’s treasure.”
We also took a moment to discuss their mentors coming up in the field and they graciously offered their advice to aspiring artists in the following Examiner exclusive Q & A.
E: How did you become involved with LACS?
YNB: We’ve both worked with Gary and every year he calls and asks to take part in some way and we always say yes. Gary’s one of those people, you don’t tell him no and it’s not out of fear or intimidation, it’s just because he’s such a ball of love that whatever he’s doing, you wanna support it.
MP: I would do anything Gary asked me to do. And thing about it is he inspires me because he’s constantly working but so generous about it. Any project, anything he’s writing, he’s always thinking of his friends. That’s why he can get people and you saw the panel and you saw who’s participated the last three days because Gary Anthony Williams, he’s America’s treasure.
E: You’re answering questions for the aspiring actors and filmmakers. Who did you look to as a role model or mentor?
MP: I would have to say that I was very blessed and lucky that my first series regular, that the person that was the leader of that show was Reba McEntire. There was no better person that I watched on a set for six years that led a set with grace, humor and respect. I was raised that way and just to be in the business and watch somebody who got it, who realize that every day you get to do what you love is a wonderful blessing so, there’s no drama. There’s none of that. And, I remember thinking if I ever got to a place where I was kind of looked on as a leader on a set, I would want to lead it exactly the way she did. For me, my first job in Hollywood, to watch that lady was amazing.
YNB: I had a really great college professor. She didn’t really guide me into being an actor, but she guided me in the fact that I need to live a bold life. I was in Ohio and wanted to move to L.A. and my way to L.A. had kind of fallen apart and she bought my plane ticket to California because she said she believed in me and she wanted me to pursue everything that I wanted to do. I really felt like, if she believes in me, because she had no reason to do that for me, I should go boldly in the direction of my dreams and fight to the end and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m still friends with her now. She’s one of my great friends, my favorite professor when I was in college.”
E: What advice would you give aspiring artists in dealing with rejection?
YNB: I have this thing where it’s a game that I play, where it’s 100 nos to get one yes. So, in that way when you’re rejected you’re like, yay, 57, 79! You know, because you know you’re almost there. Usually, the blessing comes way before 100, but it’s just a little game that I play with myself and this is a game about out-lasting. You’ve just gotta hang in long enough until it’s your turn and I think a lot of people give up right before it’s their turn. It might not be the turn that you expect. It might not be the turn that you thought you have, but it is a valid turn and it’s made perfect for you. You’ve just gotta wait for that chance, that turn.
MP: I think you do have to have a pretty thick skin and part of having a thick skin is “a,” you have a champion in your life who always believes in you and you do believe in yourself. For me, when I come out of an audition whether I get it or not and I learned early on, I was prepared, I did it, I walked away and felt good about it. If I slacked off or wasn’t prepared then I’ll beat myself up. But, I like me a lot. I like myself and I’m not right for every part. That’s part of it too, knowing you’re not right for every part. You may have been the funniest one, but you were not the right fit for this project. And I also think that sometimes you have to remember you walk away and you may not get that job, but what you did that day is you planted the seed, that maybe in front of three people that go, oh this is not right but I’m gonna find something for that girl or that guy.”
E: Favorite TV show that you have not been on?
MP: “Modern Family.”
YNB: I’ll never be able to be on “The Cosby Show.”
The attached slideshow contains Flint TV Examiner exclusive photos taken of Melissa and Yvette and their fellow celebrity panelists at the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival.