When you first talk with accomplished actor Breeanna Judy, the first things that hit home are her passion for her craft and her undeniable grasp on the history of the industry she hangs her diminutive pill box hat on. She also has a sly sense of humor, as diligent Vents readers will note while reading this interview. Mix together and shake like a Ward Eight and what you’re left with is simply enough one of the bright and shining lights of the silver screen who has steadfastly built an acting portfolio that would do Konstantin Stanislavski proud.
Currently viewers with a taste for the noir and aficionados of the zany school of the Marx Brothers can find Breeanna capably handling the screen as the fem fatale in director Shawn Schminke’s love letter to those two towering genres, A Dead Dame in Hollywood (currently on view in all of its black and white glory on Amazon Prime). Next up for this acting stalwart is a role in the Angela Shelton film, The Eagle and the Albatross (premiering tomorrow on Video-on-Demand on Apple, Google Play, Fandango and DVD available on Amazon).
Vents: A hearty Vents welcome to the one and only Breeanna Judy! Before we begin Breeanna, how have you been doing during these strange and unsettling times?
Breeanna Judy: Hi there! These certainly have been strange times. I hear locusts are next? Seriously though, my husband, Nicholas Kramer, and I have been making lemonade as best we can. We’ve been reflecting on all the plans we had put in motion for this spring and summer and how they have completely changed. So we are pivoting. Which is likely for the best, anyways.
Vents: You play the character of Candace Loring in director Shawn Schminke’s A Dead Dame in Hollywood. For those not in the know, how would you describe this gem of a film and your role therein?
Breeanna Judy: I always describe this film as a “Film Noir with a Naked Gun Spin, all done on a $5k budget!” Knowing all that, I can’t see how anyone can watch it and not appreciate it, let alone, love it! As for my role, well, every great Noir needs a Femme Fatale.
Vents: A Dead Dame in Hollywood is brimming with such an amazing cast. What was it like for you to work opposite such stalwarts as Alan Maxson and Noel Jason Scott?
Breeanna Judy: It is true, the cast in this film is a doozy! Alan and I are old friends, meeting first on a set of a horror feature film that never got made. We have stayed friends ever since and I love seeing all his successes! Coincidentally, we have worked together multiple times and we joke that one day we will be the parents in a sitcom comedy, a la Modern Family! Noel is such a sincere person and consummate professional on set. He loves character work and it shows in his performance on screen, and off. The entire cast, though, is just an incredible ensemble: Evan Mack who’s characters and personality fill rooms; Allie Rivera who is just delightful; Tatiana Paris who is perfect in every way; Justin Armao who is ridiculously funny; Kevin Lau who is stealthily comedic; Matt Kelly who projects precise performances; Tim McCord who plays an awesome straight man in a film of bananas; Pj Megaw who is always game; Nabil Moo and Evan Reinhard and Stephani Lindsey who support the story heartily; and of course Alicia Schminke, a dear friend, who is always willing to wear whatever hat needs to be worn on and off set.
Vents: A Dead Dame hangs its fedora hat in the wheelhouse of film noir. This begs the question if you came to this project as a fan already of such noirs as Angel Heart and The Big Sleep?
Breeanna Judy: I wouldn’t say I am a huge fan of film noir per se, but I love and appreciate film and its origins and really, all the genres. As a lover of history and film, you kind of have to, right?
Vents: Shawn Schminke was the more than capable captain of this particular ship. What was your experience like working with such a talent?
Breeanna Judy: Shawn Schminke is a talent, hands down, 100 percent. The very first project that I worked with him on, was Fish Oil Kills (it’s on YouTube, you should definitely check it out). The project started with a call from Alan late one Friday night saying he had an awesome Walrus costume on loan- one weekend only, and asked if I was down to shoot something the next day. No script; just a costume with Alan inside, an iPhone to shoot on, a water bottle of blood, and two friends: Shawn and Alicia. How could I say no? He had me at walrus! We shot out Fish Oil the next afternoon. What Shawn turned out, and what we made in four hours, with basically nothing, had me forever committed to say yes to these guys anytime they ask; hence, why we have now done four, five projects together, with more in the wings.
Vents: Dame was made with a very small budget, which I’ve felt always encourages creatives to think outside of the box from sheer necessity. What were the challenges you faced working on a smaller film like this and how do you feel the financial ultimately helped this project?
Breeanna Judy: Dead Dame was made on the tiniest of budgets; that is correct. When I read the script, I remember thinking to myself, how in the world is he going to create a clock-tower and a backlot? How much money does he have for this film!? But I think going into production, Shawn already had an idea on how he was going to accomplish it. And as an actor, you have to trust the filmmaker and their vision. I trust Shawn, and Alicia, and Alan. I love these guys. I remember telling someone about the project and the budget and they looked at me like we were crazy; but Shawn has never let me down. The final projects always turn out way better than I could imagine. So in response to your question, how do I feel the financial ultimately helped this project: I feel it did: When you don’t have millions of dollars to rent the spaces you need or build the big set pieces- you get more creative and do it yourself, and that time and love given to the film, well it gives the picture more charm.
Vents: In speaking with your co-star, Noel Jason Scott, he seems to feel that A Dead Dame in Hollywood lends itself to potential sequels down the line. What are your thoughts on a Dead Dame follow-up?
Breeanna Judy: As I have said before, I am always down to shoot with these guys… So if these bananas come back for a sequel, I would be honored if they asked me back. I’d be curious to see if Candace Loring comes back! … Maybe her identical twin sister?!
Vents: I have your first acting credit listed from 2010 in a little show (tongue firmly planted in cheek!) called How I Met Your Mother. What was that first onscreen bit of acting like for you; any memories?
Breeanna Judy: That is what my IMDb says, yes. I did a few days of background work as a pub patron in How I Met Your Mother, back in my first year of living in LA. I have an excellent close up on the show. In fact, a friend of mine who was a big fan of the show, noticed me… well, he blushingly told me later, he noticed my chest first, then my face. As for a memory though, there is one seared into my brain. It is the moment Jason Segal yelled at me. … Yes, that really did happen. … Here is the story: When you are a background actor, it is frowned upon to engage in discussion with the First-Line Talent. And no, it’s not because they are all divas. I mean, sure, sometimes they can be. It’s actually because distracting the name talent from their jobs is unprofessional, costly to production and annoying to most actors. No one wants to be harassed by a super fan at your place of work. So anyways, in this particular scene, Jason and Josh were tussling at their table and then running to the bathroom. They had to reset the scene multiple times, and in the commotion, Jason’s shoe had come untied. He hadn’t noticed. I was seated an arms-length from him. The last thing I want to have happen on a set is an accident. So when the director yelled “cut”, I whispered (well, I thought it was a whisper) to Jason “Your shoe is untied”. Have you ever been in that situation, like maybe in high school, when everyone else is talking in class and you go to tell your friend something, but in that moment, EVERYONE stops talking and your voice rings across the classroom?… Yeah, so that happened. Instead of the classroom though, it was a soundstage! And so my whisper was in fact an awkward yell of demand: “JASON, YOUR SHOE IS UNTIED!” And without skipping a beat, Jason turned to me and yelled “YOUR SHOE IS UNTIED!!!!” In absolute mortification to his response, I thought, “Is it?” and looked at my shoes. They were slip on. I looked up and he winked at me and said “thank you,” quietly, as the Director yelled “Quiet on Set” and he then tied his shoe. … I never worked on that set again. Maybe it was coincidence? To be accurate though, my first “on screen” acting was in high school, in the epic film “One Monkey”— it’s embarrassingly perfect and unless you have a VHS, impossible to see.
Vents: Who in the world of acting has inspired your own work?
Breeanna Judy: There are so many women who inspire me. I feel so blessed to be coming up in an industry where there are so many women who have pounded the proverbial pavement ahead of me. Women who helped start it all like Mary Pickford, to women who are flawless in their performances like Meryl Streep and Octavia Spencer, to women who are comedically timeless like Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and Kate McKinnon, to women whose career is one I would be lucky to even remotely touch, like Elizabeth Banks or Jada Pinkett Smith.
Vents: You’ve worn a lot of different hats in the industry: From Actor to Producer to the Camera and Electrical Department to Costume and Wardrobe – WHEW! How do you manage your time with so many plates spinning in the air?
Breeanna Judy: First and foremost I am an actor, but in the world of independent filmmaking, if you want to get something done, oftentimes you have to step up and fill the shoes of another position, or two. How do you do it? I dunno, I suppose you just do.
Vents: There’s the old joke about an actor accepting plaudits for a performance but then adding the caveat of, ‘But what I really want to do is direct…’ Is directing something you can see yourself one day branching out to do?
Breeanna Judy: That is so funny and so poignant! lol. I’ve thought about it and maybe one day. But for now, I really love being in front of the camera and helping my friend’s visions come to life.
Vents: How does our family feel about your acting?
Breeanna Judy: My family has always been very supportive especially my mom who creates incredibly gorgeous dresses for me to wear at red carpet events. But up until the last year, and even still, most don’t understand it. But now that they can actually watch full length films that I am in, I think they are starting to see that it isn’t just a passing hobby, but a chosen career.
Vents: Can you drop any hints as to what you have coming up in the future?
Breeanna Judy: Actually, June 2 (this week) I play a supporting character in feature film, Eagle and the Albatross that stars Dan Lauria, Amber Lui, Adrienne Barbeau and more, that premieres on Video-on-Demand on Apple, Google Play, Fandango and DVD available on Amazon. I am also slated to play a small role in a feature film A Year of Laughing Dangerously, a comedy written and starring new comer Brandi Hoffman.
Vents: Going forward, do you feel as if the coronavirus will alter the film industry in any significant and long-term ways?
Breeanna Judy: Moving forward, I do think and certainly hope that the changes that are implemented on sets because of the pandemic, especially sanitary requirements, stick around. No one wants to be or get sick, and especially get anyone else sick. Generally speaking though, the creatives that work in Hollywood are pretty accepting and understanding of illness already; meaning, most of us work as day-players, which means that if you get sick, you don’t work, which means you don’t get paid. And we all have to work to pay rent. I would say that already, we as an industry are hypersensitive to spreading illness and empathetic to our set families. I think it will take a few years to shake out and recover though; and that’s assuming we get a vaccine within the next year or so.
Vents: Final (Silly) Question: you’re stranded on a deserted island. What is the one film and the one book you have with you to pass away the time while awaiting rescue?
Breeanna Judy: Great Question! I would say Forrest Gump for the movie. And probably Lord of the Rings for the book.