1.) We’re excited to be speaking today with acclaimed actress, writer and producer Tara Shayne; greetings and salutations, Tara! Before we begin kicking the proverbial Q&A pumpkin down the Autumn pathway, how has the latter-half of 2022 been treating you?
Hello!! Thank you so much, you know 2022 has certainly been better and much kinder than the previous couple of years in many ways. My film was finally able to be released this month so we’ve been extremely busy promoting that which has just been absolutely amazing to finally be able to get it out and share it with everybody!
2.) Major congratulations on your brand-spankin’ new film Alex/October which can currently be seen on Apple TV, Amazon Prime and VUDU! Getting the ball rolling, what can you tell us about the story for Alex/October and how your character of October figures into the proceedings?
Yes thank you, it’s truly a beautiful and unique story that Josh Hope wrote, and ironically his last name is really one of the major overall themes in the film. The film is really a generational collide of two very different people that are both equally on their own sort of downward spiral of depression, substance abuse, mental health issues. Alex, played by my amazing costar Brad Hunt, puts out an online classified ad asking to pay someone to kill him, because he can’t quite literally do it himself, and my character October responds to the add, mainly for drug money and sort of forces her way into his life, and together through a series of events over a few days and through this unusual encounter they both ultimately save each other and themselves.
3.) You’re not only one of the featured players in Alex/October, you’re also a producer on the film! How did the producing-side of things shake out for you in this brilliant new film?
So I met our writer/director Josh through the film festival circuit a while back, we both had films playing, I had a short that I wrote/directed/produced/starred in and my film kept getting paired at festivals with Josh’s previous feature, and we just instantly hit it off when we met. We have very similar styles of storytelling and really bonded over our love of similar films etc and so we kept talking more about working together and at the time he had a batch of several scripts he had been working on and so he sent them to me and Alex/October when I first read it I just instantly fell in love with it. I loved how beautiful and effortless Josh’s writing was and the way these two characters and the story evolves throughout the script, I just found myself swept away when I read it and instantly knew it was a project I had to be apart of. So I called him the next day and told him that and the rest, as they say, is history.
4.) Your director on Alex/October is the very talented Josh Hope. What sort of director is Josh? Is he what some actor’s might refer to as “an actor’s director”?
He is definitely an actor’s director. The truly great thing about working with Josh is he really allows you to be free as an actor and be comfortable enough to try new things and take risks and really make the character your own. We had such a built in trust before going into production, and we had had so many conversations before filming about the story and the character, that when we were actually on set filming I really feel like we naturally let the story take shape in the moment on camera. And independent film making is so hard, anyone that has made an indie film can tell you, you have to be totally flexible and lot’s of changes are happening spontaneously throughout the day and so he was rewriting some things some days to make it work but was still able to get the story told that we needed to.
5.) You work alongside such a brilliant ensemble of actors in Alex/October, including the likes of Brad Hunt, Lisa Zane and Ethan Cutkosky. What was it like exorcising your own considerable acting chops alongside this insanely talented lot?
We had such an incredible cast, I mean really, you named a few but everyone down to the accordion player that has no lines, and even the city of Chicago that is itself a character in the film, every single actor in the film adds so much depth and authenticity to the world that Josh and our amazing DP Yash Khanna created. Every actor had such brilliant moments throughout. We really wanted it to feel like you’re just a fly on the wall peering into the lives of these two people. And that is really a testament to our casting director Brittani Ward, she was able to get some of the most incredible talent that Chicago had to offer. For me I loved how each interaction with all these different characters and each actor that I was able to play with showed a different side of October, and every actor that I worked with all really came in just so in the moment and ready to give, so for me as an actor that just made me want to give even more back. We were all so collaborative with each other that it only made my performance better being able to react off what each actor was giving me.
6.) Did you know as soon as you saw the script for Alex/October that this was a production you wanted to be a part of?
Absolutely, as I mentioned before, the moment I read the script, and I read it the first time in one sitting because it was just such an effortless read, and I was so drawn in to the characters from the beginning to the end I just knew it was a story I wanted to tell.
7.) How are you similar to your character of October in Alex/October? How are you different?
I think everyone goes through a period where they sort of struggle with what their purpose is or what their identity is, and when you’re younger especially you’re influenced a lot by your friends so I definitely am similar to October in that way. And I’ve dealt with a lot of suicide in my life unfortunately with friends and mental health issues, I know many have as well and its an issue that I don’t think is talked about enough, so that is something with both of these characters that I relate to and can empathize with. I would’t say I’m exactly like October, so for me it was a challenge that I really wanted to take to embody this very troubled and wounded girl who on the page when you read the script is not very likable, and find a way to humanize her and make her relatable and likable because we all can or have in some way relate to the struggles she’s dealing with, whether its personal or with a friend or family member or whomever.
8.) What do you hope audiences walk away with after watching Alex/October?
I hope they walk away with a sense of hope ultimately. And a reminder that you’re not alone, as cliche as that sounds. But we’re all human, we all have struggles, mostly silent struggles, and you don’t know what anyone else is going through or what they’re dealing with and any interaction can really affect someone else’s day and their life. I think we can all be a lot kinder to each other, I think especially after the pandemic and the extreme rise in mental health and suicide and depression, it’s really something we need to be talking more widely about and helping one another with.
9.) Your first credited onscreen work came with 2007’s video short Confessions. Any special memories of that freshman production?
Oh wow with the throwback!! I remember just being excited and grateful to be on set, I really feel the most at home on set and in front of the camera so I was just stoked honestly to be there and get to play!
10.) As we noted at the top, along with being an incredibly gifted actress, you’re also a celebrated writer and producer. Do you have a preference among those three talents, or is it all apples and oranges?
Oh that’s a tough one, I like all three for different reasons. I think all three outlets offer a different mode of expression that I enjoy. I like to say that I was never a producer, never had any intention of being a producer, but just sort of fell into it out of necessity. But through doing it I’ve found I really enjoy the aspect of putting the pieces together for the bigger picture for the entire duration of a project, from conception to development to writing to filming etc it’s an entirely different skill set that I never really realized that I had, but also just comes sort of naturally to me as well. Of the three though acting is what truly lights my fire. I love nothing more than playing a character and being a vessel to tell a story that an audience gets to join along for a ride. Like I think I said before, I’m really most at home on a set in front of the camera, sort of baring my soul if you will.
11.) Directing-wise, are there any directors that you would fancy working with one fine day?
Oh my gosh, so many! I mean Darren Aronofsky, Wes Anderson, David Lynch, David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Scorsese, David O Russel, and that is just a few of the very long list of directors I’d love to work with!
12.) What’s next for you after Alex/October?
Right now I’ve been fully consumed by the Alex/October release so that’s been taking up really all of my time, but my producing partner, Lisa Freberg, and I are talking about some other projects we’re looking at developing actually, and oddly enough looking at producing more things, and currently started writing a new feature as well!
13.) Final -SILLY! – Question: Favorite movie about the making of movies – The Big Picture, The Player, Living In Oblivion or Barton Fink?
Oh wow that is an insanely difficult question, these are all GREAT movies!! I think it’s a tie between Living in Oblivion and Barton Fink for me, but oh my gosh they are all really good movies.