Film and television distribution stands on a precipice, with the widespread adaptation of the Internet, and the increasing speed of broadband connections. You have DStv Catch-Up and BoxOffice, viewable via your PC or iPad, NetFlix overseas, and not forgetting the ubiquitous YouTube.
One of an ever growing number of stars, Zachery Quinto (seen lately as the new Spock in Star Trek) embraces this medium, engaging with fellow film-makers, and fans alike, promoting and distributing his short films online. Julia Stiles stars in the title role of Blue, also available online, and the latest series in the zombie craze, The Walking Dead, augments their pre-season marketing with short webisodes, filling in some gaps to the on-screen world they live in.
SAMDB had the chance to hold a Q&A with a young, emerging star in the USA, Brandi Alyssa Young, who’s film web presence in The Dark One has garnered attention online and at the various comic and horror cons.
Brandi has been acting, singing, and dancing since she was 6 years old. She took part in community plays at first, but found her way to the screen. She has been in a total of 14 IMDb credited films and many plays, and numerous other films. She was nominated for Young Artist Awards two years in a row for her work as the autistic Jenny Hastert in the short film Broken Pieces which she did at age 13 and as young witch Michelle Smith in the webseries The Dark One which she did at age 14. Brandi got her SAG Eligibility from The Dark One in May 2012. Since then, she has done many audio plays and is slowly poking her way into the Con scene with fellow The Dark One stars. She resides in South Carolina and has graduated at the age of 15. Brandi has also written a total of 7 films, beginning in 2010. Her second short film, Tiger Lili, about domestic violence, made it into 5 script festivals, and the final round of 2 of those.
Q&A With Brandi Alyssa Young
You started acting at a very young age. How did you juggle school, acting and childhood?
Well it was sort of difficult. Haha, I was bullied in elementary school badly and no one liked me. Add being an actress into the mix and I was practically getting beat up every day. I was a normal kid. I had friends, I played video games (Galaga and Ms. Packman were my favorite), I fooled around outside all the time. Then I was introduced to Tim Burton and I became a total weirdo (well, more so than I already was. I drew pictures of zombies and dead people when I was like 5). I just let my freak flag fly high starting when I was 10 and then I really started to get more work because I knew exactly what I wanted and I was comfortable with my oddness. That actually gained me more friends.
How important was parental support for you in pursuing your dream?
It was, and still is, extremely important. My dad provides the money for me to do it all and my mom takes me wherever I need to go. If I didn’t have them, or their support, then I wouldn’t be doing what I love to do.
As part of this, you were home-schooled, graduating at age 15, allowing you the flexibility to be on-set when needed. Share a little of this experience; did this make schooling easier? Did you cover any aspects specific to your film career?
I started homeschooling at the age of 8. The bullying in public school was too much and the teachers weren’t letting me act. It did make schooling easier, though, being homeschooled. I could move faster in my schooling and get everything dine as fast as I could instead of being held back, like in public school. My mother was my teacher, and sometimes it was difficult and we got into arguments, but it was good for me in the long run.
We did cover aspects of my film career, seeing as my acting was an elective (needless to say, I passed with flying colors, haha).
You start shooting season 2 of The Dark One soon, where you again play the young witch Michelle. Tell us, who is Michelle? How do you relate to her as a character, and how did you go about developing what we see on-screen?
Yes! Actually, filming of season 2 began back in March of this year.
She’s the last known pureblooded witch on the planet, she’s an orphan, and she’s got the most dangerous being on planet earth chasing her down so he can feed on her soul. On top of that, she’s 17 (in season 1), so she’s at that stage in life where she thinks she’s all tough and wants to prove herself, so that can be a bit dangerous. She’s got a very fiery temper that she can’t quite control, as well as a strange connection to The Dark One himself.
Michelle is actually a lot like myself. Other than the fact that I’m not a witch, we’re exactly alike. That actually makes it quite difficult to play her. I really only added a few little character ticks and such. For example, I’m right handed, but Michelle is ambidextrous. I’m a method actress, so once I’m in character, I stay there, so I didn’t even realize that until I saw the finished product and noticed that Michelle holds her wand in her right AND left hands. Little things like that set her apart from myself and make us different beings.
The cast and crew of The Dark One, have taken it to various ‘cons’. What exactly are these ‘cons’, and how does this help the series?
The cons are like miniature ComicCons and such. There’s a film festival, tons of panels, sometimes celebrities are there (at the Mad Monster Party, Danny Glover was there, Gary Busey, Jake Busey, Bruce Campbell, Kane Hodder, Addy Miller, Lita Ford, Tyler Mane), and 13th Floor EFX (the company that made The Dark One) interviews them and makes friends as well as connections in the industry, so The Dark One can get more popular. Plus a ton of normal people are there and we build up our fan base that way too. The fact that I was nominated for a Young Artist Award for the role also helps to build up the fanbase.
Acting isn’t your only forte; you list singing, dancing and screenwriting amungst your merits. Do you find you draw from the numerous disciplines when on-screen, and conversly, do you draw from the acting, singing and dancing when you write?
I try to do so, on screen. I try to make my voice clear and my movements fluid, which is where the singing and dancing come in. On set of The Dark One, John Dondero ( the director, writer, and actor) tends to let the actors and actresses improv, so I bring the writing into there, so I can come up with something decent to say, haha.
As for if I bring the acting, singing, and dancing into my screenplays, well….I don’t really. When I get an idea, I just write. I don’t really worry about bringing anything into the script unless it would work with the story.
What are your preferred acting and writing genres?
Hmmm…that’s a toughy. I can act and write just about anything. Well…I can’t write mushy gushy romance. That’s one thing I just can’t do. Twisted, disturbed romance? Yes. Mushy gushy stuff? Noooo. As for my preferred genres, I don’t know. For acting, my favorites are drama, scifi, suspense, etc. The really heavy stuff. For writing, I guess it’s he same. Really dark, really heavy.
How difficult was the process of becoming Jenny, the autistic girl, in Broken Pieces?
It was really nerve wracking. Not necessarily difficult. Just nerve wracking. I only had six hours to prepare, and I did so by watching clips of Rain Man. I felt like I had the whole film on my shoulders, because my character was the most essential one and I didn’t want to screw it up, especially since we only had 48 hours to get it done. In the end, I won Best Acting at the Greensboro NC 48 Hour Film Festival (the film won Best Use if Prop, Best Directing, and Best Film) and earned a Young Artist Award nomination for the role, so I guess I did something right, haha.
The Silver Key is a short film fantasy, set during the American civil war. What inspired you to combine these two genres?
Well, I had always loved witchcraft and the Civil War always fascinated me, so I wanted to explore what it would be like, what would happen, if there were two young witches during the Civil War, in the Bible Belt, that had to go to an alternate dimension to fight in its own Civil War, because they have the power to win the war there and stop the war here. I wrote that when I was 12 and filmed it when I was 13. The film stops before any if the war is shown, or explained for that matter, because we didn’t have the budget, but I’m currently writing the feature version of it, just it get the ideas out.
As an actress, what would your ideal role be? And as a writer, your ideal screenplay?
My ideal role would have to be something like Angelina Jolie in Salt or Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil. Totally kickbutt and awesome like that. I have always wanted to play a spy or a zombie killer (I played one in Two Rounds, but she was a bit of a flake, haha). Maybe a kickbutt zombie killing spy witch. Or at least a telekinetic. Wow….I’m getting script ideas. Haha
My ideal screenplay….well I cannot say. Since I just randomly get ideas, I can’t say what my ideal screenplay would be. I usually just write it all down without a care in the world, THEN see if I like it. So…we’ll just have to wait and see, now won’t we? Hehe
What’s next for you, and where do we go to see more?
What’s next for me is MonsterCon. It’s in Greenville, SC on July 26th-28th. Season 2 of The Dark One is premiering there on the 27th, so I’m very excited. Other than that, I wrap up Season 2 filming in August, then there are a few films that I’m going to be a part of. At least 6, I believe. I just finished my third Greensboro 48 Hour Film. It’s called Delilah and can be found on YouTube under the channel TrackGeeks. It’s going to the Best Of ceremony on July 19th.
The Dark One
The webseries The Dark One came around originally as a special effects test for John Dondero to show off his editing skills, but then people liked it. So what was at first a short film got chopped up into a webseries and put online. It made quite a splash at cons such as RoundCon, MaruCon, and the Mad Monster Party and the fans demanded a second season. Season 2 is now in production and the first episode has its world premier at MonsterCon in Greenville, South Carolina on 27th July 2013 before it goes live on YouTube on 29th July 2013 at 7pm.
Season One Synopsis
A dark wizard by the name of Syris hunts down the last known pure blood wizard, Michelle, to feed on her soul and gain her power. Along with his brainwashed minions, Bella and Brick, he strikes down everyone in his path unmercifully. Can Alex, a fellow magical apprentice and Michelle’s only living protector, save Michelle from this soul hungry mad man?
The Dark One Team
John Dondero (Syris)
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1983, John grew up an imaginative and creative boy. He soon developed a love of film and literature. At a young age he began writing short stories which later developed into short films. John soon got his start in media when he became a photographer for local websites, and magazines, which is where his love of special effects began. He went from editing photos to full length movies, and has never looked back. Before jumping into the film business, John often did make-up and acted in local haunted houses. Some of his more known roles were Freddy Krueger and The Joker. Outside of those amazing characters, his most notable role to date is the ruthless and downright vile dark wizard, Syris in the webseries The Dark One, which he also wrote and directed.
Taylor-Grace began acting at the age of 8 in rural Western North Carolina, on her family farm. Growing up on a cattle farm, her favourite past-time as a young child was to perform in front of her animals. As her passion for performing grew, so did her experience. By the age of 14 she had developed an extensive resume with over 32 combined credits in film, television, voiceover and theatre. Taylor-Grace has the ability to bring a wide range of emotions to her work as well as a sense of “realness”. As a young teen actor, she has the maturity and a natural ability to handle dramatic roles. In 2013 she was awarded the Best Breakout Performance Award at the prestigious First Glance Film Festival in Hollywood for her role of Rebekka and Madison in the award winning short film The Box.
Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, Darren was a natural when it came to musical and stage works. Competing in numerous talent shows as a drummer and piano player from early childhood through college. Darren graduated from Hunter Huss High School in 1986 and lived around the corner from the now famous Fred Durst. Darren’s uncle is Wade Walker, who was an “All American” in College Football and later became the Athletic Director for the Oaklahoma Sooners during Barry Switzers days prior to becoming an NFL Coach. Though very good in Athletics, Darren became a fan of the stage and studied Theatre and Drama in college. After the death of his father in 1989, Darren persued his other passion, to become a protector of the public. Darren worked on the set of several movies filmed in Winston-Salem as Police Security, where he met actor Dan Biggers in Covington, Georgia during the “In the Heat of the Night” years. Dan gave Darren much encouragement in his dream of becoming an actor. Darren has since portrayed law enforcement characters in films, something that comes as second nature to him. With his tall, athletic frame and dark hair, he has a natural ability to bring a character to life. Darren has been a part numerous news interviews and stories about the daily operations of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol in Charlotte, N.C. He took a step into character acting with the role of mindlessly stupid dark wizard, Brick, in The Dark One.
Jay is a North Carolina native and father of two children. He first appeared on the acting scene in John Dondero’s first production, The Mill, alongside Taylor-Grace Davis. He was later cast as Alex, Michelle’s only living protector, in the webseries, The Dark One.