fD Interview


fD Interview: Tanna Frederick

July 18, 2008
by Isabel Cowles
FindingDulcinea’s weekly feature offers interviews with intriguing people on the cutting edge of business, the arts, technology and journalism. This week, we talk with Tanna Frederick, a Hollywood actress who is also the founder of the Iowa Independent Film Festival.

Tanna Frederick hails from an artistically inclined Iowa community, where she honed her acting skills while playing with her neighbors. After a lonely five years as a struggling Hollywood actress, Tanna discovered the work of playwright and filmmaker Henry Jaglom—and Jaglom discovered her. Tanna is now a regular in his films, starring in “Hollywood Dreams” and the upcoming “Irene in Time.” In addition to acting, Frederick launched the Iowa Independent Film Festival in 2007. She is the cofounder of “Make A Wave,” a 24-hour surf-a-thon that raises money to clean up the ocean.

fD: What’s behind your passion for acting?

TF: When I was six I saw my best friend play Oliver in Oliver Twist. I remember sitting in the audience and my whole reason for being just snapping into place at that one moment. I knew that was where my life would take me.

fD: How did you begin pursuing your career in Iowa?

My dad bought me a video camera and I would go out every weekend and make home movies. I would gather all my friends around and direct them and act in them. Our parents were always involved, encouraging all the kids. They never treated us like children making projects. They treated us like artists making artwork.
fD: What was it like to build the Iowa Independent Film Festival from the ground up?

TF: It was wonderful to enmesh people out here in Los Angeles who were excited to have their films seen and to bring their work to an audience that really wanted to see it. People were so open and responsive.

fD: What was your favorite part of bringing two communities together?

TF: It was fascinating to have Karen Black out there, and Henry Jaglom. I took them on a tour of my great grandparents farm and they saw a baby calf being birthed. We walked up when the calf was just coming out of the cow.

fD: Was it scary for you to leave behind a successful academic career and the safety of your home to pursue a career in Hollywood?

TF: It was very shocking to come out here, having two degrees and not even being able to use them to get a waitressing job. Now that I’ve found my niche of friends, I realize how important it was for me to come from a large family and such a strong community. I think because I come from good stock I’ve found good stock.

fD: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced moving to Hollywood?

TF: I didn’t have anybody out here when I first moved. The value system was very different from Iowa. I felt like I was expected to squeeze myself into some sort of a type to fit into this town. In Iowa, my acting and my choices were never squelched by anybody. I really became my own person there.

fD: Is that sense of self how you get through the discouraging moments in LA?

TF: It’s so easy to do a topless horror film out here. But it just didn’t excite me. The point of me coming out here and being away from all of my friends and all of my family and the people that I love was to do it right. Doing it right meant doing it my way, and nobody else’s.
fD: How did you end up working with Henry Jaglom?

TF: Henry gave me a play, which was his first movie. It was “A Safe Place.” The character really spoke to me. I found myself through her, and that’s really neat. It doesn’t happen very often that a character in a play informs you of who you are. It was magical.

fD: How did the Make a Wave project form?

TF: My friend and I were surfing every day and we were wondering what we could do to clean the oceans because they can be so dirty. And we thought, “We’re out here every day, we should do something to help.” So we did a twenty-four hour surf-a-thon.

fD: What’s it like to work with one director so closely?

I think it’s probably pretty rare and I’m very lucky. It gives you a sense of time and history. I really think that the creative process should be shared. The more hands on people get, and the more involved, the better the final project will be. I love the fact that I’m in kind of a stable of Henry’s actors and that we can all contribute to each other’s work. It’s just one, living, breathing organism by the time you’re finished.

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