I've been wanting to interview my dear friend, Ann Parry, for Our Collective Muse ever since I posted my very first blog post while I was visiting her in Vancouver last year. We always have a delightful time together (how many gals do I know who seriously love high tea?…well more than you might think). Ann is a smart lady and a creative force whose beauty lights up a room and I don't just mean by her babe-a-licious looks. She's a beautiful human being. A few years ago Ann drew on some courage, took a chance and moved to Vancouver from Saskatoon to pursue acting and freelance performance. And guess what…she wouldn't change a thing. Go, Ann, go! Looking for some life inspiration? Read on.
Q: What are your days like as an actress living in Vancouver?
A: I’d say my days as a performer are chaotic and ever changing. These qualities might sound unappealing to some, but in a way it keeps things exciting. Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve been able to continue pursuing my passions with memorable gigs as a voice-over artist, media host, actor, print model, double, background performer and stand-in. This is now how I make my living, and I am so grateful for it. Currently, I am 6 weeks into a 4-month stand-in job for an ABC production that recently moved up to Vancouver from L.A. I feel very lucky to have been chosen for this opportunity!
This is a tough industry, and the term “feast or famine” is often used when describing it. It can slow down unexpectedly and performers start getting concerned; other times it’s so busy that opportunities collide and difficult decisions have to be made. Another reality is that these busy times don't guarantee everyone steady work. In this business, there is competition at every level. It can be a struggle to stay positive but overall, 2015 looks to be a super busy and exciting year!
My days can be very fun, but also very tiring. It is common to shoot 12 hours a day, on most shows. There are weeks (like this week!) where I spend 50 to 60 hours on set and an additional 5 to 10 hours in the car. Then there are quiet weeks with more free time, and fewer bookings on the horizon. In the beginning, this unpredictability was uncomfortable for me and anxiety inducing. It took some getting used to. These days, I like to think the busy times and the slow times balance each other out!
Set can be a highly social environment, and it’s nice to meet new and interesting people on a regular basis. Although there are thousands of professionals working in the industry, it remains a highly interconnected community. This morning when I was picking up a coffee at Starbucks by North Shore Studios, the barista commented that our TV and Film world seems like an alternate universe. I laughed, and absolutely had to agree! It is like being a part of another world and on a good day, there is certainly something magical about it.
That being said, the reality is that it’s still a fast paced operation; standards are high, detail- oriented, and everyone has a job to do. Budgets, timelines, weather, and personalities all come into play on set and the mood can easily change from smooth sailing to high pressure during a shoot.
Q: As most everyone knows, the gals of Our Collective Muse value community and girlfriends…what have those aspects been like for you in the film industry?
I think you’ve all done a wonderful job of creating and contributing to OCM! Aside from the fact that I know and care for quite a few of you, it is just nice to see women supporting other women. Community and girlfriends are so important, and finding people who are truly “for you” is such a rich gift. A gift, and an investment.
In most areas of life, I am a “slow and steady” kind of gal and this is certainly the case when it comes to relationships. When I first moved here, it was easy to meet people on set, through my agency, in acting class, etc.. For the most part, I found people in the industry here much more friendly and open than Vancouverites in general.
It certainly took time to adjust to living in a new city again but as my friendships grew in Vancouver, so did my enjoyment. We are coming up on 3 years since I made the move, and I feel blessed to have formed some truly supportive, loving friendships within (and reaching far beyond) the industry. We share our failures, disappointments, triumphs, successes, adventures and mis-adventures. Working in Film and TV, we ALWAYS have stories to share!!
Q: Which character(s) have you played that differ most from who you are in real life? How do you get into character?
Hmmm…funny you should ask. I’ve played more ghosts and zombies than one might guess. Seems odd, right? I knew we were big on the Sci-Fi scene here in Vancouver, but there are actually more horror films shot in the area, than I would have expected.
once played the Ghost of a Japanese Mother to a 20-something lead actress, for a film on the SyFy Network. The film took place in Aokigahara, which is also known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees. This location actually exists at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. In the story, the young woman is haunted by her mothers death and her ghost.
In this particular situation, hair, make-up and wardrobe played a huge role in getting into character. When you spend 2 hours a day being sprayed with grey foundation, painted with scars, being fitted with wigs covered in oily goop…it’s hard NOT to feel like someone’s ghost! We shot in the cold, beautiful and eerie Golden Ears Park. It was the perfect setting for these haunted scenes.
Q: How did you get the courage to make the leap to move from a stable job in Saskatoon to an uncertain future in film/TV in Vancouver?
I truly enjoyed my role as an Anchor/Producer for Shaw TV from 2007 to 2012. It was such a great position and I learned so much there about writing for TV, Hosting, Reporting, Producing and Editing. Good times were had with my colleagues being out and about in the community, meeting interesting people, and getting the scoop on the city’s latest news and events.
Although it was a fun, fulfilling and stable job, I had natural desires to advance and sometimes agonized over my next move. Would I switch companies? Move cities? Change fields? Choose stability? Follow my dreams? I knew I wanted to stay in Film and TV. The most obvious path was to advance my career in media. I actively pursued opportunities to do so, and it became apparent to me that suitable job openings in media were very hard to come by! Throughout the years, I only came across a handful of postings that might be appropriate. I sent out applications and attended a few interviews, but felt quite disappointed overall about the prospects.
Pursuing work as a freelance performer was always in the back of my mind. I had modelled, danced and acted professionally on and off for years and always wondered what could happen if I pursued it more aggressively. I continued to pay annual dues on my rarely used ACTRA membership for 6 years, with the hope and/or subconscious knowledge that I would someday use it again. I felt well equipped with skills and education, confident about my work experience and 2 degrees (B.A.Theatre, B.Comm. Commerce). Regardless, the idea of moving to a market I knew little about, finding new agents and becoming self-employed was completely terrifying and seemed risky. It was something I very carefully considered before pursuing. In retrospect, I didn’t make it easy on myself. I had a set of personal, financial, and professional goals I wanted to attain before taking such a gamble.
It was the spring of 2012 when I realized that goals I’d set for myself in Saskatoon were completed, and nothing was really holding me back from taking this next leap. Despite my best efforts, I’d completely run out of excuses! I stopped weighing out the pros and cons, and made the a decision to give this next phase a real try. Diving in like this meant trusting myself to make the right decisions, with the information I collected along the way. It was then that my plans became more clear. I gave 2 months’ notice and left my job in June 2012. Then I spent a few months sorting out belongings, selling and donating items, tying up other loose ends and of course, visiting friends and family. In August 2012, my boyfriend Riley (who had already been living in Vancouver- Yes, he was a major reason I chose Vancouver) flew home to Saskatoon, and we drove out to the West Coast in my Honda Civic packed to the brim.
So, to answer your question…I suppose it took years for me to build up the courage. It required planning, it involved sleepless nights, disappointments, and optimism for me to find the courage to branch off on my own. This transition was a necessary step, which forced me to face fears, satisfy curiosities, and live out dreams and new experiences. It has not been an easy path, and I still have days where I second guess choices I have made or am making. However, I'm keeping busy and feel rewarded by the obscure, and unbelievably unique opportunities that now constitute my “work”. I'm having fun with it too!
P.S. I have to tell you what happened to me with 50 Shades of Grey! In January 2014, I had the opportunity to meet and work with director Sam Taylor Johnson as well as the film’s top-billed cast including Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, and Rita Ora. We had a small scene together, and shared a few lines. It was a great opportunity, and the next year brought much social media (mostly Twitter) excitement, as I was on the official cast list. However, by the time the movie was released, my acting part had been edited out! A disappointment, but not a first! Ha! Ha! Fast forward to today, and my phone and Facebook account are blowing up unexpectedly about Age of Adaline, a new feature film starring Harrison Ford and Blake Lively. It was an absolute treat to meet Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker on this secluded set just outside of Vancouver, last Spring. Blake Lively was not in this scene, for a very pivotal reason, which you’ll understand if you see the film! Although it was a great experience, I had no expectation of being seen or recognized in the film. It turns out I was featured in this scene, and my friends and family have created quite a buzz about it since Friday’s release. Gotta love ‘em!
I'm certainly thankful for my day on Age of Adaline; it was a cool life moment that I won't soon forget.
We're inspired by Ann. Who inspires you?