Recently I interviewed Julia Stone and her mum, Sue Chappel about each of their journeys in the process. Julia is a student I began coaching a few years ago just before she booked her first job the much acclaimed feature, The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom. Julia is much lauded for her work in this film and was called “remarkable” by Ken Eisner of The Georgia Straight. Not bad for a 12 year old in her first work!
Since then Julia has had non-stop success booking leads in features and series. Her parents have been an integral part of her career. Her dad (Wayne) has been left to hold down the fort while Julia and her mother have spent the last year traipsing around making movies in the bustling and glamorous film communities of Winnipeg and Moose Jaw.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an actor?
Julia – I think always. I have always loved stories whether they’re in books, movies or plays. Ever since I can remember, whenever I read or watched something, it was like I was in it feeling and going through what all the characters were experiencing, not just watching as an observer. Then, when I was about 9, it finally came to me that instead of just watching, maybe, I could actually be an actor for real. It took a lot of persuading my mom (about a year), but when she was convinced I was ready to do this, she helped me get an agent. From there, I started taking as many classes as I could, and getting as much experience as possible.
Your parents have been incredibly supportive – what have they had to do to help you?
I’m really grateful that I have such amazing, supportive parents. I think that they see that this is what I really want to do, and that it gives me joy. The most important thing my parents have done is to be realistic with me about everything. They don’t sugar anything up and they put the work and outcome in my hands. They taught me that people can achieve nearly anything they put their mind to, but that it also takes a lot of commitment, work and time. You have to believe in your dream, but you also have to commit to it and work at it. They’re also strict about school and life balance – so they’ve helped me learn the value of time, fulfilling responsibilities and having a lot of fun along the way. They’re there for me no matter what and are always making sure that I’m still really happy and balanced in life.
What was your first audition?
My first audition was for Crowley. I remember when I went in I had no idea what it was going to be like and I was incredibly nervous! The whole thing went in a blur. That was what really motivated me to take classes; I wanted to be more confident and know what I was doing so that I would be fully prepared for the next one. It was about one year and continuous classes later before I booked anything. I still take lots of acting classes – there’s always room for improvement.
Do you remember your first booking?
The first project I booked was a student film for the Arts Institute called Hopscotch. It was exactly one year after I started classes. I was much more confident and prepared than I was in my first audition, because of the classes I had taken. I knew what to expect, and in the audition, I just had fun! When I booked it, I was really excited, and I’m really grateful that they took a chance on such an inexperienced actor.
What has your experience been like on set?
So far, I have only had great experiences on set. I really love how it feels to be part of a project that everyone’s working so hard on and cares so much about. It’s such a group effort and I think that a real bond forms between everyone on the cast and crew. There was one morning on the set of The Year Dolly Parton was my Mom when it was really important to shoot the sunrise. So, early in the morning, we traveled across the prairies to base camp where we found that, as a result of the rain the night before, the trailers had sunken into the mud and the power was out! It was still really dark out, so makeup and hair was done in the headlights of a truck!
Tell us a little about what goes on in a day on set?
When I arrive, I report to the Assistant Director (AD). Then I get into wardrobe and head over to make-up and hair. Within a short time, the ADs take us over to blocking our first scene and things go on from there until lunch time. You can never really know what to expect on set because every project is so different and the cast and crew are always very different. I love being introduced to a new project and team and getting the hang of each different set. At wrap time, I sign out and head home!
Read our follow-up interview with Julia’s mom, Sue, as we find out what it’s really like to be a parent of a busy young actor.
Kirsten Clarkson is the Founder and Senior Education Advisor at Young Screen Actors Academy. For over 20 years, she has been coaching Vancouver’s top young actors who have book everything from actor to leading roles on films and TV shows. Kirsten has experience as an actor, writer, director, development executive, casting director and talent agent.