The Actress & Filmmaker Taking Hollywood On her Terms: An Interview With Emma Bell

Monday 23 September 2019

Today's guest on Into The Script is not only an incredibly talented actress and inspirational filmmaker, but she has also starred in several of my favourite franchises and films -  AMC's The Walking Dead, Final Destination (5) and Indie-horror Frozen. 

So, it's a huge pleasure to be able to welcome Emma Bell to share her insights and approach as an actress and filmmaker in Hollywood. 

There is also a very exciting opportunity to become a part of and support Emma's next project - with more details shared at the end of this interview.

Right, let's get straight into hearing more about Emma and all her top tips and advice for other emerging writers and filmmakers!

1) You have an impressive set of credits to your name, and with experiences both behind and in-front of the camera as a writer/director and actress. Can you share any key lessons you’ve learnt as an actress, that has helped you as a writer and director?

I think my acting career has profoundly shaped my writing/directing path. 

Firstly, it is very rare to find a real 'actor's' director. I suggest every director take an acting course just so they have a better understanding of the vulnerability it takes to be on that side of the camera. 

The way you speak to an actor is very person by person specific. 

The way you connect to one actor isn't necessarily the way to connect to a different one. I learned how I liked to be talked to, but also to listen to the needs of my actors when I'm directing them. 

It's a very subtle thing, and one that is usually not given much thought on sets. 

2) Many will recognise you as Parker from Frozen, Amy from The Walking Dead, and Molly from Final Destination 5. Can you touch upon what is was like being involved with such major films and franchises, and how these experiences shaped your creative process when it comes to writing/directing your own projects?

 Every single acting opportunity was a giant learning experience. 

I learned a lot from watching and taking in what the crew was doing on each of those sets. There's something really lovely about being on an indie set such as we were in 'Frozen'. 

There's a sense of shared experience when you are battling unpleasant things together. 

A banding together happens. 

That entire movie was shot practically in really severe weather which was hard on the day but I think makes for a much more sensory experience as a viewer. 

I try to always write myself scenes where I can be as practical in the effects as I can. 

On the other hand being on bigger sets like Final Destination 5 had it's own magic to it. 

The bridge collapse scene was one of the most fun weeks of my life, running and jumping and leaping through green screens. 

Remembering that time allows me to think big when I create my own stories. 

Then there was the truly once in a lifetime experience on the Walking Dead. 

I was honoured to work with one of the absolute greats of the horror world, Greg Nicotero. 

His passion and precision when it came to his craft was incredibly inspirational. 

Most of the zombies, at least in the first season, were also done practically by his team of three guys. Those guys were magicians. 

The atmosphere it created was one that made everyone feel really special and taken care of. 

I strive to do that in my own work as I step into more of a leadership role. 

3) Your short horror film ‘Scratch’ has been an incredible success on the festival circuit, gaining major recognition. For those who are looking to write/direct a short horror film, what advice do you have when it comes to creating a successful and concise horror short?

Thank you so much!

I can't take credit for the writing of Scratch, that credit goes to a lovely writer named Helen Shang. It was really a wonderful first directing experience because Helen, myself and our producer/star Bel Delia put our heads together to come up with the tone and vision for that piece.  

The one thing we were incredibly passionate about was telling this woman's story correctly. 

I think that's the advice I'd give to any aspiring writer/directors in any genre- you have to be passionate about what you are making. 

Making films is a time consuming, and usually penniless venture so you had better feel really passionate about the story you want to tell, otherwise don't waste your time. 

Oh and listen to other people's feedback. 

You don't know everything and getting a third or fourth of twentieth opinion will only make your piece stronger. 

4) What advice do you have for other filmmakers and writers when It comes to networking and building professional relationships in the industry?

 Networking, that dreaded word. 

But when you think about it, every job you've ever had is a network you can keep up with. 

It's not all schmoozing at parties or events of festivals etc etc, although that is also part of the job and can be fun if you let it be. 

All of your circles are a potential network and it's wise to not count anyone out. 

That guy who wanted to be a comic book creator from your last job might actually be doing that now. 

You never know. 

If we hold positive energy for those around us who strive for creative success we are allowing ourselves to be lifted when they are. 

5) From your experience as an actress, what is it about a script that hooks you in and makes you want to be a part of the project? Can you share with our readers your top three tips that may help secure talent to their script, for example – any key ingredients in a script that can translate from the page and to the reader.

 For me the most important part of the script is the actual quality of the writing.  

This might sound small but if there are grammatical errors or poorly written sentences I am less likely to trust that the team behind the project knows what they are doing. 

The next thing I look for is the character development. 

It's important to me at this stage in my career to not just do a job because it's a job but because I find the character interesting. 

Something about their journey has to speak to me. 

Whether it's because I completely understand it in my bones which excites me or I can't relate to it at all but want to take on the challenge which terrifies me. 

Basically, I want to feel something about the character. 

The last thing I look for is the point of the film.

If the film isn't promoting something I really care about than I'm less interested in being apart of it. 

I don't mean it has to have a cause aspect to it necessarily but it has to be a movie I'd want to see as an audience member. 

These things I look for I think are also things most actors look for. 

We want to embody a well developed character wrapped in a well written script in an interesting movie. 

If you have your sights set on an actor and they experience interest but aren't quite sure, try asking them for their opinion on the script and character. 

They might have some insight and will absolutely love being asked to collaborate. 

6) What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given for working in this industry, and would you mind sharing with us?

Sounds cliché but keep going. 

This is a hard, unforgiving and disheartening business sometimes. The work is never that. 

The work is always lovely and wonderful and fulfilling. It's the time between work that is the killer. 

For me I've gone 18 months between jobs before. A year and a half. That's a long time. Long enough to question why I do it and if I'll ever work again. 

The answer is always yes you will, but you have to hang on. If you quit you won't. It's simple. 

Alongside that is, let it go and live your life. It can be so easy to fixate on what to do to get yourself to the next level or worry about that audition or pitch meeting but it's not going to change the outcome. 

Being in this industry successfully is such a balancing act- be hungry but fill yourself with lots of things, work hard but relax, dream big but celebrate the small victories, stay open but don't let rejection get the best of you. 

It's ok to fail at that too. We all do but we have to try. 


** Emma has an upcoming seed and spark campaign for a new feature she has written and will be directing, which will be going live in October. Emma would love for you to reach out to her via her website so you can be kept up-to-date on all things related to this exciting feature, and  hear all about Emma's future projects. 

You can do so by reaching out to her via the 'Create With Me' Tab on her website. **

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