I had the privilege of speaking with Charlotte Larsen, a talented actress, producer and filmmaker who hails from Wellington, New Zealand. She has produced such films as Boy, Born to Dance, Orphans and Kingdoms, Great Expectations, Gloria and Bella.
It was a pleasure hearing about all Charlotte has accomplished for someone so young. She is an admirable person in the industry. In addition to producing her own projects, she supports others in theirs. Here’s what she had to say.
Can you tell us what it was like growing up in New Zealand?
“I actually grew up in the UK, I was born in New Zealand but I moved to England when I was about six years old. I did all my schooling there but I went back to New Zealand to go to University. I’ve been there twelve years now.”
Okay, let’s talk a little bit about your theatre training and the studies you did to prepare you for the creative arts?
“I did a theater and film degree. I went to the New York Film Academy the summer after high school and did their training program and kind of left acting for a little bit. I was focusing on producing and making films. Then decided I really wanted to get back on the stage and get back into acting. So, I went to Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Los Angeles and did their program. Professionally I started producing then I moved into acting. When I finished college, I started my own production company. I wanted to direct and act initially and just ended up producing. I didn’t have any time to act or direct, producing was my full time job. When I was about eight years into producing, I thought I really have to get back into acting.”
What were some of the challenges you faced as a producer?
“Definitely finding the money, trying to get the film made. Trying to connect with people who want to invest in film and dealing with people who don’t work in the film industry. They see a project, film is just exciting to them. They don’t know how the process works. They see a project they want to invest in it. But, waiting for a check to come in due to the complicated nature of the industry, you may not see anything come in for two, three, or five years. You kind of have to explain to them this it not a quick turn around. You’re not going to make a quick buck doing this but you’re going to make some great art. You will get your money back, somehow, sometime but you have to be a little bit patient so trying to explain that to people is difficult and trying to find people who do have the money and want to do that as well is tricky sometimes.”
I can imagine. What can you tell us about Random Films?
“Well Random Films is a film production company I started when I left college. I basically didn’t know what to do. I was wondering do I get a job in some office but I really wanted to make film, I wanted to be in control of my own projects so I started the company with a couple of friends really not knowing how to run a business or experience in that so I really kind of threw myself in head first and hoped for the best. We’ve been going ten years now so I hope that means we’re doing something right.”
Well congratulations, that’s a very big achievement. I wish you so much success in that realm of your business. You’re also the Founder of Emerging Artists Trust, what can you tell us about that?
“Yes, I had a lot of people come to me saying they wanted me to produce their film or theatre with my production company. I ended up being a little bit of an angel investor in some of the projects and a lot of people were coming to me, my friends, and I realized there were people that didn’t know me who also needed help that way, either in a production sense or a financial sense. I felt the best way to do that was to organize it formally. So, I set up a charitable trust to be able to help people that weren’t just my friends but were people who were starting out in the business who needed a bit of a helping hand so we were able to give back to them as well. At Emerging Artists Trust we started in film and theatre and we expanded now into visual arts and we have a mentoring program which we pair industry professionals with emerging artists. They get a certain amount of time and we also have a grant program as well. We allocate a thousand New Zealand or so dollars per project once a year to several projects that create a play or a film or a visual arts project.”
That’s great. What would you tell anyone if they came to you asking you how could they become a producer? How could they get started if they had no experience, what sort of advice would you give to them?
“I would say contact places like university film schools, student productions. You may start out just making the coffee, that’s the way it goes. But if you have some type of skill set that a producer’s looking for, like if you’re good with a camera, if you can do a budget. Ask alot of questions, what do you need? How can I help? That’s a way to get started. And make friends with other producers who can help you out as well.”
Let’s say someone is primarily a business person that have absolutely no background in the creative arts or contacts in the field. They only have a passion for the creative arts, how would you encourage that person to become a producer?
“I would encourage someone to do research on different companies, maybe pick a film that you like and find out who the producer is or who the production company is and email them and say ‘Look, I’ve got this business degree and business experience, I’d like to transition’. Working with big film companies will come later, check smaller companies and independents. Let them know you’re available and this is what you’d like to do. Ask them who you should talk to, I think that’s a really great way to start out.”
Can you share anything with us about any current projects you’re working on right now?
“Yes absolutely, I have two films at the moment with a great writer director called Stan Harrington. This is going to be our second and third film together, I did a previous film with him called Lost Angels. The next film I’ve done with him is called Bella, it’s in post production right now it’s nearly finished. I’m eager to see the final product. The subtitle of the film is Thanksgiving in July, it’s about a family coming together and having the Thanksgiving they never really had when they were together growing up. It’s about them working out what they need to say to each other. And hopeful that’s going to be coming out very soon, we’re looking at festivals towards the end of the year. And the next project I’m doing with him is called The 5th and that’s in pre-production. We’re hoping to shoot that in New York State early next year, January/February. It’s about a guy that gets out of jail and stays with an old friend who he used to know before he went to jail. Things start to unravel and secrets come out about things that happened before he went to jail .”