The film making world brings forward quite a wide class of talent, from top mega-star elites to the professional and widely circulated extras. Jenn Gotzon has formulated a career in film that would impress just about anyone with her dynamic and wide-ranging roles- from anything to Academy Award winning pictures with famed directors to respected and niche indie features. I felt somewhat enamored by Gotzon, as her roles seem to sort of go beyond just a temporary being of a character. She seems to really take on a role, and perhaps take an aspect of every character she plays into her own reality. Viewing her body of work you may notice a bit of the same organic acting.
I spoke with Gotzon about what makes her so enthralling, and her experiences in film making. Among many things, she discusses faith in a nonchalant manner, leading one to believe that it is that very inherent faith that makes her so absorbing. She also goes into detail about her early struggling days in Los Angeles as an actress, and why all we really need is to tell a good story the best way we can. When she discusses her efforts outside acting, in production, you get a sense that there is a whole story painted here- from working as a dancer At Disney to being a famed producer- with some Meryl Streep, Starbucks coffee, and running ‘dream’ classes, to top it off. Read the entire interview below.
You seem to cover so many genres of film, and you choose a true variety in the independent features, the plays, and the bigger budget pictures. ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ is an independent picture coming right before a string of bigger budget work. Is there a particular area you prefer to work in, and are you interested in hitting the whole range of film throughout your career?
Content first has always been my motto, making movies that truly impact and inspire audiences is my passion. The budget of a movie has never been a focal point because I look at the heart of the script, talent of the production team, vision and passion of the director and the producers’ strategy for marketing and distribution. I’ve had the privilege to work on a handful of low-budget feature films made for less than $100K and because the craftsmanship of the filmmakers, they look like they spent millions, i.e upcoming movie “God’s Country” directed by Chris Armstrong. When it’s the filmmaker’s passion project, the film soars! Since portraying the President’s daughter, Tricia Nixon, in Ron Howard’s Oscar-nominated “Frost/Nixon,” the opportunity opened up to take a step closer to my dreams and passion: playing emotionally complex protagonist roles who find hope in the climax of the story to inspire audiences to find purpose in their life. My dream would be playing these types of roles in family-friendly movies of all genres (drama, action, rom-com, western, sports) with worldwide appeal, done with such excellence that the work on the film would be Academy Awarded. Thanks for mentioning “Alone Yet Not Alone,” this movie was the largest indie film I’ve ever been on and is a historical depiction which takes place during the French & Indian War. My character Lydia moves to America from England and is captured by the Indians who kill her husband and newborn baby. She becomes the young caretaker for children captives where she meets the hero of the movie young Barbara and her sister young Regina. Lydia, trying to be strong in midst of despair, builds hope into the captive’s lives and ultimately sacrifices herself to save the children while forgiving her captor who burned her at the stake. This inspirational true-story will come to theaters later this year and stars up-n-comers Kelly Greyson as Barbara and Natalie Rascoon as Young Barbara.
You had a breakthrough in major film in 2009 with ‘Frost/Nixon.’ Since then, you have been in countless pictures, and seem to have an extremely busy 2013 lined up. Has this been a slow progression in your view, or is the seeming ‘explosion’ in demand and work pretty accurate?
We all heard of an ‘overnight success’ right? Everyone’s journey is so different. Mine started when I was 15 years old where I was rejected by my high school drama teacher and then through prayer, perseverance and being raised in the church to have faith, one opportunity propelled to the next including being scholar shipped to The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, then being cast as a dancer in Walt Disney World in Florida as a bumble bee in Animal Kingdom’s opening parade, then onto San Francisco for a few years where I was cast as the lead in my first feature film “Julie and Jack” where I was blessed to win a best actress award, a few indie films later I met my husband and we moved to Los Angeles where I struggled getting a top agent. As a result I rarely had any opportunities to audition for TV or major motion pictures, so I thought maybe if I do background and stand-in work that can get me on movie sets. This helped me learn about the studio world of film making, while acting in short independent films like the 168 Hour Film Project & Festival where I was honored to win Best Actress in a film that made cinematic history being the first movie shot on the RED One Camera to win a film festival. This short film “Stained” where I play the protagonist, a tormented girl who is rescued by her father, opened up several acting opportunities and once “Frost/Nixon” came out, a year later I received my first direct offer for a lead role in a feature film through Facebook in “Doonby” where I play Laura Reaper the spoiled, love interest who has a secret (she’s a raging alcoholic) to the film’s hero Sam Doonby played by John Schneider. After I wrapped “Doonby” in June 2010, I began production in the summer on political thriller “Dragon Day,” and then direct offered for a lead in “Alone Yet Not Alone” (where the production team cast me after seeing my performance in “Stained” and my small role in “Frost/Nixon”) which filmed September through beginning of November. From one plane to the next I flew from Fort Loudon to Seattle and jumped into production as the female lead in a faith-based musical fantasy called “September Skies” and finished 2010 off with shooting an entertaining family dramedy called “God’s Country” as the film’s protagonist(love this movie and the role!). Since 2010, I’ve been blessed to star in nine feature films (seven of those are releasing this year) and am attached to ten independent films as a lead character. I’d love to make the jump to mainstream family friendly movies playing protagonist roles that audiences across the world can enjoy.
How do you seem to balance all this work? Do you have any time management tricks or advice for people who can’t seem to get all they can out of a day?
Um… um…. Um…. Besides getting a good pillow to sleep on the plane! (laughs) When I took a semester studying Dale Carnegie Leadership, we learned to live in ‘day tight compartments’ (staying focused on the task at hand). Determine your passion and ultimate dream thinking out of the box. Then pray for direction how to align your life choices and time spent towards that dream. Dare to dream big and take risks. Make goals to accomplish and then daily write a task list to keep you focused. While working on one task – keep focused only on that task giving yourself a time limit ie. 30min – and then move onto the next task upon completion. The time limit helps the urgency of staying focused to get the job done. Take breaks and don’t forget to have fun…that and a lot of caramel macchiatos from Starbucks or the yummy lattes my hubby and I make at home.
There seems to be a real emphasis in storytelling that appears through your acting and your personality. The ‘Inspiring Audiences’ project seems to accentuate this even further. Can you tell us what you are hoping to accomplish with this project?
My passion is impacting and inspiring audiences through the protagonist roles I play in movies.. so I created a program where I show a movie I star in followed by Q & A where we discuss what we can learn from the character’s journey in the story and how that may help the viewer make better decisions in their own life which hopefully will inspire and/or impact. This is then followed by an interactive exercise where I teach strategies on goal building to help students (young and old) live your dreams. Mentoring the next generation is very important to me. I love pouring into people’s lives through encouragement and prayer. Its beautiful seeing people begin taking a step towards living their life’s purpose, especially since each one of us have been created fearfully and wonderfully made with a hope and a future (Phil. 4:5). It’s our job to choose to live it!
Do you find yourself naturally evolving outside of acting, perhaps dipping behind the scenes in various ways?
Producing and marketing fascinate me, though telling stories on screen is my passion. I love connecting and championing people’s talents and gifts. There are a few commercials and short films I’ve produced and its neat hiring people who lack experience and partnering them up to shadow, and assist, the above-the-line team. On a 168 Film project (speed film making competition) I was asked to produce a short film. In 168 hours (one week). Everyone was volunteer and I had one week to crew, so I recruited my friends from our Super Bowl party. A friend who loves doing interior design, I assigned her as our production designer and had her be mentored by a pro prod designer on site. Another friend who oversees logistics and organization for an insurance company, I asked her to help as our 2nd AD… They both are working professionally in the entertainment industry in those respective departments. My friend who was 2nd AD, she is one of the more sought after AD’s in our community. This is so special to be involved in a small glimpse in these sweet friends’ life adventures.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, you were not exactly in the heart of Hollywood and film. Was there a particular moment where you decided to pursue this as a career, or did it arise naturally from your work in dance and modeling?
The moment was clear when I would go to our local movie theater in Northampton, PA at The Roxy and walk out after seeing an amazing story feeling electrified from my head to my toes with a passion that burns so strong (I still do today, i.e. “The Blind Side,” “The Help”). I asked my parents to help get me involved when I was 15 years old and I competed in local pageants, acted in murder mystery dinner theater and was mentored by Chartreuse Talent Management out of Allentown, PA who introduced me to the world of NYC… and so began this beautiful ongoing journey. I strive to seek out roles similar to Meryl Streep because I admire the excellence she brings through her performances in her character transformations layered with emotional depth capturing humanity. It was such an honor to portray Tricia Nixon. I researched every archival video footage, pictures and read the book written by her sister studying her emotional perspective regarding her relationship with her parents during the resignation, how she walked, how she held her hands and body alignment in photos, along with her physical demeanor and energy cadence. As an artist, for all my roles, I love layering each one of these attributes into my imagination as I prepare to experience life through the story captured in the film.
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