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October 7, 2002
Take 2 - Local indie filmmakers are thrilled they reconsidered Issaquah navite Jen Taylor for the lead in their movie
(Other reviews by our authors are posted on
Jen Taylor was sleeping, but she picked up the phone anyway. It was 6 a.m. on a summer morning and on the line was Kris Kristensen, a Seattle filmmaker.
That phone call (made a little over a year ago), is what Kristensen credits with saving his film. His savior was Taylor, an Issaquah native and respected local stage actress who stars in Kristensen's film, Inheritance, which will have a screening at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Seattle Art Museum. The filmmakers are submitting Inheritance at festivals throughout the country.
A lesser actress with thinner skin might have hung up on Kristensen. Weeks earlier, Kristensen had rejected Taylor to play the lead role of Abbey in his haunting film about a young woman struggling to stop the spirit of her deceased former employer, Mrs. Baker, from invading her mind and body.
Taylor told Kristensen she would take the part, even though she was in the middle of a play that she couldn't cancel. She didn't let it bother her that Kristensen and the co-writer of the film, Brian McDonald, had first hired a young actress from Los Angeles to play Abbey.
The filmmakers were eight days into shooting - of 24 - and decided they had made a terrible mistake. They had the choice of delaying the film or finding someone to replace the Los Angeles actress. They decided to call Taylor, who had read the part of Abbey twice before for promotional events for the film.
Initially, the duo - who also produced and directed the award-winning independent short film, White Face - had rejected Taylor because they thought she was too "mature" for the part. Says Kristensen, "There's a certain maturity about Jen. ... I told her I wanted someone younger at the time, but I knew we'd work together someday. I thought it was going to be on another project."
Taylor admits that she was a tad mortified that she was considered too old to play the part of someone who is 25, an age just a few years younger than she. "It was a little horrifying. I had never had to deal with that. I'm playing the part of a 13-year-old right now (at the Seattle Children's Theater), so I don't think I'm old. I remember thinking, "I'm in my 20s, what are you talking about?," said Taylor with a laugh. She does find the whole thing funny.
Now, Kristensen and McDonald can't imagine anyone else playing the part.
"She's fantastic. Honestly, I would hate to see what she could do with any rehearsal because her performance was flawless," said Kristensen, who was amazed Taylor could pick up the part so quickly with little preparation. Taylor began filming 24 hours after receiving the phone call. Meanwhile, she continued her role at Book-It Repertory Theater in the production of A Shallow Grave.
All this was possible, Kristensen claims, because of the story. "We had the script to show crew and investors, and they could see that we had a good story and knew how we wanted to tell it." Filmmaking should have much more of a focus on storytelling, he believes, "and a lot of local productions by very talented people aren't very successful because they haven't worked the story out as much as they should."
"She was so easy going. One of the things I liked most about her, if she didn't do the scene quite right, I didn't have to tell her much because she knew when she didn't hit her mark. It was easy for me to say, That was good Jen, but let's do it again. Very little, did I have to give her more specific direction. ... She would do everything right the next time," said Kristensen.
He credits her theatrical background for her ability to quickly capture a role.
Aspiring Eastside actress
Taylor first knew she wanted to be an actress at age 12 when she saw a production at Village Theater. "I thought, I could do that. Why am I not doing that?’"
She convinced her mother to take her to acting classes at Seattle Children's Theatre. She began auditioning for roles at Mercer Island's Youth Theatre Northwest and elsewhere. She started volunteering at Village Theatre. "I schlepped coffee. I worked the lights. Anything they wanted me to do."
While a student at Issaquah High School - she graduated in 1991 - Taylor starred in a few productions. When it was time for college, though, acting was not what she wanted to do. She went to Northwestern University expecting to major in history. Instead, she was drawn back to the stage. Still, she had her reservations after giving it a try. "I didn't do well at Northwestern as an actor. I thought, maybe I shouldn't do this."
She stopped acting for a year. She moved to London and graduated from college. Then, she ran out of money and returned to her parents, home in Issaquah, where they still live. "There were some people doing a small play. ... They were doing Godspell, They said, Why don't you audition? So I did and I got in. And then I got the fever again. It really is an itch."
Since then, she's starred on stages all over the region - from Village Theatre to the Seattle Children's Theatre. Recently, she was cast in The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. Right now, she's playing the part of a 13-year-old tomboy in the production of Our Only May Amelia, at the Seattle Children's Theatre.
She also does voice work for video games, commercials and other projects to make money between plays. Her parents once worried she couldn't make a living as an actor, but they stopped worrying after she began earning more money than her mother, a computer systems architect.
Taylor intends to pursue more stage roles, although she'd love to do another film, even though she's uneasy with the attention it's brought. At a recent after-party screening of Inheritance, she recalls standing in the restaurant and feeling a lot of strangers staring at her - recognizing her from her role in the film - but they all kept their distance. She said the feeling was unsettling.
Ultimately, she can't imagine any other career. "I get paid to play. And on a more intellectual level, I get to be something that I'm not." It's not a career she would recommend for many. It comes with a lot of disappointment and rejection. "For every job you get, there's five or more you didn't get. You have to have a certain kind of personality to take that kind of rejection. But I'm one of those people who thinks, When the door closes, well, there's a window that's going to open."
7:30 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 8 (doors open at 6:45 p.m.)
Tickets: $7
Where:Seattle Art Museum
100 University St., Seattle