Paul sits down at the conference table, places his recorder down and lifts his phone to call Terissa Kelton, an up-and-coming indie actress from Austin.
He touches her name on his cell phone, lifting it up to his ear.
Her voice comes on from the other end.
He presses the little red button on his recorder.
PAUL: Can you hear me OK?
TERISSA: Yes, I can.
PAUL: All right, let’s get right into it. Perhaps we should start from the beginning. When did you start acting?
TERISSA: I went to public high school when I was 14 years old. I was homeschooled my whole life. I really wanted to pursue something that allowed me to discover new characters and give myself some insight on how other people work.
Terissa has been in five feature films and a few short films. Her eclectic range and experience make her a perfect fit for any film.
PAUL: What was your first film role?
TERISSA: I did two short student films while I was in college and some music videos, but the first thing that ever really struck me as ‘real’ was a web series I did out in New Braunfels.It was called “Loveless.” And when the project was finished, it was featured in L.A. for a script writing award, and it was the first time I went out to L.A. for anything film related.
Terissa has since returned to L.A. for one of her other films, which played a film festival there.
PAUL: What inspires you?
TERISSA: Going back to sort of being sheltered, and getting into a public school and realizing that I really wanted to be in a position where I could not only understand other people’s perspectives but relate them to other people, and that’s what inspires me. And I think giving that perspective to an audience is interesting, because it gives people another perspective on that character.
PAUL: What do you look for in acting roles?
Terissa quietly ponders the question, letting the electronic hum of the silent phones seep out between her and the interviewer.
TERISSA: I look for something that strikes me personally. It has to be something legit. It has to be something I relate to and feel comfortable with, too.
Most of Terissa’s films have been with the independent production company Twitchy Dolphin, based out of Austin.
The two of them have a storied and productive past.
PAUL: How did you hook up with Twitchy Dolphin?
TERISSA: (laughs) I met all those guys in 2009. I was a junior in college, and I was a year into my acting program at Texas State, but I really wasn’t getting any stage work, so I was kind of in a rut I guess. And I started to look around Austin for projects. And there was a casting call for the lead in the film “Look at Me Again.” So I sent in my stuff and James Christopher sent me a message saying that the leads have been cast but there were extra roles available.
And thus, their relationship was quickly cemented. Terissa speaks about Twitchy Dolphin with kind repose.
TERISSA: I became quick friends with James and the crew, and he asked me to audition for one of the lead roles in his next film “Snatch ’n Grab”, and I ended up getting the role of Becca.
PAUL: What’s your favorite acting role so far?
Terissa quickly flips through the rolodex of characters she’s played over the past few years.
TERISSA: I really liked Becca in “Snatch ’n Grab”, because she was very different from me. So that was an interesting experience trying to relate to her. And, recently, we made “3 References”, and that role was pretty cool. It was a girl-next-door kind of thing. That one was really fun but in a different way. I felt the most comfortable in that role than I’ve ever felt.
PAUL: You’ve also started directing a few things, correct?
TERISSA: Yes. In early 2011, I directed my first short. I’ve done two, and I’m slated to do a third, I don’t know what it is yet, but I do enjoy it, and I’m going to keep doing at least one short a year until I decide to do more or whatever comes my way.
She downplays the fact that she may have a feature film screenplay started, tucked in a desk drawer nearby.
PAUL: Tell me about your character in “Turkey Day.”
TERISSA: “I play Charlie, or Charlotte, and, basically, in the beginning of the movie, she’s a very young girl who’s going off to study abroad, and at that time she has her whole life sort of laid out. She has her boyfriend who she’s going to marry, and she wants a family life, and everything’s pretty much planned out for her. She leaves the movie for a little while and when she comes back she has a new hairdo, and it’s kind of outrageous, and she’s not that much into her boyfriend as much as she thought she was. She’s trying to find herself, and it’s sort of difficult when all of her family is kind of a wreck.
PAUL: What was it about this character that caused you to gravitate to her?
TERISSA: Charlie was an interesting character, because she was just so – she has her own thing going on. It was very interesting to play her. In the beginning, she’s a completely different character than when she comes back. So I had to think about what happened to her while she was completely off screen. And what she went through and how it came to be that she decided she wanted to be this different person and how she became this different person.
The two of them chat for a bit longer, then they say their goodbyes.
Paul’s cell phone screens blinks off.
He stops the recorder.
He leans back in his chair and thinks about the “Turkey Day” screening this Saturday, Dec. 8, at 11 a.m. at Rio 6 Cinemas, 806 E. Houston St. in Beeville.
(fade to black)
Paul Gonzales is the entertainment writer at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 116, or at thescene@mySouTex.com.