Interview with April Hartman

April Hartman_indieactivity

I was always a show boat. I remember as a little girl I would lip sync and perform shows for my family. God, I bet they hated that!! lol We moved to Texas when I was about seven. A few years later I met a girl that lived in the same apartment complex and she was in dance. I was so impressed because she had all these amazing dance costumes. Anyway, we choreographed a dance routine to Michael Jackson’s Beat it and we would perform it for the complex. We actually put out signs announcing the performance and would charge $1 to watch the routine. I’ll never forget that. Lori, my sister and I would take the stage almost every week. I auditioned for the Texas Girls Choir right around the same time and made it.

I remember I was upset because choir practice was interfering with my “performances”. I wanted to quit. Then we started doing stage productions. The first one was a play called “County Fair”. I had a small part but I remember that exact moment. I walked out on stage and I looked out at the audience and thought, “they are all watching me and they’re smiling and laughing.” I still get chills thinking about it. I’ll never forget that feeling and I know that is the exact moment I knew this is what I have to do forever.

indieactivity: How did you become an actor?
April: I wasted a lot of time early on doing what society told me I should do. Go to college, get a degree, have a family, get a good job, etc… I did all of that and I was absolutely miserable!! I cried on the way to my corporate job everyday. I felt so trapped. It was suffocating. There was a day when I got to work that I put my head on my desk and just cried. I actually started praying. I needed something to change. When I was done having my mini breakdown, I knew what I had to do. It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I knew at that moment that I had to pursue my passion. It was the only way I was going to survive. I know that sounds extreme but I believe if you are not doing what you love it starts to destroy you. When I decided to switch gears and get back to my passion, I got really serious! I immediately started doing extra work to network. I started doing student films, free work, short films, anything I could get my hands on to get the experience I needed and to meet people.

I remember having several conversations with actors on set about training and getting into class. I always asked who they trained with and who was the best in Dallas because that’s what I wanted. I heard the same name over and over again, Theresa Bell. I immediately looked her up and asked to audit a class. I went in and watched the process and I was HOOKED! I loved that she was once an actor herself and had great success. She took time with her students and made them feel safe. I loved that. It was intense and I was terrified but I knew that if I was going to get better, this is where I had to be. I had met so many of her actors and they were all successful and working all the time. I started her class the next week. Theresa Bell has been my coach now for over 8 years. I go every week, without fail. I know Theresa is the only reason I have come as far as I have and accomplished so much. She pushes me still to be better and to make better choices in my acting. I love her dearly and love going to class every single week.

indieactivity: What acting technique do you use?
April: Theresa teaches what is now called the Ivana Chubbuck method. She actually trained with Roy London in L.A. years ago and he taught this method that Ivana later wrote her book about therefore stamping the method with her name. I love this method because it helps me to feel the emotions in the scene organically. This method uses things like finding your scene objective, inner objects, finding the obstacles in the scene, using substitutions, and so on. It teaches you how to break down your scene and find out what is really happening. So many actors read through a scene and immediately think, yep, I got it. There is so much more to it using this technique. It takes you on a journey with the character in finding out what they really want from the other character and how they are going to go about getting it. It’s not an easy technique and takes time to really master. It took me about a year to even understand how to really use it effectively. But once you click into it, it’s truly magic!

indieactivity: What wrong impressions do actors hold about acting?
April: There are so many wrong impressions actors, especially beginning actors, have about the world of acting. First, it is NOT glamorous. It’s hard work! NO ONE becomes an overnight success. They beat the pavement acting in whatever they can (short films, extra work, theater, student films, etc) just to get work and get their name out there. This is usually for NO pay! Actors definitely pay their dues. It takes years to get your feet planted in the industry and for people to start taking you seriously. It is NOT easy! Now, I love it and if acting is your passion you will do all of this without hesitation and without complaint, over and over again. It’s HARD, period. BUT it’s a beautiful thing when you finally get some recognition for your hard work and it makes it all worth it!

indieactivity: Do you take courses to improve your craft?
April: YES! I believe this is an absolute must. I don’t really understand actors that don’t train and don’t think they need to. Acting is a craft, you have to work at it. I have been going to my acting coach for 8 years running now. If you want to get better, you have to train. I tell people it’s just like a sport or a musical instrument. If you don’t train, you might be okay, but you will never excel and be one of the best. Period.

indieactivity: What acting books do you read?
April: I’ve read a ton of great acting books (I’m an avid reader)! Some of my favorites are The Power of the Actor by Ivana Chubbuck, Audition by Michael Shurtleff, and The Artist Way by Julia Cameron

indieactivity: How do you keep fit as an actor?
April: Oh man! Trying to keep fit as an actor is such a challenge some days, I’m not going to lie! I have a pretty tough skin and can take tons of rejection but sometimes it does weigh on you when you’re not booking. As an actor, you want it all!! Every acting job that comes your way and then some. Most actors do! So when I’m going through a lull where I’m not working as much or not booking, I start to get in my head (and that’s never a good thing). I actually recently started to meditate to help me cope with some things mentally. It’s helped tremendously. I also had to start focusing on some other things outside of acting. I think most actors have the habit of making it all about acting. That’s what we want, what we breath, what we speak, eat, hear,….. It truly does consume you if you let it. I have to remind myself to take a step back and realize acting is what I do, it’s not who I am. I have a wonderful family, amazing friends and other hobbies that I truly love. Focusing on those things and keeping a positive outlook in the down times makes all the difference in the world. Physically? WORKOUT! ALL THE TIME! No, I kid. But I do try and stick to a workout regimen. I’m an ex gymnast so I tend to go for the more intense workouts like HITT workouts or boot camps. I’m pretty active and a bit of a adrenaline junky so I keep it interesting!

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indieactivity: How do you prepare for a role when you get it?
April: This is a great question! I actually read the script what seems like a million times. I want to know the story forward and backward. I feel like every time I read it I learn something new so it helps. I also “breakdown” my scenes using the method (Ivana Chubbuck method) in which I was trained. I live by that! I need to know who the character is, why are they having the conversation, what do they want from the other person/persons in the scene? So many things. Sometimes I write a back story to help me bring more depth to the character. I don’t really rehearse too much. I don’t mind one or two but I truly think things can be over rehearsed. I love organic acting and I think a lot of that come from just doing it and seeing what happens. Sometimes magic happens!

indieactivity: How do you create a character from a script into a person?
April: First, I read the script…over and over and over. Then I go through and break down each one of the scenes my character is in…line by line. It helps me to really plug into who this person is. I study it and read it again. I practice reading through the lines. Sometimes I get another person to read through it with me. It helps me to hear the other characters out loud and not just in my head. I find that I discover something new each time. That amazes me. Sometimes I meditate on it for a while. I’ll close my eyes and imagine myself in that situation. It helps me to get in the head of the character. And of course I do my research. After I break it down thoroughly, I let it all go!

indieactivity: How do you stay fresh on set?
April: When I’m on set, in between takes, I’m usually in a corner somewhere with my head phones in or reading a book. It helps me to try and stay to myself, especially if the character is really intense and dramatic. If it’s a comedy, I’m usually the one cutting up and acting a fool on set. I try not to distract other actors, but it helps me to stay in character.

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indieactivity: Describe a memorable character you played?
April: There are so many!!!! There are two that come to mind immediately and for very different reasons. I did a film called DeadPoint in 2015 in Ohio. It was a physically demanding role. I had to rock climb, run through the woods, hike, fall down a mountain and swim in the Ohio river (which was freezing in late September). It was amazing!! I was exhausted when we wrapped most days but it was such a great feeling. It truly tested my abilities and I am just so grateful I got to do this film.

The second is a film I also did in 2015 (it was a great year!) and it was a film called Saving the Tin Man. It was a emotionally challenging role. The character had so many issues and I had to really go to some ugly places. There was one day we were shooting in a hospital and my character was highly upset. I had to cry in every scene that day. I took some time and got where I needed to be and the crying started….and it wouldn’t stop! I really couldn’t shut it off! The material was so emotional and I couldn’t make it stop. I think I cried for over eight hours straight that day. All I remember is going home after the shoot and passing out. I was emotionally drained!! But again, I am so grateful for this film. It was a great story and a wonderful broken character.

indieactivity: Explain one creative choice you took on set?
April: One that stands out in my head is a short film I did called Human Wreckage. It’s a post-apcolyptic film that focused on two characters, my character and the other played by Tom Young. There was a scene where we are about to kill a guy that we rescued/captured from the zombies outside. (I can’ tell you why, it gives away the film!). Anyway, I was to kill the guy with an ax, which I did. The director told me to just go for it and go hard core on this. I decided instead of playing this scene scary and all whacked out that I would go another route. I remember even telling the director and everyone in the room that I was just going to “do something” after I swung the ax so don’t cut. The director gave me the freedom and trusted me that it would be in line with who the character was. So, camera rolls and I go for it!!!! I slash my ax through the air and after everyone is staring at me waiting for something harsh and mean. Instead, I jump up in the air and scream, with a smile, “Woohoo!!!! God Damn! Did you see that!!” (talking to the other character) and relished in what I just did. I thought this showed how unbalanced my character really was. The director loved it and kept it in the film.

indieactivity: What do you want most from a director?
April: What I want most from a director is communication and freedom. I want them to tell me what they want in terms of the character, what their looking for, and then give me some freedom to play with the character and see what happens. It’s a collaboration for the actor and director. Some will disagree and say that it’s what the director wants and don’t get me wrong, in the end it really is. But I love the directors that know that they will get the most from their actors if they let run with the character a bit.

indieactivity: What actors do you long to work with?
April: Hands down, no contest, Daniel Day Lewis

indieactivity: Why?
April: He exudes brilliance. I don’t think I have ever seen a movie with Daniel that I haven’t been blown away by his performance. He puts his whole being into the character and I admire that. He goes deep into the script and lives in that world. That’s hard to do, especially with some of the characters he has played. Truly magnificent!

April Hartman_indieactivity

April Hartman in DeadPoint as Emily

indieactivity: What advice would you give to actors?
April: Be patient. Put in your time and pay your dues. No one is an overnight success! Watch the ego because it can destroy your career before you even have one. I have seen too many actors that start out and do a few short films and think they are superstars. They start treating people badly and start demanding parts without auditioning. It’s frightening. Needless to say, they aren’t around long. No one wants to work with a Diva so watch yourself and be kind. Ask yourself: do you want quick and brief stardom or longevity? Don’t compromise who you are or your integrity, ever!!! And above all remember: People talk and people remember!

indieactivity: Briefly write about your career?
April: I have done so many over the years. I think I currently have 44 credits on IMDB and that’s not half of the films I’ve done. It’s been a wonderful journey and I wouldn’t change any of it. You take the good with the bad and move forward. It’s all a learning experience. I love where I am now and how confident I am with what I am capable of. I can’t say enough how truly grateful I am for all the work. With every character I have been lucky enough to play, it has helped me grow as an actor. I look forward to many more years and many more characters!!!! You can keep up with me and my career my checking out my sites:

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