Musical Talent Terrell Sass: Finding Fulfillment through his Passion for Music: A Gemma Exclusive!

Terrell Sass is a multi-talented and multi-instrumental artist with so much to offer. He’s a music producer, drummer, and composer. Music is his life, and he could not be a kinder person. Terell is a true collaborator, and this characteristic has contributed to his success. We were honored to interview him. He’s ultra-professional (questions answered in a day)?!?! and always captions his Instagram posts with the tagline: “PURSUE YOUR PASSION.” Sass is super inspiring and it’s also why he’s a true ‘gemma.’

Terrell has been interested in music since he was a child. He’s an incredible combination of raw talent and strategic execution. He produces for musical talents, plays drums, and composes. Sass also has an entrepreneurial side with his apparel company., ‘Drumman Apparel.’ More importantly, Sass inspires others to pursue their passion and achieve fulfillment. When he had a brief moment, Terrell sat down with Gemma to talk.

Have you always been interested in music and what attracted you to drumming, specifically? Did you have a mentor or you “just knew?”

I had an affinity towards music, practically since my birth. My older brother and I were always turning everything we could (Ideally spoons, hangars, and pencils into drumsticks)!!! Drums weren’t Only the loudest instrument; Drums was the most visually stimulating instrument to me. Growing up I had a few musicians that I would watch at the church I was attending. (My father was very active at every church we visited) so that jump-started my “tutoring.” I definitely “knew” that music was something that I was exceptional at and was something that I wanted to do! I eventually got to study with Craig Harbor and Tom Knight at the Atlanta Institute of music and media!!

What was your experience like at the Atlanta Institute of Music? Is it true you got your friend to drive you (while missing a midterm)? That’s a great story. 

My experience at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media was nothing short of phenomenal!! Being able to learn from some of the best musicians and minds in the music industry. My experience definitely helped mold me into the musician, person, and entrepreneur that I am today. That Story you are referring to is very true! Unfortunately, (But fortunately, )I was not focused on making good grades like I should have been during my two-year stint at Colombus State University. I did consider dropping out and moving to Atlanta, but I knew my parents would not let that happen without a plan. Therefore, I began to research and I found out that one of my favorite drummers (and now a good friend of mine), CHRIS COLEMAN, was doing some work at The Atlanta Institute of Music. Since I didn’t have a car, I became discouraged when I found out that I had to physically audition by a certain date to start the next quarter. When I was telling a friend of mine about it, she said, “Don’t let the little stuff stop you from doing what you have to do… I’ll take you.” I knew she had a midterm the day of my audition and I told her to not worry about it but she was not havin’ that!! She said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll make it work.” That was a true blessing!!!

You produce for many musical artists. Can you please explain why you enjoy producing for others and what characteristics go into it.

There is absolutely no greater feeling than watching an idea and a concept turn into a full-blown song! You definitely have to be a visionary and have a clear idea of where you want to take a song, which makes everything run so much smoother (In my Opinion). You also have to have good communication skills and also understand the talent you are working with– that’s key.

How did you get to produce for Mya? Also, it must have been thrilling to have been instrumental (both as a producer and musician)  in “Smoove Jones” being nominated for a Grammy

I was working in the “D-Room” at D.A.R.P. WAS WORKING IN THE “D-ROOM” AT D.A.R.P. (Dallas Austin’s former studio) with a producer friend of mine named Orlando Williamson. We would just take turns playing music for each other. One day I played some music from my Live Production folder. He asked for a copy of the few compositions that I played. After a little touch from Orlando and an acquaintance of ours named “YOUNG YONNY,” the song that I gave him became “One Woman Man” ON MYA’S “SMOOVE JONES” Album!!! (Networking is Important!)

How was your most recent experience with Alvin Garrett? Can you pls. expand upon the creative process

Alvin is great! He is one of my favorite singer/songwriters to work with! We collaborated on three songs for HIS Upcoming album “THIS HILL”. For me, it makes sense to create in bulk when I’m feeling a distinct vibe. It also makes sense to create in bulk when I feel that a unique musical aesthetic since there is no guarantee that the sound will be retrievable in the future. With these elements in mind, I then created music for “Have a Good Time” “Time” and “What I’ll Do.” Therefore, I sent him the idea, amazing lyrics and jump-started to the compositions! “Love is Still the Answer” was an idea that he brought to the table. He sent me an acapella voice note of the melody. I got inspired and created the music around his overall sound. Then he went back and recorded his vocals… AND WA-LAH!!! Now you have a finished album.

Do you consider yourself a “true collaborator?”
I consider myself a true collaborator!!! If I’m working with you, it’s because I respect what you do and respect what I do. Furthermore, you must recognize what I do. I genuinely believe the iron sharpens iron!

Tell us a bit about who you have toured with and how the experiences impacted you?

I’ve done tours and performances with Tyler Perry, 2 Chainz, Rich Homie QUAN, Jennifer Holliday, Danny Gokey and currently Liv Warfield to name a few. Outside of exposing me to different places, touring and doing live shows also gives me a front row seat to what the public reacts to positively and even negatively! I then apply the knowledge that I gain from those observations to my production! It’s actually an amazing learning experience.

There is ABSOLUTELY no greater feeling than watching an idea and a concept turn into a full-blown song. You definitely have to be a visionary and have a clear idea of where you want to take a song, which makes everything run so much smoother (In my Opinion). You also have to have good communication skills and also understand the talent you are working with– that’s key. (Terrell Sass)

You have an impressive work ethic. Do you ever need downtime?
I don’t think that I do!! Since music is my hobby that I’m blessed enough to get paid to do!!! (I do make sure that I go to the gym daily)

Who inspires you in the music industry? Both R&B as well as Rap?
My music industry inspirations are Quince Jones, David Foster, Rick Ruben SIir George Martin, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Pharrell, Sean Combs, and Dr. Dre!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the music industry?

NETWORK!! BE PERSISTENT!! Always be professional and do your best because you never know who’s watching. PRAY! Most Importantly — The Internet is your friend!!! Don’t be afraid to do ‘it’ on your own. The industry has turned into a “Venture Capitalistic” environment.

How do you stay so motivated? Your mindset is incredible.
It’s effortless for me to stay motivated because I’m passionate about what I do. Music is my job and my hobby!! Playing and creating music gives me a feeling that nothing on earth could give me!

Tell us a bit about the t-shirts you wear and new apparel that you offer.

I wear my merchandise line called “DRUMMAN APPAREL™” (If Michael Jordan can be the “JUMPMAN,” THEN I CAN BE THE “DRUMMAN”)!!!! I started this merch line as a Birthday gift to myself. My goal is to get every drumline in America wearing it. We’ve been selling hoodies, t-shirts, and dog tags. We are preparing to release some new products and designs shortly.

I love how you always say “Pursue Your Passion.” It’s Very inspiring. Do you feel this is the path to true fulfillment?

I believe that pursuing your passion is a path to fulfillment. If you are passionate about what you are doing when you can and as much as you can, you are enriching your soul. Whether you are making $0.00 OR $1,000,000. Things we are passionate about get our endorphins going and that’s always a good thing.

Lastly, any upcoming projects that you would like to mention
I’m back with a few artists now!! I’m not sure what songs are going to end up where but stay tuned!!! Also, if you see that Liv Warfield drummer is doing a show near you — Come on Out!! Be sure to check out my website and order your drummer friends some fantastic drummer merchandise!! Also check out Alvin Garrett’s new album, where we collaborate for three songs. Tthe upcoming Alvin Garrett album will be awesome!

Terrell Sass was a pleasure to speak with — An amazing example in going for your dream. On behalf of Gemma, I would like to thank him. Very, very inspiring!!! You can follow him on the following social platforms:

www.terrellsass.com

@terrell.sass(Facebook)

@terrellsass (instagram)

Storytelling Through an Unfiltered Lens: Filmmaker Kelly Needleman

Kelly Needleman is a creative force and an inspiring one at that. He is an accomplished landscape photographer and an aspiring filmmaker. He’s motivated, only seventeen, and his work is stunning. He’s prepping to start filming his first feature this summer. “I feel grateful that I have found a passion for creating movies. People search their whole life to find what they are destined to do. I am self-taught in photography and film, but I know I have so much more to learn and I am looking forward to the journey ahead,” says Kelly Needleman. At such a young age, Kelly has already produced beautiful work in both photography and film and you rarely see someone his age with such a strong vision and work ethic.
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However, sometimes talented filmmakers see life through a lens — with the film playing in their mind — it’s part their daily creative process. Needleman is one. Kelly Needleman is a Director, Actor, Producer, Photographer, and Entrepreneur. He’s compelling in his calling to create films, especially in a culture where many teens are not sure what they want to do, especially with so many options. Kelly’s passion and discipline consist of filmmaking told through artistry, nature, and meaningful storytelling.
At a young age, Needleman had a creative eye. Growing up with his cousin, David Needleman, who is a professional photographer that shoots celebrities, influenced him to pick up a camera. Kelly was attracted to the beauty of nature and started taking images and time-lapses of landscapes. His strong ambition to create resulted in being published in various publications and awards, such as National Geographic and Canon. Actually, he’s been published 7 times in National Geographic YourShot. (https://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/1460193/#awards)

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Photo: David Needleman

His pictures became viral on social media resulting in a celebrity status following.
Needleman’s passion for landscape photography was a natural progression into the film industry. He formed his own company called Needleman Productions, where he showcases his movies. He has made numerous shorts and experimental films. Kelly has been recognized locally as a student filmmaker and has recently won a prestigious award (Best Young Director) for his documentary, MY IDENTITY, in the Hollywood International Independent Film Festival. His goal is to make beautiful movies by utilizing the natural elements of nature, fog, sea, and sunlight as tools in an outdoor studio.
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We were stunned when we saw his work. His photos are beautiful, enticing and eclectic all at once. It took me somewhere else, which is the point. When an artist evokes emotion or makes you leave your thoughts for a while; it’s real art. Needleman has a gift, and the only mistake would be if he did not utilize it to his full capacity. It’s incredibly inspiring when someone this young takes the risk and doesn’t hesitate. When Kelly had a minute, he spoke with Gemma.
How did you become interested in taking photos of nature?
My love for nature developed by exploring my surroundings in Northern California. I am fortunate to live in an area where beauty envelops the atmosphere. I started traveling with my family at a very young age and visited unbelievable locations such as Iceland and the Dolomites in Italy which inspired me to share my experiences through film and photography.
Do you sometimes feel like an “old soul?” Your vision is very mature.
Yes, I do feel I am an “old soul.” I feel grateful that I have found a passion for creating movies. People search their whole life to see what they are destined to do. I am self-taught in photography and film, but I know I have so much more to learn and I am looking forward to the journey ahead.
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What was the inspiration to transition into film?
I do love photography and always will — Yet, as a storyteller, I felt the medium of film was more engaging. A movie can create a mood, develop characters and share a point of you. It takes people out of their everyday life to experience something new. It can also make you a different place mentally, which is very powerful.
How did you find the process of screenwriting? Creatively Challenging?
Screenwriting was something entirely new for me. As a director and a visual person, the mood of the film was essential to me. I set the scene in my mind, and the dialog flowed from there. It comes with challenges of course, but I seem to thrive off of that.
Do you feel driven to create?
I do! I always like to try something new and authentic. It is easy to create something that already exists, but I strive to be as original as possible which fuels my ambition to be the best I can.

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Photo: David Needleman

Who are some of the directors that you admire?
I admire directors such as Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese for their mastery of storytelling. I appreciate when a director displays their style throughout the filmmaking process. I also respect the careers of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as student screenwriters/actors to directors.
How do you balance being an HS student, working in photography, and now, making films? (Not to mention, the business aspects)?
I thrive on the energy of always being busy. I am a very organized and disciplined person, but at times it does get a little bit crazy.

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Photo: David Needleman

I know you are working with Gigi Cesare on your upcoming film “Lost Visibility.” We covered her, and she’s so confident, talented, and fun.
Yes, I am incredibly excited to be working with Gigi for my upcoming feature. She is a very talented actress, and I love her passion for the film. She is a beautiful addition.
Can you please expand upon your upcoming feature film, “Lost Visibility?”
The logline for my feature film “Lost Visibility,” is: Maybe they were not as close as they thought they were. Three friends share intimate dreams that bring their secrets to reality. The film is in the genre of Psychological Thriller, Teen Drama, Mystery, and Horror. I am currently in pre-production and plan to shoot during early summer of 2019. The film will most likely be released at the end of 2019.
I also really enjoyed your short film, “Lucid Visions.” Again, visually, it’s gorgeous. Can you explain your personal experience?

“Lucid Visions” was a unique film for me because it exposed me to an exciting genre. I loved the concept of dream versus reality. This short film led me to the idea for my feature film.

You do act as well. How do you like acting?

Yes, I do act, and it’s an entirely different experience from directing. I feel being in front of the camera helps me connect and have a better understanding of the actors when directing a film. In my opinion, it’s essential to learn both aspects of acting and directing to create the best possible film.

Kelly Needleman has an extremely bright future ahead of him. We hope to report upon him again (Part 2) when his film is released. After graduating from High School, Kelly is planning on majoring in Film Production (specifically directing) and minoring in business around LA.

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Photo: David Needleman

You can follow Kelly on the following social media platforms:

Staying True to his Craft: Actor Spencer Trinwith Talks ​Upcoming Projects and “Wonder Woman 2”

The decision to pursue acting is always a brave one. Of course, many artists feel it is their life passion and must fulfill their dream. The fact is the industry consists of handling rejection, competition, and hard moments. However, certain artists learn to lean into the struggle (setbacks and all), and channel that energy to become even more passionate and determined. Sometimes, there is even an art to learning how to adapt. Such is the case with talented actor Spencer Trinwith, who always knew from an early age that he wanted to be an actor. Spencer is within his authentic element when working on a film set. He’s on the rise and applies a smart and insightful approach to his craft. Spencer has also experienced an enormous health challenge but tapped into other forms of creativity to stay focused. Trinwith knew acting was his life purpose and that would not change. “There is something so special about how collaborative acting is — all of these different parts moving in unison and working toward a similar goal. Not to mention, it’s darn fun,” said Trinwith.

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Trinwith explained his desire to act as a career became very clear in High School. He expanded by emphasizing that he was not into academics. Spencer wanted to focus on the arts. He attended the University of North Carolina for the Arts and lived in DC for a while. He comes from actor parents and due to his innate interest in the arts combined with the family exposure to creative endeavors inspired his ambition even more. He was even named after Spencer Tracy. Trinwith has quite an impressive resume. He has appeared on television in “Law & Order: SUV” alongside special guest star, Sharon Stone as well as the television show “VEEP” with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Hugh Laurie. Spencer’s professional theater credits are extensive. He played Norm in “Suicide, Incorporated” in Washington, DC to stellar reviews. He also starred in an adaptation of the Stanley Tucci film “Blind Date” titled “The Personals,” for the stage.

After a health setback at the age of 21 that left him viewing life from a different perspective, his mindset had to shift to keep him healthy and focused on healing as well as still inspired to accomplish his future goals. Spencer has made a full recovery and even worked on five films this past summer. He’s excited about his short film (about to hit the film festival circuit), Saved by Grace, which required intensive physical stuntwork. Spencer happily took on the challenge. He is also starring in Wonder Woman 2 1984, which is “set for July 5th, 2020 Warner Brothers worldwide release. His story is inspiring, and when he had a moment, the thoughtful and passionate actor took the time to speak with us.

Tell me a bit about your childhood. Your parents are involved in the acting world, correct? It’s always great to have that support.

It is wonderful! I get to have a scene study partner pretty much on call 24/7 between the two of them! I grew up in the Bay Area and Washinton, DC. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of me pursuing this career.

You recently went through a challenging time with degenerative disc disease. How did you stay so strong mentally? Did you feel there was a time that you might not be able to act again?

Music. Most of the time playing guitar would be too difficult for me. But I got into producing on my computer. I would spend hours while on bed rest. Sometimes days. I would compose music — everything: hip-hop beats, electronic, rock, metal, soundtrack, EVERYTHING. I have a gigantic catalog of music from my time before my surgery. I’m very proud that despite everything, I was still able to find a way to be creative. I never stopped creating!

You have had the opportunity to work on many film sets over the past summer. What was the film shoots like for Saved by Grace and Really Love?

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Saved by Grace was particularly exciting for me because I got to perform all of my stunts. From hand to hand combat, to falling out of trees. They had me doing just about everything, and I welcomed it! Mud and everything! I had a blast working on Really Love. My scene with Kofi Siriboe and Yootha Wong-Lou-Sing was virtually all improvised. It was such a fun give-and-take!

Regarding your acting process, you had mentioned that you try to approach from a simplistic approach versus “doing too much.” Can you elaborate?

Yes, the age-old actor dilemma of: “What do I do with my hands right now?” We can easily fall into the trap of feeling like “we are not doing enough” and because of that: we can run the risk overcompensating. Trying to push for a result. For me, I try to keep it to a few steps — Know what your character wants, commit to your character’s circumstances, listen to your acting partner, respond to your acting partner and your hands will follow after.

 

spencer outsideAlso, you are always challenging yourself to step outside your comfort zone with your roles. Is this your nature concerning risk-taking with specific roles?

I feel it’s a bit of a mutual attraction! I enjoy working on roles that are a far departure from myself, or extreme circumstances. To let my imagination run wild with the thought of “What If?” It’s certainly a rush and a difficult task. But I love it.

What does acting bring to you personally as well as your life?

I cannot live without it. There is something so special about how collaborative acting is — all of these different parts moving in unison and working toward a similar goal. Not to mention, it’s darn fun. When I was on bedrest, it was very isolating. Yet I did have a deep, burning desire for acting and knew that is where I belonged.

After living in DC, which is a gorgeous city, what do you think of L.A. now that you are after living and auditioning here?

DC And LA couldn’t be any more different! Both have a lot to offer. I will say though, the first time I ever flew into Los Angeles, (considering I have no family here or relation to this city), as soon as my plane touched down at LAX, I had this overwhelming sense of belonging. I knew this was going to be my home and when you are in a new home its best to create a network of friends and associations that make you honestly feel “at home.”

You have been working so much. Did you take a Thanksgiving break?

I did not spend Thanksgiving with my parents this year. I volunteered with “family” at Project Angel Food in Los Angeles, bright and early at 6 am on this holiday, prepping meals in their kitchen for those in need. It’s a fantastic charity in Los Angeles County which provides free meals for men and women too sick to shop and cook for themselves, and it’s been doing this for almost 30 years.

Everyone is super excited about WW2 1984! Can you please expand upon your character a bit?

Due to NDA (non-disclosure agreement), I can’t speak about my character or the film. However, I’m so excited for its release as I’ve been a lifelong fan of DC comics and characters!

On a final note, please click the link below to hear Spencer speak on a recent podcast from KTLA!

https://ktla.com/2018/11/26/spoken-dreams-spencer-trinwith-actor/


Gemma Magazine would like to thank Spencer Trinwith for joining us. We can’t wait to see all of his upcoming projects. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to do a followup. For now, Spencer is happily traveling due to nonstop work and living out of a suitcase. He would not have it any other way.

To follow Spencer on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/spencer.trinwith.3

https://www.instagram.com/spencertrinwith/

 

Photos by Brian To / Styling by Victor Hugo Guevara

 

 

 

Blake Borders~Teen Actor Taking Risks and on the Rise

Blake Borders (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8767522/?ref_=nv_sr_1) is only sixteen and is fiercely following his passion. Blake has numerous acting credits to his name and has no plans on slowing down. He has starred in various shorts and has an upcoming feature film coming out. Blake is not your typical teen, but he’s doing what he’s passionate about — acting. Blake Borders has fully committed himself to his craft and is making his mark. Talented, warm, and smart, he has a clear vision and works passionately to fulfill his dream. Blake is based in Clovis, Ca but makes the commute to Los Angeles for auditions, premieres, and scene study intensives. He has an extremely healthy perspective on the industry and is authentic in his desire to act.

He is currently signed with LA Management (with Addison Witt as his Manager) and recently signed with Alicia Beekman as his Agent with Commercial Talent Agency. An integral aspect of Blake’s success has been the immense support from both of his parents.  Again, he’s only sixteen (and already passed the CHSPE Exam and his Driver’s test). After communicating with his mom, Heather Borders, it’s very inspiring to see her support. Recently Gemma Magazine had the fantastic opportunity to interview Blake, meet his family, and get to know him while he was in L.A. for an acting workshop.

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It’s so lovely to meet you finally! Thanks for joining. What sparked your interest in acting?
Thank you so much for having me. I have always known since a young age that I wanted to perform. I would make movies with my sister and the neighborhood kids. I starred in a 4th-grade play and felt comfortable on stage. I ended up loving theatre program and my Elementary school productions. My passion grew from there. I decided to take it further. There was a local agency up north that led to some great connections and that eventually resulted in me signing with LA Management, (under the guidance of Talent Manager Addison Witt). It helped tremendously with castings, workshops, and support. I’m genuinely grateful for Addison Witt’s support. He’s made the entire process so much easier.

What was it like going from the theater to real-life auditions?
Auditioning, at first, made me incredibly nervous and I had to work through it. For a while, it was very challenging. However, I knew how much I enjoyed acting. Now, I’ve been performing consistently for over 2 1/2 years and auditioning feels natural.

How does acting make you feel (as Blake Borders)?
Acting makes me feel great. I’m in my element, and I find it joyful. I get to step outside of myself. It’s so much fun to see the final product after putting in so much work. With dramatic pieces, in particular, even more so. You get to connect with people in a way that would not usually do so in a regular job or profession. I also find joy in seeing the reaction on people’s faces after a film screening to see how it affects them. It’s always nice when the work you have been a part of touches other

The Fringe of Existence is upcoming, which is a very dramatic piece. How did the shoot go? Also, can you please expand on the director, Felipe Cisneros.

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The Fringe of Existence

The Fringe of Existence was a fantastic experience. I play Harrison and the entire cast is great.  Jackie Dallas also stars in it. It’s very dramatic. It’s currently going through the film festival process. Yes, Felipe Cisneros directed the film, who had such a strong vision from the beginning and that helped the film launch. He’s wonderful at communicating what he wants to the cast. That made it so much easier. Felipe also won best directing and writing for the film.

 

Farewell Cherry Summit is another great short film you starred in. Currently, it is on Youtube. We enjoyed your character Ben as well as the chemistry between you and Emmy (played by Bree Leon).

That was also a great project. Again, I play a shy kid in his shell, and he’s nerdy. His friend convinces him to go to a party to break the shyness shell. Events at the party end up going south. Although, he does meet Emmy, who is moving out of town the following day. Our characters end up spending the rest of the evening hanging out. “It was nice because the shoot was tiny and intimate. Bree and I had a lot of time to talk and connect on set.” Our characters bond so well by the end of the film, and I feel having a smaller production allowed Bree and I to get to know each other, which translated well onscreen.

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Farewell Cherry Summit

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Farewell Cherry Summit

I know you come to LA for scene study intensives. What is that like?

Intense! But also so inspiring and informative to keep building my craft. My teacher is amazing. She has this manner of looking for the best in everyone but she also tells you what you need to hear without sugar coating it, which produces success for others. I also do Improv classes in LA for 8-week sessions.

What can you tell us about Shards, which recently wrapped?

Shards is a horror film and my character’s name is Peter. I love horror films. Unfortunately, I can’t say too much since we recently wrapped the film. Again, it was such a great experience with the cast members and the director.

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Shards

How excited are you about the feature film coming out called The Adventure of TP Man and Flusher?

Super happy! My character is ‘The Granddaddy’. It will be premiering December 2018. I play a mob boss with 1980’s clothing and a New York accent. This film is directed, written, and produced by Griffin Loch (who is 14). Griffen is amazing, and this film is his second feature film and focuses upon the tragic epidemic of teen suicide. It tells a true story of deep depression, laughter, love, and friendship.

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Is memorizing lines somewhat easy for you?

I have to say it comes pretty naturally which is a gift. I’m able to read through a script quite quickly and get a good take on the character. From an actor’s perspective, this is extremely helpful. When you can memorize fast, it allows you to form the role within your head and play it out. If I look at the script too much, it’s not beneficial for me.

Do you think that you get typecast a lot as “the boy next door?”
Sometimes. I understand that it might be what many casting directors see initially. However, I’m incredibly outgoing and not a shy person. I enjoy each character that I take on. I must say that I am so blessed by working with such great directors and people on every film I have been a part of.

How do you feel about the support you have received from your mom?

Incredibly grateful! She is the ultimate “momager.” My mom takes care of the entire business side (emails, castings, scheduling, driving) so that I can entirely focus on the creative elements — auditions and preparing myself for filming. If I did not have my mom’s support, I would not be able to do what I do.

Where do you envision yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be on a network TV series, acting in films, and bringing people together through my work. My dream would be to have a sustainable career from acting. I’ve learned that in this business, you can’t let yourself get overwhelmed where you end up crashing. You have to be remarkably calm and keep moving forward with a strong support system.

“My dream is to bring joy to people through my films and bring people together through my work.” Blake Borders

The very first film that you starred in Say You Will is on Amazon. It’s a feature, and it also gives you the opportunity to see how far you have come.
It’s exhilarating. Say You Will is my very first film had the privilege of working on two years ago. It is out on Amazon and iTunes. It is a fantastic coming of age story. I can’t thank Nick Naveda (Director), Nancy Taylor, and Taylor Grabowsky (Producers) enough for the excellent opportunity that I was given.

We have covered a lot of your work. However, it would be amiss not to mention The Choice, a short you filmed with Director Glenn Spillman of Cellar 13 Films  (cellar13films.com) about a teen boy that chooses to be different in terms of discovering his identity. What was the experience like?

The message is powerful and important.  Glenn Spillman also plays my dad in the short. It’s about a teen boy that chooses to be different. The film has received a lot of exposure. At first, I was very unsure because I had never done anything like this before. However, Glenn Spillman was so encouraging and helpful. Glenn has been supportive during this journey.


Blake Borders has a lot to look forward to, and we can’t wait to watch his growth as an artist (even though he never quite stops). He’s very inspiring by following his passion and having fun while doing so. To follow Blake on social media

https://www.facebook.com/blake.borders.904

https://www.instagram.com/blake.borders/


Lastly, on behalf of Gemma Magazine I would like to thank Blake Borders for the insightful interview, Glenn Spillman, who made the introduction, and Heather Borders for being so incredibly helpful during this process.

 

Podcast Perfection⎮Amanda Payton from “Trial and Error”

Amanda Payton is quite stunning, but she’s also a very talented and a highly trained actress who joined Trial and Error as a regular cast member for Season 2. Payton is perfection as Podcast host Nina Rudolph. Trial and Error is a spoof on crime documentaries (Thursdays at 9pm EST on NBC). Payton is making her mark as an actress on the small screen joining a couture cast of actors, like the esteemed Kristin Chenoweth.

Amanda’s character, Nina, is an ambitious New York podcast host who comes to East Peck to follow the murder trial of Lavinia Peck-Foster (Kristin Chenoweth), for her murder podcast “M-Towne – Where Murder Happens.” Payton explains that her character’s podcast is loosely based off of real-life investigative journalism podcasts S-Town and Serial in a town filled with outrageous characters. “The creator of Trial & Error, Jeff Astrof, is a genius with words and bringing his scripts to life was an honor,” says Payton. All of Season 2 was filmed over a ten week period on location in Vancouver, Canada. Trial & Error, with its serialized storytelling (each season follows a new case), requires viewers to tune in to every episode from the beginning and is meant to be binge-watched.

Gemma Magazine was thrilled to have an opportunity to speak with Amanda about her character Nina, the transition from theater to television, and her unique perspective about Trial and Error when she had a moment.

GM: How did you become interested in the arts? Did someone inspire you?
Well, I grew up in a very artistic household. My dad made his money as a landlord, but his passion was acting. My mom was a dancer. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture thing, but my dad told me that he would read Shakespeare to my mom’s pregnant belly. It was essential to them that I was cultured in the arts in some way and they exposed me to plays, dance, music, theater, film, and visual art from a very early age.
I fell in love with acting when I was about three years old. My mom took me to see a Chekhov play that my dad was acting in. She thought that I would probably sleep through it, but apparently, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. When it was over, I couldn’t wait to see my dad. In the play, he had grey hair and wore glasses. I was intrigued because I knew it was him, but I couldn’t believe the transformation. After the show, I crawled back and forth inspecting the entire stage. I think that was pretty much what started it for me.

GM: I know you had roles on the Animal Kingdom and NCIS, but you must be thrilled about your recurring role as Nina Rudolph in Trial and Error?
Beyond thrilled! Nina was a blast to play and joining the cast of Trial & Error was an absolute joy. Nina’s podcast, M-Towne, is loosely based on the real-life investigative journal podcasts S-Towne and Serial. I am obsessed with murder podcasts and murder mystery documentaries, and I finally got to put this weird obsession to use!
The creator of Trial & Error, Jeff Astrof, is a genius with words and bringing his scripts to life was an honor. The most exciting part of this experience was getting the opportunity to work with a cast of such high caliber comedians. The life that Kristin Chenoweth, Nicholas D’Agosto, Jayma Mays, Sherri Shepherd and Steven Boyer brought to the scripts was sidesplitting! They gave me a lot to work off of, and I had an absolute blast.

GM: Please describe your character and the show, as it is a spoof on crime documentaries.

Nina is an ambitious New York podcast host who comes to East Peck to follow the murder trial of Lavinia Peck-Foster (Kristin Chenoweth), for her murder podcast “M-Towne – Where Murder Happens.” While in East Peck, Nina develops a little crush on Lavinia’s lawyer, Josh (Nicholas D’Agosto). She ends up entangled in a complicated triangle between him and his opposing counsel, Carol Anne Keane (Jayma Mays), who may be carrying his baby.

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Trial & Error is a broad comedy, so most of the characters are pretty outrageous. Nina is, in a sense, the eyes and ears of the audience. She asks the questions and makes the comments the audience is wondering and thinking; she’s the straight guy, the “normal” one, and it was great to be that different persona in the mix of insanely funny personalities.

GM: What is it like working with Kristen Chenoweth?
Working with Kristin was an absolute dream. Not only is she insanely talented, but she is genuinely one of the most giving and loving people I know. I really can’t say enough good things about her as a person. Onset, Kristin led our ship making it safe for everyone, including our guest actors, to take risks and bring their best work. She taught me that along with being a talented actor, a big part of the job of leading a successful show is having the skill set to bring out the best in everyone. Such a priceless lesson that I will never forget.

 

Nina is, in a sense, the eyes and ears of the audience. She asks the questions and makes the comments the audience is wondering and thinking; she’s the straight guy, the “normal” one, and it was great to be that different persona in the mix of insanely funny personalities. Amanda Payton

GM: You are theater trained (Carnegie Mellon), which is fantastic. How was the transition to television?
That’s a great question! You know, the transition took some time. After graduating, I was being asked to work more differently and subtly than I was accustomed to. My voice didn’t need to reach the last row of a theatre, and my physicality didn’t either. On film, the slightest twitch of an eye is picked up by the camera. It almost felt like learning a new art form. The great thing about Carnegie Mellon is that the program teaches you how to train. I learned how to work hard and ultimately take what I learned in school and scaled it back.

GM: What do you do when you are not filming or rehearsing?

Aside from spending time with friends, family and my dog Harley, I enjoy painting. I also love taking dance classes or just turning on music and moving. I do my best thinking while running on trails out in nature. These activities keep me curious and expand my creative vocabulary. I am blessed to be surrounded with some fantastic mentors along my path, so it’s also a passion of mine to pay it forward to those I am in a position to help.

GM: On a lighter note, you have great style. Very effortless and chic. Do you enjoy fashion?

Thank you! Yes, I do enjoy fashion. My parents were total hippies, and my style reflects that. It’s eclectic, earthy, and relatively comfort-conscious. I love florals and unique patterns, and any color you can find in the sunset. I am more into feeling comfortable and confident than having trendy designer pieces.

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Amanda Payton is so lovely and we were thrilled to speak with her. Trial and Error (Season 3) has not been renewed yet but hoping to see it confirmed, regardless of platform. You can keep up with Amanda and her current projects on her social platforms:

https://www.facebook.com/NBCTrialAndError/

https://www.instagram.com/amanda__payton/

All photos courtesy of Tony Meda


 

The Eloquent Actress ~ Amanda Grace Benitez

Amanda Grace Benitez is an actress, drummer, and an on-air radio personality from Los Angeles, CA. The talented actress is on the rise with a solid fan base and 11.1K Instagram followers. Amanda was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her parents worked as set decorators so she was surrounded by creativity from the beginning. There is a whimsical beauty about her and as she embodies a spirit of sensitivity and strength while having such a cool vibe. Benitez has great versatility and so much to five. Amanda is known for The Ranger, Emerson Heights, and School of Rock. While she was not busy drumming (Yes, she is a drummer) or auditioning, Gemma had the awesome opportunity to speak with the young and talented actress.

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Photo: Dean Foreman


GM: Thank you for joining us to chat! Did you know you always wanted to act or be involved in the arts in some capacity?
Thank you for having me! No, I didn’t. I was the shyest kid growing up! My first love was dancing, which led to performing at my grammar school talent shows. Later on, I became the host of my 6th-grade talent show which is where I got the bug to act. Both of my parents are set decorators and I would fake being sick to ditch school and go to work with them because   I loved the atmosphere on set. The actors really seemed like they enjoyed being there and I thought it would be a dream to play make believe for a living. I enjoy several aspects of performing, but I feel most fulfilled and in my element in front of the camera.

What was your first audition like?
Now that I look back, it was quite embarrassing! From what I can remember, an assistant brought me into the room where casting happened to be enjoying a ginormous lunch.  My nine-year-old self-said to everyone, “I’ll wait till you’re all done

eating” in a matter-of-fact tone.  Of course, everyone laughed, thought it was cute and my BARBIE audition continued.  I was left feeling extremely confused because I thought it was rude to eat during my performance.

You play Amber in The Ranger. Can you please describe your character and the movie a bit?Also, what did you learn about the filmmaking process for a horror film?
AGB: Amber is the life of the party, complete with blue hair. She’s a free spirit who left her privileged background to try the punk scene on for size.  At the end of the day, she’s just seeking acceptance and love, which happens to be all in the wrong  places. Being a punk growing up, assuming the role of Amber was a natural fit.  Amber meets the other punks at a warehouse party, high off of a hallucinogenic drug called “Echo.” Things get out of control and they all have to flee the area.  The punks wind up traveling to the forest to start a whole new life; However, just when everything seems calm, they come into contact with an unhinged Park Ranger. An insane amount of detail is put into every frame.  It’s more than just slash, gore, jump-scares, etc.
I can’t generalize all horror but in the case of our movie, there was an insane amount of detail put into the design of the film.

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Photo: Dean Foreman


GM: How was the Newport Film Festival, which you recently attended for The Ranger?
AGB: It was incredible!  Attending festivals are always interesting due to not knowing how the audience will receive your project.  Newport had a punk energy and understood our film’s intention completely!
GM: You are always so fashionable with great style. Do you enjoy fashion?
AGB: Thank you so much!  The only way I can express myself is through fashion. In my opinion, it’s the last art form left.  Everything else has been done. Fashion is ever changing and you can become anything.

 Tell me a bit about your experience in School of Rock.
It was an utter blast working with such an incredibly talented cast and crew.  Being a    trained drummer, it was awesome to take on the role of drummer girl, “Beth.” Not to mention, Pete Wentz from “Fall Out Boy” happened to be in one of the
episodes and being able to jam out with him was super cool!
You grew up in LA. I’m sure that you meet many young and aspiring actors from all over who have moved here. Do you give them advice about the industry?
Yes, I do!  I tell them to always work on their craft, be true to yourself, stay humble and never give up.

Who are some of your favorite actresses?
 I have been moved by many performances and this list could go on and on; However,       Alicia Vikander, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Meryl Streep are my my favorite.

GMEven though yougrew up here, what do you like to do for fun in LA?
AGB: I enjoy going out with my friends to hear live music,  hit up swap meets, art shows and trying out new vegan spots.
Make sure to keep an eye out for Amanda Grace Benitez as she takes Hollywood by storm. You can follow Amanda on social media with the following links.

Shining Bright–Actress Ava Justin

Ava Justin is one motivated teen. She is a teenage actress but has been in front of the camera since the age of three. She’s beautiful — but more importantly, Ava is kind, grounded, and respects her craft.  There is an immense amount of competition when it comes to teen actors, but Ava Justin takes it all in stride and has an incredible support system. She has 53.4K Instagram followers and a great fan base. Ava started young and is now growing into more mature roles. We cannot wait to see her shine!

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Ava is based out of Minnesota but travels for booked gigs all over the country. “I’ve filmed a pilot in Florida and Chicago and filmed three projects out in Los Angeles.” “California is my second home,” says Justin.”I feel very blessed for the opportunities I’ve had so far and looking forward to what’s to come. God is good.” After speaking with Ava (as young as she is), I have deep respect for how she focuses upon the work instead of the “Hollywood game.” Ava is an authentic artist.

 

Recently, Ava has featured in several feature films currently playing on the National and International film festival circuit. You’ll spot her on the big screen side-by-side with Hollywood actors Brian White, Monica Calhoun, Loretta Devine and Sharon Leal on their feature film No Regrets which just premiered in New York. Ava just wrapped another excellent feature film playing a younger version of the very talented Hollywood actress Aurora Perrineau on the feature film Virginia Minnesota. Ava has a maturity and sense of composure beyond her years that is an asset on film sets while appreciating the priceless advice of prestigious talents.

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In addition to the light that shines from within, Ava can memorize scripts quickly. She has had the opportunity to work with some of the most requested and sought-after directors and producers. Being bi-racial (Kenyan and American roots) has enhanced her unique range of looks. Her exotic looks combined with her extraordinary acting ability allows her to play multi-ethnic roles. Ava continues to excel in her academics as well. She’s also very athletic while participating in Fast Pitch Softball as a pitcher. Though she has a gorgeous look, she exhibits a unique Tom Boy trait as she tops her class in nearly every athletic event. Without a doubt, Ava Justin is busy but made time to talk with Gemma Magazine!


GM: Hi Ava! We are super excited to have you chat with Gemma Magazine. You have been acting from a very young age. How did this creative process start for you?

You are very welcome! I knew Acting was for me when after auditioning for many national commercials with many talented kids my age and I would get that call “Ava, you’re booked.” I started auditioning for bigger gigs around age 4. I believe because I started young, I got the feel of it and even though I still get nervous depending on the projects, I feel it helped me toughen up more. That helped me know I need to do my best, leave it all there and move on to the next.

GM: What was your first project?

I booked a pretty cool Halloween national project for Target, and that gave me hope and the confidence that I can do this, that I’m capable of booking great jobs. And yes, I started booking modeling gigs for different Toy catalogs than to commercial and films. I was booking many gigs before taking acting classes than when I started getting more into movies, that’s when I started doing acting classes, I say I was around the age 7.

GM: When are you not acting or auditioning how do you spend your time?

When I’m not acting, I’m busy taking photos for different photographers as a social media influencer and brand representative; I have been getting many cool opportunities to represent different brands which have been super fun. I also love sports, and I play softball. I’ve been the pitcher for my team now for the last three years.

GM: Who are some of your favorite actresses?

My favorite actress that I look up and Zendaya, Storm Reid and Lena Waithe. I love seeing people like me are represented on Television. It gives me a lot of hope, you know. Representation matters!

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GM: You have a fantastic support system. Can you expand?

Both my Mom and Dad are such supportive people. There’s no way I’d be where I’m if I didn

GM: What is your current project?

I just wrapped up filming a very cool scene on the upcoming feature film Brother’s Keeper right opposite the Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning actor Laurence Fishburne. It was such a surreal moment that I’ll never forget. We got to talk after our scene, and the gave me amazingly inspirational wisdom. He’s a class act. I’m also in pre-production for a film that I’m incredibly excited about called Betta Fish where I’m playing one of the lead roles. I really can’t wait to get on set for this one.

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Ava also has a business side to her. She recently created her brand of lip balms “Ava’s Luxury Cosmetics.”  She sells the lip balms on Etsy! Make sure you check it out.

I would like to thank Ava Justin for chatting with Gemma Magazine. She has such an exciting future and we will be watching.To follow Ava on Social Media:

IG: https://www.instagram.com/actress.avajustin/?hl=en

Website: http://www.avajustin.net

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/actressAvaJ/