In the least overwhelmingly long story sort of way, these words capture an incredible story of my current life, a year and five months in the making.
I have always been a dreamer with passions surrounding storytelling through creative writing, filmmaking, acting, performing, dancing, and so forth. Anyone who is any ounce of familiar with who I am probably knows by now that I do a lot of things, which has brought me from my childhood in upstate New York to my current life in Los Angeles. Small town girl, big city dreams. We have all seen that cliché before, yet, it’s a pretty accurate summary of the past two years of my life.
The Hollywood Premiere That Started it All
So to get this story started here, in March 2016, I got invited to the advance screening of a movie out in Beverly Hills and then the official LA premiere the week after at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood. That movie was a lovely independent dance film called, High Strung. The opening theme sent chills down my spine in that small screening as the impending ability to meet those in the movie the next week seemed so unreal.
I had no idea.
The following premiere was everything I could ever ask for with a premiere. I wrote about the whole experience here.
When most premieres are done and the press online starts to fade into other events, that’s generally the end. I still freaked out when I saw High Strung at stores or even at my local RedBox at home. It’s on Netflix now too, so I highly recommend watching it. That being said, this movie was different…it kept on taking new forms in my life.
The Event That Changed Everything
So, let’s jump ahead to the Dizzy Feet Gala event at LA Live (DTLA) in September of 2016. I was just starting off my second year as a film and television production major at LMU|LA, and already I was feeling pretty amazing about where my college life and forming career was taking me. I was there to film interviews with my friend, Eva for her channel (youtube.com/onthespotinterviews). Among the many we interviewed that day, we were excited to see Michael and Janeen Damian again, whom we had already met during the High Strung premiere. You can watch that interview here:
There was a moment that day that left me completely in shock. This was an invite into being in an amazing movie and in my realm of what seems like a “normal life experience”, this was far outside the realm of “normal”. Everything was about to change.
The Process & Audition
As the whole movie process goes, everything takes time. Months went by and life moved on. However, I kept updated with the process and by audition time, got the opportunity to send in an audition tape. I’m a far stronger actress than dancer, but this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss so I did want any actor should do…act! I spent countless hours in the dance studios on campus after hours working on a routine. To prep even before then, I spent time at the gym every day for weeks. Even making it to extra Bollywood dance cardio classes helped. My friend, Emily, who happens to be a dance minor helped one day too. This was a level of dedication that left my heart soaring.
I couldn’t say anything and even more importantly, I could not get my hopes up. A part of me felt like something great was going to come out of this, but of course, my former experiences with getting involved with acting through auditions have always been not as successful. I have not been getting leads throughout middle and high school. In fact, before getting smaller roles (that I gave full-out back stories for), I had always felt like when it came down to acting, I wasn’t experienced or talented enough. Later into the high school years, that started to change, but only now do I fully realize how important that tricky past has been.
I never gave up. I kept trying to prove myself and improve my abilities. I had a passion for actually creating characters from nothing and transforming myself into them. There are no “small” roles, especially when you embrace any role to the fullest.
So as exciting as everything was, I became overwhelmed with the conflicting moments of trying to not get too excited while being really excited. With an email, my audition was sent. I didn’t hear back, nor get a role. To be fair, that was expected. However, the story was not over yet. The entire spring of my sophomore year was incredibly stressful due to my lack of knowledge of summer plans. While this wasn’t the only situation on my mind at that time, it was definitely one of them. More than anything, I truly wanted to be a part of this. More time passed, I spent an additional month in LA before heading back to NY for the remainder of summer. All the meanwhile, filming had begun in Romania.
While watching the live streams from set and keeping up with the process, I found out when the NYC part of filming was going to take place and that I was still indeed invited to be an extra (or as officially called now, “background actor”). A major perk to living in New York state is being a several hour drive away from the big city. Timing wise, the filming was right before the trip back to LA for the upcoming school year, but my absolutely incredible family worked it all out. The next thing I knew, I was packing once again to a weekend like no other.
The Filming On-Location
I have always loved the idea of being a part of filming movies on location because that is a beautiful combination of work and vacation all at once. Late August 2017, my family and I arrived on a Friday afternoon at the Empire hotel in NYC. Call times were set for Saturday and Sunday and by the time the Monday scenes were set to be filmed, we had to be heading back for last second packing for LA. Exploring the city again was incredible and slightly odd with timing since the last time I was in NYC was a band trip my junior of high school. Now, I’m entering my junior year of college.
The first scene I got to be a part of was at Duffy’s Square… right on Times Square! There is nothing quite like being with a movie crew, standing in the middle of a place I have been watching every new years eve, being surrounded by so many tourists and people with cameras filming the filming process. I was a part of something that I would typically be watching as an outsider thinking, “oh that’s so cool”. One of the coolest things about all of this was the fact that I got to experience this as a young filmmaker AND share this world with my family. It was a blend of what I do in familiar and new ways.
The next day, I took the subway for the first time to SoHo for a couple different locations and scenes. Between scenes and takes, I got an interview with one of the stars of the film, Harry Jarvis, who was an absolute delight to meet.
I’m not used to the interviewing life since I usually film and edit them, but it was a lot of fun. When it came down to being in the scenes, I got a general placement in frame and some directions on what to do. When High Strung Free Dance comes out Summer 2018, keep an eye out for the exterior shots that include my family and myself walking through NYC. The filming took the whole day and night. It was incredibly amazing to see how the process took place on a professional level, while taking role in the midst of it all, intensely observing and living for every second.
…Which brings me to being a film student on a professional set and the observations I made. I’ve worked on various sets before, ranging in professional levels. However, it is amazing how many sets have miscommunication issues that lead to complications with filming. It was outrageously pleasing to be on this set where everyone knew each other, communicated well, and effectively kept on schedule and even got ahead of it often. I am incredibly impressed by how well-managed the cast and crew regulated. It was inspiring and I took many notes on things that worked well that I can carry with me through future sets. Never have I witnessed such a well-organized group that has inspired me so very much.
The entire weekend of filming was overwhelming on levels I did not know could exist. It was as if a sea of emotions and memories past, present, and future collided, leaving my head spinning in a whirlwind of feelings. Everything came full circle and even though I was only filming for two days, it felt extra emotional wrapping Sunday night. Like the end of past middle and high school productions, emotional sad vibes of the end sunk in, leaving me back in the post-High Strung sadness I felt after the premiere of the first movie. The whole experience felt incredibly unreal and in more ways than I could describe, so many full-circle moments came into perspective. Of course, this isn’t the end of this whole experience, since upcoming screenings, the premiere, and all of the future releases are still to come. As I sit in my childhood bedroom the morning after getting back and procrastinating from packing to be back in LA, I am realizing that I am still the same self I have always been, but now I am a step further into my “new normal” (which is simply what I call this realm of the “biz” that feels far from normal at all).
I cannot thank everyone who made this possible more than enough. I am incredibly thankful for this life and this experience. I am excited for everything that is ahead. I am living yet another life dream.
This is truly a story that seems too good to be true, even to myself. Former me (even a year ago!) would have never in a million years expected for any of this to have happened and been real. That is why I have complete belief that whatever it is you want to do in life may not happen in the ways or time frames that you could expect, but they will work their way into happening. Believe, keep hope on your side, stay positive, and persevere. Anything can and WILL happen. When they do, magic happens.
Keep updated with my ever-abundantly-amazing adventures via YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…basically, every social media @sarahfhamilton. Feel free to leave comments and/or tweet/comment at me as I love to respond!
Keep Dreaming, Keep Sm:)ing!
Advance Screening & Press Day
BTS of Auditioning (when I still couldn’t say anything at all)