Published on April 12th, 2016 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Chelah Horsdal
The gifted Chelah Horsdal is among the talented actors on display in Patterson’s Wager, which will be gracing screens in Vancouver as part of Canadian Film Week and Canadian Film Day celebrations.
Chelah Horsdal took some time away for her very busy schedule to talk to us about her role in the film and her most treasured career accomplishments.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about you?
I’m a Vancouver native who’s been at this acting gig for fourteen years. I love my dog more than most people & feel that chewing with your mouth open should be punishable by death.
Can you tell us about your role in Patterson’s Wager and how you became involved?
Alex Zahara approached me in the waiting room for an audition around pilot season 3 years ago. He said he was producing a film with one of his university friends and that they’d talked about me as their Audrey. I read the script and quickly said yes. Simple as that.
What did you do to get into character for this role?
Audrey’s two clear driving forces for me were her love of Charles and her desire to stay on the straight and narrow as a reaction to growing up in a family of oddballs. I can relate to both of those things. Growing up the child of hippies, raised by a single mother while going to an upper-middle class high school (Lord Byng), I relate to wanting to fit in… all the while feeling like it’s a mask I’m wearing. I determined Audrey to have that same struggle. That motivated most of her objectives for me.
You’ve enjoyed a lot of success in both film and television. What do you enjoy the most about each medium?
Preparation wise, I don’t see a huge difference. The catering is usually better on TV. I love the chance to explore a character over the course of a full season or seasons. Although, as Canadian cast, it’s not as common that we get the roles with a strong narrative. The exposure to working with a myriad of directors, the sense of family that forms 3-4 episodes in, the security of a longer run of employment…those are all awesome. In film, I experience two extremes…the big budget world, where we as a Canadian, I’m generally a service provider; and independent, where I have so much more creative freedom. There are benefits to both, usually one pays the bills and the other feeds the soul. It’s rare to find one that does both.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the Canadian film industry right now and what have you been doing in your own way to deal with it?
Our contribution as artists is often under valued. When the world of MOWs got to the point of shooting an 85 minute movie in 11 days and paying people in sandwiches (basically), I said enough, and stopped doing them. I won’t work for less than scale & wish that more of my peers would hold the line with me. I also find the designation of ‘cross board block shooting’ pay structure on episodic TV (shoot 5 episodes in one day and be paid for only 1) to be absurd and won’t work under that agreement. This is all to say, we will only be treated as valuable if we demand it. It’s a great source of frustration and I think it’s does harm to our industry.
To be clear, I’m not talking about independent or $100/day agreements….I’m talking about For Profit productions where the people at the top are making enough to pay their bills.
What have been some of your most memorable career moments?
A tiny role opposite Sir Ben Kingsley, one of my heroes; filming a classic guns-blazing-shoot-out on season 3 of Hell On Wheels; filming the pilot for Wishing Well (formerly Wish List) for CBC; and, most recently, finding out that The Man in the High Castle expanded my small role from season one to an all-episodes deal for season two…that’s a big deal for me. Oh! And meeting my dog on Marley & Me 2.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
To value myself, have the courage to say no and trust that more work will come.
What books and authors have been influential to you throughout your creative journey so far?
Acting-wise, Stella Adler (The Art Of Acting), Ivana Chubbuck (The Power Of The Actor) & Ellen Burstyn (Lessons In Becoming Myself).
Writing-wise: Save The Cat & Big Magic are my current go-to.
What other projects are you involved with at the moment?
We’re into filming season 2 of The Man in the High Castle, which I’m in love with; I’m doing a couple of days on When We Rise, which is such a powerful & important story to be a part of; I’m on the other side of the lens having written & plans to direct my first short this year and continuing work on a documentary about my father’s life & career. But, mostly I’m involved with prepping my garden for the summer.
Where can we find out more about you?
I still love Twitter: @chelahhorsdal
Or you can poke around on my website: chelah.com
Thanks to Chelah Horsdal for speaking with us!
Patterson’s Wager will screen at the Vancity Theatre on April 17th as part of the Canadian Film Week series and on April 20th for Canadian Film Day.
Tickets are available through VIFF.org