Emily Lawrence is a writer, actor and producer currently residing in Los Angeles. Lawrence is also an Audible Approved Producer and a published author. Emily’s work includes voice over work on more than seventy audio books, lead roles in various feature films as well as theatrical performances and guest appearances.
Interview by Gloria Star
Good morning and welcome to OpenBeast, tell us about yourself.
Hi Gloria. I’m an actor, writer, and producer currently living in Los Angeles. I grew up in New York and moved out to LA shortly after receiving a BFA in drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. I also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. While studying abroad, I travelled around Europe, going to twenty three countries and spending another semester living in Prague. Since moving out to Los Angeles, I’ve worked on dozens of film and new media projects, including writing and producing three short films this year. I’ve also written several full length screenplays, one of which I’m in the process of trying to get produced. I’m an Audible Approved Producer and have narrated more than seventy audiobooks, mostly young adult and teen romance. I’m also a published author of biography and historical fiction.
What inspired you to start writing, acting and producing?
Well, I started acting when I was very young. I think, I was in my first play when I was seven. And honestly, I got into it because my sister was doing it. She’s six years older than me so at that time I kind of emulated her and did whatever she did. But then she grew out of it while I just fell in love with it and never stopped.
I started writing when I was in high school. Acting and writing are simply different ways to express myself: thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences. They’re both ways to discuss and contribute to the human experience. What I like about writing, is that I get to decide what the discussion is. With acting, someone is inviting me to express something they want to talk about. While I love doing that, there are things I want to talk about also.
When I was in high school and college, writing was just for fun or a creative way to deal with things I was going through. Kind of like a diary. I stopped writing towards the end of college and when I first moved out here because I was focused on adjusting to a new city and transitioning into “adulthood”. My first year or so here, I became very frustrated with a lot of the projects I was being asked to audition for or work in. They felt very superficial and commercial. I didn’t feel like my need for artistic expression was being fulfilled. So I started writing again. I wrote about things that I cared about; that mattered to me. This is a really hard industry to crack into. Writing helped me remember why I wanted to do it in the first place.
I started producing for similar reasons. I was working on a lot of low budget productions in order to get quality footage which showed my acting abilities. I was very frustrated that much of my hard work ended up being something I couldn’t use because of poor lighting, poor sound, or a million other factors. So I decided to produce my own work so that I would have footage that I would feel proud to show others.
You mentioned that the industry is hard to crack into, what kind of adversity have you faced so far?
There are hundreds of thousands of actors for only a few hundred roles. And obviously many actors will take several of those roles. The numbers are staggering. I know people who have been doing this for twenty years and have still never gotten professional level work. Most people have this perception that it’s easy. I did too when I first moved here. Everyone thinks that you just move out here and if you’re good, people will notice and cast you. That you’ll just be “discovered”. But that’s not how it works. No one is really discovered. People who appear to be overnight successes were actually doing this for years before anyone noticed them. Even if you say that a lot of the people who come out here aren’t talented, or if you only count people who have agents or managers representing them, competition is still very fierce. And I’m not even talking about for lead roles. When you watch a TV show, there are a lot of characters who only have a few lines in one scene. What you don’t realize, is how hard it is to get one of those small roles. In fact, at least a thousand actors were submitted for that tiny role with just a few lines. And that’s only from actors who are successful enough to have agent or manager representation, so even then we’re talking a smaller number of actors.
I wouldn’t say I’ve faced any abnormal adversity. It’s really the same thing everyone who moves out here to pursue their dreams faces.
How did you get started with audiobooks?
I love to read. And I love to act. The idea of a career which combined these two passions never occurred to me. Then one day, I did a workshop with voiceover veteran David Lawrence XVII. He gave tips on how to get started in voiceover and recommended equipment to buy. One of the things he mentioned was audiobooks. Reading and acting for a living? It was a dream come true. I was so inspired I went out and bought equipment and set up my home studio. It took a few months for me to get going, but I worked tirelessly and wouldn’t give up. Since then, I’ve been working nonstop, often doing two or more books a month. I’ve done seventy audiobooks in about two years (smiles).
Do you prefer working with film or audiobooks?
I don’t have a preference. I want to work on good material that inspires me. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.
What is your favorite project you’ve worked on so far?
My favorite project would probably be the screenplay I’m pitching now. I put so much work into it and it’s something that I really feel passionate about. It’s also something that’s completely mine. From start to finish, it’s kind of intertwined with my essence. When you put that much time and thought into something, it becomes a part of you.
Tell us more about the screenplay you’re pitching.
The story is about a seventeen year old girl who learns about life, love, and herself through a relationship with her history teacher. It’s obviously a very taboo subject that has been portrayed by the media a lot, but I don’t feel the media has really been fair. It’s always one sided; someone is always the victim. The teacher is in a position of power that they’re abusing, or the teacher is in an emotionally delicate place and the student manipulates them for their own gain. And of course, that’s true for how many of these relationships work. But this is a situation that real people have been in and real life is rarely ever that black and white. Clearly this is an often enough occurrence that it’s worth examining honestly and with empathy. Why would someone pursue a relationship like this? Is it possible for two people in this situation to have a healthy relationship? Is it worth it despite all the obvious risks?
I’m really excited about this project. I feel like it asks a lot of great questions that people don’t really think about and shows a different side to a story we all feel like we already know. I’ve only pitched it to one production company so far and they’ve already expressed interest after reading the script. I have a meeting with them at the end of this month, which I’m really excited for. They’re a great company that produced twenty films this year, so I have my fingers crossed.
Are there any other upcoming projects you would like to mention?
I’m always jumbling a bunch of projects. I’ll probably do another half a dozen audiobooks before the end of the year. I’m also working on two different webseries and have worked on a bunch of films that have yet to come out. If people are interested in keeping up with I’m doing, then I recommend following me on twitter (@emilylawr) and liking my facebook page (www.facebook.com/EmilyLawrenceFanPage). I post updates about what I’m doing all the time.