Redwood’s Alisha Peats

Photo by Jasmine Hester

Alisha Peats is a Los Angeles based actor, writer and producer and dancer. Alisha has written and starred in various shorts and webisodes. Her work includes film shorts Bumble and Bee, and Pizza and Bullets. Alisha wrote, produced and starred in the television series Redwood.

Interview by Gloria Star

Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself.

I’m a born and raised Missourian, a music fanatic, a really bad but completely unselfconscious dancer, a vegan, and a huge animal lover. I’m also an actress, screenwriter and indie producer living in Los Angeles.

How did you get started in the film industry?

I’ve always loved creating characters, and I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an actress. I moved to LA when I was eighteen and started taking acting classes and auditioning. At the time I was non-union, so I got a lot of auditions for student films. I booked some of them, and gleaned a little on set experience that way. After being out here a couple years, I began writing my own stuff – mostly shorts and webisodes – so I could have a bit more control over the types of roles I got to play. YouTube is really the thing that’s given me my “start.” It’s a wonderful platform for anyone who has the gumption and skills to put together an indie production.

Tell us more about your experience in the film industry.

Compared to a lot of people I know, I don’t feel like I actually have that much experience. I’m fairly new to all of this. I’ve produced a handful of short films and one web series. I am very much a newbie to the whole “Hollywood” experience. Right now I’m all about keeping my nose to the grindstone – which means continuing to exercise my acting muscles and working my butt off in the writer’s room to churn out as many quality projects as possible.

Do you prefer acting, writing, or producing?

(Laughs) That’s a loaded question. Acting is my favorite, although I don’t know if I could ever sustain my soul on just acting. I think I’ll always have to act and write. Writing is fun because I can be anyone – a get to be a crack addict, a bratty five-year-old, a prom queen, a cop, and a nerdy chemistry professor all in one script. And by be, I mean I get to put myself in their heads, be them for the moment as a way of creating organic and relatable people on the page. I feel like I have a lot of sides to my personality and a wild imagination, so writing gives me a broader outlet for that than acting ever would. But writing is primarily a solitary activity, which can really take a toll on my psyche. I like being around people, especially creative people. That’s why I love acting. I love being on set, being surrounded by focused, hard-working artists who all share in my passion for telling stories through film. And there is literally nothing more fun that getting to play across from another good actor – there’s a certain communion between actors within a scene that is unlike anything else. That’s the thing I live for. That moment of creating truth with another actor. Producing is a completely other beast. It’s mostly just a major headache that is occasionally rewarding but mostly exhausting. Yet, it’s a necessary evil. I daydream about a day (hopefully in the near future) when I’ll have a big team behind me and “producing” will no longer mean being saddled with thirty-five different tasks. But at the indie level, “producing” often means you’re location scouting, wardrobe shopping, going broke, shot listing, handling equipment rentals, going broke, juggling actors’ schedules, sending 1321 emails a day,  going broke… pretty much everything that isn’t directing falls on your shoulders. And you have
to dip deep into your own pockets to get projects made. That said, I’ve definitely learned a lot about filmmaking from being forced to “produce” in this fashion.

Tell us about your experience working on the show Redwood.

Redwood is a dramatic vampire genre web series that I wrote, produced and starred in alongside some other very talented actors. It got some festival recognition, so it was very interesting to experience that side of the industry. And casting Redwood was a blast! Redwood is my proudest accomplishment to date, although I really don’t like that first season. That might sound oxymoronic – what I mean is, I put everything my 23-year-old self had into season one of Redwood. I was a complete novice of a filmmaker, my writing verged on cheesy, the plot is a little undefined, and I allowed some people to be on set that poisoned the working atmosphere for everyone, but gosh darn it, we made it! There are so many people out here who talk about making movies or shows, but never actually buckle down and get them made, so I will forever be proud of that accomplishment. I learned so much on the set of Redwood. It was like film school for me. But my favorite memories are of the little cabin parties we would have at the end of a shooting day – the whole cast and crew lived in a cabin together in northern California for eight days while we filmed, so after a full day of filming, we’d all watch Lonely Island videos on YouTube, or have Eminem rap offs. It was a good way to decompress. I want to shoot a second season of Redwood some time in the next year, and this time I plan on doing right a lot of things that I did wrong during season 1. But we have to climb that funding mountain before that can happen. The hardest part about making Redwod is…well, not making it. Funding has been an insurmountable obstacle for us this past year. However, in the process of trying (and failing) to get funding for Redwood, I am learning a lot about the world of film financing. And I hope with a little ingenuity and determination, we’ll be able to resume filming next year.

Tell us about your short film Bumble and Bee.

Bumble and Bee was originally supposed to be a web series, but we ended up only shooting the pilot. It was a comedy about two young women, an aspiring singer and aspiring model, who are hitch hiking their way to LA. The format could best be described as “On the Road” meets “Dumb and Dumber.” I made it primarily so I could Taft Hartley myself and become eligible to join SAG. We released the first episode on YouTube. It was really badly done, and I watched it a year ago and hated it so much that I took it offline. However, I recently revisited the pilot script and it’s actually a solid script. I might reshoot it some time in the future, now that I know how to properly shoot something.

What has been your favorite project so far?

Redwood. But, like I said, it was also the most stressful project since I had to wear so many hats. However, I do love playing Skylar (my character in Redwood.) The fight scenes are so much fun to perform… even though Skylar basically gets her butt kicked in every fight. I also really enjoyed shooting an episode of Twenties, which is a web series that I guest starred in last year. My character is fun and zany, and she rambles and goes off on a lot of tangents, so I had this two paragraph monologue that had to be said really, really fast in a single take. It was fun! It was also awesome to be able to show up to set and just act. I could turn off my producer/writer brain, and just be in the moment.

Are there any upcoming projects you would like to talk about?

My friend and Redwood co-producer, Jasmine Hester, and I are starting our own production company. So we’re going to be putting a lot of new stuff out into the world very soon. I’m really excited about it because some of our new projects will be comedy, which is very different from Redwood. Keep an eye out for pH Productions on YouTube. We plan to release our first video before December, which will be followed by  more web series – both comedic and dramatic. I’ll also be returning for the second season of Twenties: The Series, which will be shot and released in 2015.

Thank you.