We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrea Millard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrea, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
The quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important” has always struck me ever since I read it in a history textbook. It applies to both work and life. In work, it’s getting up every day and deciding that it is okay to be an artist. Not everyone sees the value in art, at least not immediately. It also takes intense bravery to share your work. There is something to cherish in all the fear that comes with working in the film industry – the fear of not living up to your artistic vision, the fear of being misunderstood, the fear of failure. All of these are very real fears. Being courageous isn’t denying you feel those fears but pursuing a commitment to your art regardless. It’s waking up every day and saying “maybe this work isn’t great and maybe other people will point that out. I’m going to learn from that, dust myself off, and get back at it.” In life, it’s speaking up for what you believe in. That’s really challenging and scary – especially in the world of social media, especially now. Everyone is so quick with their responses, with their built-in defense mechanisms that it can feel like speaking into a void. But being courageous is putting your voice out there – not without fear of rejection/ostracizing – but because speaking up on important issues matters. Your voice matters.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I graduated from University of Texas at Austin’s film program in 2015. Through UT, I got selected for a program where you stay a semester in LA and work at an internship. That was great, but I didn’t have a job lined up afterward. While worrying that I was an instant failure, I worked a bunch of odd jobs like being a baker, writing book reviews, listing clothing online to Amazon for an independent seller. Then, after saving a little and with the help of my parents, I moved to Los Angeles in 2016. It felt like a big deal that I saved $500 for a road trip from Texas to California (FYI you can road trip for cheap if you 1) Stay in inexpensive motels 2) Only eat ramen, jerky, nuts, and granny smith apples), I moved into a closet apartment in Koreatown with no AC. It was studio-sized but with a separate bedroom. There was only an inch of space in between the bedroom door and the bedframe. I also shared this tiny space with my boyfriend at the time. So yeah, it was challenging to live in that space and stay productive. I overcame it by working in coffee shops, taking walks. Writing requires lots of time at the computer, but if the place you work also makes you anxious, it’s probably also going to hinder your productivity. On top of that, I had to overcome the fear of declaring myself a writer. I tried so many positions on set before that to make ends meet – PA, Camera PA, Art Assistant, Production Designer, 2nd AD – all of them didn’t fit. I either wasn’t right for the job or I was unhappy doing it. When I say “ends meet” I mean I took home set food just to know I would have some kind of dinner for the week. In the middle of all that dread, I realized that writing was the thing I always wanted to go back to and improve. I think it’s important to hold fast to what makes you excited and motivated. You need that kind of passion to get you through grueling times. I knew pursuing writing was going to be a huge time investment without an immediate payout, but I decided to take the risk. I felt I was up for the challenge. After working on some smaller projects, I decided I needed a project to help me put my work out there. I put all my savings into a short film that I wrote, Pappy Hour, a dramedy about a woman determined to fulfill her father’s last wish at a funeral despite her family’s dysfunction. It was a personal project inspired by my own family. It’s personal resonance is what made it feel like the right project. It proved to pay off. Pappy Hour is in continued festival circuit. It’s played in multiple states. I’m so delighted to discover how it has resonated with others. After Pappy Hour, I stopped working on sets, burned the midnight oil as a delivery driver, grinded for a while as a barista, Then I took up a more official job as a substitute teacher while pursuing contract work as a writer. In that time I also moved twice. The second time, because I was in limbo with finances, I thought I was going to be homeless. My good friends, Catelin and Christopher Pereira took me in and let me sleep in their spare room for about two weeks. Now I live in Sherman Oaks in a 2 bedroom apartment with AC that I share with a roommate. No surprise – it’s a lot easier to work now at home. As a contractor I have worked as a localization editor and language tester for multiple video game titles, I have also been fortunate to work as a paid script reader. I think sometimes people can be cagey about their side jobs. I think they are normal and shouldn’t be stigmatized. It’s okay to have multiple jobs, especially when starting out. The important thing is to not loose sight of your goal. For me it’s writing, so even though I was working some other day job, I needed to make sure that I was carving out time to write. It’s important for your mental health that the day job you find is something you care about too. Mental health is incredibly important to me. I struggle with ADHD and I used to think if I shared that I would be viewed as “less than.” The reality is it’s more harmful to keep that stuff a secret. If you admit to when you’re struggling, like when I admit I struggle with attention, memory, and hyperactivity — I can then work on figuring out ways to treat those things. ADHD also has its strengths. With the hyperactive thinking comes hyper-creativity. I always have a million ideas going on in my head at once, and that really helps with writing. I’m able to make abstract connections because of it. Now I am at a place where I have multiple strong writing samples, I am pursuing multiple projects for funding, and I feel like I have some momentum. I am in pre-production for a feature. There are lots of things to figure out. It’s in a pre-natal stage, but it’s pretty exciting! I think the quality that sets me apart is how deeply I care about story and characters. I love the process of breaking a story from concept to draft. I love moving from general to specific in my ideas. First it’s a vague idea, I take a shower, make some coffee, brainstorm… then it hits me, I frantically write my thought down so I remember. I love that – the rush, the problem solving. Regarding my voice, I love the intersection of comedy and drama. When you’re teetering on the edge of laughing and crying, or when you’re laughing but there’s heart behind it — that’s the sweet spot. Those are the stories that resonate because they are meaningful. I love animation and video game writing as well for the imagination and adventure. I also like to think about actors and what might be compelling for them to perform. I started my sole-proprietorship, Austen Knights Entertainment in 2018 as a means to produce projects primarily female-led and otherwise encourage representing the underrepresented hero (A.K.A. what I call the “Austen Knight”). So far — that is what I have been able to do with projects like Pappy Hour, a parody music video I made with Lauren called, “Real For You,” and what I continue to do with the other projects I am submitting for funding.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the time of COVID-19, I would have to say…my balcony? As for a serious answer when we flatten the curve, the Corey Helford Gallery shows really neat, contemporary art. They also sell a lot of prints online if you want to support local artists. I love going to art museums and there are so many great ones in LA – MOCA, The Broad, The Getty. I honestly like the Getty more for the atmosphere, though. If you’re downtown looking at art museums, check out the restaurant Industriel Urban Farm Cuisine. They do hipster s&*t like cure bacon in-house and bake their brie. On that note, if you like cooking and food – check out the Korean, Japanese, Indian food markets scattered around LA along with the farmer’s markets. The Original Farmer’s Market at the Grove and the Historic Downtown Farmer’s Market are great places to get a tasty treat. If you’re a bookworm, check out Catcher in the Rye Bar after a long day of exploring the city. All of their cocktails are cleverly named after books and authors. It’s a chill place you can play board games with your friends or just hang out. If you are feeling outdoorsy, head to Malibu and go past the first beach to the less populated ones like El Matador for a balance of fun and peace. There are also great hiking trails up there, but hiking trails are also scattered throughout the city. When I lived in Los Feliz for a stint I really enjoyed the Vista Theater. They do fun midnight screenings and the tickets are cheap. It’s an old theater with only one screening room, so it’s also neat for the atmosphere. For local digs in Sherman Oaks — I love the cocktails at The Local Peasant. There is also a lovely comic book shop called Earth 2 Comics that I like particularly for the stock of Image and other 3rd party presses. Walking down Ventura Blvd at night can also be nice. There are multiple restaurants and movie theaters to check out along the way.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to shoutout Lauren Kleeman, a creative partner/pun queen/sound goddess and good friend of mine. We have been through it – sets together, scripts together, mental breakdowns together. I would not be here sharing this shoutout about her if she didn’t recommend me to you guys. She does so much: sound editing, directing, writing, producing, playing piano, doing handstands. She also studies and builds on her craft like crazy. I’m lucky to have her twofold — as a creative partner with whom to swap scripts and as a friend to share beers. Secondly, my family. They have supported me both mentally and financially. I would – quite literally – not be where I am without their investment in me. I intend to work myself to the bone until I am able to give back to them all that they have given me. On that note, family includes all my wonderful friends and loved ones who put up with my constant creative prattle. Thirdly, all the excellent creative people with whom I continue to work – Nell Teare, a Director, Actress, Producer and I’m pretty sure part-time druid who I have learned so much from; Julia Swain, an amazing DP, Madeline Mack, intuitive and nuanced Director who is always honest with opinions, Elizabeth Mihelich, a fantastic producer; Catelin Pereira, who played a wizard in my Dnd campaign and is also a wizard with costuming. Also, I shoutout a new writing group I joined called Deadline Junkies, a group with lots of witty writers and actors. Being in their space, I have monumentally improved my ability to give verbal notes (something I used to struggle with in the past). Lastly, I shoutout Jane Austen, the spunky 19th century novelist whose work influenced the name of my sole proprietorship, Austen Knights Entertainment.
Personal Photo – Jenni Johnson