We had the good fortune of connecting with Christina Marie Leonard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christina Marie, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I love acting and I also love writing and creating my own content. I do standup often because it’s an easy way to create and perform my own content. For overall, it is low risk. The worst that can happen, the way I see it, is I get a heckler. And honestly, sometimes that can be kind of fun. But with making movies, there is more at stake. I have many scripts I have written, but between paying for equipment, production insurance, cast and crew, and on top of that, taking off work for the shoot from my part time job, it costs a lot of money to film them. Then there is the fear that someone won’t show up for the gig and we’ll have to recast, or now in today’s world, that someone will test positive for Covid. What if there is something problematic that we all overlook during the shoot and discover it in the edit and there’s no going back? What if the film gets finished and no festival accepts it? What if it screens at a festival but no one likes it? What if I go into debt? What if I go into debt so bad I have to move back to Nebraska? For me, making movies is high risk. Producing and acting in the films I write is hard. But it is also one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I love writing scripts. I love playing the characters I write in these scripts. I love getting a group together and hearing the script read aloud for the first time. I’m not going to lie and say I love crowdfunding because it’s not a low-stress game to play. But finally pulling the trigger on a project that has been on hiatus for years feels REALLY good. It feel scary… but good. The risk is real. And frightening. But it is also exhilarating to know that I am not stagnant. I am not just waiting for the phone to ring. And once people are brought on board, it becomes less scary and more exciting because suddenly we are all a team. I know that certain risks have to be taken because I can live with myself failing, and I can learn from that. But if I never tried at all… that’s just not who I am.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My favorite roles to play are slightly eccentric characters. I used to want to be the ingenue, but now I have more fun playing the cynical goth girl, the overbearing girlfriend, the pissed off older sister, or the wacky therapist. The stories I like to tell are eccentric too. They are usually comedies, yes, and they usually have an element or romance, yes, but they are more than just that. The films I write and produce today usually feature a strong female protagonist who struggles with problems around love, ambition, self esteem, and addiction, and they are usually told through the lens of comedy. It has taken me several years living in LA acting in films, auditioning, taking classes, writing scripts and getting feedback, performing standup, and working on my own personal growth to discover the kind of characters I wanted to play and stories I wanted to tell.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love LA, and have so many spots I love in this city. Luckily one of my favorite things to do is go hiking so I can still do that amid the pandemic. (Don’t judge me for being a stereotypical millennial- I really do love hiking! I’m from Nebraska and there are no mountains there so I still consider this a treat, haha) Other things I really miss are going to the Griffith Observatory, seeing movies at The Arclight, going to the Wacko Gallery in Silverlake, and seeing a film at The Vista Theater afterwards. These are often things I do with my parents when they come to visit, or a friend who is in town. If there is time, I love to spend a day at the beach. The hidden beach spots are fun but my favorites are still the most touristy spots like Venice and the Santa Monica Pier. My mom and I once spent Mothers Day on the 4th Street Promenade eating dinner, shopping, and seeing a movie. I really miss movies and I love seeing them in LA because I find that the audiences respect them much more and sit through all of the credits than in other parts of the country when people just get up and leave as soon as the movie ends. You never know who in the theatre worked on the movie or knows someone who did, and it is a special feeling knowing that we are all supporting our fellow artists. I also like to go downtown to The Last Bookstore, or LACMA. Or go to West Hollywood take my parents or friends to a show at The Comedy Store or The Laugh Factory. The great thing about LA is there are so many parts of the city, there are unlimited things to do and each day of a vacation can be like a whole new trip!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
One of the hardest things for me with pursuing a career in entertainment is the judgment I have of myself for pursing a “selfish profession”. It’s something my mom said to me at least once growing up, and it has stuck with me. I know how much movies and TV have impacted me, and after some health problems in my adolescence, I decided to go into this career field specifically to help take other suffering people out of their agony, if only for that time that they are in front of the TV screen. Still, I have needed to be reminded several times in my adulthood that I really can be of service with my art, and that acting and making movies is a God-given gift. I have an amazing group of women and men in my life who are all trying to better themselves one day at a time and they help me to remember my self worth and that I am enough, and one of my best friends, Keir, has really helped me with this. A couple years ago I told her I was discouraged with where my career was going, but I was feeling bad praying for my own success and she suggested that I pray for the things I want and also how they can help others. She opened up my eyes and helped me remember why I was doing this in the first place! I looked back at the films I had already written and produced and realized that the stories they told really can help others. One of them, “Food Junkie”, was about an eating disorder, and I decided to show it at another film festival even though it had been shot a few years back. It was accepted into the Reel Recovery Film Festival, and screened to a group of women from an eating disorder group. I did a Q and A with these women and it was clear to me that my film DID help people. I am helping people, and it is not just a selfish profession. I also took the advice of my trusted friends and picked up the book “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, which helped me delve even deeper into loving myself and coming to an acceptance and appreciation of the fact that my artistic gifts really are God-given. This book also helped me to get rid of some of the shame I had around wanting to be an artist, and to become an even better artist with the gentle program the book guided me through.