We had the good fortune of connecting with actress, filmmaker, and film festival organizer, Heather Brittain O’Scanlon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heather, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I tend to think of myself as an actor first; I started in this industry as an actor and, if I had to choose to only act or only produce for the rest of my life, I would easily choose acting. However I find I do love producing… My first taste of producing was when I acted in a short film with my son, 8 or so years ago. After filming wrapped the project sat on a shelf for over a year. I know this happens all the time, and it wasn’t the first time I had encountered this situation. However, this film starred my little boy, and it had been so precious for me to share the thing I loved doing most with my favorite person; I felt a much more personal connection to this film. A mamma-bear instinct just kicked in for me to save it and get it made. I gently begged the director – for over a year – to please give me the footage and his blessing and, eventually, he did. So my first experience producing was with post-production. I had an editor I liked and trusted who worked with me and walked me through to the finish line. I was honestly hooked by the control I felt over the creative process, and the satisfaction of putting all the pieces together and completing a film was such a rush! That sweet short, “Benny’s Recital”, was the birth of my production company, SOS PRODUCTIONS. Since then we’ve produced several award-winning short films, including VICTIM NO. 6, which is doing the festival circuit. Next up is our first feature film, BIG ENZO’S WEDDING, which is currently in development!
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’m one of those actor/filmmakers who is getting a ‘later’ start. I did move to LA when I was 21 to be an actress (PS – LA is a really fun place to live when you’re 21), however I spent far more time waiting tables than going on auditions; I was rather aimless at 21 and it somehow didn’t occur to me to ask for advice. I realize now that just wasn’t my time. I eventually got a ‘real’ job with 9 – 5 hours, a 401K & health benefits, and moved back to my home state of New Jersey to settle down to have a family. For a while that felt like what I wanted – and it was – but the dream started creeping back in and I eventually couldn’t ignore it. My time is now. Nothing about this industry is easy, and there’s no one path to success. We all have our own journeys to figure out. I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to go out there and find your people. Networking has such a negative connotation, but I see it more as making connections. And, by connections, I mean real connections. I’m not a fan of small talk – I want a real conversation, and I want to be around talented people with good energy.
I try to be of service when I can; If I see a casting notice and a friend comes to mind, I send it to them (even someone I might barely know, if they organically pop into my head). If I see someone is looking for recommendations for cast or crew, I always suggest people I like working with. I take great joy in bringing good people together, in making connections. I also have a lot of people ask me for film festival advice, and I love helping there where I can, as well.
And always try to get better. Take classes. Go to film festivals. Watch great performances. Surround yourself with talented, hardworking people. One piece of advice I received several years back which always stayed with me is that if you ever look around and realize you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s time to find a new room.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh gosh, I have so many favorite spots! To name a few…
To start with, my favorite hotel is Petit Ermitage. It is a quirky, sexy boutique hotel in West Hollywood, in a neighborhood between Sunset and Santa Monica. The rooms are very comfortable, pretty large, with a bohemian, shabby chic décor. The rooftop restaurant and pool is reserved exclusively for hotel guests and club members. The people are eclectic and I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations on that rooftop. The saltwater pool is heaven and the food is absolutely delicious. And the staff – every single one of them – are just so genuinely nice. And the weekend entertainment… well you just have to experience it to understand. My trying to describe it couldn’t do it justice…
You have to do at least one Runyon Canyon hike! It is a bit of a workout, but you can go at your own pace and don’t have to do the whole thing, if that’s not your usual activity level. There are water fountains strategically located and spots to rest along the way. And so many people bring their dogs, which takes the people watching up a notch! Oh, and did I mention the view from the top…?
In Thai Spa on Sunset
If you haven’t ever had a Thai massage, you don’t know what you’re missing. I’ve looked for similar spa in other states, but haven’t found anything I’d even put in the same category as In Thai Spa! I workout a lot, and I am always sore. The masseuses there stand on you and pull you and push you and stretch you and work out every kink… It’s an active massage yet I leave feeling entirely blissed out.
El Compadre – 7408 Sunset
First of all, let me say that I could eat Mexican 5 days a week. And one of my favorite Mexican spots is El Compadre on Sunset! They have live music every night & great ambiance. They are famous for their flaming margaritas, and I dream about their guac & chips! There’s a reason they’ve been around since 1975.
For a little old school Hollywood glamour (and a non-sceney-see-and-be-seen atmosphere) you should check out the Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel. No one makes a better Martini (or Manhattan, for that matter). Sit at the gorgeous bar, or make reservations and grab a table for dinner. The food is delicious, the service is impeccable and the vibe is sophisticated sexy.
If you want to splurge (on the bill and on your calories), make sure to save room for the sundae!
Urth Café on Melrose
It’s so LA and it’s fabulous. Casual café with fantastic coffee and Lots of gluten-free options
I die for their GF avocado toast.
Diddy Riese, Westwood
And lastly, I know I kept you in the Hollywood / WeHo neighborhoods with my other recommendations, but if you want to venture over to Westwood, you have to stop by Diddy Riese for a custom, homemade ice cream sandwich. You choose from your favorite of 10 freshly baked cookies, and 12 ice cream flavors… seriously it’s delicious and usually has a line out the door. Sadly the cookies are not gluten-free, so I can no longer partake of the deliciousness. But we need to keep this place in business forever so do your good deed for the day and get yourself the best ice cream sandwich of your life!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to Lauren Concar Sheehy (executive director) & Diane Raver (founder) of the Garden State Film Festival! I’ve been involved with GSFF since 2016 – initially as a filmmaker and now, proudly, as Vice-Chair. The GSFF, which will be hosting it’s 21st event in March of 2023, is New Jersey’s Premier Independent Film Festival®. Our event provides novice and aspiring filmmakers, actors, and others interested in careers in the film business, the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals in an atmosphere conducive to learning and mentoring. Further, we are happy to present each spring in Asbury Park and to serve as an added engine for the city’s vitality through arts, commerce and culture. Just as GSFF has been a platform for countless filmmakers through the years, it has also been an important part of my life and of my own development as a filmmaker.
Nick Holmes, Dima Otvertchenko, Tom Zapcic, “Victim No. 6”, “Wicked Image”