Tanna Frederick is that rare actress who never forgot where she came from, and after having success in the indie film world and onstage, she gave back to her home state of Iowa with a film festival. She also stood out to indie film legend Henry Jaglom, who has wound up using her in several of his films after she wrote a three page letter praising his film Déjà Vu even though she’d only watched the opening credits. Anyone who’s familiar with the Jaglom lexicon knows that he’s that rare filmmaker who does respond to letters…especially when they’re positive!
So, if you’re not familiar with either Tanna Frederick or Henry Jaglom and call yourself an indie film geek, it’s time to turn your card in or at least expose yourself to some very interesting films that paved the ways for many careers like David Duchovny and Frederick’s. She talks candidly about working with the legend along with giving back to the indie film community.
How did you first meet Henry Jaglom?
At a screening for Festival In Cannes. I had written him a three page letter singing his praises about his film, Déjà Vu, when I had only seen the opening credits because, a fellow actor in the play I was in, said Jaglom was a sucker for anyone who wrote him to tell him they loved his films and would likely cast them in a role. It was kismet because I saw Festival In Cannes in its entirety and fell in love with Henry’s films.
Was it a surprise that he keeps casting you in so many of his films?
I think I’m extremely lucky to have been cast in Henry’s films. We work really well together – we have the same tastes and attitudes about art and work. It isn’t as much of a surprise that he casts me – I hope I’m a hard worker and perfectionist enough to produce his ideal results in the films…But it does feel like sort of a fairytale wonderment when I look around at who I’m working with on each film and still have to pinch myself when I realize that I’ve gotten to be a part of this immensely legendary director’s h’ouvre.
Do you have a recurring character that continues in more than one of those films?
The Margie Chizek Trilogy (Hollywood Dreams, Queen of the Lot, and upcoming film ‘Ovation’) has been a reoccurring character series – one of my favorites. It’s about a girl from Iowa who gets lambasted and tattered by the Hollywood lifestyle and the fight between art vs. commerce, but she stays in the game and plays the players; the unexpected hero and villain in one.
He’s known for no more than three takes and one camera so how was that for you?
Doing a lot of theatre preps me for the three takes, as in theatre you get used to having one chance to do a scene or dialogue every night and you have to roll with the punches and don’t get hung up on some ‘perfect way’ of doing the work. Sometimes we just get one take in Henry’s films – my favorite being with Noah Wyle in Queen of the Lot in this absurd romantic kitchen scene. The dialogue and timing were comedic perfection in terms of what the scene required, we unfortunately only had one camera rolling, but that’s where the brilliance of an editor comes in. It was hard to cut that scene because it really was hilarious and Noah was exceptionally charming.
Did you get your start on stage or film? Which do you prefer?
I started on stage-as many shows as I could do-five to six shows a year. I was eight or nine. There wasn’t much film in the community but I did take my dad’s camcorder and filmed movies and twisted TV shows when I was in 6th grade. Every weekend my friends would come over and I would boss them around and make them be my actors all weekend and we filmed every second of each day making some sort of bizarre film.
I don’t have a preference. I am hungry and adore both film and theatre. They are two completely different beasts, but somehow complimenting one another in terms of preparation and growth for an actor.
Were you fortunate to have a good high school drama teacher or like many schools someone who just wasn’t the best for that role?
I didn’t work with the drama department in High School because I was too busy being caught up in musicals and the choir program, follies, community theatre, a professional children’s theatre, and speech competitions. And I think I pissed off the high school drama teacher by turning down a role my freshman year so I kind of just steered clear. But the Mason City High School has one of the best choir programs in the nation, and Joel and Rachel Everist were my fount of inspiration and encouragement.
What got you to create the Iowa Film Festival?
I went to the Ashland Film Festival and it reminded me of my hometown. I saw the same sort of openness and excitement for art in that community as in my hometown. This was the time when digital films were beginning to take off, filming was beginning to be cheaper and more accessible, and I thought Iowa needed a venue for films to both show their work and celebrate other filmmakers. We had a huge crop of filmmakers come out of the festival in the last eight years.
What’s been the most successful film that you’ve screened there?
My most memorable was Queen of the Lot. My grandfather was still alive, and I had named the character of Margie Chizek after his family name, Chizek, which I think made him quite proud. So I sat in the front row and held his hand throughout the movie. He was a big western movie fan, so I wasn’t sure what he’d think about an indie film. Afterward he asked me, “So what was it like to kiss all those guys?” Which was a totally unexpectedly delightful response. And I said, “Real good, Grandpa.”
What other organizations are you part of?
I founded Project Save Our Surf, an organization dedicated to the conservation of our oceans and the delicate marine ecosystems that reside therein. We believe that through education, awareness outreach and involvement with our communities we can generate significant change on our planet.
We run programs such as Camp PSOS, which is a summer day camp, that incorporates water conservation education, ocean awareness and science in an outdoor experience the kids will never forget.
In 2012 we provided a camp experiences for 580 children underprivileged and low-income youth. Our goal for 2013 is to send 630 children to camp.
We also have a ConSurfvation Camp that provides children with hands on educational experience thru beach clean up and teaches about the negative effects of plastic pollution on our marine life and the eco system. In 2012 we sent a total of 800 children to our consurfvation camp. Our Goal for 2013 is to provide 1,000 children with our camp experience.
Also running is a PSOS Water Filter Project in which our goal is to provide clean water to those in need through our portable water filtration systems. In 2012 our Nicaragua Project provided 2,500 people with clean water, our Philippines Project provided 1,500 people with clean water, and our Costa Rica Project provided 1,500 people with clean water.
What upcoming projects do you have?
I’m filming Henry’s next movie, Ovation, in August. After that I’m filming, Just Beautiful, the second Project Cornlight film, in Des Moines. Also this fall, The M Word, by Dir. Henry Jaglom and Garner, Iowa by Dir. Ron Vignone, will be released into theatres.