Sunday, October 14, 2007

H Magazine HollyShorts '07 Winners feature story

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Coming Up Next:
Jessica James & Charlie Weirauch
At this year’s HollyShort’s Short Film Festival, the winners for best actor and actress were, respectively Charlie Weirauch and Jessica James. The festival showcased 57 films, all less than 30 minutes in length. Sponsors raised $26,000 in prize money for award winning participants.


words by D. Heimpel
photo by Robert Todd Williamson

“And no, I’m not a porn star,” says Jessica James,

miffed that her given name was chosen by an adult actress and pops up all over the Internet. But her second film, Small Jeans, is, at moments, very sexual if not sexy.
In the film, James plays a slightly lost coffee shop attendant who has a penchant for drugs and goes as far as to give her dealer a blowjob to get them. But the thing that drives her the most crazy throughout the film is a pre-occupation with getting into a pair of too-tight jeans. Jeans she bought to spite a boyfriend who was flirting with a “size one” salesgirl while Jessica’s character, Zoë, wrangles with the unforgiving denim.
“The jeans for Zoë were sort of a way for her to channel frustrations. They weren’t as big as what she was going through. They are a fun centerpiece. We all have that pair of jeans we obsess over.”
Jessica can sympathize with Zoë, and in fact director Julian West wrote the character around her.
“There is a lot of me in Zoë. When Julian and I first met around, when I was like 17 or 18, I was a couple of choices away from being very similar to Zoë. Most girls can relate. When friends watch the movie they say I know that person.”
And with only two short films under her belt, films that came out within the last year, being the muse of a director is something she doesn’t take lightly. While Jessica hasn’t had a long career in front of the camera she has spent the better part of the past ten preparing herself for it.
Born in Southern CA, Jessica never thought she would end up an actress.
“I always thought I was going to be an astronaut, a judge or a fairy. But then I realized I wasn’t that interested in space or pixie dust.”
Regardless of her childhood aspirations, Jessica traveled to New York where she studied at the Atlantic Theatre Co. At 17 she moved back to Los Angeles where she first worked as an intern in casting and then as a director’s assistant.
But now she is out in the big bad world of L.A. acting. She’s still looking for an agent, but she did find her current boyfriend in acting class.

In Wilbur, Charlie Weirauch plays an abysmally lonely, stuttering, muttering man stuck in a small English village (Griffith Park and a back lot at Universal).

He spends his days making wedding cakes and his nights dodging his mother’s pestering while dreaming of love. He is so desperate that he sends away for a mysterious bean.
He nurtures it, waters it, coddles it - all the while hiding it from his disapproving mother.
“I’ve never gotten to play a character like that,” Charlie says while reclining in the h Magazine studios after a photo shoot. “I’ve played Brits before but this is something unique that I hadn’t had the chance to do.”
But by the HollyShorts festival panel’s estimation he took to it. An award like this, his first, is a far cry from Charlie’s start.
“I was drunk sitting on a couch at my frat,” he says. He had a speech requirement to fulfill as part of his GE requirements at Indiana University. A way out of it was to act. His frat brothers told him to, and he went for it.
He liked it and continued in the school’s theatre. He knew he was good but kept on telling himself maybe he was just good for college.
After school he went to New York and worked in commercials and the theatre scene. ”Then I thought maybe I’m just good for New York.”
In 2000, he thought he was good enough and came to California. Since then he’s been on commercials, has acted with the Groundlings and works at the Improv Olympic every week.
He says that when he came across the script for Wilbur he was intrigued, “For the most part I go out for TV so that is unheard of,” he says of playing a slow-witted Englishman who falls in love with a bean.
“It was really well written and as soon as I met Dago [Rodriguez], the director, he had a calming effect. It turned out I made the right choice.”
And with the HollyShorts win, Charlie did make the right choice.
In the film, Charlie’s character ends up winning as well. The love-fed bean grows into an (initially) malformed bride, who, as Wilbur plies it with more love, becomes a normal… ish woman.
The real Charlie is already married and won’t be mail ordering bean brides. “But I’m all for it,” he says.

To learn more about the HollyShorts Film Festival visit www.HollyShorts.com

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