411 Mania Interview: Caitlin Gerard of Smiley
Caitlin Gerard is a young, upcoming actress that has already acted in films directed by two of the biggest directors in Hollywood, David Fincher (The Social Network) and Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike). Recently, she was the lead in the horror film, Smiley, which follows an Internet serial killer who might be real or might be all in her head. In my interview with Caitlin, we talked about her role in Smiley, working with Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher, her interest in creative writing at UCLA, and a whole lot more. She was a lot of fun to talk to and I hope she makes it big in Hollywood. Smiley is currently out on DVD. There is also a You Tube clip which includes the audio of the interview in its entirety.
TONY: You have, in my opinion, the most challenging role in the film because so much of it is inside your head and it’s more of a mental aspect. What was it like for you to prepare for a film like this and how did you tackle that part of it?
Caitlin Gerard: Well, I’ve had that question asked to me a lot and I’ve had a hard time articulating the steps I went through personally to achieve that for myself to give Ashley the proper voice she deserved. Mainly, the main feelings that Ashley had were this sense of the loss of herself and feeling a deep depression and insecurity because of her mental instability. I did various methods to understand and grasp the darkness of what that feels like emotionally and physically for myself. I did a lot of private coaching with my coach Joe Kelly, who does various forms of acting work. Really, my main concern was understanding the levels that Ashley goes through throughout the film because we shot this out of order, where in the morning, I would be completely sane and the next scene would be in my complete insanity and the next scene would be completely sane again.
What I actually did once I was able to stomach these feelings and internalize them for myself, I kept a notebook that kept track of where we were in the script so that I knew where to go when I needed to be there at that time. I don’t know if it makes sense. I’ve had a really difficult time actually trying to articulate it, but a lot of my exercises in getting into that state was doing a lot of physicalizing of these feelings and subduing them and making them more quiet and keeping them like a grain inside of me.
TONY: When you would leave the set, would you find that it was a hard mindset to shake?
Caitlin Gerard: You know, to be honest, we shot this in fifteen days, with two weekends in between, but we mainly did night shoots, so essentially what that weekend fulfilled was we would get done shooting Saturday morning anywhere from 6am to 10am and then you’d sleep all day. Sunday, you have time to work on the next week and then you get right back into it. For that whole time lapse that we worked, not that I didn’t have the option, but I was so invested with time and the character that there wasn’t really a need for a break. I’m very new at this, so I have unstable grounds to say how I feel because I don’t know my craft well enough as far as actually performing. I mean, I’ve worked on it for years, but seeing these characters though in full flesh afterwards I’d say there’s a disembodiment that takes a little bit of time just to ease out of it where I still feel very engaged with the character that I created.
TONY: You mentioned that you’re still somewhat new at this, and I imagine for you this was a great opportunity because even though it’s an ensemble cast, you’re one of the main characters, if not the main character. How did you handle that responsibility of being such a major part of a film like this with you being so new at everything?
Caitlin Gerard: When I went in for it, I still have this mentality is I do the best I can and I don’t ever think I’ll get the part just because there’s so many more people that have more credits than I do and have accomplished more, so I always do the very best that I can and then let it go to the wayside. That’s kind of how I approach all my auditions and everything. When this happened, I was really looking forward to the audition. It was really fun. I kind of just thought, ‘Do what you can. Be the best you can be and after that, let it go.’ I remember leaving and going, ‘Wow, that was a really great audition,’ and then two days later, they told me I got the part, didn’t even want to see me again. They just said you were it. With that, Michael Gallagher gave me a lot of confidence and it was nice as well because it was his first feature film, so we were kind of doing this together and he was very supportive.
I just really liked the environment. Everybody was so nice. I mean, granted we were pulling really hard hours but everybody was really supportive. I always like to think of a production when you’re in it like a big family because everybody’s trying to achieve the same goal. Maybe that’s a bit naïve, but that’s the way I see it. Especially in this, they were just really encouraging. We never had time to do more than two takes, so I really had to trust Michael that he got what he wanted because we usually didn’t have time to do anything more than that. It was kind of a whirlwind crazy experience and having that responsibility once we got into it, that insecurity kind of just shed away only because we were so invested in what we were doing at that time.
TONY: You have worked with two of the best working directors in Hollywood today in David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh. How did those experiences help you as an actress?
Caitlin Gerard: It’s really funny, The Social Network with David Fincher was the very first acting job, I did commercials, but that was the first acting job I actually got. I was terrified. I was terrified entirely. I couldn’t believe I was in the room with Justin Timberlake and at one point I didn’t realize that David Fincher does a million takes. I didn’t know that that was his style. I only did fourteen for mine, so I’d say I did pretty well. I remember when we were getting more and more takes, I was just so scared. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not giving him what he wants. Oh my god, I’m not doing this right.’ I remember that morning, it was a night shoot and I got done shooting at 8am, and I called my agent and I was crying. I was like ‘I can’t go back. I totally screwed it up.’ The next day I came back, everybody was really nice. Justin Timberlake came over and gave me a pat on the back and was like, ‘You were great.’ It eased my anxiety about that.
Then working with Steven Soderbergh was like working a hundred and eighty degrees in the other direction. It was pretty much all improv. We only did one shot or two shots of every take and it was a totally different ballgame. In response to your question, it was a really great influence seeing two really great directors. My parts were so small that I would say the experience of being on set with them was more of an impact to me than the part I played. Seeing these two really, really successful and amazing directors at work and how wildly different they work from one another, it really gave me a perspective of how much of a range there is and how each director is so different and there’s no one way to do it. Style was the biggest thing I came to understand and have a better idea of. And it’s very reflective on the movies they make, I would say. It was really impressive. I was so lucky to have been on set with those people and who knows, maybe one day it will happen again.
TONY: I always find the audition process so fascinating for someone in the business because it seems like such a hard process because you’re in the room and then you have to be on you’re A-Game. How do you learn to develop a thick skin?
Caitlin Gerard: You know, I’m still working on it. I think it will forever be the up and down battle of there are good moments and bad moments. I don’t think it matters whether you’ve done fifty thousand auditions or two. I think those feelings of ‘I could have done better or if I only could have done it one more time,’ I’m sure every actor at every level feels like that. I know actors at a higher level don’t even need to audition, and then there are those moments where you just know that you killed it. I don’t know, I guess the position that I find myself in more than not is that I am coming into this with no large résumé.
Granted, I’ve been doing this professionally now for almost three years. I shot The Social Network in 2009, so I’m heading into my fourth year of doing this, and I’m very grateful at how far I’ve come. I know that even in my position now, I’m going against so many people that have a much deeper and more widely ranged résumé than I do. So I never go in expecting the part. I just go in doing the best I could ever do for myself and hoping that I’ve done something that will remind the casting director to call me back in either for a role that’s smaller or more appropriate for where I’m at in my career. I try to have big dreams and realistic notions. But it is tough and it is painful. I still cry after auditions. It still happens.
TONY: I read on your IMDB profile that you studied creative writing. Has that inspired you at all to want to write a script of your own?
Caitlin Gerard: Yeah, it’s really funny. When I applied to UCLA, it was around the same time that I was trying to find an agent for acting, I kind of thought to myself, ‘OK. Both of these things are really hard to get. One of them has gotta work. I’ll let my life go as things come to me.’ It was really funny because in the same week, I found out ISA was interested in representing me and I got into UCLA. It was really exciting because then I didn’t know what to do. I decided to try both, so school has been an off and on venture while I’ve been working. My goal and hope is that my writing and my acting will be able to be parallel careers that I can rely on both. I really hope that one can help the other. My dream is to write scripts. I have so many drafts of so many scripts that who knows if they’ll ever see the light of day. I keep chugging on with those.
TONY: My final question is a two part question: What are your plans for the future and how come you haven’t been on Twitter since October?
Caitlin Gerard: (laughs) OK, to answer the first question, right now, I just finished shooting a pilot in September. I did a series for MTV. It’s a comedy, a half hour comedy called Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous starring Bo Burnham. He’s a young and upcoming comedian. Like Michael Gallagher, he stems from the YouTube world. He wrote and created and produced that show, which was really impressive. I play his best friend. That’s coming out in April or May. The date hasn’t been finalized yet. Until that, because I’m reserved under MTV, I can’t go out for pilot season which is happening right now. So I’m back in school, which is really exciting. I’ve missed it. I should graduate in June. So that’s that.
And I haven’t been on Twitter because I’ve been having an internal battle with Twitter and what I want it to be. It is an extension of myself and I’m battling with what it means. I’m having some deep philosophical arguments with myself as to what is the purpose of Twitter. I oftentimes find myself when I try to do something, I don’t and this is only myself, I’m not talking about anyone else. Twitter is awesome and I think it’s an awesome mechanism to get information out there and to spread ideas and to get things going. I think it’s a great medium. I just think that oftentimes I feel nervous that I don’t want to be bragging about some things. I know it’s only people who want to be a part of my life and share my life, but it feels hard for me to try and take pictures and say, ‘Oh, I’m on the red carpet. Look at me’, or ‘I’m on set. I’m at a fancy restaurant.’ I can’t get myself to want to do that even though I know that so many people across the globe would probably want to participate and live vicariously through that, which I think a lot of people do through a lot of different celebrities.
I think that Twitter can actually be something more and I recently in my concentration in creative writing at UCLA was poetry for a really long time. I’ve been working on some drafts of ideas because I think that Twitter can actually be a very poetic venue. I was going to start actually this week, so it’s very funny you said that and try and see how that gets reciprocated and received and how I feel about that, because I think it’s how the beat poets took on writing exquisite corpses and going out of the norm of structure that I feel like Twitter can be kind of the same new avenue to express yourself in a poetic sense.
TONY: Thank you for your time and best of luck with graduation and good luck with your career as well. It was really good talking to you.
Caitlin Gerard: Yeah, Tony. Thanks so much. This was fun.