The artist’s life is full of challenges—there’s no denying that. It’s not an easy path, which is why many don’t choose it. But if you’re a deeply emotional person who’s profoundly affected by the world and people around you, there’s nothing more fulfilling than having a creative outlet for your feelings and reflections.
In this interview, I speak with actress and filmmaker Melissa Center to explore her films, the sacrifices she’s made for her dreams, and why she believes they were worth it.
Melissa is a passionate LA-based creator with roots in Chicago and New York City. Her TV credits include Grey’s Anatomy, Grimm, True Detective, and Masters of Sex.
Her debut feature film, All I Want, for which she was a producer, co-writer, and leading actress, premiered at Dances with Films Festival and screened at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.
Her short film R. V., for which she was writer, producer, co-director, and leading actress, played at numerous festivals, including Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, where it won for Best Makeup/FX, and Chain NYC, where she won for best actress.
2:35 What inspired Melissa to become an actress and filmmaker and how her choices have given her more control over her creative path
5:02 What Melissa’s had to sacrifice to work in film, what she feels she’s gained, and why she doesn’t regret choosing the path of an artist
10:20 What inspired Melissa’s ensemble movie All I Want, which she was able to film with a large group of acting peers, on a limited budget
19:08 What the beginning stages look like when Melissa starts a new project
22:37 What helps Melissa move forward when she feels stuck or creatively blocked, and how it’s benefited her to work with a creative partner
24:18 What it was like taking her short film, RV, to festivals, including the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, and her plan for this mission-driven short going forward
33:46 What Melissa would do differently if she were starting in the industry all over again
36:31 Melissa’s two documentary recommendations and why they spoke to her
42:37 The lightning round questions:
- I get my best ideas when _______
- I can’t do my best work without _______
- How do you invite your creativity to come out and play?
- What creatively inspires you?
Melissa Center Quotes Worth Remembering
“I think what happens is you pursue this thing, and it’s not a straight path, and there’s no guidebook, so you’re completely shooting in the dark. And you’re guessing every step of the way and you’re dealing with complete uncertainty, and so you have to just keep throwing sh*t to the wall and see what sticks.”
“I get to choose my life, and that’s hugely liberating, and I’m a type of person that always needs a challenge. And so you get what you ask for. And so that’s a blessing. And I think there’s magic along the way when you’re doing this. The give and take process of what we do is such a beautiful thing, and the collaboration aspect is such a beautiful thing.”
“A lot of people take the safe route, but then they feel sad inside. I did not take the safe route. Sometimes I still feel sad inside… but I feel like I have agency over my life. And that is an important thing.”
“With how prevalent Facebook and Instagram and all the social media stuff is, everyone sees this rosy side of life, and I think it can be very lonely and alienating for people who are having challenges. And so I thought if I can make this come to life and share it, then hopefully other people who are questioning the same things and trying to sort it out for themselves, they won’t feel so alone.”
“Some writers, for example, you get up, you write every day, and that’s your process, and you just write and write and write. For me, it’s more of a spazzy affair. I’ll get infected by some sort of thing or idea and I just need to barf it out somehow.”
“I’m a very emotional actor and emotional person, as you might have gauged. But I think if something really affects me on a strong emotional level, it needs to take shape, to take form.”
“Every experience that you have is why you are where you’re at in a way.”
“No one gets where they are by themselves, not at all.”