Filmmakers Interview

Andrea Fantauzzi

Andrea Fantauzzi is an Actor, Director, Writer and Producer most well known for her editorial and directorial debut in LETTERS FROM A FATHER (short narrative), which premiered at the Kansas International Film Festival back in 2017. With the success of her debut, she has become a multi-award winning director with multiple wins and nominations in a substantial amount of other categories. She began her career in production at the age of 19 with the creation of the demo reel company, Breakthrough Reels. Fantauzzi created the custom reel portion of the company with her partner and began writing and directing custom scenes for actors in markets including Los Angeles and Kansas City. She later worked as a 1st Team Production Assistant and Set Production Assistant on Season 4 of both NBC’s THE BLACKLIST and FXX’s THE AMERICANS while attending The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. Other shows include: NBC’s THE VOICE and MTV’s BROKE A$ GAME SHOW.

She is a writer for Second City and made her debut in the sketch show ME, MYSELF & DIE back in 2019. She is currently producing a new television series

We had the great pleasure of interviewing her for the June 2020 Edition.

[MS] What did you expect the impact of such a film to have had on the audience?
[Andrea] I always hoped it would touch people in a heart-wrenching way. I wanted to show the resilience of this family and how hard their mother worked to keep the home where the children grew up, even after the divorce and prosecution of their father. To show the complexity of a sibling dynamic when faced with a traumatic situation that has haunted and shaped them. To show that one, even as young as Tina, can rise from the ashes and make something of herself.

[MS] Do you think being an actress helped you to direct?

[Andrea] Absolutely. I know what communication styles and direction tends to work best for me, those I’ve studied with and my previous co-stars because of this knowledge. Communication is a huge key when directing, and if your actors do not understand your vision, it makes the process much harder. However, you must be able to trust your talent to do their jobs, but still make yourself available to answer their questions in a concise way. A large part of a director’s success starts in the casting room.

[MS]Where do you find yourself more? In directing or acting?

[Andrea] I find myself more in acting – but as my career progresses, I’d love to be like Greta Gerwig (LADY BIRD) as she has a well-renowned career in both mediums. As a director, I strive to mimic the careers of Andrea Arnold (BIG LITTLE LIES) and Lynn Shelton (LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE; may she rest in peace).

[MS]Tell us a memorable and interesting story during the shooting of “Letters from a Father”.

[Andrea] Our youngest actress, Hala Finley (Young Marie), on her last day of shooting, wasn’t feeling well – but said nothing to her mother or anyone else on set. She only asked for some over the counter medication. She was such a trooper and finished the day strong without another word. After she wrapped and left the set, she informed her mother of how horrible she felt. We later found out she had a high fever. When her mother asked why she hadn’t said anything, she told her that Caroline Ocheskey (Young Tina, her co-star) had to be wrapped that evening because her family was heading to Colorado the following day, and it would be extremely difficult to reschedule the location. Hala knew that if her illness was mentioned, she would need to leave the set. Hala didn’t want to cause hardship if she could get through it. Keep in mind, she had just turned six when this happened.

[MS] What, in your opinion, is the most important quality a film director should have?
[Andrea] The ability to listen to those around you. Creating a film is no small feat, and surrounding yourself with a great crew will not only strengthen your film, but will help you grow as a director. That is what I did, and I am so thankful that Lydia Anderson (producer) and Christopher Commons (director of photography/editor) were a part of my team. We created this very personal story that we believe will help keep an awareness of abuse and domestic violence.

[MS] How did you choose your leading cast? And how can you describe the combination between Katie Coryell Hall and Cam Burns?

[Andrea] I began the casting process with an ‘invitation only’ audition session, because I originally wrote this film with an idea of who might potentially be cast. I was attending The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in New York, as LETTERS FROM A FATHER was being cast and produced in my home town of Kansas City. Cam Burns (Sam) and Katie Coryell Hall (Tina) were both on that list.

Growing up as a child actor in Kansas City, I personally knew most of the younger cast, and that they would be the ones to carry this film. My Casting Director (Davis DeRock) and I personally called in actors we believed would best suit these roles. During the callbacks, I did chemistry readings for Tina and Sam along with bringing in Hala Finley (Young Marie) to read with the young girls called back for Young Tina. Because most of the characters in this film are supposed to be related, matching up the younger versions of Tina and Marie were the most challenging parts of the casting process.

Katie Coryell Hall and Cam Burns worked together many times in the past, not only with myself, but also in other Equity productions around Kansas City. The argument between Tina and Sam was the only scene rehearsed prior to filming – which was also the callback side. Their intense interaction is the heart of the film, and they made my job so easy. We discussed the dynamic of not only these two characters, but also the dynamic that each of them could bring to this from their own lives.

[MS] What was the most important lesson you learned from shooting your film?

[Andrea] That vulnerability will never go unrecognized. The montage sequence was difficult on me emotionally as the events in the sequence happened one way or another. However, it is in this sequence where most people seem to connect. I’m grateful I have been able to take these events and share them in a way that, hopefully, will inspire others to allow themselves to process their own trauma.

[MS] “Letters from a Father” has been awarded many times, what are your future projects?

[Andrea]  I am humbled by how well it has done. I have written a dramedy titled, THE PROSPECT OF OUR ROOTS, which is about a young woman living in California who is stuck working at a Halloween store while trying to raise her, over the top, 15-year-old sister.  It has received praise from a writer/producer at NBC Universal along with many other filmmakers I was graciously able to meet at Naked Angels – Los Angeles, where the first reading took place.  I can’t wait to find the right team!  I am also currently writing a feature and am working as a Producer on a new episodic television series.

[MS] Any final thoughts at the end of this interview?

[Andrea]  LETTERS FROM A FATHER obtained distribution through Vyre Network – The Art of Streaming Culture, which can be downloaded on Apple TV, Roku, Google Play, Amazon Fire TV and Apple iOS.

Finally; watch Hala Finley (Young Marie) as Emme Burns in MAN WITH A PLAN on CBS and look out for the new dystopian television series, BLACK ZONE, starring Katie Coryell Hall (Tina) and I.

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