“Acting is a very immersive experience”

As we step into our new year to enter into the third years of the Actor Spaces Magazine, we transition into our new growth season by welcoming a new member to the Actor Spaces content family. Meet actor, writer and filmmaker: Crystal Joy. Crystal was born in Chicago and has lived out her career as an actor and a filmmaker in New York. She obtained a degree in journalism and has attended several acting studios and enrolled herself for private coaching lessons to hone her skills. Not only did she focus on developing her acting career but she also enrolled for screenwriting classes, read a few books then started writing and producing short-form scripts for other creatives.

She started booking gigs in Off-Off-Broadway plays and joined a theatre company and performed frequently at the ‘Producers Club’ in the Theater District in Manhattan.
She founded her own indie production company ‘Blu Room Productions’ and filmed two more projects,
Behind The Silence and The Woe Chronicles. She created the first-ever Instagram Script Series, Nights which also showcased on the Actor Spaces Instagram platform. She is currently finishing her first pilot while simultaneously writing her first feature film.

In a conversation with Crystal, we learn more about her work, what it means to join the Actor Spaces team and what we can expect from her monthly column.

MV: How did you come across the Actor Spaces online magazine?
CJ: Ayanda Sithebe (founder of Actor Spaces) shared my project on the Actor Spaces platform. I was impressed and inspired by his movement and the work he was doing in South Africa and really wanted to be a part of it and lend my voice.

MV: Actor Tools is a segment created to inspire and motivate actors across the South African Film, Theatre and Television spectrum, how do you think an international perspective can add value to our platform and our readers?

CJ: There’s so much going on in the U.S. to be inspired from. There’s a wave of movements happening and it’s beautiful to see more visibility across creative mediums. What I love the most is that actors are taking their careers in their own hands and really producing high-quality work. Seeing that impels me to aim high and remain focused on improving my performances. Whether it’s my writing, acting or producing–I’m always looking for ways to progress.  I hope that inspiration sets a domino effect across the diaspora and gives people continued confidence to develop their own work.

MV: How would you define the role and responsibility of an actor?
CJ: The role of an actor is to be truthful in whatever way that looks like to the character.  If you don’t agree with a characters actions or behavior you can still relate to their struggles and victories. It’s always refreshing to see that transparency from an actor because I can see myself in them.

The responsibility of an actor is to be present and vulnerable. Acting is a very immersive experience, and as an audience member, requires a certain level of emotional participation.  It’s so powerful when you really recognize and identify with the characters, to the point that you want to hop in the scene with them.

MV: Every actor has a unique signature trait, what is yours?
CJ: I’m honestly still learning my unique trait. Right now, it’s to react naturally in a way that makes sense to the character.

MV: You created “the first ever Instagram Script Series” that we also featured on the Actor Spaces Instagram platform. What inspired the concept?
Film is simply photography in still motion, add music and you’ve enhanced the emotional impact. I’ve always loved photography and really wanted to challenge how I delivered narratives. I was taking a break from shooting at the time but still wanted to create, so Nights was developed out of the need to be unique, but also satiate my desire to be imaginative and expressive.

A lot of modern-day men and women are juggling their careers, personal lives, finances, and goals. It can be a challenge trying to seesaw between it all and Shayla (the main character) is a reflection of that struggle. She’s also unfulfilled with certain aspects of her life, which is a predicament I have found myself in before. Incorporating all of this into the story gave me the fuel to shape her narrative and write something audiences could relate to because her uncertainty in life has been all of us at some point.

MV: How did you transition from journalist to actor to screen-writer, co-founding your own Indie production house?

CJ: I always had an attraction to acting but was too scared to pursue it. My father passed away and I guess you can say I had an “aha” moment — I wanted to see what doors would open up to me if I took a risk to pursue my dreams, so I left my hometown and moved to New York.

It was a slow process; a six and a half year journey from studying the craft, acting on stage then transitioning to the screen. Bit by bit I started getting ideas for stories. I didn’t see myself creating work for myself even after getting those ideas, I just wanted to write for other directors and producers. After I had the chance to write some short form projects I noticed the type of narratives that weren’t being told. I saw myself fitting perfectly in that gap. So I decided to challenge myself by producing and acting in something that I wrote.

Crumble was shot in 2016. It was a skeleton crew with only two actors and filmed in my apartment in Brooklyn at the time. We filmed 11 pages in one day, it was strenuous but I felt so empowered after we wrapped. I was hooked after watching something I wrote come together.

MV: You’re the founder of Blu Room Productions, can you elaborate further on the work that you do?CJ: I love mumblecore and art house films. It’s something about real life circumstances that intrigues me and those are the films I always find myself watching or wanting to write. I consume a lot of foreign films because they always seem to deliver slice-of-life in a very artistic way. With Blu Room, it gives me the chance to produce what inspires me and create what circulates in my mind. I’m growing as a filmmaker and really starting to understand what I want to say and how I want to deliver it, but the work I choose to write or produce reflects what I’m curious about. My stories are really character-based and centered around people that look for ways to love, contribute, serve and overcome

MV: What is the one film script you wish you would have written?
CJ: I have to cheat and give you three films. In the Mood For Love by Wong Kar Wai, Moonlight by Barry Jenkins, and Violent by Andrew Huculiak. Everything about those films is perfect to me and touch on all the emotions I hope to capture in my films. Cinematically, they are breathtaking — the visuals really match with the dialogue and aesthetic.

MV: What do you look forward to the most about joining our team?
CJ: Sharing my journey on what I’ve learned thus far but also learning from others, because I still see myself as a student of the craft. Also, forming new collaborative relationships. I’ve always had the desire to create outside of the country, so I’m really looking forward to stepping outside of my comfort zone and teaming up with new storytellers, especially across the diaspora.


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