Close-up: An Interview With Carly Schneider

Rising star Carly Schneider joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about her acting journey so far, adapting to life in Los Angeles, choosing people to collaborate with, and much more.

Q: You first had a taste of acting at the age of six. What memories do you have of that time and taking an interest in performing?

A: I’ve always had an innate desire to perform. As a child I put on shows for my family, created characters, and choreographed dances that I performed at my grade school’s talent shows. I have vivid recollections of my early youth, even before the age of six, when I felt every emotion very intensely and viscerally. It was almost alienating—I felt very separate and misunderstood by my peers. Performing in front of audiences was an outlet for my emotions that provided some solace and a sense of belonging. It felt like I was finally being heard. 

Q: Is there a moment you can point to when this interest turned into a passion and a potential career path?

A: It wasn’t until I was casted in my first film, A Girl Like Her, that I even considered pursuing acting as a career—and not because I wasn’t passionate about it—I really just had no idea that it was a career someone could actively pursue, especially being from the Midwest. I was under the impression that it was something magical that happened to magically special people as they float about a shopping mall full of perambulating talent scouts in a magical, faraway land. Did I say magical? Because I must say I thought it was magical. 

Q: I understand you moved from Detroit to L.A. just over a year ago. I imagine that’s a decision which is as daunting as it is exciting. What emotions and thoughts ran through you at that time?

A: When I officially decided to make the move, I was operating under the notion that I had absolutely no other option. Nothing propels someone to do the audacious quite like self-preservation. For most of my life I had planned to move to New York to pursue theater, but when A Girl Like Her happened, I knew immediately that screen acting would be in my future. I didn’t want to imagine a life without it because that would be too painful. All that said, I wasn’t scared in the slightest. I just felt ready.

Q: What has been the toughest part of the move so far? 

A: The toughest part has been the rejection, though the uncertainty of my future is a close second. I’ve always been a sensitive girl (better yet, sensitive woman) who just wanted people to be happy and like her. It does, however, get a little easier every day.

Q: And what has been the most rewarding?

A: The toughest parts have also been the most rewarding. When I first moved here, I naively thought I had a foolproof path to success: get a manager, get a breakout guest star role, then get my coveted dream role that launches my career. Clearly, it didn’t happen that way (and too seldom does). In my most despondent periods, I had to find other creative outlets. This led me back to music and poetry, and introduced me to sketching, screenwriting, storyboarding, and directing. I still haven’t the foggiest where my turbulent journey in this industry will take me and I like it that way, darn it. 

Q: You study improv and have lots of projects on the go. How have you adjusted to L.A. and its unique creative landscape?

A: Due to my hectic schedule (among other reasons), I’ve sadly taken a hiatus in my improv studies. When I was fresh and unaccustomed to this formidable city, improv felt like a home away from home. I desperately miss the open, lively environment of improv class and I will return to it soon enough. Regardless, I’ve adjusted to LA rather smoothly. The landscape is so heavily populated with tenacious, passionate creatives; it’s as if the concrete soil has been specifically cultivated to allow them to flourish. I’ve made effortless connections with so many magnetic, inspiring people. It’s truly humbling.

Q: On top of film work, you are a talented artist and study science. How do you find balance between all these different pursuits?

A: First and foremost, thank you for the compliment. Second, I must assert that the “academic” and the “creative” are not distinct. I have always vehemently held that they are inherently intertwined. Science, math, language, film—they all have their own unique beauty and require some sort of originality, or at the very least some creative problem-solving. I mean, for goodness sake—Leibniz (or Newton, depending on who you ask) invented calculus after ruminating on the concept of infinitesimal lengths of time. Talk about creative!

Anyway… Rant over, moving on. These days, I try my best to stay well-rounded and listen to my spirit. This may sound corny, but it’s true. If I start to feel unfulfilled, I’ll ask myself, “Am I yearning for something to satisfy my critical thinking cortex?” I’ll occasionally long for the intellectual challenges that Constitutional Law and Chemistry provided, so I’ll dust off my old college notes and textbooks for a quick refresher. 

Q: One of those projects you are working on is a short film titled ‘A Penny’s Worth’. You are credited as director, writer and actor. Can you reveal anything about the premise and what you hope to explore in the short?

A: A Penny’s Worth is a deeply personal project that has been consuming my thoughts and attention for almost a year. Superficially, the story is about a penny’s journey as it changes hands. However, my self-indulgent introspection and the overall “deeper meanings” reside in the subtext. The penny, the story’s protagonist, represents all who have felt despondent about the obstacles that societal prejudices have erected in their paths, such as classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. (In retrospect, I don’t think it coincidental that I wrote this in the wake of the Me Too movement.) It wants to make a positive impact on people’s lives, but it is trampled on the street, considered to be “worth” just one mere cent. In the end, it sacrifices itself to protect a toddler, instilling in him the fortitude he’ll need to survive a grim adolescence. 

Q: Nicholas Von Gavin, Hiram Borges and Christopher Carrillo are a few of the people involved in the project so far. What do you typically look for in the people you collaborate with?

A: It is imperative that my collaborators are passionate, dedicated, magnanimous, and altruistic. The last two qualities are arguably the most important—everyone on my set must feel respected and appreciated, irrespective of their position. What is the point of making a film if the collaborative process was an unpleasant experience? I feel beyond lucky to have assembled such a generous and talented team of artists and I’m genuinely looking forward to the filming process.   

Q: You are also credited on Gavin O’Connor’s upcoming drama, ‘Finding The Way Back’. Can you share any stories or notes about your experience working on that film?

A: I remember walking onto set (I was late—and that’s another story—but that’s beside the point) and being quickly ushered into a trailer that I shared with my fellow “cheerleaders,” which was a monumental moment for me. Even though I didn’t have a big (or even small) role on this film, I was grateful for every second I spent on that set. It was like I was seated in the dugout as a member of a team I had lionized and revered throughout my life. The friends I made on that project are still present in my life today and they have been so supportive of my career. 

Q: We’re just entered 2020 and I’m sure many people have set big goals for the new decade. Do you have any ambitions or plans to share?

A: If you ask anyone close to me, my boyfriend especially, they will undoubtedly tell you that I already have too many aspirations and it would be most propitious for me to relax more in 2020. I’ve never been one to do New Year’s “resolutions” since I’ve never lacked self-motivation, but there are indeed goals I’d like to accomplish in 2020. My first task is to complete A Penny’s Worth once funding has been secured, which shouldn’t be too long from now. Once that is complete, I’ll be working on a pitch deck for the pilot script I’ve written to hopefully get that off the ground, as well as finishing my feature script. I’d also like to get out and audition more. Aside from film, I’d like to make an EP, paint more, get back into theater, do some animation, and take a nuclear physics course at UCLA. So, yeah, I guess maybe I could relax more…

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