Who is Maria Olsen?
I’m a filmmaker who live and work in Hollywood but originally from East London, South Africa. I have been in Los Angeles for the past almost-9 years, and I absolutely love the city and all of the opportunities that it gives to people who want to work in the film business. So far, I have been lucky enough to contribute to productions in the following areas: acting, producing, publicity, crowd-funding, casting, craft services, as a 1st assistant director (AD), stills photography and electronic press kit (EPK) building.
You have an amazing body of work under your belt with over 40 feature films, 15 stage plays, shorts, music videos, television roles and voice over (phew!). You have directed, produced and done casting, how did you get into the business?
I first wandered onto a stage when I was about six years old – it was a dance review for the Stella Logan School of Dancing in East London – and I haven’t stopped since! I worked in theater (acting, directing and stage managing) and radio while I was in South Africa, and, about a year after I arrived in Los Angeles, I decided to make the move into the movies. I submitted. I auditioned. I booked. And one fine day I decided I also wanted to produce and cast… I truly make up my own rules as I go along, and I believe that nothing is impossible (except maybe making my laptop work faster!).
Tell readers about your new project Our Zombie Mother.
What would you do if you woke up one morning and your mother had turned into a zombie?
That’s the question our young protagonists, Jon and Wendy, are faced with when, one day, their mother is now Our Zombie Mother! The series, which is styled as a zom-com horro-medy is totally kid-friendly and is aimed at the 10 thru 15 age-group (although we know that zombie lovers come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and we know they, too, will love our show!).
The series – and its spin-off series OZM NewZ, which is soon to appear on BLIP.TV – has been created by Patrick Griffin (with a little help from me) and stars Tyler Griffin (Insidious Chapter 2) and Naomi Griffin (A House is not a Home) as Jon and Wendy. I get to play around as Zombie Mother.
How did you get involved with OZM?
One day, Patrick, who I’ve known for years, emailed me and told me that I need to come and visit and hear about this new project he had in mind. I did exactly that and immediately signed onto the project as both the title character and producer once I heard what it was about. We moved through pre-production in March, shot in June and now our pilot episode is almost out of post-production.
Oh yeah, I guess it didn’t hurt that my manager, the awesome Ileane Rusch of Committed Artists Entertainment, is also Patrick’s wife… .
You seem to like horror movies; you have appeared in American Horror Story, The Road Killer, Live- In Fear, and now Our Zombie Mother. What gives?
What gives is that, not only do I love to work in the horror genre, I found, rather early in the casting game, that my on-screen presence was extremely intense and automatically lended itself to being show-cased in the more serious genres. Because of that tiny bit of self-realization, I knew to target the horror, fantasy, sci-fi and drama genres – the heavier genres – but, strangely enough, I also get booked for wacky, off-the-wall comedy every now and again!
What was your favorite character to portray and why?
That’s actually a difficult question to answer, so I’m going to give you several of my favorite roles for you to choose an ultimate fave from:
- The Nurse in Shelter, Sophomore in The Mudman and Our Zombie Mother because they’re all silent (I LOVE silent roles!);
- The Fury in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief because I got to do wire work in a flying harness and because Chris Columbus is super-cool; and
- Mia in Reunion because I got to do all my own stunts… fight choreography and all!
What is the Fast Track Club and how can kids get involved?
The Fast Track Club consists of all of those who sign up through our OZM website, and they’re the ones who are encouraged to take part in, and perhaps even help shape, both Our Zombie Mother and OZM NewZ. We encourage Fast Track members to submit their comments, videos, stories, letters and artwork to us, and then we feature the members and their input on an episode of our spin-off series OZM NewZ (which is now a series on BLIP.TV). We’re actually even planning to invite some of the Fast Track Club kids to guest-host a segment on OZM NewZ, and maybe even given them a chance to audition for roles on Our Zombie Mother!
What advice would you give to up-and-coming talent?
Find out who you are and what you’re good at before you put yourself out there. Who you are in real life may NOT reflect who you come off as on-screen; for me, for instance, those are two very different things…and it was only once I started watching my auditions that I figured out who I was on-screen.
Once you know who you are, you can market yourself correctly. Yes, I love rom-coms and sit-coms, but I’m not going to book them as that acting style doesn’t come naturally to me, and there’s always going to be someone who’ll nail the audition and who will book over me. Find out what your own style is, perfect it and use it! Being typecast is NOT a bad thing. Not working because you always submit yourself for the wrong type of role as you don’t know who you are, or you don’t want to accept who you are, IS…
How do you stay positive?
What is there to be negative about?
“Rejection” in Hollywood is a huge myth, but I see actors buy into it every day. There is no “rejection”; actors are not booked because they’re better than others, they’re booked because they’re a better fit for a role than others. If you don’t book a role, it doesn’t mean you were rejected because you’re a terrible actor, it just means you didn’t fit the director or producer’s vision for a role. So be it…it happens…forget about it, and move on to the next project.
And while I’m on my soapbox,(lol) here’s my audition checklist:
- Prepare for an audition as best you can;
- Relax! Be yourself! Be friendly and confident – not cocky – in the room. (Why be nervous? You’re doing what you want – performing – right? So what if you don’t book it? There’s 100 new projects on the breakdowns tomorrow); and
- Forget about it as soon as you set foot outside the room.
Predict your future… where do you see yourself in the future?
At the Dolby Theater and on the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard
You moved to the US in 2005, what has been the biggest adjustment for you? For me it was a bit of a culture shock. I’m still adjusting after being here for 15 years!
The biggest adjustments included having to drive on the other side of the road, realizing the dates here are written backwards (we go from day to month to year in South Africa – smallest to largest – logical much, yes??) and not having access to all the types of food that I grew up with! I still miss fishpaste, naartjies and koeksusters!!!
What are the biggest misconception people have of you?
That I’m confident, (lol!) I’m actually very shy, and I’ll do everything I can to get out of social gatherings with anyone except my closest friends!
Thank you Maria for stopping by!