Pop-Culturalist Chats with Annika Marks

Annika Marks is hardworking and talented—a winning combination for Hollywood. Not only is she an actress, but she is also a writer and a producer. She creates her own original content and acts in things like the popular TV show The Fosters and the new show The Last Tycoon. Needless to say, we were excited to chat with Annika about all the work she’s done and what she hopes to do in the future.

P-C: Tell us about The Last Tycoon and how you got involved with the project.
Annika: The Last Tycoon is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final unfinished novel and takes place in 1936 Hollywood. The characters of Monroe Stahr, the golden boy executive, and Pat Brady, the studio head, are loosely based on Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer. I’ve known Chris Keyser, who partnered with Billy Ray to run The Last Tycoon for over 10 years, and he initially brought me in to read for Kay Maloney, the sole female writer at Brady-American Pictures. I met Billy Ray at that session. They hired the brilliant team at Bialy/Thomas to cast this project and together they created the safest audition environment imaginable. I felt so nurtured, respected and loved in that room—and once I was on set I realized that every actor who read for Billy had the exact same experience. They cast the incomparable Kerry O’Malley for Kay and I was lucky to have them reconsider me for the role of Bernadette Davis, the wife of Dex Davis, another writer on the lot. Dex is also Minna Davis’s (Monroe’s deceased wife) brother, so the role came along with a complicated history, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get the call!

P-C: Were you familiar with the source material prior to your audition?
Annika: I was familiar with the material. I had a Fitzgerald obsessed phase when I was younger. But I revisited the novel during the pilot and was shocked at how little I remembered. It’s a really interesting read because it was unfinished, and you get this insight into Fitzgerald’s mind sifting through his notes. It’s an intimate read that way and makes for a beautiful, creative adaptation. I think Billy and Chris did a tremendous job of honoring the text while also imagining the world surrounding it and extending from it.

P-C: How do you get in the head shape of a character who experiences a huge personal tragedy with her husband? How does that affect your character throughout the series?
Annika: The pilot was tough, but tough for an actor is also exciting because being challenged is imperative to continuing to grow. There’s nothing that scares me more than artistic complacency. I had lost someone close to me a couple months before and, although it wasn’t my romantic partner, the finality of it was very present for me. I was able to tap into that without having to reach for it. I was more concerned with bringing all of Bernadette’s circumstances to set with me—her husband (who she knew was frustrated, but didn’t realize was suicidal) killed himself, she hasn’t slept and then she’s discovered he’d been abusing drugs and there was no way Monroe was unaware—the anger, the grief, the hysteria, the refusal to imagine that I could be part of it, and the need to blame someone. I was trying to hold all of that in my head and in my heart and the longer we shot that scene for, the more dehydrated and exhausted I was, the bigger headache I had. That all made the scene easier because that’s how she feels. I also had the honor of working with Matt Bomer—who I can’t say enough amazing things about. He is so generous and so present. And Billy Ray was directing, who is the most loving, passionate, inspiring leader imaginable. So, I was very lucky to be doing vulnerable work in a very safe and creatively full space.

Continue reading at Pop-Culturalist

Interview with ‘We Are Moving Stories’

Woods Hole Film Festival / LA ShortsFest – The Games We Play
An innocent game among friends forever alters the course of a relationship.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Annika Marks

Congratulations! Why did you make your film?

I was inspired to write this movie after I heard a hysterical story from a friend backstage at a play we were doing about a hypothetical game ending in a breakup. I thought it was a great concept and had it kicking around in my head for years. I’ve been working on building confidence as a content creator – not just an actor. I’ve been writing in secret for a long time.

After I created “Stay Filthy, Cali” with some friends (a raunchy, comedic PSA series for the CA drought) I had even more enthusiasm for putting my own ideas out there and that’s how this short was born. I took it to my husband, Rich Newey, who’s a director and asked him to direct it for me. He said he wouldn’t direct if for me, but he would direct it with me, and by doing so he’s helped me empower myself. We reached out to some of our all-time favorite collaborators to help bring it to life on a shoe string budget and it was a dream come true experience.

Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?

It’s as divisive as it is entertaining. It feels like a realistic light comedy, until it’s over. That’s when debates break out. We’ve loved watching audiences react. Watch it with your loved ones and we guarantee you’ll have a great conversation over drinks after!

How do personal and universal themes work in your film?

“The Games We Play” is about the red flags we recognize early on in relationships and often do nothing about, knowing in the long run they’ll catch up to us. It’s about trusting your instincts and going with your gut – and about the things we say, without saying them directly, that reveal the truth.

How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?

I wrote and re-wrote up until the day before production began. And then our amazing cast picked it up and we let them play as much as they wanted. We really wanted the cast to feel like they’d been friends since childhood so we had a rehearsal the night before we shot and gave everyone permission to explore and improvise. Then we asked our incredible DP Jessica Young to keep moving and make the camera act as a 7th friend at the bar. It was a real team effort to get the look and feel right. In the end Rich did a genius editing job and managed to get exactly the tone I had always envisioned. It’s realistic and ridiculous at the same time.

Continue reading at We Are Moving Stories

AFME + Woods Hole Film Festival

Congratulations to “The Games We Play”! It was the runner up for the Best Director Award and Audience Award at the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience.

“The Games We Play” will have its east coast premiere at the Woods Hole Film Festival in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It will screen as part of the “Shorts V: Choices” program on Monday, July 31st at 6:00pm at Old Woods Hole Fire Station. Tickets can be purchased here.

“The Games We Play” Heading to AFME 2017 + NBFF Screening Date

“The Games We Play” will be featured at the 2017 Albuquerque Film & Music Experience. It will screen on Saturday, June 10th at 4:00pm in the South Broadway Cultural Center. Festival passes can be purchased here, while individual tickets go on sale April 10th.

“The Games We Play” will screen at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Wednesday, April 26th at 6:00pm at the Starlight Triangle Square Cinema in Costa Mesa, CA. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased here.

Upcoming “The Games We Play” Screenings

“The Games We Play” has been accepted into the Rincon International Film Festival in Puerto Rico and the Sonoma International Film Festival  (SIFF) in Sonoma, CA. The short film will screen at Rincon during Comedy Night on Wednesday, March 29th at 6:00pm. For tickets, click here. At SIFF, it will screen as part of the Comedy Shorts program on Friday, March 31st at 9:00am at the Taiwan Tourism Bureau Theatre and Saturday, April 1st at the Celebrity Cruises Mobile Cinema. For festival passes, please click here.

“The Games We Play” has also been selected for the Newport Beach Film Festival, which runs April 20-27 in Newport Beach, CA. Dates and times of screenings will be posted when they become available.

Cinequest Q&A

“The Games We Play” premiered last Friday, March 3rd at the Cinequest Film & VR Festival as part of the comedy short films program. After the screening, a Q&A session was held with the directors in attendance. Below are two clips from the Q&A of Annika and her co-star Brooke Nevin. “The Games We Play” will have one more screening this Thursday, March 9th at 8:30pm at the Century 20 in Redwood City, CA. For tickets, please visit Cinequest.

‘The Games We Play’ World Premiere this Friday!

‘The Games We Play’ premieres this Friday, March 3rd at the Cinequest Film & VR Festival in San Jose, California. The short film, which Annika wrote and starred in, will be her directorial debut. ‘The Games We Play’ is being featured in Short Program 7 – Comedy Favorites and will have a total of four screenings throughout the festival:

  1. Friday, March 3rd at 9:30pm – Hammer Theatre / San Jose, CA
  2. Sunday, March 5th at 3:50pm – Century 20 / Redwood City, CA
  3. Monday, March 6th at 4:30pm – Century 20 / Redwood City, CA
  4. Thursday, March 9th at 8:30pm – Century 20 / Redwood City, CA

For tickets, please visit Cinequest.

‘The Games We Play’ Premiere

‘The Games We Play,’ the short film written and co-directed by Annika, will be premiering at Cinequest Film & VR Festival 2017 as part of the Comedy Favorites shorts program.

There will be four screenings of the film on the following days:

  1. Friday, March 3rd at 9:30pm – Hammer Theatre / San Jose, CA
  2. Sunday, March 5th at 3:50pm – Century 20 / Redwood City, CA
  3. Monday, March 6th at 4:30pm – Century 20 / Redwood City, CA
  4. Thursday, March 9th at 8:30pm – Century 20 / Redwood City, CA

For tickets, please click here. For more information about ‘The Games We Play’, please visit their official Facebook page.