“Be yourself, let people meet you where you are. People have told me I should change my hair color, have plastic surgery, lose weight, gain weight… I think it’s important that you are happy with yourself. I generally I listen to my own heart.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing actress and writer Sarah Lynn Dawson. Sarah is an English actress and writer who trained as an actress at the New York’s Lee Strasberg Institute of Film and Television. She is a Dual Citizen of the UK and USA. Films she has appeared in, include Duality (2014), which she wrote and starred in and which was narrated by Deepak Chopra and also starred Jon Foo and Don Most. She also played the lead role of Alice Clark the LAPD’s first female detective in the 1940’s film noir Unsolved (2015), and British Nurse Patricia Evans in the WWI period film Game of Aces (2016). She was in the award-winning indie film Folklore (2012). She was born in the Lake District in England and she spent a large part of her childhood growing up in Qatar, in the Middle East where she started acting at the age of seven when she was cast in a community theatre show, she also danced ballet and jazz. She starred in theatre productions throughout her school years playing lead roles in several productions. After studying Sociology at the University of Leeds, Sarah realized her future career lay in the performing arts and after doing some independent films, she was cast in a play ‘Reality TV’ directed by Jim Tommaney. She then moved to New York and studied acting at The Lee Strasberg Institute of Film and Television in New York, on their two year conservatory program. She made her Off-Broadway debut in the Manhattan Repertory Theater’s production of ‘Men’ directed by Ken Wolfe, quickly followed by another Off-Broadway appearance in the showcase ‘Conflict’, at The Producers Club, before moving to Los Angeles. In LA Sarah became an Observer at The Actors Studio where she learned from Martin Landauand the teachers there. She continues to act and write.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was a child I would ‘make films’ with my Dad’s video camera and create scripts on the spot and have my friends and family act in them. I loved this cartoon called ‘Battle of the Planets’ so would often emulate that. I even tried to do special effects by turning the camera on and off and having characters appear and disappear. I also started acting in community theatre plays and at school we had a good theatre program where we would have to make up a short play and act it out. All of this really started me out on a path to create. Writing I have just always done and screenplays I taught myself how to write by reading countless books. I am lucky in that I am very self driven and always find time to create something. At the moment I have just finished a TV pilot, it’s a female driven Sci-Fi. Luckily I have some great actor friends who helped me read through it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
That’s a tough one! I was doing a play in Miami called Reality TV, directed by a wonderful director called Jim Tommaney, who has since passed and one night the whole audience was a nudist group who had bought out the theatre, so they all came and brought towels and were all sitting there totally nude. I really made use of the fourth wall that night.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I got a job as a roulette dealer and when I was on set the sound guy asked me to throw the roulette ball so he could check the sound. I just threw it into the spinning table and it bounced around and he just looked at me like — ‘that is not how you deal roulette!’. He spent the next ten minutes teaching me how to throw the ball into the spinning table correctly bless him. It taught me to do all research thoroughly in advance.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have been working on an indie about a female serial killer which has been very intense and a lot of character work. I am also producing a Sci -Fi I wrote called Horizon and another suspense film called Three Days of Darkness.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I had dinner with Al Pacino, thanks to my friend Barry Navidi. Al is surprisingly down to earth and a very nice and funny guy, he kept us all amused all night about tales from filming Scarface and how he turned down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Definitely meditate and create your own projects. There are lots of great meditation apps you can download and utilize.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I think it’s important for us to all do our bit to help the environment, recycle, reuse, don’t litter, install solar panels etc, there is so much we can do to help.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Be constantly creating, don’t wait for someone else to read your script, give you a part, just make your own projects.
2. Be yourself, let people meet you where you are. People have told me I should change my hair color, have plastic surgery, lose weight, gain weight… I think it’s important that you are happy with yourself. I generally I listen to my own heart.
3. Don’t take anything personally. There are a lot of no’s and a lot of rejection and it gets hard sometimes especially if you really love a role. At the end of the day it’s best to let things go and not let things effect you. There is always another opportunity around the corner.
4. With regards to screenwriting and the notes you get from people, if you make all the changes people suggest, you would end up with a totally different script. If two or three people have the same note then it’s worth looking at. I generally rewrite if there is a great need to fix an issue, however people’s general thoughts are more tailored to their personality and likes, rather than your script.
5. Enjoy the process, because well that’s the journey. I have this on my fridge on a magnet given to me by a good friend and it reminds me daily to enjoy every moment.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Never, never give up — Winston Churchill. I can’t remember where I first heard this and I think it was a variation of this that he actually said, but I do remember it has heavily influenced me, really you can’t give up if you want to succeed and even if you feel like it you should keep going because things happen sometimes when you least expect them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents, they are not in the business but they always supported my decision to pursue this path. My Mum has passed away, but she would take me to dance classes as a child and ask the director when I asked her for a bigger part in community theatre shows.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Yes anyone who wants to invest in my films! The hunt for funding is keeping me so busy. It’s too hard to pick one person so here are a few. Elon Musk, he’s such a genius I would love to talk to him just to see if I could keep up! Stephen Spielberg too because he is such an iconic filmmaker. Anthony Robbins he’s pretty inspiring to me, I’ve attended some of his seminars. Ava DuVernay I find her very inspiring also.