Beating the Odds: A German Actress and An Urban Latino Director Produce Their First Feature Together in 7 Days by Nina Rausch
ACTOR/PRODUCER — ‘Marigold the Matador’
Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Nina Rausch: I was born and raised in Stuttgart/Germany, lived there until I graduated high-school. My family was very close and supportive. We grew up with and around a lot of art. When I was 4, my parents had me in a “musical education” class and that started my journey as an artist. At 4 I was already on stage in “Don Quixote,” I started the piano at 6, clarinet at 8, ballet at 4, singing at 14. I explored many art forms and my parents pretty much let me explore anything I wanted to. I remember on Sundays, we always had classical music playing and my parents listened to a lot of music (on actual record players!!). To this day, classical music (music in general) has a special place in my heart.
Film Courage: Which one of your parents do you resemble most?
Nina: I think I’m a healthy combination of both. During my youth, I was definitely more my dad, clear vision, stubborn at times but always knew what I wanted . Now I’ve become more of my loving, trusting mom. But I still have my dad’s drive. I feel like my parents are very similar when it comes to work ethics. My parents always said “Anything you set your mind on, you can achieve”. So far, it’s been working for me.
Film Courage: What was the first TV show you remember being a fan of as a child?
Nina: I was obsessed with “My So-Called Life”!!! I fell in love with Claire Danes and naturally Jared Leto. I wanted to be “Angela” and even started dressing like her in the show! Claire Danes was my idol and inspiration to become an actress. Seeing her in “Romeo&Juliet” in the movie theaters sealed the deal. Towards the end of my high-school years it was “Friends”. I own every season and to this day can probably tell you which episode is in which season etc. I don’t think a sitcom like this exists today. The comedy incredible and their acting was genius!
Film Courage: Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus?
Nina: My parents supported me in anything I wanted to pursue! Always. If I wanted to try Tennis, they’d let me. Gymnastics. Soccer. Horseback riding (that was very short lived). And of course my music and acting. When I was 17 and wanted to be a foreign exchange student in the US, they said “sure, let’s figure it out”. Drove me to interviews, play rehearsals, dance classes etc. I can’t put in words how grateful I am for their support. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They even agreed to finance my US education at a college out of their own pocket.
After high-school (last 2 years I was an architect major), I had a brief moment where I thought I’d want to become an architect (like my dad). But even then my dad encouraged me more in my acting because my parents knew that that was what I really wanted to do.
Kenneth Castillo and Producer Nina Rausch
Film Courage: A scene from a movie or play which you watched as a child that changed everything for you?
Nina: Like I mentioned, Claire Danes in “My So-Called Life” started it and then “Romeo&Juliet” with her and Leo DiCaprio. I remember going on a double date to see that movie. I feel so bad for my date back then. Because once the movie started, I gave zero attention to him and was so sucked in to the screen. I was so fascinated! When we left the theater and they wanted to go out, all I could think was “THIS is what I want to do with my life!” I just wanted to go home and figure out a way to make it happen. After that, I felt them same after every movie I went to.
Film Courage: What were your plans after high school?
Nina: At 17, I was a foreign exchange student in Idaho (I was just chosen by a family there, that’s how I ended up there. Was a great experience). I promised my parents I would finish German high-school as well before I will move back to the US and pursue my acting career. So I decided to apply at US colleges to get a degree in acting. That seemed like the first possible step to get my way into the industry. And I’m glad I did. I needed those years to just understand what “acting” really meant. I studied at Northern Illinois University and got by BFA there. Then I tried to decide between NYC and LA. My professor at the time introduced me to a manager in NYC and that made my decision. But I always knew my final goal was LA. It only took me 2 years in NYC to finally make it out to LA.
Film Courage: Biggest roller coaster of a day here in LA balancing life, acting and whatever else came your way?
Nina: Oh there are many! One f.e. was yesterday. I was shooting an episode of “AWKWARD” and was getting ready. Meanwhile I was evaluating my representation situation as I get an e-mail from my agent saying I have an audition THAT night in Santa Monica! At 6.30pm! For a feature film. Pretty much impossible with rush-hour. But I said, of course I’ll try to make it if they wrap me early on set. So I prepped for the audition on my way to set and in between takes. While I was in the make-up chair, I got a call about a voice over job and if I could come in TODAY for an interview. When it rains, it pours!! Of course I couldn’t, so they said we’d make a phone interview. So I was excited. But they ended up not calling me. Was a bit disappointing but I was ON SET! So that made up for it :) Plus I was heading to another audition, followed by class at the Anthony Meindl Studio where I study (and teach). That day I was wearing so many hats. In between i was answering emails of students about scenes they should work on. So it was a crazy day! I played a Mermaid, a German teacher and a dyslexic war criminal who had an affair with her student. I made it to all my appointments AND class. I ended the day having drinks with my friends and talking about our craft. I went to bed feeling like a very LUCKY LUCKY woman, having the chance to life her dream.
Film Courage: Are you acting in Marigold the Matador?
Nina: I am not acting in Marigold. I am not “latino” enough for a Kenneth Castillo movie ;) Until he decides to write for a German actress, I will most likely be working behind the scenes. But I am enjoying my role as a producer. I’ve been learning so much just focusing on that and not worrying about the acting part.
Film Courage: How did you and Kenneth communicate while not on set? Any tips to producers on working with directors and how to strengthen communication ?
Nina: Communication is EVERYTHING!!!!!!!! We e-mail, text, phone calls or meet up when more things need to be discussed. I would say, actually TALKING is the best and most efficient. Now a days we try to just quickly send a text or email and forget little details which end up being crucial. When you actually talk, you can clarify, ask questions and really get in the same page. Texting and emailing is fine for quick facts, numbers or addresses. But everything else, I think personal connection is still the most important part.
I’ve definitely told him a few times “Please communicate with me!” and I got strict with him.
Film Courage: What was your experience shooting a feature film in 7 days?
Nina: It certainly felt impossible! But spreading it out over non-consecutive days, helped plan each day very carefully. You do need to put a lot of focus into it so you don’t miss anything but you also build a different relationship to the project. It’s been almost a year since we started this journey and I feel more attached to it. Once it will be on the big screen it will be that much more of a success! It feels like we made the impossible possible.
Film Courage: You have extensive acting training — which class, program or school gave you the most unique and helpful skills?
Nina: My BFA program at Northern Illinois University definitely taught me discipline! That acting isn’t just a hobby but a craft and a skill and it takes a LOT of work to be excellent at it! And then the studio where I am at right now, the Anthony Meindl acting studio has definitely changed my work. It helped me trust myself, bring myself to the roles and really be present with my partner. That all the preparation will be fine but that the MOMENT is all that matters. That I am enough. Quite a magical place to study and work!
Film Courage: You were recognized working at a restaurant for your role as the German Au Pair on the show Mad Men? How did you deal with being in two worlds, entertainer/actor and working a side job?
Nina: It was very flattering! I was probably more exited then they were, that someone recognized me. I was so shy all of a sudden and didn’t even know what to say. It didn’t bother me back then. I eventually, a few years after, still working at a restaurant became a bit exhausting and I just wanted to be a working actress. Then I started teaching and I said to myself “I will figure it out!”, with teaching I can at least pay some of the basic bills and the rest will come somehow. I always thought I would leave the restaurant with a big gig, like a pilot, or a huge feature. but I just pulled the plug and thought “Leap and the Net Will Appear,” I will now be a working actress. And so far I am pulling it off. My mindset has changed. I look at my work much differently and have been attracting more work.
Film Courage: Favorite quote that gets you going in the morning?
Nina: I guess it’s the one mentioned above “Leap and the Net will appear.” It’s written on my chalk board above my desk.
And the other one I really like, hanging in my bathroom is “If you want to find your own path, you can’t ask others for directions.”
Nina Rausch is an artist who was born and raised in Stuttgart / Germany. At the early ages of 4, she set foot on stage for the very first time and over the years it included leading roles in shows such as ‘Pinoccio’, ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Macbeth’.
Besides acting, she explored other art forms as well and excelled in music with the piano and the clarinet. She loved visual arts and made architecture her major in the last 2 years of German high-school. After graduation, she relocated to the USA and enrolled at Northern Illinois University to receive her BFA in acting.