A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to connect with Actress, Producer, Director, and CEO of Outlook Productions, Deanna Rashell. Born in Northern California and started her career in the entertainment world while living in New Orleans, Louisiana. Deanna relocated to Los Angeles for a few years and is now residing in Atlanta, GA.
Deanna takes us on her journey from how she started, to where she is today.
I am an Actor, Director, Writer, Editor, Producer. I also work as a DP, create props and design sets. Finding others with these skills to join my team allows us to create a lot of content together because doing things alone is hard when you are a one-woman band!
- Deanna Rashell
Deanna began working in the film and tv industry later than most people. “I always wanted to act but was shy. I saw a CraigsList Ad where production was casting for a role, so I decided to try acting. I had a professional picture, but it was not an actors headshot. I had no idea what I was doing, but went to the audition anyways and booked the role! While filming, I thought, ‘wow, this is cool. I like this! After that film, I began acting more, and it’s been a wild ride since! I have had success, failures, no’s, and rejections. But, I don’t pay attention to that. I audition for roles and then forget about them. It’s easier to not stew over an audition when auditions are taped, as opposed to going in for a live audition. After an audition, it can sometimes take a few hours or days to forget that you didn’t do well or didn’t book the role.
I started doing a lot of free and paid work to get experience. I booked some feature films, short films, and non-union network tv shows. I moved to Los Angeles part-time, began training, and flew back and forth to my home in New Orleans. Eventually, I had to quit my side hustle as a Speaker on the Auto Show circuit for Chevrolet. I was traveling all over the country, which was great because I was essentially performing and gaining experience. However, I missed callbacks and auditions. So, I had to give it up. Once I moved from the Auto Shows, I booked a guest star role on NCIS New Orleans. Before that, I played Scott Bakula’s wife and Shirley MacLaine’s daughter-in-law in a film called Elsa & Fred, a family movie with a beautiful story. Elsa & Fred had a theatrical release. But it hasn’t gone as far as it should have. I’m not sure what happened with that because there were a lot of stars in that film & it was a solid story.
I later started to create my own content and began booking more roles. During the last two years, I booked a co-lead in a SAG feature film in California and didn’t have to audition for this role! As an actor, direct bookings are a relief. I also auditioned and booked a supporting lead in a feature film in North Carolina. In addition I wrote and directed another film for the 48-Hour Film Project in Atlanta. We were nominated in four different categories. Our film won two awards, one was the Audience Choice Award, and I won Best Actress, making this the 2nd time I took home a Best Actress award for a 48-Hour Film Project.
Atlanta Film and TV: Did your parents recognize your love of the arts as a child, and if so how did they nourish your gift to facilitate growth?
Deanna Rashell: My parents were divorced before I was one, and in my household, it was my mom and stepdad. My mom gave me all the basics I needed. We did not talk about my goals much. When I was 11, I tried modeling by taking pictures and sending them to magazines. Nothing ever came of it because I had no idea what I was doing! I participated in performing arts, was a cheerleader, and was on the dance squad. I loved doing that because I could get out there with the music, practice with the team, and perform the dances in front of live audiences. While in school, I was trying to be a cool kid and thought the theater kids were nerds, but in hindsight, I have often thought, “ I wish I would have been one of the nerdy kids. They were smarter! The nerdy kids were the kids who were ahead of the game. I played soccer for five years and was on the swim team. I grew up with four brothers. I owned a Yamaha dirt bike. I was a Tomboy until I was fifteen, and it took me a while to figure out how to do my hair and make-up to look like a girl!
I started acting later in life. My parents did not take an interest until I started to book a few films. To this day, my dad does not know about anything I do. He is not on social media and has never seen the films i've been in nor does he ask about them. Ideally, parents should support their kid's dreams as much as possible. If your kid says they want to act or model, it is up to the parents to make it happen. Kids get distracted by different things and don’t have a car to get to tryouts or auditions. So they cannot succeed without their parent's help. I think it's great for kids to go to improv or basic acting training, even if they do not want to be an actor. I know my skills help me, and I can do so many other things because I know how to work a camera and perform on stage or in front of a camera. Taking acting classes can help kids in life. After all, when they go on an interview, they won’t be nervous because they will be used to being on camera or in a room full of people judging them.
Deanna shares the importance of being multifaceted in the film and tv industry. She says that, only about one percent of actors go straight to the top fast. If you start acting when you’re younger, you don’t have to worry about creating your content because you have a long runway to figure things out. However, being multifaceted is good because it keeps you going, keeps morale up, and allows you to create. If you’re an actor, and you’re like, ‘well. I’ve got ten auditions and didn’t book anything, and I’m not doing anything between my auditions. So, if you’re not booking, create a web series for about three minutes for each episode. That way, you’re acting, creating, and working on both sides of the camera. You’ll also get an idea of what casting and the director goes through. You’ll learn set design and lighting. It will be good for you because when you are on a professional set, you won’t be in shock when you see the larger cameras and equipment. Being multifaceted also makes you a better actor because you understand what’s happening around you and the importance of following the direction of a director. Lastly, it makes you feel like you’re more at cause. As actors, you can feel the effect and say, ‘ casting hasn’t called me. My agent hasn’t gotten me an audition, or I didn’t book a role. There are lots of factors that go into booking gigs. You might have been the best actor, but you might not have booked the part! There are a lot of times you could be in the top three, but casting could have chosen someone who looks completely different than you.
Deanna Rashell: In L.A., there are a lot of people. Finding a crew to work on low/no budgets is easier than in Atlanta. Though Atlanta has some talented people, those in L.A. are passionate, motivated and see the bigger picture because they are constantly surrounded by the industry . Atlanta does have a good amount of studios, and in the South people seem to be okay with projects that are okay. Not getting the best sound possible can really put you in a category you don’t want to be in as a filmmaker. Bad lighting, no set design or minimal set design, or not enough coverage is not good either. But sound is unforgivable and is the area new filmmakers struggle with. In my opinion new filmmakers should not cut corners on the sound because it is expensive to “fix it in post.” It's easier to get it right on set. Whereas in L.A., I felt as though the game was higher, many seem to focus on competing with the top creators and producing projects that are just as good as the big guys. There's a lot of great talent in L.A. When I was there, most auditions are/were in-person. There are also a lot of networking opportunities, and there's always something happening in the industry where you can go and meet people.
Honestly, Atlanta is better and I love the south because I love the people, the culture, and we are more communicative. But, in L.A. I didn’t always fit in, because I like to chat with people, be sociable. When I walked past a stranger on the street, I would always say ‘hi!’ but people would look at me like I was crazy. I’m from New Orleans, and we say ‘hi’ to each other! In L.A. there's a lot of pretentiousness to wade through. But if you can spot it and keep it out of your way, it can be a lot of fun because there’s a lot of opportunity, content, red carpet, and networking events.
Atlanta Film and TV: What would be a few relocation tips for someone looking to relocate to Atlanta?
Deanna Rashell: I live north of the perimeter because it’s peaceful and has that small-town feel. I prefer the suburbs over city living because I like space.
However, it doesn’t matter where you live, because now most things are taped. If there’s a networking event, be willing to drive 30-60 min because attending will allow you to meet people, which is how you will make connections in the industry.
Atlanta Film and TV: What inspired you to create your first film after attending an artists convention?
Deanna Rashell: I wanted to write myself into characters that I wanted to play, And I wanted to join SAG. I found a book at the Samuel French Store in Hollywood that all the actors went to back in the day. I bought a book titled “How To Start Your Own Sag Production” I read the book from cover to cover. Eventually, I wrote a fun comedy Web Series called New Orleans Pie, where older women go back to college, and everything goes wrong. I created this series under a SAG Signatory and was able to Taft Hartley myself and several others into SAG, which later SAG got wise to because they didn’t like that it was easy. Back then, it wasn’t required for you to have insurance to run a “SAG New Media” project, and the restrictions were much less.
After making that film, the cast and crew asked when I would make another because they had a lot of fun and did not want me to stop. I was not planning to make another episode, but people involved said, ‘no.’ You have to make part two and three, and we did it! I did not know about storyboards or camera shots. But, knew how to write. I had ideas, and knew how to be an actor. I also had a big house where we could shoot and a friend I met on another set in New Orleans who I emailed him asking if he wanted to shoot my film, and he showed up with his equipment and completed storyboards ready to roll.
When you first start creating content, you will stumble. But, keep going because there will always be problems. You usually will not get enough coverage because you don’t understand it yet. Your audio will likely be bad but, once you start learning, you will get better and get more technically correct each time.
Click below to watch our conversation.
Atlanta Film and TV: You recently participated in the 48-Hour FilmProject. Can you talk about your experience, and would you recommend aspiring filmmakers to participate?
Deanna Rashell: The 48-Hour Film Project is great for all filmmakers and talent. There are people of all levels, including professional filmmakers participating because it’s a challenge and those who are brand new, and at the end you’ll have a finished film. Once you complete your film, you can go back in -post and polish it up because it most likely won’t be perfect within 48 hours. It is, however, a great opportunity for new filmmakers because no one is allowed to pay anyone. You can use SAG actors and not have to jump through hoops. You will need to feed people, pay your entry fee and at the end, your film will be screened in a theater, and sometimes a red carpet event too. It’s fun! You meet a lot of people. To me, that is worth it alone. But, I will say, it’s a lot of work because you’re constantly under a lot of pressure, and as the creator you have a whole team relying on you to produce a good product they can be proud of.
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you share about your production company, Outlook Productions?
Deanna Rashell: I do a lot of things within my production company. I’ve done a lot of business videos from start to finish. I create short films, and recently we did a 55 minute science fiction pilot. We basically do everything, which includes gathering a crew, to editing. So taking a project from start to finish.
Deanna shares about what inspires her to create.
When out in life, I come up with story ideas. I think, ‘ooh! That would make a good film!’ I have to write everything down because I’ll forget. If I have random film ideas, some get made, and some don’t. Usually, I will create stories that make people laugh because life can be stressful. I want to take people out of their lives and send them into another world for at least five minutes. I haven’t created a drama in a while, and after the pandemic, I enjoyed making comedies. When creating certain types of drama, everyone isn’t necessarily having fun on set. However, comedies are easier to shoot, and you don’t have to have as many action shots. We can have smaller crews and keep the budget lower. Everyone also has high energy, has fun, and people work harder on comedies. I enjoy creating, putting out content, and challenging myself to do things that make me uncomfortable. I also love writing characters and scenes for myself that I think would be fun to play!
- Deanna Rashell
Atlanta Film and TV: If I were to meet 18 year old Deanna, and told her about all the wonderful things she would become, what would you least likely believe to be true?
Deanna Rashell: When I was 18, I partied a lot, and if you told me I’d be an actor, I would not have believed you. However, I would’ve believed the success part because I was trying to find my way. I knew anything was possible, and I believed in myself. At 18 I was pretty nervous and shy, and would not have believed you if you told me I'd have speaking roles on national TV.
What is a piece of advice for a high school graduate, looking to pursue a career in film and tv?
Deanna Rashell: If you’re looking to pursue a career in film and tv, be sure to get involved in your theater program at your high school first. If you have an overly critical teacher who makes you feel bad or like you’re no good, get out of that class, you don’t need it. Find people who inspire you to grow and who focus on the things you are doing right, not all of the things you are doing wrong. Getting slammed for all of your mistakes is not going to do you any favors, it could actually hurt you unless you’re good at ignoring their negative critiques. But, if you don’t have a high school theater program, ask your parents to find a good one where you can be in a theater and get real experience.
Atlanta Film and TV: Do you have any G.E.M.S. you’d like to share with us?
Deanna Rashell: From an acting standpoint, don’t give up! If you really want it, continuously try to become a better actor and don't be too hard on yourself. Acting is an art, and there will always be room for improvement. A big piece of advice for an actor is, do not try to do what you think they want you to do, because they want YOU to bring something unique, most times they don’t really know exactly what they want, so have fun. One casting director may love it, another may hate it and one casting director may think its just okay, they are humans too and they will each have a different opinion. A coach or casting director can give you their opinion, but it's their opinion and it may be very different from how the Director or Producer sees your performance. What if the director has a different opinion, and you just tried to manipulate your art to fit the casting director or your acting teachers' way they thought it should be done? But, the director thought, ‘well, that’s stupid. I would’ve done it this way!’ So, create your art the way you think it should be created. As actors, learn how to read a script, understand it, break it down, get all the nuances, and do the performance you want and you feel is right, because at the end of the day, that is what they are looking for!
How can people connect with you?
The best thing to do is to go to my website at www.deannarashell.com. Once you’re on my website, you will have links to all my social media. I, however, don’t do a lot of messages on social media, but sending an email directly is the best way to reach me. You can do a “Contact Me” form on my website, or I always respond to comments on my social posts.