Qing Lou Nu wins BEST SHORT FILM award at DWIFF

Hello everyone.  I’m long overdue for an update!  Sorry it’s been awhile.  I have a lot of exciting news to share, though.

I’ll start off with discussing Salvation Boulevard.  They are currently in post-production.  My shooting date was actually in their second-to-last week.  I was mistaken when I thought my scene was with Pierce Brosnan.  I actually filmed with Ciaran Hinds, who was super nice to work with, along with the rest of the production.  I really enjoyed being directed by George Ratliff, and I recently watched his film Joshua.  It was very disturbing and dark, and I actually had nightmares as a result.  While I like watching scary movies at times, I often do have bad dreams after.  It wasn’t the typical blood and gore type scary movie, it was definitely more disturbing in a psychological way.  It’s about a boy who takes sibling rivalry to a new level and attempts to destroy his family in the process.  Definitely worth checking out.

Ciaran Hinds

Ciaran Hinds

On to Riddle.  Due to a scheduling conflict with Salvation Boulevard, I was unable to portray the role of Michelle.

Since I was Taft-Hartley’d on Red Dawn, after booking Riddle and Salvation Boulevard, I received a must-join letter from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and I’ve since joined!  I actually just attended my first SAG conservatory workshop, taught by my old friend Ben Ketai.

Cindy Chu

Cindy Chu with SAG card

Moving on, my short film Qing Lou Nu just screened this past weekend at the Detroit Windsor International Film Fest (DWIFF) and the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (PIFF).  We even got a mention in Daniela Vitola‘s culturemob blog!  I am pleased to announce that we took the Best Short Film Award at DWIFF.  Congratulations to my director, Bryan D. Hopkins!  He is currently working on creating a documentary about the oil spill, and you can check out more information on that project and donate to the project through the link, Dirty Energy Movie.

If you missed the screening at DWIFF, you can also check it out July 17, 2010, at 11AM during the GlassCityCon in Perrysburg, Ohio, very close to Toledo.  I will be conducting a screening of the film, followed by a half-hour Q&A about the film and the acting industry.  This will be my first official appearance at an anime convention as a guest.  It is a 2-day event taking place at Owens Community College and is free and open to the public.  My event will be limited to guests 18+ with ID.

Besides the screenings this weekend, I also filmed for a SAG new media project directed by John Monnich.  This was shot in affiliation with DWIFF, and will be released online when it is finished.  I’m not sure what details I can release about it, so I won’t say much besides that it will be funny, and I played a pissed off office employee.

And as always, I love to promote my friends and their projects, and I have the perfect gift for you today.  Check out the new hip hop songs by Thrill Train here.  Downloads are at the top of the page.  They just added a few new tracks.  Did I mention the downloads are FREE?  Add them to your club mixes, workout mixes, whatever, they’re great for breaking a sweat to.  You can also be their fan on Facebook.  And you can be a fan of my acting on Facebook as well. Thrill Train on FB.  Cindy Chu–Actress on FB.

April 23, 2010 Update

Greetings!

Lots of exciting things going on right now.

Here’s a quick summary:

1) I finally buckled and joined IMDb Pro, so that I could post headshots with my account.  My agent felt it was time.  I think he’s right.  Curt Howe, you rock!  And now I have a “Vanity URL”: http://www.imdb.me/cindychu

2) I just received my deal memo for Salvation Boulevard!!! Salvation Boulevard is based on the book by Larry Beinhart.   I’ll be shooting in late May, and actually this leads me to point 3!

3) I was also cast as Michelle in Riddle, which is reportedly starring Val Kilmer, and as of this posting, my shoot date for this is the day before my shoot date for SB.  Riddle is shooting in Pittsburgh, PA.

Val Kilmer

Val Kilmer

4) Yoshiko on the Dunes premiered last night at the Michigan Theater as part of the U of M‘s senior thesis films event!  It was shot on a Canon 5d Mark II, and ended up looking sooooo beautiful.  Congratulations, Micah Vanderhoof!  I played the part of Naoki, Yoshiko’s friend, and also helped voice Death.

5) Sucker is wrapping up, we’re on our last week of shooting, and I am so happy that I was able to work on it on the production side.  It was such a great experience and I think it’s going to be a huge success!  I met a lot of amazing people, like Lloyd Kaufman, who was in for a day last week.  Check out Bloody Disgusting’s article on the film!  Follow Lloyd Kaufman on Twitter!  And huge kudos to Big Screen Entertainment and Big Screen Michigan for bringing their movie-making magic to our wonderful state.  And here’s my little shoutout to the DPs, aka the Directors of Photography on Sucker.  The Deka brothers have amazing vision, and in fact, Julien Deka said the translation for director in French is réalisateur, and his translation of that into English was one who makes dreams reality.  Nice!  It’s also been wonderful to meet and work with Kimberley Kates, a lovely vision who is also one of the producers of Sucker and a head honchette at Big Screen.  Big Screen Entertainment will be releasing their new horror flick Babysitter Wanted on Blu-Ray and DVD in the USA on May 25, 2010.  Amazon is taking pre-orders now, click on Blu-Ray or DVD in the prior sentence to pre-order yours now.  Watch the trailer for it here.  You can also watch it on PPV or VOD!

Lloyd Kaufman

Lloyd Kaufman

The Deka Brothers--Ben and Julien

The Deka Brothers--Ben and Julien

Kimberley Kates

Kimberley Kates

Babysitter Wanted

Babysitter Wanted

6) My interview with Roborobb is up at last!  Listen to it here!  I’m not the best interviewee…don’t judge me!  Thank you Rob for the interview, I think you covered a lot of bases.  😀   You can follow Rob on Twitter!

Roborobb

Roborobb

7) This weekend, besides working on Sucker, I’ll be doing an (probably my last) extra role on the feature film JINN, playing an insane asylum inhabitant…all kinds of crazy, that’s right!

And I think that’s it for updates!

One last plug for friends, my buddies J-Thrill and D-Train of Thrill Train fame, have their song featured in a student film, “Camp Chapel”, and you can check it out on Youtube here, or just view it below:

Thrill Train

Thrill Train

As always, stay fabulous my lovelies!  Until next time!

~cindy

A-maize-ing March!

March was truly a blessed time for me!  Here are the big updates.

1) I was cast for a print ad for Brunswick, which I had to travel down to Chicago for.  A lot of fellow Michigan actors/actresses were cast as well, including my friend, My-Ishia.  We definitely held our own on the shoot, along with the Charlie’s Talent Agency talent from Chicago.  We had to do many different setups over two days in the Brunswick Zone XL in Algonquin, IL.

2) I auditioned for Salvation Boulevard through Pound-Mooney, and subsequently got a callback (with the director, George Ratliff) and then cast!  I am proud to announce that I will be playing Alisa, a grad student, in 2 scenes opposite the very wonderful and talented Pierce Brosnan! (JAMES BOND!!!!)  Also starring in this comedy thriller by Larry Beinhart are Ed Harris, Jim Gaffigan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, and Marisa Tomei.

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan

Ed Harris

Ed Harris

Greg Kinnear

Greg Kinnear

Jim Gaffigan

Jim Gaffigan

Jennifer Connelly

Jennifer Connelly

Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei

Director George Ratliff

Director George Ratliff

Author Larry Beinhart

Author Larry Beinhart

3) Voice acting is another field I’d like to add to my acting resume, and I have just received the chance to build on that dream.  I was cruising through Craigslist the other night and saw a posting for voice acting auditions for a CG-animated sci-fi feature called The Phoenix Armageddon.  I dropped by the audition, and the next day, got the call that they wanted me for one of the leads!  It’s a local, indie project, so there may not be pay involved, but I’d love to add it to my repertoire regardless.  We have our first cast meeting tonight!  I’ll be running over to Detroit for that in between being on set for…(leadup to #4)

4) I am the makeup/hair assistant to the lovely and talented Andrea Syron on the feature film Sucker, starring Michael Manasseri and Jordan Trovillion.  Today, we get to do some sfx makeup.  Or at least Andrea does, and I hope I get to help!  Puncture wounds!

Michael Manasseri

Michael Manasseri

Jordan Trovillion

Jordan Trovillion

In other news, Qing Lou Nu has been submitted to many festivals with the wonderful help of some very generous friends.  Now we just have to wait with fingers crossed…

Red Dawn‘s premiere is slated for Wednesday, November 24th, 2010, Thanksgiving Weekend!  Look for my giggle/scream scenes in that!

For more regular updates, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

Peace and love

Cindy

Post-DIFF followup

Hello again!

Good news, we took home two awards from DIFF, for the Michigan Film Awards.  My wonderful director, Bryan D. Hopkins, won for Best Director.  And Mark C. Davis, Jr. won for Best Cinematography!

I also got my hands on a PDF copy of The Tower, my old high school’s newspaper.  Thank you to Miss Carly Engel for the wonderful interview.  Here’s a jpeg of the article itself:

The Tower article

The Tower article

I’m also updating my headshots and here’s one  I just touched up last night, shot by the very talented photographer Darren Michaels.  He’s based out in LA, and I met him while he was the stills photographer on Whip It! If you’re interested in booking him for YOUR headshots, check out his information here.

Cindy Chu Headshot

Cindy Chu

And for your viewing pleasure, here is a music video my friends Josh and John shot for their new single, called “Naughty Body” by Thrill Train.  It’s kind of Mike Posner-meets-Lil’ Wayne or something like that.  🙂  All I can say is that it was fun having a cameo in the video and I think the song is infectious and fun, and I know they’re going to be a Youtube sensation.  So hop on the bandwagon and enjoy this video!

And for my last bit of news for this post…

It’s quite exciting!  I was approached by Brad Rowell of the Blue Water Film Festival after our screening of Qing Lou Nu at DIFF.  He was a fan of the film and wants us to screen at this year’s festival which will be in October, in Port Huron, Michigan.  So that is at least one more festival we’ll be screened at, yay!

And that’s it for now!

Stay classy,

Cindy

March 4, 2010 Updates

With the DIFF awards ceremony happening this Saturday night, we’ve been getting some press!

Here’s the article they posted on AnnArbor.com:

Detroit Independent Film Festival features the work of four University of Michigan grads this week

The inaugural Detroit Independent Film Festival — wherein indie filmmakers were invited to submit their work at no cost — kicks off on Tuesday, March 2 at the newBurton Theater, in the Chinatown/Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit.

More than 80 films will be showcased at DIFF, including the U.S. premiere of George A. Romero‘s “Survival of the Dead,” and the event will play host to the first-ever Michigan Film Awards.

With four University of Michigan graduates among the nominees, it’s possible that these Wolverines may get to take home some hardware.

U-M grad Cindy Chu is nominated for an MFA best actress award for the short “Qing Lou Nu,” which will be screened March 6; U-M grad and writer/director Lance Kawaswill have his film “Street Boss” (about a real Detroit mobster who was brought down by the FBI) screened on March 4 at 3:30 p.m., and Kawas has earned MFA nominations in the categories of best Michigan feature and best director; and U-M grads Wad’ih Arraf and Stephen Day‘s absurdist, MFA-nominated short “Forth, William” will screen on March 6.

To learn more about this week’s festival, and see a detailed schedule, visitwww.detroitindiefest.com.

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for AnnArbor.com. Reach her atjennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

There was also a mention of Qing Lou Nu and Bryan D. Hopkins in today’s Detroit Free Press:

Detroit’s Burton Theatre launches indie film fest

Romero’s ‘Survival of the Dead’ among the premieres

BY JOHN MONAGHAN
FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER

The Burton Theatre, which opened late last year in the auditorium of Detroit’s old Burton Elementary School, continues its ambitious mission this week by throwing the first Detroit Independent Film Festival. The event, which began Tuesday, continues through Sunday with a lineup of offbeat local films and the premiere of George A. Romero’s “Survival of the Dead.”

“We wanted something that would foster the creative impetus in Detroit and in Michigan,” says festival programmer Nate Faustyn. “We wanted a festival that was really filmmaker-friendly.”

More than 70 short and feature-length films will play over the weekend, among them Bryan D. Hopkins‘ “Qing Lou Nu,” Robert Joseph Butler’s “Solitude” and “Another Day, Another Dime” from former Detroiter Kathy Kolla.

For many fans, the big ticket will be “Survival of the Dead,” the latest in a long series of Romero horror films that began with “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968. The new entry finds warring families on an island battling each other and a zombie epidemic. Though the movie isn’t directly related to 2007’s “Diary of the Dead,” it shares some of the same characters.

Acquiring “Survival” was a coup for the local festival, as the film has been seen only in Toronto, Venice, Italy, and Austin, Texas. Romero says a limited theatrical release is expected this spring.

“I really didn’t know what to make this one about,” the revered cult director, 70, said during a recent phone interview. “So I went back to the theme of that enmity that won’t die, people that hold onto these grudges even in the face of disaster.”

Romero, who had his dance with Hollywood in the 1980s, prefers to keep his movies far away from studio control — and meddling. “No, they can’t compete against ‘Avatar,’ ” he said, “but I have a loyal fan base. The films do extremely well on video.”

The DIFF runs through Sunday at the Burton Theatre, 3420 Cass, Detroit. 313-473-9238 or detroitindiefest.com. $10 for “Survival of the Dead,” $5 for other screenings.

Russian-made ‘Sun’ shines at DFT: “The Sun” (***), playing this weekend at the Detroit Film Theatre, examines the surrender of Japanese Emperor Hirohito to Allied occupiers near the end of World War II. The new movie from Russian director Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark”) boasts a haunting performance by Issey Ogata as a man hailed as a deity who must now walk among mortals. He appears to have lots of mumbling conversations with himself in the film — something that may lead viewers to think the sound is skewed. 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (also 4:30 p.m. March 14).

Then, as part of the ongoing DFT Docs series, Michel Orion Scott’s “The Horse Boy” follows a Texas family on a journey to Outer Mongolia to find a cure for an autistic child. It screens at 4 p.m. Saturday. DFT at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward, Detroit. 313-833-4005 or dia.org/dft. $7.50, $6.50 students, seniors.

Oscar party at Dino’s in Ferndale: They’re calling it the Foscars, or “fun Oscars.” So says Greg Russell from “Movie Show Plus” on WMYD-TV (My TV 20), host of Sunday night’s Academy Awards Party at Dino’s Lounge in Ferndale. The free event, beginning at 7 p.m. and running through the end of the show, will feature a limo parked out front, red carpet, champagne, snacks and prizes.

During the commercials, contestants in a Micro Mini Challenge will screen their short films as a prelude to this fall’s Ferndale Film Festival. 22740 Woodward, Ferndale, 248-591-3466. Film fest info: 248-534-5354 or ferndalefilmfestival.org.

Redford bets on ‘Day at the Races’: Among the Marx Brothers’ most entertaining vehicles is 1937’s “A Day at the Races” (***), which finds the comic trio saving a sanitarium while playing the ponies at the racetrack next door. 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser (at Grand River), Detroit. 313-537-2560 or www.redfordtheatre.com. $4.

Hitchcock rarities play Penn: 1956’s “The Wrong Man” (***), starring Henry Fonda as a jazz musician wrongly accused of robbery, is tonight’s offering in a new Penn Theatre series of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers. The 7 p.m. Thursday series will focus on rarely seen Hitchcock works, all screening in 35mm prints. The other titles: “Suspicion” (March 11), “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (March 18) and “Rope” (March 25). 760 Penniman, Plymouth. 734-453-0870 or www.penntheatre.com. $3.

Contact freelance writer JOHN MONAGHAN: madjohn@earthlink.net

With so much interest in the film festival and my rising career as an actress, I also gave a few interviews in the past couple of weeks.  One was with my old high school, Grosse Pointe South.  The other two were with Seaholm High School and lastly, my friend Roborobb.  When I have access to the articles/interviews, I will post them here.

The newest episode of The Midnight Hour also premieres tonight at midnight, and every Saturday (10:30PM) and Thursday (midnight) for the rest of the month in the Troy, MI broadcast area.  More below:

Comcast 52 & WOW! 18:

March 4, 11, 18, 25 (midnight)

March 6, 13, 20, 27 (10:30pm)

A drunken, murderous circus clown (Jamie Wheatley) gets a new lease on life as a travelling nightclub hypnotist. His sensuous assistant, Wan (Cindy Chu) begins to suspect a connection between his bizarre stage act and a series of brutal homicides in the towns in which he plays. John Tynan, Jr., Curtis Lee Vest, Angela Roberts, Jonathan West, Carol McClure, Michael J. Vanderpool, Dave Dork (30 min.)

Those are all my updates for now.  I hope some of you can make the awards ceremony!  In case you need the info for that again:

Tickets may now be purchased online:
http://www.burtontheatre.com/diff1/

Come see Qing Lou Nu screen at the first annual Detroit Independent Film Festival Awards Ceremony! Description of the awards ceremony follows below.

7 :30 PM – 2010 Michigan Film Awards Best Short Nominations/Award Ceremony @ Deroy Auditorium 5203 Cass Ave, Detroit MI 48202

Qing Lou Nu (2009, USA, Bryan D. Hopkins)
Walls collapse with tragic consequences when a Chinese prostitute hears the words, “I love you.” Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Qing Lou Nu” is an edgy reinvention of the timeless classic that explores the collision of east and west.

Running Time 25 Mins

**7 Michigan Film Award Nominations including Best Narrative Short, Best Editing and Best Director Bryan D. Hopkins, Best Actress-Cindy Chu, Best Actor-Axel Harney, Best Cinematography-Mark C. Davis Jr., Best Supporting Actor-David G.B. Brown

Ciao!

~c

UPDATE on March 5, 2010

We got some more press in The News Herald!  Read the article below.

East meets West: Banker-turned-filmmaker finds niche with indie film

Published: Friday, March 05, 2010

Cindy Chu pictured in incense scene from Qing Lou Nu

Click to enlarge

By Andrea Blum

Bryan Hopkins, 34, says he’s done enough living for 100 lifetimes, and now wants to use those experiences to tell stories to make people think and feel in different ways.

The Riverview resident abandoned corporate life as a mortgage banker at Quicken Loans to find his niche as an independent film director.

“The same mortgage crisis that hit everybody hit me,” he said.

After becoming unemployed, he decided to pursue one of his passions.

“I was working to get paid and trying to have fun on my off hours,” he said. “I decided that philosophy wasn’t working.”

He cashed in his savings and enrolled at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan.

“I found that I was a perfect fit for it, and I fell in love with it,” he said.

“Now I’m trying to claw my way up and make up for 30 years I spent doing other stuff.”

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Hopkins was drawn to music and photography at a young age, but set his creative tendencies aside to serve as a parachute medic in the 82nd Airborne Division.

At Kent State University, he discovered a passion for world culture that led to a three-year trip around the world.

During that time, he studied religion, culture and international politics primarily in Asia.

“I got my degree in comparative religious studies,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in philosophy and religion.”

He met his wife in Taiwan and spent a year as an English coordinator for the Taiwanese military.

And it’s those experiences among others that Hopkins uses to inspire his creativity.

“Being a filmmaker allows me to take my business background and unique experiences and culminate them into one artistic expression,” he said.

“It’s the perfect blend of philosophy, art and corporate expression.”

One of his latest efforts, “Qing Lou Nu (The Prostitute),” is nominated in seven categories at this weekend’s first Detroit Independent Film Festival.

The DIFF was started by indie filmmakers for indie filmmakers.

The free five-night festival held at the Burton Film Theatre in Detroit will showcase short films from Michigan and around the world.

Hopkins’ 25-minute film is an edgy reinvention of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart,” with a twist that explores the collision of East and West.

His first non-student film, the idea sprang from his membership in a director’s club at MPI.

“We were going to do a version of Poe’s story and I had spent a lot of time in Asia so the director of MPI asked what I thought about going Asian with it,” he said.

Hopkins said the story fell in line perfectly with his storytelling method.

“I write dark stuff,” he said. “I’ve been through more downs than ups in life. I relate to a funeral more than I can relate to a wedding.”

The stylistic bilingual picture explores the life of an Asian prostitute trapped in a contradictory world of passion and obligations, and the stunning climax when a naïve, unsuspecting client confesses his love for her.

“I started seeing certain images in my head,” he said. “The incense ritual at the beginning of the film and mixing between something so sacred with something that a lot of people see as dirty.”

When it came time to cast the film, Hopkins said it was quite a challenge to find a willing actress to take the lead.

“I put Craigslist ads out and tried to find people everywhere, and no one would take the role,” he said.

The sexual nature of the movie prevented many Asian actresses from agreeing to take part, according to Hopkins, because overt sexuality is taboo in Asian culture.

In the end, local actress Cindy Chu was the last person seen for the role only a month before shooting began, Hopkins said, and she gave an amazing performance.

The film, made on a $1,000 budget, is nominated for Best Narrative Short, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography and Best Editing at the DIFF.

It also earned the “Audience Choice Award” at the Mitten Movie Project in October.

“The response has been great,” he said. I’m so glad that people get it.”

Hopkins, along with a cast and crew of 32 people, spent roughly a month filming in Troy and Royal Oak. The work was completed last summer.

“I’m trying to really explore a different side of things,” he said. “It’s not a love story, but I love the idea of playing with people’s definitions of things.”

For him, the greatest aspect of filmmaking is causing someone to walk away with a changed view of the world.

“It’s one of the most challenging times in Michigan’s history,” he said, “but if someone could watch this film and see that with this darkness there’s also a lot of powerful experiences and great art that can come from it, then that’s great.”

“Qing Lou Nu” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Burton Theatre.

Also on the bill is “The Tank,” a short film by written by Wyandotte Police Det. Scott Galeski and directed by Joe Johnston.

Filmed at the former Wyandotte Police Department, the movie chronicles the interaction among five men in the holding cell known as “the tank,” as they await arraignment.

“The Tank” will show at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

For a full schedule of films showing at the festival, visit www.detroitindiefest.com.

Year of the Tiger!

2010 is off to a roaring start.

I starred in another episode of Lee Martin’s The Midnight Hour, “Mesmerized”, which will air in March.  I played the part of Wan, a down-on-her-luck hypnotist’s assistant, who may have dark secrets of her own.  Check it out on Comcast 52 or WOW! 18 in the Greater Detroit Comcast area.

I finally started attending acting classes again at Michigan Actors Studio under the tutelage of Rich Goteri and Rachel Bellack.  I’ve had some auditions, and landed a role in a local web series called The Roomers.  I’m also wrapping up my role in the University of Michigan student film Yoshiko on the Dunes, the senior thesis project of film student Micah Vanderhoof.  Some clips for The Midnight Hour and Yoshiko on the Dunes are below.

The clip for The Roomers is not up on Youtube as of now, but you can watch it by clicking here.

I’m extremely excited about the upcoming Detroit Independent Film Festival (DIFF), a new festival put together by my friend Rob Butler.  I’m honored to be one of the nominees for Best Actress.  The schedule for the festival is here.  The festival is going to be an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to attend the awards ceremony.  The best short film nominees will be screened during the ceremony.  Some exciting news surrounding the festival is that George Romero will be having his US premiere of Survival of the Dead at the DIFF.

The official flyer for Qing Lou Nu:

Cindy Chu in the Qing Lou Nu Flyer

Official Flyer for Qing Lou Nu (starring Cindy Chu and Axel Harney)

I hope to see you all there at the DIFF awards ceremony on March 6, 2010.

Best,

Cindy

It’s All About the Rs and Ds!

Hello all, hope you had a great Thanksgiving! I sure did. It was lovely spending time with my family, although my sister-in-law and sister were both gone abroad this year.

Anyway, I’ve got a few exciting updates for you.

1) We had another mini-screening for QLN at the December Mitten Movie Project, organized by Connie Mangilin and Jeff White. QLN was shown with many other wonderful Michigan-made shorts, all audience choice winners from previous months, and I got to see some amazing pieces with my friend Grace Anne Rowan starring. The only award given out that night that I know of was for best short film, and that went to Chuck Grady’s The Point. Congratulations! It will air on Comcast’s Channel 52 Wow in the Troy area of Michigan for the next month.

2) My friend, Treasure Groh, a brilliant writer for Real Detroit, had decided to start a new series with her editor about, you guessed it, the film industry in Michigan!

Front page of Real Detroit--Cindy Chu

Front page of Real Detroit--Cindy Chu

Knowing that I’m an aspiring actress, she interviewed me for the first piece. You can read it here, and if that’s stopped working, here’s the text of it:

Michigan’s Film Industry
By Treasure Groh
Dec 1, 2009, 12:55

Michigan’s Film Industry
A 101 Guide To Getting Started

Michigan may be the last place anyone expected to go Hollywood, but we have (minus the pretense). Now, studios, film classes and acting workshops are sprouting up all over metro-Detroit for people hoping to land film gigs. This ongoing series is designed to help you break into the business. We will examine the classes, the news, the politics, the tax incentive controversy and the films slated to be made right here in Michigan … and maybe, just maybe, help you get a job in the field.

Let’s start with the basics. Jobs are coming, slowly. The chances of nailing a big movie role by being discovered at a café are slim (even if you do nail the producer). You need to start with bit roles — roles as an extra.

But if your talent isn’t as “talent,” there are schools to help you gain knowledge as a grip or colorist — but we’ll tackle that topic in another issue.

What’s the cause of the newfound film enterprise of opportunity in our own backyards? It may be that 42 percent tax incentive that Governor Granholm granted the film institutions for producing product here (money is always the bottom line in Hollywood). Still, the very things that Detroit society has come to hate have also lured filmmakers in: burnt out and abandoned buildings with glorious architecture.

With so many movies being filmed here — some of which have included Whip It, Gran Torino and the HBO original TV series Hung — how does one break into this newly adapted form of employment? There are many different avenues to take, from Craigslist ads to agencies and everything in between. So if you find yourself itching to take a crack at the newly bustling Michigan film industry, read on.

Where to Start
If you haven’t had any previous acting or production experience, it’s best that you get out there and flash those pearly whites. And if they ain’t white, get them lasered. We’re serious. Get yourself out there and keep your name and image relevant. School productions aside, there’s an unending supply of acting seminars and workshops geared to meet your specific needs.

You can think unconventionally or follow the lead of others like you: “I took a one day seminar with Steve Blackwood (he was on Days of Our Lives) and an audition seminar with Marnie Saitta, who is the casting director with Days of Our Lives,” says Cindy Chu, an aspiring actress.

This seminar was brought to the public by the Michigan Actors Studio (michiganactorsstudio.com), which plays a big part in providing workshops to aspiring, as well as seasoned, actors. Though the seminars are not free, keep in mind that they often run weeks at a time, giving you more experience for a cheaper price than, say, Juilliard would.

While Chu admits that not all seminars are created equal, you should do what you can with what you have. Remember to check the site often, as classes are bound to fill up quickly.

Earning Your Chops
Now that you’ve learned a thing or two about the business, you’re ready for some roles, right? Wrong. Before you bother a casting director with your whimsical dreams of stardom, it’s best to get a few headshots. At this point, portfolios aren’t necessary because you don’t have any experience (yet). But once you have that pretty little card with your face on it, you can finally start looking for casting calls.

It can be a daunting task searching through all the pages that Craigslist has to offer, but it’s not in vain. “Any time it says ‘extras wanted’ or ‘actresses wanted’ and then it’ll talk about the Internet and partial nudity, I never pursue any of those,” Chu says with a laugh. The Michigan Film Office (michiganfilmoffice.org) is another great resource when looking for jobs, workshops, college class listings and other news about productions coming this way.

Though it shows drive and ambition to find your own jobs, you may also opt for an extras casting site. “You go in and give them your stats, so whenever a film is coming in and they’re looking for extras they’ll look and see if you fit the descriptions for background work and stuff,” Chu advises.

A good extras casting site is Real Style (realstyleonline.com). For a small, one-time $15 fee, Real Style will hook you up with a profile — you’ll go in and take a picture; and they’ll keep you in their database when casting directors are on the prowl for fresh talent.

Another road you may take is a talent agency. When you have enough material for your reel, you can start submitting to such agencies in the hopes of being signed and getting an agent. Doubly exciting, being signed to an agency means that you are good enough to have an agent and you’ll also get help from said agent in booking auditions.

Don’t just take the high road and expect to be cast in a movie right away. Take some time and scour local theaters for stage productions as well. “If someone wants to get into it I would say audition for your local theater groups and participate in Student films,” says Chu.

Working on a student film, as Chu did for the film Qing Lou Nu, may be tricky, but the experience will pay off in the end. As for stage productions, even if you don’t get the part don’t get discouraged — you now have an audition under your belt and may be better able to spot your strengths and weaknesses.

If you find that booking films is a little harder than anticipated, try another avenue. Working on a local crew does wonders for your networking capabilities and allows you to work closely with the people of production so that they will better recognize your face the next time they’re in need.

“When you work with someone and have good chemistry with them on the set and you’re a team player, they’ll definitely remember that in the future and wanna help you out,” says Chu, who was a wardrobe intern for the film Whip It.

Where to Go From Here
After you’ve soaked up all the skills needed to begin a career in film, it’s important to realize that you won’t always get paid. While Chu states that you should get paid, she admits that, oftentimes, it does not happen.

“A lot of people are upset because some of the films haven’t followed through but have asked for free extras or say that they’ll do a raffle for a prize and then they don’t end up dong the raffle,” Chu says. If you’re booked through a site such as Real Style, you will get paid for all of the work you do. If you approach a project on your own, be prepared for the unfortunate situation of potentially leaving with empty pockets.

From here, continue to use the knowledge and experience you’ve acquired. Even if you’re not working, take seminars and workshops during your dry spell so you don’t get rusty. Take advantage of every opportunity the blossoming Michigan film industry is offering you. Continue to hone your craft and be the best among your peers.

Who knows … some day you might just find yourself acting in an airport with George Clooney.  | RDW

And the best update of all for the year, I think:

3) Last Thursday I received a call from Pound & Mooney Casting about a gig with Red Dawn, directed by Dan Bradley. They needed a Chinese female actress for an extra role with a “99.9% chance of being upgraded”. I immediately said I would do it, at which Cathy Mooney told me that the extras casting from the film would be in contact with me about going in for a fitting. I ended up getting a phone call from Ryan Hill, the head of the RD extras department, and we made an appointment for me to go in to their production offices that evening for a fitting and to sign some initial paperwork. Later on, I got my call time for the next day. Friday morning, Janet Pound called me to tell me she had seen my short film at the Mitten Movie Project and loved it, so when the call went out for this potential role, she made sure I was resubmitted from my earlier audition with them for the part of “Checkpoint Soldier”. That felt great, to know that the one huge role I’ve had so far was quite instrumental in this turnaround of events. I had given up hope of ever being in Red Dawn after hearing they were almost wrapped and there hadn’t been many roles for Asian women in it. Well, eventually on Friday, I was called to set with my co-star, Dwight Sora, an Asian actor from Chicago, and I figured I was at best a featured extra. I don’t want to say what I did in the scene here, since I don’t know how much I’m allowed to elaborate, but when we wrapped that night, I was told I’d probably be needed back Monday and they would let us know. Sunday I got notice that I probably wouldn’t be needed but they wanted me on hold in case things changed. Monday, I got a call saying I’d been upgraded to a supporting role and would have to fill out some contracts when I went back to set. Tuesday I was on hold again. Finally, Wednesday, I went back for my second scene, and was excited to see that there was a trailer on the honeywagon with my name on it! It was shared, but still! My first trailer! And inside my trailer, my paperwork awaited. I signed my first Taft-Hartley, and I believe that it means I’m now SAG-eligible. Yay! It was a great day on set, lots of “fire in the hole”, tons of action, and it was much warmer in the buildings than it had been on Friday. My first SAG feature film role…and in the biggest action flick shot of the year, I do believe!

Cindy Chu & Red Dawn trailer

Cindy Chu and Red Dawn trailer

All in all, 2009 has been a great year for me, and I think I’ve made some very satisfactory progress in my goal of becoming a professional actress/ film professional. Not bad for under a year and a half of actually actively pursuing this career. This last role has afforded me the financial capability to take some classes in 2010, and that will include a film acting class, and perhaps also some sort of martial arts course. After speaking with one of the professional stunt men on Red Dawn, I think it only makes sense to at least learn the basics, being a Chinese-American actress and all. At best, it will be the deciding factor in me getting some role over another actress, and it’s a great skill to have in terms of self-defense and also my constant pursuit of learning new things.

Currently, I am also doing the P90X workout program. I’m just starting week 2 and already feel some physical changes inside. I feel that I’ve been making better choices in my diet, and like I have more energy. The first week, though, wow! I was sore every day! The workouts can be pretty challenging, but I’ve already improved my endurance and coordination in the past 9 days, and can’t wait to see what kind of changes it’ll bring for me physically. I’d like to drop a size by my birthday in February! For the most part, though, I just want to know that I’m well-conditioned, and to be healthier and have better stamina overall. No hibernating for me this winter, I’ve got roles to land and a lot of work ahead of me.

I look forward to 2010 with nothing but hope.

Thank you for reading,

Cindy