by Shani Weinmann
Interview with Carmelle Danneman about the movie she starred in, Operation: Candlelight.
How did you come to be in the movie? Was it through an arts program?
I have actually known Robin Garbose, orthodox filmmaker and director of Operation: Candlelight, for a few years now. I first met her while viewing A light for Greytowers at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. She told me I should come to her summer program, Kol Neshama, which is a Los Angeles based drama camp for girls to express their talents. That summer I went and had a great experience. This past year, after I found out they would be doing a feature film, I called Robin and asked if I could work as a counselor, and also be in the film. She agreed.
What was the story behind creating the concept for the movie?
Robin Garbose had previously directed the TV show America’s Most Wanted and wanted this movie to be in that similar genre of action adventure. After she found the main location of where she wanted to film, she settled on a story.
What sort of audition process did you have to go through?
The best advice my mom gave me about acting was to always dress the part. When I first read the script, I noticed that almost all of the characters were girls ages thirteen to fifteen, which makes sense because that is the biggest age group that the camp attracts. So, I decided that I would have to make myself look younger. I started wearing my hair up in a side pony, wearing colorful socks, no make-up, and different things that made me feel and look just a little younger. So when Robin finally asked me to audition for one of the main characters, I was thrilled. Just like all the campers, I had to read in front of the director and producer, and I got called back twice for the part of Riva Zaks, which ended up being the part I landed.
How long did it take to make the movie?
The actual filming only took about 3 and a half weeks, but there was a lot of other work to be done. For example there is the pre-production, which includes writing the script, casting the parts, finding the locations, hiring crew members, and the post-production, which includes all the editing.
What was the experience like for you to be in something more professionally done and to be able to work on something so different?
I literally did not ever want to leave the set. It was just so intriguing to watch even when I wasn’t in the scene. Just by being on set and observing, I learned more than I would in any acting class.
What was your favorite part of filming?
Probably, being able to watch everything come together. You know, when you read a script, you have your own vision of what is going on and what the scene looks like, but when you film each scene, you see it come to life in a totally different way from what you had envisioned.
What are you taking from this whole experience?
I would like to pursue my dream of becoming an actress, but compromising my beliefs is not an option. Having the opportunity to act professionally without compromising my faith was the most incredible opportunity for me. There is hope for orthodox Jews to use their talents. It isn’t black and white or an all or nothing decision. It taught me that if you want something to happen, you have to go out and make it happen, and it doesn’t matter how many people criticize you or tell you that you’ll never succeed. If you put your mind to it, you can achieve it.
What do you plan to do to further your acting career?
I plan to act in every opportunity that I can without compromising being observant. My love of film, although I love acting in any medium, will take me to get involved in as many films as possible and pursue a degree related to that. When I can’t find something without having to compromise my faith, I will make something myself. For example, I made a youtube video called Shdus Baalei Teshuva Say, and I’m also in the process of writing a screenplay. It’s important to realize to never give up. If an opportunity doesn’t come your way, go out and create it.