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A conversation with: Columbia College Chicago student and actress Melaina Laurent

Although her family attempted to make her a star in softball, Melaina Laurent, freshman film student at Columbia College Chicago, showed signs early on that she was a star waiting to be on a stage. She quickly began her career with the support of her parents. Nowadays, whether you find her traveling throughout the country for conventions or at home filming self-tapes, Laurent does what it takes in order to pursue her passion in film acting. 

How did you come across wanting to be an actress? 

I played softball until I was eight. Neither of my parents have been in the creative industry and no one in my family has been in the creative industry. However, I have two older brothers who both played sports, so my parents automatically put me in sports. On the softball field, I would always sing in the dugout and dance on the field. My coach told my dad that he needed to get me on a stage because “we can’t have her on the softball field.” So, I started theater when I was eight, then merged into film acting when I was ten. 

What is the process of getting an audition for you? 

Getting an audition for me can be different for who I am doing it for and what I’m getting it for. If I’m doing it independently, it can be in different ways. I can go on an actor’s website, see what jobs are up for non-union and I’ll go through and apply for that, send my headshot and my resume. Typically, I’ll do a slide audition where I’ll read off with someone who is available, and I will send that to them. Sometimes directors will email me personally and will see if I want to do a role. If it’s through one of my agencies, I have two in Los Angeles, two in Chicago, and one in St. Louis, my agencies will email me and they’ll send me my script, my role, when to have it in the office by, and they ask me for an audition like that. 

How do you make yourself stand out in this industry? 

Making myself stand out has been put in my mind since I was younger. It’s like “Oh, you have to be different. Oh, you have to stand out and be the one they look at,” which is really difficult when you are going up against hundreds of other girls that look and act exactly like you. It’s definitely hard and I can’t give you an exact answer of how to stand out. It’s definitely different through what you do. I just really try to look at the script and bring myself into it because no one else can do it the way I can do it. However, if it’s an in-person audition, it’s a lot easier to use your personality. I can go up to them and talk to them about who I am and it’s not just the slate and the audition. However, since Covid, there’s been a lot more self-tapes than going in person. 

Who supports you with your career? 

My family has been very supportive ever since I was young. It started off as a stage career, not a career but a hobby, but I think my parents realized pretty early on when I started booking commercials and making money that this could be a big-time thing. They have always pushed me to do well. My oldest brother has been a huge support to me just because he’s also in the film industry. Of course, both my brothers support me through it, however my oldest brother knows a lot more about it. 

Where did you get your initial training? 

My initial training was in a lot of places. For film acting, my initial training was through a weird agency that led up to a convention sort of thing called AMTC. I would go to Chicago every few months and I would meet up with professional actors in the industry with a bunch of other clients and we all would do some training. I did this for about a year until I went to Orlando, Florida. I did a huge convention in front of hundreds of professionals and agencies who wanted to scout for people my age and my appearance. I did a lot of that, and it got me a lot of experience just from the opportunity. 

What does training entail? 

Training entails a lot of different things from a lot of different people, so it depends where you are and who you’re getting it from. Training anywhere for film, they’re going to hand you a cold read of a commercial, something you haven’t seen before. Then you’re going to read it in front of them and they’re going to critique you. A big thing for training is that they want you to rewatch yourself on camera. Another big thing for me is when I do self-tapes, I watch myself back a lot and think “Oh I didn’t really like that. Oh, that didn’t look very natural.” Your own biggest critic is yourself and that’s a very big thing you have to do as an actor. 

How do you balance school with your career? 

It hasn’t been a super big struggle in college, but it was definitely more difficult through middle school and high school. I haven’t professionally worked in college yet because I have only been in college for half of my first year, so balancing that is just getting my auditions done before my homework, I’ll have my roommates read it with me. In high school, I had to miss a lot of school. I had to miss a lot of school in middle school, and it was a lot harder because I had to make it up. I specifically went to the high school I did because they did it all on iPads. So, if I did need to go to Los Angeles for the week to go to a convention, meet with agents, make a film, I would have all my homework already on my iPad and I could just do it from there. All my teachers knew I was professionally in the industry, and all knew that’s why I chose that school. They were all very helpful and very supportive of me. 

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