Interview with Lucinda Serrano – Lead Actress in Out Of Focus

Lucinda Serrano - Out Of Focus - General Store Scene

Lucinda Serrano was interviewed by Colette Finkbiner, writer/blogger with Three Horizons Productions – Summer of 2012


Recently, as part of our series of interviews with the cast and crew of Three Horizons Productions short film project, Out of Focus, I had a chance to speak with actress Lucinda Serrano, who portrays Aella Perones, the female lead in the movie. Born and raised in Tucson where she worked at Old Tucson Studios and enjoyed Westerns such as Clint Eastwood’s Hang ‘Em High, Ms. Serrano initially took a scientific path in college where she studied biology and anthropology. Soon, however, she started taking theater classes with her friends. She loves scientific exploration but found acting to be a good release. She says about turning to acting, “I was a dancer for a long time before I started acting. I love dance. I love music. But I felt I could only express myself so much with my body. I also wanted to use my voice.”

As Ms. Serrano began to embrace acting, she participated in what she describes as “small roles” in college, community theatre and eventually professional companies, where she shadowed as an apprentice for more experienced actors. According to her, “The best is being part of a company of actors and theatre artists, and together creating a wonderful production. The process is what I most enjoy.” She still refers to Teatro Vision, of San Jose, California, as her “home” company. She says of Teatro Vision, “Out of this group I have had the pleasure to work with many wonderful artists such as writer Octavio Solis, actor/director Wilma Bonet and director Amy Gonzalez whom I call friends. Luis Valdez [writer and director] was probably one of the most important teachers I have ever had.”

Aella and the Camera
Lucinda Serrano as Aella looks inside the mysterious camera (Dustin James and Lucinda Serrano)

Because Ms. Serrano started out in theatre, I had to ask her if she felt a different dynamic when acting for the stage as opposed to acting for television or film. She responds that being a fan of playwright Harold Pinter, who himself easily transferred among various media like radio, film and the stage, she sees very little difference in the dynamic. “Stage is broader and bigger. Acting on stage or film involves the same preparation. Film, you just shrink it down. You can be subtle. Pinter was really good at that. It is the actors interacting with each other and the audience seeing that.”

Director Remi Vaugh works with Lucinda Serrano (Aella)
Director Remi Vaugh works with Lucinda Serrano (Aella)

When I asked her what she likes most about acting, Ms. Serrano replied, “Being able to tell a story visually. I really enjoy when I am able to take the audience along for the ride with me—when they are going along with every thought and moment while you are in the skin of a character. It has always fascinated me [to see] a very good actor open up himself or herself to allow the story to work through them. It is amazing what people like Lili Taylor or Giovanni Ribisi can do with their instrument. I just saw Heaven again recently and thought to myself, ‘What a simple and clear path Giovanni carved out for himself in this one.’ Then The Rum Diary comes along, and, in his first few scenes, he is one hot, drunken mess. I thought, ‘How versatile and enthralling that guy is.’ He just sucks you right into his scene.”

Lucinda Serrano - Publicity Shot
Lucinda Serrano leads Out Of Focus as Aella

For Ms. Serrano, entering the world of film acting seemed natural. As a child, she was exposed by her mother, whom she describes as “quite the film critic,” to many classic films such as Black Narcissus, Two Women and numerous Bette Davis movies. Ms. Serrano sees Bette Davis as a personal role model, who gave “110 percent conviction to her characters.” Now living in the Los Angeles area, Ms. Serrano is very aware that many female actresses are afraid to age. Bette Davis, however, did “marvelous work” at any age. According to Ms. Serrano, “She is one of my ‘teachers.’ She was very open and revealed herself to us.”

With Ms. Serrano’s embrace of film, she found her experience assisting with many aspects of the theatre to be invaluable. She has directed and helped to cast some small pieces for friends. She has sewn costumes for productions and, of course, has done a lot of assisting.

Lucinda Serrano has portrayed a number of minor roles on television and film as well as commercials. Recently, she had the opportunity to work with Oliver Stone on his current film, Savages. She portrays Myra, a DEA agent who works for John Travolta’s character. Despite some of her scenes with Mr. Travolta getting edited for time, she says, “I am just thrilled to have been a part of that process.”

As we spoke, I had the feeling that Ms. Serrano takes character development very seriously. This character-driven approach is exemplified by her thoughts on her favorite short story, Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. She explains, “To me, it is about the fine dance of being human—despairing one day and finding calm despite turmoil. When I read Hemingway, I feel it is OK to be human. There always seems to be a through line in the lives of his characters. I like that he lets them be, for the most part. He respects his characters’ journeys. As he created them, he just seemed to observe these characters in his imagination and just let them be.” Ms. Serrano went on to say about her experience working on Out of Focus, “I feel this way when Remi [Vaughn, writer and director of the film] directs. She has a definite vision about her stories, but she always reinforces her actors to allow the story to flow through us. It is very freeing to just let yourself go and see what comes out of you.”

Her approach to her portrayal of Aella in Out of Focus involved a great deal of character introspection. “I sat down and read the script. Different ideas came to me. My character plays a healer and that fits into my science background and into my ‘day job’ as a massage therapist. I did a lot of research. I like to read anything that comes up about a theme. I try to put myself in the scenes as I imagine them.” She says her scientific side was piqued by Aella. “I enjoy films based in folklore that use themes from nature and science. Aella was a natural because she is a healer. It fascinates me to take on the approach of evil taking over as I would approach a physical ailment in one of my patients.”

Ms. Serrano reveals her experience on the set of Out of Focus as freeing. “During the production of Out of Focus, Remi set a respectful and dynamic tone for us to be able to just do what we do—do our art. Everyone who worked on the film was given space and freedom to create characters and just have fun and explore, which is the key to being at my best.”

Lucinda as Aella in Out Of Focus - Peeking inside the Red Camera
Lucinda as Aella in Out Of Focus – Peeking inside the Red Camera

“Remi was a fantastic director. She always said, ‘Be organic.’ She gave us permission to explore and ask questions. Remi allows us [actors] to be ourselves and explore the character. Remi was a fantastic director. She uses her ingredients well. The actors feel supported in their choices.” She also felt a great deal of support and respect from the crew, who she describes as very supportive when she needed to take a few moments to prepare for some of the more emotional scenes of the film.

In fact, she says, one of the best memories she has from the set of Out of Focus is how hard the crew worked. Despite the heat of Arizona in August, she explains everyone worked together and the crew “worked 30 times harder than the actors.” She recounts that one day they needed to shoot a daylight scene after the sun had gone down. The lighting crew worked hard to set up lighting that would simulate the day. “It was a million degrees, but I was excited by what the lighting crew set up. It was the first time I saw simulated daylight on a film set. I was daily impressed by the crew.” And, despite that Arizona heat, Ms. Serrano adamantly expressed, “Everyone thinks film happens only in LA and New York. But, in Phoenix and in Tucson, there is a lot going on.”

Out Of Focus - Lucinda Serrano and Aldred Montoya
Lucinda Serrano (as Aella) and Aldred Montoya (as Loki) in
Out Of Focus

In addition to working with the crew and Remi Vaughn, Ms. Serrano states that her most valuable learning experience from the set of Out of Focus was having the opportunity to work with Aldred Montoya who portrays the mysterious Loki. “His aesthetic and how he approaches his role with care and detail was nice to watch and learn from. He is the most professional actor I’ve worked with. It is nice to have an actor with whom you can throw the ‘ball’ and go back and forth.”

As we wrapped up the interview, Ms. Serrano reflected on acting and what she has coming up in the future. As a lover of the horror genre, she enjoyed the makeup and costume design of such films as 30 Days of Night and a Korean creature feature film called Sector 7. She also continues to do plays when she can and works as a massage therapist, which utilizes her love of biology. She also is working on a script with a friend. Despite her love of horror and the supernatural, she describes this script as more true to life. She says, “It involves social issues – getting through the nuts and bolts of everyday life. I am writing a strong female lead.”

Ms. Serrano finally spoke to emerging actors and actresses. She says to collaborate with, not challenge, the director in order to bring the vision of the film alive. “The exciting part involves sitting down with the director and the costume designer. What keeps me on my toes is being able to bring the vision of the director. I love creating. I love the process.” She also found learning to act in Shakespeare’s plays to be essential. “Shakespeare wrote his plays for the people. Every actor should learn how to do Shakespeare. He sheds light on the human condition. As a woman, I ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ This has filtered into my work with companies like Teatro Vision.” She goes on to assure, “Get up on stage and learn your craft. Get up in front of a stage as often as you can. Learn your craft. Try to be a good, solid actor and good things will come out of that.”

Three Horizons Productions is a team of independent filmmakers who want to develop, acquire, and produce multi-media projects that showcase inspirational themes, compelling stories, and provocative characters to entertain or educate international audiences. Three Horizons Productions, located in Arizona, has a global outreach.