Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Nina Rausch: I was born and raised in Stuttgart/Germany, lived there until I graduated high-school. My family was very close and supportive. We grew up with and around a lot of art. When I was 4, my parents had me in a “musical education” class and that started my journey as an artist. At 4 I was already on stage in “Don Quixote,” I started the piano at 6, clarinet at 8, ballet at 4, singing at 14. I explored many art forms and my parents pretty much let me explore anything I wanted to. I remember on Sundays, we always had classical music playing and my parents listened to a lot of music (on actual record players!!). To this day, classical music (music in general) has a special place in my heart.
Film Courage: Which one of your parents do you resemble most?
Nina: I think I’m a healthy combination of both. During my youth, I was definitely more my dad, clear vision, stubborn at times but always knew what I wanted. Now I’ve become more of my loving, trusting mom. But I still have my dad’s drive. I feel like my parents are very similar when it comes to work ethic. My parents always said “Anything you set your mind on, you can achieve.” So far, it’s been working for me.
Film Courage: What was the first TV show you remember being a fan of as a child?
Nina: I was obsessed with “My So-Called Life”!!! I fell in love with Claire Danes and naturally Jared Leto. I wanted to be “Angela” and even started dressing like her in the show! Claire Danes was my idol and inspiration to become an actress. Seeing her in “Romeo & Juliet” in the movie theaters sealed the deal. Toward the end of my high-school years it was “Friends.” I own every season and to this day can probably tell you which episode is in which season, etc. I don’t think a sitcom like this exists today. This was comedy incredible and the acting was genius!
Film Courage: Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus?
Nina: My parents supported me in anything I wanted to pursue! Always. If I wanted to try Tennis, they’d let me. Gymnastics. Soccer. Horseback riding (that was very short lived). And of course, my music and acting. When I was 17 and wanted to be a foreign exchange student in the US, they said “sure, let’s figure it out.” They drove me to interviews, play rehearsals, dance classes, etc. I can’t put in words how grateful I am for their support. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They even agreed to finance my US education at a college out of their own pocket.
After high-school (last 2 years I was an architect major), I had a brief moment where I thought I’d want to become an architect (like my dad). But even then my dad encouraged me more in my acting because my parents knew that that was what I really wanted to do.
Film Courage: A scene from a movie or play which you watched as a child that changed everything for you?
Nina: Like I mentioned, Claire Danes in “My So-Called Life” started it and then “Romeo & Juliet” with her and Leo DiCaprio. I remember going on a double date to see that movie. I feel so bad for my date back then. Because once the movie started, I gave zero attention to him and was so sucked in to the screen. I was so fascinated! When we left the theater and they wanted to go out, all I could think was “THIS is what I want to do with my life!” I just wanted to go home and figure out a way to make it happen. After that, I felt then same after every movie I went to.
Film Courage: What were your plans after high school?
Nina: At 17, I was a foreign exchange student in Idaho (I was just chosen by a family there, that’s how I ended up there. It was a great experience). I promised my parents I would finish German high-school as well before I moved back to the US and pursue my acting career. So I decided to apply at US colleges to get a degree in acting. That seemed like the first possible step to get my way into the industry. And I’m glad I did. I needed those years to just understand what “acting” really meant. I studied at Northern Illinois University and got my BFA there. Then I tried to decide between NYC and LA. My professor at the time introduced me to a manager in NYC and that made my decision. But I always knew my final goal was LA. It only took me 2 years in NYC to finally make it out to LA.
Film Courage: Biggest roller coaster of a day here in LA balancing life, acting and whatever else came your way?
Nina: Oh, there are many! One example was yesterday. I was shooting an episode of “AWKWARD” and was getting ready. Meanwhile I was evaluating my representation situation as I get an e-mail from my agent saying I have an audition THAT night in Santa Monica! At 6.30 p.m…..for a feature film! Pretty much impossible with rush-hour. But I said, of course I’ll try to make it if they wrap me early on set. So I prepped for the audition on my way to set and in between takes. While I was in the make-up chair, I got a call about a voice over job and if I could come in TODAY for an interview. When it rains, it pours!! Of course I couldn’t, so they said we’d make a phone interview. So I was excited. But they ended up not calling me. Was a bit disappointing but I was ON SET! So that made up for it 🙂 Plus I was heading to another audition, followed by class at the Anthony Meindl Studio where I study (and teach). That day I was wearing so many hats. In between I was answering emails of students about scenes they should work on. So it was a crazy day! I played a Mermaid, a German teacher and a dyslexic war criminal who had an affair with her student. I made it to all my appointments AND class. I ended the day having drinks with my friends and talking about our craft. I went to bed feeling like a very LUCKY, LUCKY woman, having the chance to life her dream.
Film Courage: You have extensive acting training – which class, program or school gave you the most unique and helpful skills?
Nina: My BFA program at Northern Illinois University definitely taught me discipline! That acting isn’t just a hobby, but a craft and a skill and it takes a LOT of work to be excellent at it! And then the studio where I am at right now (Anthony Meindl acting studio) has definitely changed my work. It helped me trust myself, bring myself to the roles and really be present with my partner. That all the preparation will be fine but that the MOMENT is all that matters. That I am enough. Quite a magical place to study and work!
Film Courage: Most of your work (you’ve said previously) is “dark and heavy.” Why are you attracted to serious themes?
Nina: Funny, lately I have actually started to explore the lighter, comedy sides and started to take Improv. Which then led to my first comedy role on the MTV show ‘AWKWARD.’ I’m really enjoying just having fun and not crying all the time. But when I dive into something heavier, I just “feel” more and that’s what I enjoy about my profession. I just feel so “loaded” and “rich” that darker material gives me a chance to express all that. I think I maybe found the wrong words then. I am enjoying the depth of the roles, the different aspects of humanity. There is so much complexity to us humans and in a dramatic material. I am currently still finding more diversity of our feelings.
Film Courage: You were recognized working at a restaurant for your role as the German Au Pair on the show Mad Men? How did you deal with being in two worlds, entertainer/actor and working a side job?
Nina: It was very flattering! I was probably more exited then they were, that someone recognized me. I was so shy all of a sudden and didn’t even know what to say. It didn’t bother me back then. Eventually, a few years after, still working at a restaurant became a bit exhausting and I just wanted to be a working actress. Then I started teaching and I said to myself “I will figure it out!,” with teaching I can at least pay some of the basic bills and the rest will come somehow. I always thought I would leave the restaurant with a big gig, like a pilot, or a huge feature. But I just pulled the plug and thought “Leap and the Net Will Appear,” I will now be a working actress. And so far I am pulling it off. My mindset has changed. I look at my work much differently and have been attracting more work.
Film Courage: What was your first celebrity sighting in LA?
Nina: Oh….gosh. Hmmm, I probably saw someone when I was visiting. But the first one I remember was David Hasselhoff at a premier (literally the first week I moved to LA), haha, very cliche being German and all.
Film Courage: Are you acting in Marigold the Matador?
Nina: I am not acting in Marigold. I am not “Latino” enough for a Kenneth Castillo movie 😉 Until he decides to write for a German actress, I will most likely be working behind the scenes. But I am enjoying my role as a producer. I’ve been learning so much just focusing on that and not worrying about the acting part.
Film Courage: How did you and Kenneth communicate while not on set? Any tips to producers on working with directors and how to strengthen
Nina: Communication is EVERYTHING!!!!!!!! We e-mail, text, phone calls or meet up when more things need to be discussed. I would say, actually TALKING is the best and most efficient. Now a days we try to just quickly send a text or e-mail and forget little details which end up being crucial. When you actually talk, you can clarify, ask questions and really get in the same page. Texting and e-mailing is fine for quick facts, numbers or addresses. But everything else, I think personal connection is still the most important part.
I’ve definitely told him a few times “Please communicate with me!” and I got strict with him.
Film Courage: What was your experience shooting a feature film in 7 days?
Nina: It certainly felt impossible! But spreading it out over non-consecutive days, helped plan each day very carefully. You do need to put a lot of focus into it so you don’t miss anything but you also build a different relationship to the project. It’s been almost a year since we started this journey and I feel more attached to it. Once it will be on the big screen it will be that much more of a success! It feels like we made the impossible possible.
Film Courage: What 7 tips can you recommend to fellow producers on duplicating this?
Nina: 1. Communicate!!! 2. Communicate!!! 3. Just do it 4. Trust your instincts 5. Trust each other (if that’s not the case, that would be the only time I’d say, don’t do it) 6. You really don’t need your ego 7. Have fun! Why else are we doing this instead of following our parent’s advice to go to law or medical school.
Film Courage: Biggest challenge during the 7 days and any moment where you weren’t certain the production would finish and how you overcame it?
Nina: Well, Kenneth is a very creative person and likes to come up with crazy ideas. He just calls me up and says “So, I want to shoot in the LA River” or “Yeah, we need a cop car with fire-arms and a robbery on a shady bridge.” That’s when my head usually first wants to explode and I remind him of our budget, which was pretty much none. But we somehow always figured out a way, and if needed, push back the shooting dates to figure out funding. There was a longer period of time where I didn’t really hear from Kenny and we just shoot the part under the bridge. The story didn’t quite make sense to me yet because he literally wrote it as we shot. So there was a point where I thought “Where is he going with this? This won’t turn into anything” But I never said that to him (sorry, I guess now he knows). I just didn’t want him to feel any doubt. That’s definitely the killer for any project. I just knew that some how he will pull through and make it work. I was patient and let him have his time and process. I was just waiting to hear from him when he needed me. And then he came back to me with some ideas and I thought “Oh my gosh! That’s genius, THAT”S how this all ties together” and we kept going.
Film Courage: Why are you crowdfunding?
Nina: So far, we had a micro-budget and funded the shooting days with personal resources. But we have one more major day and post-production ahead of us which will require a certain amount of money. With crowd funding you already build and involve your audience ahead of time, plus it keeps the project in our own hands and control for the last steps of this journey.
Film Courage: What crowdfunding preparation have you done leading up to the launch?
Nina: We sat together many times, debating if we should do it or not. But after Kenny and I went to a workshop from ‘Seed&Spark’ we were very inspired. Emily (creator of Seed&Spark) broke down the process so well for us and gave such helpful tips, that we met up the next day and started outline our ideas. We started to come up with incentives, discussed how to target our audience and when and how we should launch it. We definitely took our time to make it a successful launch.
Film Courage: What are your plans with the film once it’s finished?
Nina: We definitely want to submit it to film festivals and have this story be seen by as many people as possible. We haven’t fully decided on distribution yet but once we wrap our principal photography, that will be our first discussion.
Film Courage: Best tip you’ve received from a director, agent or casting director?
Nina: “Leap and the net will appear” a Casting director once said in a workshop. And my brother (also in the industry) once told me from a panel he saw, Roland Emmerich said “If you don’t make movies, you don’t make movies!” It’s that simple. They are both along the same line, just do it! Don’t sit around and wait until you have the “perfect” idea or the “perfect” project. Do it. Try it. Fail. And try again. We are in this industry because we want to tell stories and be creative at all times. That’s why I also came on board for this project. Kenny is that kind of filmmaker that just keeps making movies. Will this one be successful? Who knows, I sure hope so! But I’m having a blast, learning a lot and it fulfills me creatively.
Film Courage: Favorite quote that gets you going in the morning?
Nina: I guess it’s the one mentioned above “Leap and the Net will appear.” It’s written on my chalk board above my desk.
And the other one I really like, hanging in my bathroom is “If you want to find your own path, you can’t ask others for directions.”
Film Courage: Despite its population, can you retell a funny story about how small a world Hollywood really is?
Nina: Oh, there have been so many already.
Film Courage: Many actors seem able to access their dark and light qualities relatively quickly. If rehearsing a darker role, how do you assimilate back into a functional mode so that the character does not stay attached in day-to-day events?
Nina: I feel like I was able to create a healthy, happy life for myself here in LA. Since I’m very far away from home (Germany), I’m lucky that my brother decided to move here as well and we’ve been living together for 6 years now. My family is definitely my support and if I need help, I call or text my brother to make sure he is home and I can just let everything out and talk about anything. Otherwise, my mom is the biggest supporter and even though we are 9 hours apart, if needed, I can call her any time of day. So that is the best support that always brings me back to a happy, daily mindset if needed.
But over the past few years, I have been able to work hard on my craft where you can differentiate when I am in an imaginary world or when it is my personal world. Where I study right now (and teach), it’s all about the moment. So if the moment changes, I change. If I move on from the scene or role, I move on.
And if anything goes south, I have an annual pass for Disneyland! That saves everything right there 🙂
Film Courage: Upcoming creative plans?
Nina: So many things have pointed me in the direction to finally get MY own project of the ground and I am currently writing a script. It’s a crazy process bringing my own story to life. I wrote it, then put it aside. Then looked at it again and waited some where. One day after Kenny and I went to a film festival in Newport Beach, I told him about it and he said “Just do it! Don’t worry about funding, etc. Just start.” So I did and it’s the goal to shoot it before the end of the year.
I’m lucky that acting jobs keep coming up and that is making the process a bit longer, but it is my focus for this year.
Nina Rausch is an artist who was born and raised in Stuttgart / Germany. At the early ages of 4, she set foot on stage for the very first time and over the years it included leading roles in shows such as ‘Pinoccio’, ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Macbeth’.
Besides acting, she explored other art forms as well and excelled in music with the piano and the clarinet. She loved visual arts and made architecture her major in the last 2 years of German high-school.
After graduation, she relocated to the USA and enrolled at Northern Illinois University to receive her BFA in acting.
During her studies she had the wonderful opportunity to study at the legendary Moscow Art Theatre in Russia, for one summer.
Once finished with her degree, Nina relocated to the East Coast and began her professional career in the Big Apple.
After 2 years, she realized that Los Angeles would be the place for her and packed her bags.
Now living in the heart of Hollywood, Nina had the opportunity to work on iconic shows such as ‘MAD MEN’, ‘ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK’, ‘NCIS:LA’ and currently part of the cast of MTV’s ‘AWKWARD’. Other highlights included working opposite Oscar winning Adrien Brody is the film ‘THE LIBRARY BOOK’.
Even though acting is her passion and life long dream, the urge to truly express her voice, led Nina to explore the producing side as well as writing. Award winning director Kenneth Castillo gave Nina her first opportunities behind the camera and she enjoys the process ever since.
Together with her mentor with ‘Women In Film,’ she now also focuses on telling her own stories and truly making an impact in the industry with powerful female driven stories.