I am once again delighted to present to you an interview with another cast member of Doc Benson’s Losing Breen! Jessica Koloian played the character, Hope, a character that she says is neutral. She raises some interesting points about acting and the faith-based film industry, laying much emphasis on the art itself.
Sit back and enjoy this interesting chat between Jessica and I!
Miranda ~ Hello Jessica! Delighted to have you here on TBAP today. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Jessica: Hi Miranda. Thank you for having me. I don’t do personal synopsis, but I’ll be honest. I don’t enjoy interviews. People observe and learn. This process humbles me. No doubt a year from now I could answer these questions again and ﬁnd very few answers to be the same.
Miranda ~ When did you find God? What led you into a personal relationship with Him?
Jessica: I became a Christian over 20 years ago, and I’m grateful for the life Jesus has given me.
Miranda ~ When did you first discover your talent for acting? At what point did you decide to use it to serve God?
Jessica: The discovery came at a young age as I memorized Bible verses and performed monologues or short skits at church. As I got older, those performances became Theater.
I never decided to use my talent to serve God. That’s like asking, “When did you decide you love your mom?” If I had to make a separate decision about that, then I’d question my intimacy with Him. If I made it to Hollywood, I’d still be honoring God. If I never act again, I can still honor Him. What it looks like to navigate being a Christian and an actor is diﬀerent for each of us.
Miranda ~ What has your journey into film being like? Has it strengthened your relationship with God in any way?
Jessica: I am so honored to have had these opportunities, no doubt about it. I’ve enjoyed my roles and on-set experiences. My journey in ﬁlm has been frustrating, however. Very few ﬁlmmakers in the “faith-based” ﬁlm industry understand what art is, let alone how to create it. They prefer to spoon-feed a message because it’s easy. Good art takes time, patience, and more than anything else, room. As an artist, you leave room for the audience to come into your creation and contribute their thoughts, experiences, and interpretations. This is what makes art a powerful tool in discovery. Where my relationship with God comes into this, is simply that He’s the creator of the universe. I wish His name wasn’t taken in vein so often by people who are a poor representation of the depth of His character and the complexity of what He’s created.
Miranda ~ Why do you act?
Jessica: I act because incarnation is a beautiful, powerful tool. We see this with Jesus’ own life.
Miranda ~ How would you describe your experience on set of Losing Breen?
Jessica: Being on set of Losing Breen was a blast. On most ﬁlms I’ve work in, it’s been a very tight-knit cast and crew. Losing Breen was no exception. I very much enjoyed working with Chris to develop our characters and their relationship. It’s a very intimate experience to develop two characters together. I compare it to a very mild version of parenting. We have these two people who we get to know through a bunch of words, and then we look at each other and go, “Okay. Now who are they and, how are we going to show people that?” You sit down and work on a scene, you get in your character’s head, and you start making decisions for them. You give them a voice. I’d say Chris and I were very intentional about making a lot of those calls together, especially as when it came to Brian and Hope’s relationship. Listening is crucial.
Miranda ~ How did your role in Losing Breen inspire you personally?
Jessica: It wasn’t anything groundbreaking. And sometimes, that’s okay. Brian is the complex character of the story; Hope is neutral.
Miranda ~ What do you hope viewers of this movie will walk away with?
Jessica: I have no opinion regarding what people should walk away thinking. Would I be pleased if they took away something? Yes. If they are solely entertained for a period of time, that’s ﬁne, too.
Miranda ~ What other actors/filmmakers have you worked with in the past? How has working with them made you a better actress/person?
Jessica: Every project I’ve worked on has been more challenging than the last. Each time I work on a ﬁlm, I’m reminded of the collaborative process—how many tasks need to be accomplished, and how minuscule my contribution actually is.
Miranda ~ What actors/filmmakers do you hope to work with in the future?
Jessica: Professional ones.
Miranda ~ How do you balance family, friends, and your career successfully?
Jessica: First of all, by no means is acting my career. I work in communications at a construction company. That’s what pays the bills. The ﬁlms I’ve been in have been volunteer projects, and those that I’ve been paid, were small stipends.
In general, I’m of the opinion that you work hard when you’re supposed to, and play hard when you need to. I’m able to compartmentalize those, which provides balance. Currently, I’m in a stage where I can focus the strong majority of my energy on my career.
Being that this exists only as hypothetical, I’m conﬂicted on whether I could balance ﬁlm and a family. It’s challenging. The intimacy on set as you all work towards a common goal together cannot be shared or understood outside of those participating in it with you. And when I’m in that frame of mind, that’s all I’m focused on. Family goes away. Friends, too. It’s about the ﬁlm and the people I’m working with. I don’t know that I’m capable of having both.
Miranda ~ Where do you see the Christian movie industry in the next five to ten years?
Jessica: Stuck in a rut. I’d be delighted to see the people who are trying to produce “faith-based” ﬁlms become artists who produce art. I want to see the industry become obsolete. It’s one thing if you’re only goal is family-friendly entertainment. But to have a whole genre of ﬁlm dedicated to watering down the word, “Christian” is socially destructive. I don’t believe in “Christian ﬁlm.” My college theater director said, “People are Christians. Books and music are not.” If the industry continues as it is, I’d prefer to disassociate with it completely. Films that are raw and edgy have power to impact. No ﬁlm that’s slid its way into the “faith-based” ﬁlm genre has ever left me saying, “Shoot. I don’t know what to do with that.” For those that are doing things right, keep going. The church may not be behind you, but you will be the ones who succeed.
Miranda ~ Can you say you’ve experienced any paradigm shift since you ventured into acting?
Jessica: I’ve experienced an extreme paradigm shift—more from working in corporate America than in ﬁlm. You can’t judge people, especially at work. It needs to be a safe place where everyone can be true to themselves. The “faith-based” ﬁlm industry has yet to navigate this in the way Jesus modeled. So going back to where I see room for growth in the industry, that’s a great example.
Miranda ~ Who are the people that have inspired you the most? How have they done so?
Jessica: Tracy Manning, my college theater director. I’ve never met anyone more dedicated to the art than she is. Her dedication laid the groundwork for my own transitioning from the hobby of acting to the art of acting. Shawn Denny is another. No one has asked me more challenging questions about life and my career than he has—questions I very rarely have the answer to at ﬁrst, but he’s patient as I process and grow to understand my own answers or lack thereof.
Miranda ~ What advice would you give to anyone going into acting for the first time?
Jessica: Don’t. You have to be inspired. It’s not a hobby. It is art. Art demands discovery; it’s a gift given to the audience and a platform to be challenged. You do a great disservice to a production by failing to grasp the gravity of what acting does for you, and on an even larger scale, what it does for others. If you do understand this, then you’re probably not going into acting for the ﬁrst time and I have nothing to oﬀer, but no doubt could learn much from you.
THIS or THAT (The Fun Questions!)
Coffee or Tea? Both. There’s a time and place where I value what each has to oﬀer.
Breakfast or Dinner? Dinner
Spring or Summer? Summer
Winter or Fall? Summer
Heels or Flats? Heels
Ice cream or Shake? How about a Godiva Truﬄe instead?
Lemonade or Orange juice? Orange juice. But only freshly-squeezed.
Cooking or Cleaning? Cooking is fun and cleaning is satisfying.
Dresses or Pants? Dresses
Gym or Outdoor? Outdoor
Books or Music? If you listen, you can learn from both.
Fancy Scarf or Fancy Gloves? Neither. That’s way too much going on.
Leather Jacket or Blazer? Ew. Unless there’s a man wearing the leather jacket.
Thank you, Jessica, for stopping by today!
About Jessica Koloian
Jessica’s passion for acting began at a very young age and has only grown as her talents have been refined. She studied theatre for 3 years at Taylor University working on over 15 productions. It was there that Jessica developed a large skill set in many areas of production, on stage and off. This was enhanced as she participated in the collaborative process on Taylor University Theater’s production staff. Since then, she has appeared in several feature films.