Michelle DeFraites Interview, Project Almanac

Gavin Schmitt Interviews Michelle DeFraites

Relative newcomer Michelle DeFraites, a Mississippi native, discovered her passion for the arts at an early age. With over ten years of dancing and local theater under her belt, Michelle launched into the chaos of Los Angeles and began tackling her career in entertainment. After a few years making guest appearances on various TV shows, including “House”, “Bones” and “Glee”, she is now transitioning to the big screen.

I was able to briefly chat with Michelle DeFraites on January 21, 2015, following up last week’s talk with Allen Evangelista.

GS: Michelle, “Project Almanac” is your first feature film…

MD: It is, yeah! It’s exciting to finally see myself on a big screen in a movie theater and not just on TV anymore. I loved it. I think it’s fun to be surrounded by the same people for a certain period of time. And specifically for this film, we shot it using the found footage effect. The way you shoot movies like that is very different than the way you shoot television. It’s fun to learn and experience a new way of shooting.

GS: Some people are a bit hesitant to go see found footage movies…

MD: I’ve seen a lot of found footage movies. One of my first ones was “Cloverfield”, (affiliate link) and I couldn’t do it. I had to turn the movie off. But I’ve seen other ones since then, like “Chronicle”, (affiliate link) and I feel like the first couple of times people see found footage they don’t know how to react. We really hone in on found footage as an art, and it’s not as crazy as people are going to expect. Adding that aspect just makes it appear more real, but it’s not crazy or shaky and all over the place like people are expecting. We chose found footage because it’s just five kids and their everyday life who just happen to come across this otherworldly thing. The found footage helps, it makes you believe you’re really there with these kids. It’s not over the top or unbearable.

GS: Can you talk about how you made the cameras seem like cell phones or other handheld cameras when this was not really the case?

MD: One thing that was fun… in real life, if your friend has a video camera pointed at you, you’re not afraid to look at the camera and talk to them. As an actress, that’s something you don’t get to do, look into the camera. But sometimes there were scenes where whoever was holding the camera would just walk into a room, set it down on a table, and that was the shot. So you’re looking at the camera in one angle, but not another. It changes how you film a scene. Typically, the camera stays in one place and you move around, but here you stay still and the camera is moving. You have to make sure you’re getting matched up with the right angle.

GS: It flips the whole process around.

MD: It really does. For the first couple scenes I did, I thought to myself, “what did I get myself into?” But it becomes second nature after a while, once you break from the way that you’re used to.

GS: Is your character part of the group that gets thrown through time?

MD: My character, Sarah Nathan, is the “mean girl” at school. She doesn’t actually time travel herself, but a lot of the effects caused by the time traveling happen to my character. My character, my character’s family, how I’m going to be that day are all affected. It depends on what they just did, so that is really fun for the audience. You never know what to expect when she comes on the scene. Depending on what they’ve done, I could be really nice or really mean, really upset… you never know. So my character becomes the gauge of whether or not they have messed things up.

GS: It sounds like you played multiple characters, in some sense.

MD: Kind of, yeah. I show a very good range of Sarah Nathan.

GS: This was director Dean Israelite’s first big picture. Was he learning on set or just sort of knew what he wanted?

MD: Dean was incredible. He was so passionate about the project and knew exactly what he wanted. That’s what I love in a director: someone who knows what they want and they know how to get it. And how to work with the actors to get what they want. I enjoyed working with him tremendously.

GS: There’s a rumor he will be directing the “WarGames” remake. Have you heard this?

MD: I have not heard. Good luck to him, though. I hope so. That would be awesome.

GS: Your IMDb page looks blank for 2015, and I know that can’t be right. What’s on the horizon?

MD: There are some things in the works, lots of television. But you’re just going to have to wait and see. Nothing I’m able to talk about just yet.

GS: Thank you.

MD: Thank you. Have a good day!

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