Exclusive Interview with Brittney Lee Hamilton – Actress & Filmmaker
Brittney is an actor and filmmaker whose work includes TV, Film, Theatre, & Voiceovers. On screen, she has been seen (and heard!) in such shows as PUBLIC MORALS (TNT-directed by Ed Burns), THE KNICK (Cinemax-directed by Steven Soderbergh), BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO), POKÈMON (Recurring-Cartoon Network and Film), and REGAL ACADEMY (Recurring-Nickelodeon). On the stage, she has been seen Off-Broadway and regionally. She wrote and starred in NO, I’VE NEVER PLAYED ANNIE, her NYC Cabaret Debut at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Brittney started her own production company, B.LEE PRODUCTIONS, and opened a location in NJ called THE STUDIO. She is the creator, executive producer, screenwriter, and star of the short film, #PRINCESSPROBLEMS, which has been in almost 50 film festivals and has won 14 awards to date.
NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself, growing up and your passions.
I grew up in Southern New Jersey. I always knew I wanted to perform and I constantly would put on shows for my family. I sang in elementary school and started getting involved with theatre in middle school. The only real opportunities to perform we knew were available was community theatre and school shows, and did all I could to take advantage of it. I went to college at Marymount Manhattan and the Hartford Conservatory for theatre and ended up booking regional shows in Connecticut before leaving school and heading back to NYC.
NY Glam: Did you have any specific influences growing up that lead you towards the film industry?
My mom loves old movies and made sure I saw as many as possible from the time I was little. Gene Kelly, Clark Gable, and Patrick Swayze were even my first crushes! That early love of Old Hollywood definitely inspired my deep appreciation for film.
NY Glam: What are you currently working on?
The Pandemic curtailed the festival run in person for my film, #PrincessProblems, and any other projects that I had lined up. To try and keep my toe in the film industry pond I opened up my own studio for my production company. THE STUDIO-B.LEE PRODUCTIONS has been such a great way for me to network and collaborate with other artists in NJ. Through my company I am continuing to promote the film with the overall goal of pitching it as a series, which I hope to have the opportunity to do soon. I also wrote my next short film which I plan to also direct and star in.
NY Glam: Tell us a little bit more about this film.
As an actor, I’ve obviously had many side jobs. One of the most interesting by far, was being a birthday party princess for children. I had so many hilarious (and terrifying!) experiences, so I started writing them down. I also kept seeing a theme play out in parties as modern parents struggled with the antiquated themes of the older princess films. That’s when I realized that this could be a great series. I decided to write the pilot which served as the short film script. It follows BREE, a struggling but very positive actress, who started her own children’s birthday party company, living out her fantasies of being a princess. When JESS, a very practical and feminist writer, is assigned to do a story on female role models, she follows BREE to parties to see if princesses are still ideal heroes for little girls. Even through bratty kids, absent parents, and miserable party conditions, BREE tries to prove that princesses can be strong and independent, and sometimes exactly what little girls need in today’s world.
NY Glam: What were your main responsibilities on this film?
#PrincessProblems is my baby! I wrote it, executive produced it, and starred in it. Wearing so many hats can be incredibly overwhelming, but it forced me to learn things I never would have even thought to learn as just an actor.
NY Glam: Can you tell us about your experience in working with your team in this film?
This was my first time as a screenwriter and producer and the last thing I wanted to do was direct myself. I brought on a great director, Maritza Gomez, and Co Producer, Kelly Remenik to help me navigate being on the other side of the camera. Together we built the full team of the crew and cast. I am so lucky that my first film had such a wonderful group of people. The kids in the cast are all my students who I teach acting and voice to. It was their first time on a real set and they were absolute pros! I made sure to use it as a learning experience and I even had a “debrief” after the shoot to talk with them about it all.
NY Glam: What was the most important thing for this movie to achieve from a narrative and character standpoint?
I wanted to highlight both sides of the pro and anti princess arguments. What I’ve learned from my experiences is that both positions are incredibly valid. However, it doesn’t matter what WE all think the children should learn. They take what THEY need from the stories, and more often than not they see something very different from what we see. I wanted to show a cast of interesting female characters who are all struggling in their own way. Whether it’s the mom, Michelle, who has an absent husband and needs a break, or Jess who is trying to put a feminist dent in the world, or Mia, who is lonely and wants to make those around her smile, everyone is doing their best (just like Bree) to meet the expectations of their situation.
NY Glam: As a screenwriter, what is the most important aspect of building a character?
I always respond to characters that I feel like I know personally-not necessarily that I recognize from my own life, but people that I could know. I want them to be deeply layered, dynamic, and as realistic as possible so the audience can relate to them in a natural way. I find that back story is so important when building a character. Even if the audience never gets to know any of the history, when you create that story for the character it deepens your understanding for them as you write. I approach my characters this way as an actor as well. I’ll write a backstory I’ve never been given to help mold a nuanced human so it hopefully comes out naturally in my performance.
NY Glam: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I would love to keep writing Bree’s journey. It would be wonderful to be in the writer’s room developing episodes for the series and then moving to set to shoot it. That’s the dream. No matter what, I love writing strong female characters and I’ll keep doing do it for short form projects I will produce.
NY Glam: What makes a film interesting for you? What are three qualities that you look for in a movie?
I want to feel deeply for the characters (which usually means I cry), I want a screenplay that surprises me, and I want to laugh. That doesn’t mean I am only drawn to comedies. I think that the best dramas always have touches of comedy. Laughter is real and lets us relax into allowing ourselves to feel drama deeper. Give me an emotional journey, and then also a complicated female lead and I’m really hooked!
NY Glam: What are you most proud of? Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?
Hands down, #PrincessProblems is my biggest accomplishment to date. I am so proud of the success the film has had. Even through a global pandemic we’ve managed to find ourselves in almost 50 festivals and have won 14 awards (so far!). It hasn’t been easy, but I am excited for the film and series’s future, and I refuse to give up.
NY Glam: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re super excited about?
Auditions have picked up, which is exciting. I am really excited about my next short film script which I hope to start shooting this fall. My studio continues to collaborate with more artists in the NJ film and theatre communities, and as things become safer and open up, events will be booked on the calendar! I cannot wait to have screenings, table reads, and concerts at the studio!
NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the film industry?
Don’t wait for the phone to ring for an opportunity. Make your own work and learn as much as possible. Figure out how to produce, write the screenplay, learn how to use a camera and to edit, and immerse yourself in all the aspects of the industry. We are taught as actors to focus on our “craft” of storytelling. But, there’s so much more to telling a story than becoming a character. Learn how to tell the story from all aspects of the industry and it opens up your career in more ways than you can imagine. Plus, it gives you a deeper understanding of how to tell the story in the most authentic way possible.