Intuition, drive, and determination are only a small part of the incredibly charming, Amy Rutledge, who has graced the psychological horror film, Rent-A-Pal, with her role as the kindhearted, Lisa. Today we speak to Amy about drawing from the depths of your past, knowing your limitations and the constant challenge of healing yourself.
How did you get you start in the industry?
Ever since I was about 3 years old, I’ve wanted to be an actress, just watching movies and television, I was so incredibly entranced. I grew up in a very rural and very sports-oriented community in Northwest New Jersey, where wanting to do theatre was sort of seen as odd. So, I chased the dream anyway and I auditioned when I was about 19, for an indie film and I was booking things from there. It was important to me follow my natural instinct, you know, I didn’t have any formal training. But I was very dedicated, driving 2-3 hours to set in NYC and filming all day and then driving 2-3 hours back. But I loved it, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I love that dedication! What was the theme of that film?
The film was called When Mama Returns, and it centers on an estranged mother coming back into the life of a young girl and them navigating that relationship. I’m so, so proud of it now, it was such a resume builder for me, at the time I had no credits, so I hold that whole crew very near and dear to my heart.
What is your process like to develop the sense of getting into it deeper?
When I took classes at Lee Strasberg in New York, they work with a lot of method acting and sense memory and they recommend picking and choosing what works for you. Before I had any training, it was really about pulling from my own personal experiences. I have a pretty photographic memory which is great for learning lines but not so much in real life. But I try to seek out situations that pertain to things that I’ve gone through.
Was that your process with Lisa from Rent-A-Pal?
Yes, with Lisa, I volunteered with a Senior Citizen and helped her learn the technical side of things like her computer and phone. I had never done that before and it was so helpful to bring that sense of compassion and softness to Lisa, even raising the lilt of my voice to exude more patience. It was incredibly enriching to my own life. I also made my own dating tape to realize the level of vulnerability that takes.
What helps that process flow more easily for you?
Meditation and mindfulness have been wonderful for me, and it really helps me clear my mind and let things rock and flow into what I really need to focus on.
Is there anything you drew from the mindfulness aspect or personal events for the role?
I get asked a lot about how I was able to react to Brian’s character in the film and really it was about drawing upon my past and the difficult and damaging and tumultuous relationships I’d had in the past and my trauma reactivity. Your mind and your body just goes to this place. The place of where you’re willing to do anything and deal with anything just to be accepted and loved and its tragic but it was where my mind went at the time.
That was something that I identified with and with other women I’ve spoken with, you were so willing to be available and willing to make concessions. I think we tend to do that more, bend when we know we shouldn’t. Thank you so much for being so honest about your process with this.
Of course, I think it’s really important to recognize and process through those places. But I’m really happy with what I was able to accomplish with Lisa, I’m very proud and I’ve gotten some wonderful reviews so I’m very happy.
How did the role come to be?
I saw a lot of myself in her, you know wanting to have a partner and wanting to be loved and find that match. I was in Vermont at ITV Fest talking to my director of a short film that was showing who’s from Colorado. We were discussing how I’ve always wanted to travel to Denver. Two hours after that conversation I got the audition, and news that it was to be filmed in Denver, so it was a bit of kismet. One thing I really wanted to do was use these glasses, my own glasses, which I felt was really that piece that was going to help me embody Lisa, so I had to come home and go back but I made my tape and sent it just under the wire. Turns out they loved it and asked me to tape another scene. The director, Jon Stevenson, reached out to me, and we connected very well, he took the time to find me. It was so cool, no one really does that, so it felt so good and right. He sent me the script after that. And I loved Lisa so much and saw a lot of myself in her. She’s such a fighter. It’s interesting you know, I had actually given up doing horror films as they’d been bringing up things from my past that are very traumatic. But I knew I had to see this through. And I’m so glad I did.
And working through that boundary of maintaining a peace of mind, when you knew you’d given yourself that. Was this role the hardest you’ve played if we’re coming from that genre alone?
No, not at all, I’ve survived so much so this was almost cathartic for me. It was easy for me to shift into her. If we’re talking the hardest, I did a short film called, Our Perfect World, an arthouse isolation film, where my partner and I, in the film, are isolated in this house and we’re cut off from the outside world and it just becomes very dark and brutal and a bit gory. And it was hard for me to walk away from that and process that fully. I wasn’t meditating at the time, which has been a saving grace for me from that point forward, so I was still in this headspace of extreme stress and trauma and it was kicking up a lot of uncomfortable things I wasn’t ready to deal with and I know that now. And I’m really grateful for what I’ve been able to give myself and my mind through meditation.
After this particular production, are you still saying no to this genre?
It depends, because I’ve already drawn the line in the sand then went back so I’d have to really dissect that project for my comfortability. I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself either, so I have to be very careful about what I pick next. If it’s an amazing director and script, perhaps.
Such a wonderful statement of demarcation, we do see women pigeon-holed in a lot of genres and they almost become the genre as a cornerstone and are seen less for their talent and more as a staple. To steer away from genre a bit, I’ve asked a lot of folks in the industry this same question, because at this point, with all the new content available to us we are still seeing reboots. But, what film would you love to star in a reboot of?
Oh God, Labyrinth. I’m obsessed, it was one of the first movies I really fell in love with. The joy of that movie I will always keep in my heart. It’s a women-led film really, she’s strong and she saves herself. Which again, is me!
I love that! It’s one of my all-time favorites as well! It is really the antithesis of the damsel in distress movies and to see it so young, I think it really shaped the ways I felt about my own strength.
It really is such an incredible film!
If we head back to your start in the industry, what advice would you give a young actor just starting out that doesn’t have much, if anything, on their CV?
I’m a big believer that anything is possible. I’ve experiences so many miracles in my life. Don’t listen to naysayers and don’t give up. If you want it, go for it. If it’s in your heart and brings your joy, stay with it.
It’s been so lovely to speak with you about your experiences and I’m so grateful for your honesty and candidness to your personal struggles and your willingness to keep challenging yourself. I’m sure there’s no shortage of cool things you’ve accomplished in life.
Well, when I was 16, I met the Dalai Lama. I grew up near the Tibetan Learning Center, and there’s something very magical about that place and land. And it really inspired me to become a meditation teacher and go forward in peace and kindness. Also, my sister, Veronica Rutledge, and I are working towards partnering for films and I’m so lucky to create with my family. Not everyone has that outlet to work with family and I love that. I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of awesome female directors. I worked with an all-female cast and crew on a project and it was so empowering, and it is possible, and it can be done. We just need more eyes on us and our projects. We are out here.
You can see Amy Rutledge in IFC Midnight’s Rent-A-Pal currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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This genre is my favorite out of everything. I know that it is not something that most people are into, but I am happy with it. There are people who need to think about ways to enjoy their lives. This is the way that helps me enjoy myself. I think that it is only a matter of time before I can do something about this. I hope that I can watch more horror movies in the future, that is all that I need.
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