Women are born to be creative and do incredible things in their lives. For Anne Marie Cummings, her instinct and determination to bring to life all the things she has dreamed of has rewarded her with her own show that she created based on her long career in theater. Fearless and with boundless energy, Anne has embraced her own foibles and used those to whip up a story of a young woman finding comfort with someone who touched her life just as she thought she would not recover from a personal loss. It has provided a fruitful and fun endeavor that has taken her though a journey of two seasons of “Conversations in L.A.”, which is about to debut its third season. In an exclusive interview, Anne Marie previews what Season of “Conversations in L.A.” offers and also reflects a bit on her acting career journey so far.
What was the initial inspiration for you to write and star as Michelle Macabee in “Conversations in L.A.”?
ANNE: At the end of the day, I realized that I was the best person for the role and I also realized that stepping into the medium of film/TV, I am an actress-writer-director and creator of content. In terms of writing this character, I wanted to write about a relatable, yet unusual woman we don’t often see in this medium of TV/film. Michelle is not the typical Hollywood female. She’s in her late forties, she’s struggling with midlife, she’s menopausal, she’s not necessarily out there looking for love – rather her passion in life – and she’s curious at her age about a lot of the things people stop being curious about – mainly really living life later in life.
How would you describe who your character Michelle is in when we see her again in Season 3?
ANNE: It’s one year later and she’s now making money as a commercial actress. She’s more confident and she’s taking bolder steps in her life as she navigates midlife. At this point she’s married to Gus, her much younger husband, and she continues to work through the issues they have in their very passionate, yet flooded-with-issues, relationship.
What do you admire about her?
ANNE: I think midlife is a time when a lot of women, and men, sort of give up on life. I hear people my age – Michelle’s age – who talk about retirement and calling it quits. What I love about Michelle is that she’s a woman who is redefining for herself what the rest of her life is going to look like. She isn’t afraid to find what her passions are and follow them.
What is it like working alongside Gustavo Velasquez on “Conversations in L.A.”?
ANNE: It’s amazing! I hustle and so does he which is why he’s working with me as a producer on Season Three. But overall we both have the same drive and passion towards this work. He also believes in my vision and rarely questions my direction to master theatre on film with a one-shot series. I’m always pushing the envelope and trying new things and he’s right there with me. Every actress-writer-director is going to want to work with an actor and producer who believes in their vision and at the same time challenges them. Sometimes I say “Jump!” and he jumps, but other times I say “Jump!” and he asks, “Why?” I like that.
How would you describe the dynamic between Michelle and Gus?
ANNE: These two have a soul connection first and foremost, but they also have a lot of sexual tension intertwined within that connection. Their age difference is a big part of what makes them tick. Sometimes Gus acts like a boy, but sometimes he’s a man and we see exactly why Michelle loves him – his ability to take care of her emotionally. Other times Michelle is like a lost young girl, but other times she’s like a fierce woman who speaks her mind and puts Gus in his place. Despite this twenty year age gap, the two of them alternate between varying degrees of maturity so that age really isn’t a factor at all. And isn’t that true of people in general? I know fifty-year-olds who act like they’re twelve and I know some twenty-year-olds who act like they’re forty.
What are your favorite kinds of scenes to write versus your favorite kinds of scenes to perform?
ANNE: There isn’t a difference for me. I love it all. “Conversations in L.A.” is pretty much heightened drama. Each episode – each a one-shot with continuous camera movement, the signature for this series – is a moment in time from these characters lives. Each episode is a very important conversation and there’s always something big that happens in that conversation, there’s always a turning point. The challenge as a writer-actress-director – is always making sure we all nail the heightened and varied emotions within each episode. For all of us it takes tremendous courage, stamina, and energy to really go the distance and honor the demands of what I’ve written.
What has been perhaps one outstanding scene that you are grateful to have brought to life on screen for the series?
ANNE: All of the episodes between Gus and Michelle are important because they touch upon the real nature of a relationship. As a writer I’m not sugar-coating anything. I go deeper into their psyches as the series continues which calls for deeper work from myself and Gustavo. But I also feel the storyline with Gus’ character (and not giving too much away here) regarding what he’s doing on the side is a very important story to tell regarding breaking cycles and how family holds us to certain behaviors. This series — with its one-shots, performances, and writing certainly aims to entertain, but it also aims to challenge audiences to think.
What challenges have you faced creating/working on the show and how did you overcome them?
ANNE: Almost every single day I have obstacles to face, of some kind. The biggest obstacle is keeping the mindset of finding solutions to obstacles when they arise. Sometimes it only takes me five minutes to find a solution – but other times it can be a few days; it all depends on the gravity of the obstacle. Another aspect to being a showrunner is organization. I have to be extremely organized with other people and myself. That’s not easy to do when you’re tired. Those are times when I know I need to watch a movie at night instead of continue working. There’s a balance of “brain on” and “brain off” even within the demands of needing to be on and focused all the time.
Has “Conversations in L.A.” left an impression on you in your life? If so, in what way?
ANNE: Every experience leaves you at a place where you can’t necessarily go backwards. This series has certainly shown me – not that I didn’t believe it before – but it’s solidified for me that I am most definitely a showrunner. I have the ability to work as a creator of content plus be an actress-writer-director, should I choose. It’s heavy-handed, but I know I can do it and my brain will only want to be challenged in this way as I continue on this artistic journey of mine.
What has been the one thing you have taken away from the experience of working on “Conversations in L.A.”?
ANNE: Only one?
(1) If you want to do great things, you have to change your life. In other words, you cannot do the same things you’ve been doing your whole life and expect different results.
(2) Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices. If you want to work on your craft while your friends are out partying – do it. You aren’t wasting your time.
(3) Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Not everyone wants to grow, but if you do and you challenge your team to grow too – that’s a good thing. People can talk behind your back – let them. Just stay true to your course of growth and don’t be afraid to walk away from the people holding you back.
What is your proudest achievement working on “Conversations in L.A.”?
ANNE: Mastering the style of one-shots and my work as an actress-writer-director. Surrounding myself with a team that believes in me and supports my vision. Realizing at the end of the day that when you are with that team of people around you that is supporting you – you are all together seeking to achieve the same dream!
What has surprised you most about your career so far?
ANNE: The mindset of trying things out and experimenting, for the first twenty-five years of my artistic journey, is what has brought me to a place of finding my stride. There really isn’t such a thing as overnight success and I’m living proof of that one!
At this stage of your career, what do you think you have learned from the roles and projects you have worked on?
ANNE: That I’m capable of doing anything I put my energy and heart into.
Then what are the perks of where you are in your career right now?
ANNE: Experience is the greatest teacher one can ask for. I have placed myself in many positions that have taught me – sometimes painfully so – to grow into being what I am today. Some people have everything handed to them; that hasn’t been me at all. I’ve had to learn the hard way in order to be what I am. But looking back I wouldn’t want it any other way because it’s through this path that I’ve found myself as an artist – it’s what has allowed me to define myself and my unique and very organic style and voice as a writer.
Has there been any great advice you have gotten about working as a writer/actor/content creator?
ANNE: If anything – I’ve had to quiet the voices from those around me and solely listen to myself and inner guidance. When I am creating and writing I go deep within to what it is that I feel is happening between two or more characters and I don’t edit myself. If I turn to others and ask – as I did early on in my career – “What do you think?” then I lose my direction a bit. I’ve gotten to the point where – after guidance early on in my career – where I’m flying now. I’m a bird in flight trusting my vision. That’s a place I think all artists strive to be – flying on their own.
What advice would you offer to other upcoming and aspiring content creators?
ANNE: Don’t be afraid to write what YOU want to write, and don’t listen to those who criticize your ideas. Do what your heart tells you to do.
At a time when women’s voices are rising to be heard and respected around the country and world, what do you recommend your fans do to lend support in that endeavor?
ANNE: In my journey on this project, I cannot tell you how many times I have had to stand up for myself as an actress-writer-director and creator of content. I want women to not back down from who they know they are in their hearts to be. I have stood up for myself so many times and that’s what we have to do. If I didn’t do that, then this project wouldn’t have come to life because so many people have tried to take pieces of my work away from me. We can’t let that happen. We have to stand up for ourselves!
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?
ANNE: In the back of my mind I have several films that are brimming, but right now “Conversations in L.A.” – Season Three – is where my focus is. Seasons One and Two are on Amazon Prime and Season Three is in the works — that’s what I’d love for people to keep an eye out for!
“Conversations in L.A.” is available for viewing on iTunes, Amazon, and at: conversationsinla.com. To follow Anne’s current and future projects as her career grows and her professional and personal adventures continue, you can follow her on Twitter @immediatevision and to get more information, visit her website: http://immediatevisionproductions.com/ Link to watch Season 1 on Amazon Prime: https://tinyurl.com/ydab3xyt and link to watch Season 2 on Amazon Prime: https://tinyurl.com/yd3d2s7y
“Conversations in L.A.” Season 1 trailer:
“Conversations in L.A.” Season 2 trailer: