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Making an Impression as a Leading Lady

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Camille Grenier. Courtesy of Camille Grenier.

School of Multimedia Communications student and Parisian Camille Grenier has a flair for the dramatic. It’s a lucky trait for someone as furiously devoted to the art of acting as she is. Her zeal has paid off with a chock-a-block summer packed with film projects with crews ranging from Los Angeles to New York and one trailer done with accomplished director and Academy of Art University School of Motion Pictures & Television instructor Jack Perez in which she is cast in the leading role. 

 

“She was one of those actors that showed up and it was clear that she was just head and shoulders above anybody else,” said Perez, who splits his time each week between teaching at the Academy and directing in Los Angeles. “Her skills as an actor are enormous and having directed for many years, I like to think that I have an eye for good acting.”

Last summer he wrote a part for her in a 40-minute summer class production called Where’s Roman. Diane Baker, executive director of the School of Acting, was the executive producer. It was a huge success and Grenier really made an impression. Since then, she sought out multiple acting roles on Academy projects with Perez and director Eduardo Rufeisen. “It just came together amazingly. I got very lucky and I worked really really hard,” said Grenier.

This summer Grenier picked up the pace even further. 

“So I was doing three films at the same time. I would sleep six hours and be on set for 22 hours. Then would have to do homework for my classes at the same time,” Grenier shared. 

One production required her to be in a rowboat on Lake Tahoe in 62 degree weather with just a dress and for which she is learning to scuba dive. It’s called The Life and The Lady directed by Michelantony Dunston. 

“And I did [a] bad ass film about women with guns with director Sebastian Sdaigui,” she said. The film is called The Girl In The Woods. “Recently, I met the crew from New York. I literally went to this crazy professional set with fake guns and action. I had to play this crazy French woman.”

The greatest learning experience of the summer for Grenier was playing the lead character of Jesse for Perez’s trailer for ShotGun Wedding. In the story, Jesse is a killer for hire who wants to leave the business.

“I usually play the crazy girl,” said Grenier. “This time they gave me a rational, down to earth character who wants to try to find happiness and settle down but is surrounded by crazy characters.”

What is hardest for Grenier to understand is how it would be to kill another person, and for her role, she really needed to deeply believe that she was a killer.

“What makes me do that? What kind of background? What happened in my life when I was able to make a human being stop living?” Grenier asked herself these questions as she did her background work for this character. 

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Camille Grenier. Courtesy of Camille Grenier.

“That is why I love acting and it makes me understand human beings and that’s why I don’t want to do anything else. I think this process is what makes me love acting.”

“She has to be completely vulnerable, naked and committed. No matter how complex or emotionally shattering it is, she goes there,” said Perez. “She brings so many layers to the performance. Whenever she’s playing a part you feel that there is a real living breathing person there. And that’s the difference. She completely inhabits whatever role she’s portraying.”

Grenier won Best Actress at the Academy’s Epidemic Film Festival in 2014, she had her own show on Urban Knights Radio called “The Arrogant Frenchie Show” and is on the hunt for an agent. She graduates in December.

“She’s one of those students who come along and not only says I want to be an actor but she’s got the chops and the talent,” said Jan Yanehiro, director of the School of Multimedia Communications. “I see her work and I’m astonished. She just embodies that character, it’s amazing. She is just fearless.”

Grenier refers to Yanehiro and Baker as her “California Mothers” after helping her through a rough patch. In order to attend the Academy, Grenier made a compromise with her parents that she would enroll in the communications program and not solely study acting. But Grenier found this didn’t leave enough time for her true passion. 

“I was one to encourage her to find every way possible within our department to help her take acting classes as an elective, as a minor, everywhere possible. I think she’s got huge talent,” said Yanehiro. “I think our job as educators is to help young people find their passion and capture their dream.” 

Grenier’s next goal is to work with Baker to find an agent and get a visa so she can stay in the U.S. and work. She credits the Academy’s diversity of classes and meeting different instructors as the best tools to make your “milkshake” and decide what is important to you. 

“I think that’s the beauty of this school and if you work really hard, teachers really understand and support that too,” said Grenier. “And I think the AAU teachers are completely in the middle of it. The most inspired education is having teachers who are in it.”