SANDRINE HOLT: A SHY CONFIDENCE
BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
Sandrine Holt started her acting career in her late teens after landing an important role in director Bruce Beresford’s film ‘Black Robe’. Prior to acting Sandrine spent a few years modelling in Toronto and in Europe. I first met Sandrine Holt when I was about twenty years old and barely four months into my photography career. I was asked by her modeling agency to do a portfolio shoot for her. Sandrine was only thirteen years old at the time, a little on the shy side, but her presence and beauty were unmistakable.
This photo shoot took place in Silverlake, LA, at the house of our mutual friend, filmmaker Allison Beda, who we both knew from all the way back in the late 80’s. It had been years since I’d photographed Sandrine. She’s a lot less shy now than the teenage Sandrine I photographed years ago but no less, in fact more, beautiful than ever.
A few days later we caught up over Skyped and talked a little about her exciting acting career.
Imagista: We first met when you were about thirteen years old. You were just starting to model and I was just beginning my photography career. How did modelling come about?
Sandrine Holt: I was really tall and skinny around the age of twelve so modelling was suggested to me and I thought ‘why not’? I really saw it as a way to become independent more than anything else. I was just busting out and wanted to get out of my house and see the world.
Imagista: Even at age thirteen?
S.H: Yeah. I started traveling by myself with I was fourteen years old. I did the usual; Paris, Milan, London, and New York.
A lot of girls during that time period went to Asia. I’m half french and half chinese so I think that’s part of the reason I never went to Asia for work. I might have been too tall. My market was Paris and Milan.
Imagista: At what age did you start thinking about getting into acting?
Sandrine: I think I always romanticized acting. I think there’s a part of every child that wants to be an actor. I was brought up around a lot of French cinema, especially being in Paris. I loved Isabelle Adjani and Juliette Binoche so I had this romantic idea of moving to Paris and studying acting there.
I was actually miserable modelling. I was basically a child traveling by myself. I was exposed to a lot of situations that were probably too grown up for me at the time. Plus, I was never into fashion. I was never a fashion person so I found the whole fashion thing really ridiculous, whimsical and superficial. I also didn’t have the self confidence to be at ease during a lot of social situations.
Finally My modeling agent in Paris sat me down one day and said, “You look miserable. You’re acting miserable. So if it’s acting you really want to pursue then you should just do it.” So I took my agent’s advice. (laughs)
Imagista: What was the first steps then in terms of acting?
S.H: I actually went to an open call for this film called ‘Black Robe’ then I did a bunch of screen tests and ended up landing the role. That was my first real acting job.
Imagista: What did that film do for you as an actor?
S.H: It was a bit of surreal experience for me actually. I spent half of my time on set wondering to myself, “how did i get here?” (laughs). I was this inexperienced kid working with this amazing director. It was also a very demanding first film. We shot in pretty harsh conditions in Northern Quebec and shooting six days a week. I was playing someone from another culture and speaking another language. It was actually a great first experience because shooting that movie was under the toughest conditions of any film I’ve ever made.
When the film came out and I first watched it I basically went home and cried for hours. Then, a week later I found out I’d been nominated for a Genie Award for best supporting actress.
It was very confusing for me. I didn’t know how to look at my work objectively at that time.
Imagista: What happened after Black Robe?
S.H: I moved to New York because I thought the city would make me more assertive. I felt a little stifled in Toronto.
Then I landed a role in the Rapa Nui film shot on Easter Island that was produced by Kevin Costner and directed by Kevin Reynolds. So once again I was shooting a film in difficult location for five months (laughs).
Imagista: You also worked with Canadian Director legend Bruce McDonald on the adaptation of “Dance Me Outside”?
S.H: For the first part of my career I played a lot of aboriginal roles.
Imagista:Who would you say has had the most positive impact on your career?
S.H: Since I started working with my manager Didi Rea, she’s amazing, I’ve felt so much better about the quality of work that I’m doing since working with her. She came into my life when I was going through a tough time in my personal life. She’s really helped me to get better and that’s important in an industry where you’re always expected to be at the top of your game.
I feel like all artists have the same issues whether it’s the fraud complex or feeling like you don’t have the support behind you. Having faith in yourself when nobody does can be tough so when you have someone behind you who’s that good and that supportive it’s great.
Imagista: You seem to have an incredibly busy life between working full time as an actor and being a single Mom. What do you do to recharge?
S.H: I’m usually asleep about ninety minutes after putting my daughter to bed. I usually read every night before falling asleep. I actually have this fantasy of taking a vacation where all I do is catch up on all this amazing TV going on but then I’d feel like I was missing out on my life. My career, friends, daughter, and family are really my life.
Imagista: What do you love about acting then?
S.H: I love the psychology of acting. I love getting inside the head’s of my characters and try to figure out what there are thinking, feeling and hiding.
Imagista: So if you weren’t an actor do you think you’d be a psychologist?
S.H: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I think I’d be doing.
Imagista: I can easily see you in that role…(both Michael and Sandrine laugh)
You’ve been acting now for quite a few years, what’s changed for you?
S.H: I feel like I’m in the right place now. I felt like, for years, it was a struggle and I don’t felt that anymore. I feel good about where I am now. I’m comfortable in my own skin. Things have been really good.
I used to be so damn shy. I’m still quite shy but now I’m both shy and ok in my own skin.
I feel like there’s a part of me that actually enjoys the struggle. I feel like there’s a rock in my way and that I have a need to dislodge it. I don’t think you can act for years and years without having that inner determination.
Imagista: How long do you intend on acting for?
S.H: (laughs) I really don’t know… until I die I guess (laughs)…
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