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Conversations with A. Laura James

Today we’d like to introduce you to A. Laura James.

We’re so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
According to my mother when I was three years old, I pointed at the television and announced I wanted to do that. I was an outgoing, imaginative and curious child and my mother encouraged me to do performances for the family and the neighbors. I loved creating stories and acting them out, forcing my brother and my friends to be in my plays. I loved writing stories and creating characters, then bringing them to life.

I didn’t really pursue acting seriously until high school because there were no theater programs in school before that and we didn’t have the resources that I could pursue acting outside of school. I loved being a part of theater so I went to college and got my BFA in acting and then moved to Los Angeles to try to “make it”. I fell in with an improv group, we also did sketch comedy. I had been writing for years, but not seriously and doing sketch was a fun new writing adventure. I started directing sketch shows and I realized that I loved directing. Something fundamentally shifted for me when I realized that directing brought together everything I loved. I had never even considered pursuing directing before that moment because I didn’t know any female directors. Which seems too crazy to me now! I studied film and television and with my background in acting, improv and sketch, I was able to translate that into directing comedy for television.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Smooth? No. It has been one struggle after another and another. The key is to not let it wear you down and that’s where good supportive friends and family come in! Being an artist and trying to make art while paying the bills was really hard. Being an actor or a director, you have to wait for someone to pick you. Then of course you have to deliver the goods! It’s really hard to be patient and stay ready and prepared for the opportunity that just doesn’t come. I’m sure we can all relate to that no matter what we’re trying to achieve. Through all the struggles, something good has come out of it, I will say that. Every challenge has taught me something about myself or life or people.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am most proud of being able to work with other incredibly talented creatives in a way that impacts and resonates with an audience. I am proud to have the trust of my collaborators. I feel very lucky to have started as an actor and performer, to have years of improv training to support me as a director. I was an acting coach for many years and I learned how to craft performances that are grounded and layered and to build trust and rapport with actors. Pushing boundaries and telling stories that matter is really important to me. Representing what it is to be female in this world — the female gaze and experience — really resonates with me. I’m very interested in telling fresh female stories in a way that subverts the old paradigm. And if there’s a vampire or two in there, maybe a witch, I’m all about it.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Oh, there are so many things I’ve learned! Be patient and also be ready. Be kind. Follow your instincts. Make the art you want to make. Do something creative and fun every day. Talk nice to yourself. Be bold. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail — it’s just an opportunity to learn and grow. The hard way, but it works if you do the learning and the growing. Be you! Because you are awesome and each of us has something really wonderful to offer the world.

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