Today we’d like to introduce you to Katt Balsan.
Katt, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
What made me follow my dream and move from France to America to play pretend on the highest level? I was born in France and moved to Switzerland with my mom and my brother when my parents got divorced when I was 8 years old.
Back in France, from the age of 4 to 8 years old, I was part of a ballet dancing class and at the end of every school year, we would present a Ballet Dancing Gala. In 1996, I was chosen to be the storyteller ballerina in between each dance; linking the different dances with a story, I was asked to mime, to pretend, to be cute and funny. And at the end of this Gala, a man came backstage asking my mom if was interested in joining his theater group.
That summer of 1996, we moved to Switzerland and that was the end of me dancing and the beginning of me “playing pretend” on stage. I joined theater classes in Switzerland and loved everything about it.
My mom who was still suffering from a difficult divorce met a man named Denis. Denis moved in with us, he was a Paraglider, a traveler, a cook and a real step-dad to me. He would make a living giving Paragliding tours, teaching paragliding and flying around the world. He even taught me how to Paraglide myself when I was 10 years old. Denis took care of me like his own daughter. He cared for me and was invested in what I was doing.
One day, I asked Denis: “How do you want to die” and Denis told me that when he was 16 years old, he ran away from his parents house, with a backpack and some pocket money, because he wanted to learn how to fly (which wasn’t what his parents had in mind for him). He ran away to follow his dream. And he spent the rest of his life following the wind, surfing the waves of life. He told me that what matters isn’t the way you die, but rather the way you live. But if he did have the choice; then he would choose to die doing what he loves the most; paragliding.
Just a few weeks after this conversation, my mom and Denis got married. I was so happy, Denis was officially going to become my real step-dad. I loved him like a dad and he loved me like a daughter.
3 weeks after his wedding with my mom, Denis was giving a paragliding tour to a 14-year-old kid. They were up in the air when a strong wind hit their wing and they started to fall down at a very high speed. So Denis, turned himself around in the air to place the kid in front of him and when they hit the ground, the kid was fine; he only had a broken arm. But they had to take Denis to the Hospital in a helicopter. Denis was in so much pain and he didn’t make it to the Hospital. He passed away in the Helicopter, on his way there.
The accident happened less than 2 months after having had this conversation with Denis. I was 11 years old. That day Denis became my Hero. Not only did he live his life following his heart but he also sacrificed his own life to save this kid’s life. He became my Hero, my role model and my guardian Angel.
At 14 years old, I moved back to France to live with my dad; I needed a change. The change was brutal. My dad is an Agriculture which has been passed on from generations on. So “living your dream” is not something that exists in my dad’s mind. His philosophy of life was the opposite of Denis’ and I didn’t do so well in this new environment. And so I left as soon as I finished high-school. At 18 years old, I got a job in sales & marketing and enrolled in a “Business School”, got myself a studio apartment and paid for my own rent, I was broke but at least I was independent and out of the house! My life, my rules!
I continued theater, as a hobby; an after-school type of activity. I did consider going to Theater School after high-school but that meant that someone had to pay for it, pay for the School’s tuition and send me to Paris. My dad didn’t want to hear anything about it.
He told me that if he was going to put any money down for me it would be to send me to “Law-School” or “Med-School”… nothing like “Theater-School”. So I’d figure I didn’t need his help and would find a way myself. And for the following 5 years, I studied Business and was hired from one company to another; being in the corporate world was not fun but at least I was able to pay for Acting classes and I even moved to Paris to be closer to the “entertainment industry”.
After 5 years in the corporate world and graduating from a Master II degree in “Business Development”, I knew that I couldn’t live like this. I knew that I had to follow my dream or I would never be happy. The corporate world had already tired me out, I was headed to be a depressed drunk at only 23 years old. It was not looking so good.
I lived in Paris for 3 years and I joined a real Acting School called “Acting International by Robert Cordier”, after the second year I knew that this was it. I didn’t want to do anything else but make a living at playing pretend. I thought of Denis, remembered what he told me; that the only thing that matters is to follow our dreams. So I quit my day job and took my acting career seriously.
In 2012, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Los Angeles, where I had never been before. I didn’t know anybody in Los Angeles; I looked up a website that someone mentioned called “Craigslist”, found a room for rent in Burbank, flew to Los Angeles in August; on a tourist Visa. Took a super shuttle from LAX to Burbank, no phone, no car, very little money, I met my roommate who soon became my first Friend in the USA and never came back to Paris. I was very fortunate to fall in love, my (future ex) husband, proposed to marry me so that I could stay in the country and have a green card. So we did! And a year later in 2013, I was married and legal to work. The marriage thing didn’t work out too good and we got a divorce soon after that.
It wasn’t easy to make a living in Los Angeles; at first, I was hired by a “telemarketing company” I made a sale the first day and quit the day after. Then I was hired by a Horseshoeing French Company ran by two French idiots… I quit after a few months. Then I was hired by a production company, I worked 50 hours a week, didn’t have time for my acting career… I also quit this job. Then I juggled between different small jobs in order to make a living and yet still be available for auditions. I was a caregiver, a babysitter, a toilet scrapper, a lyft/uber driver, an event planner…
Soon after I moved to Los Angeles, I met Gary Austin, the Founder and Original Artistic Director of The Groundlings. Gary became my improvisational Theater teacher and I fell in love with his work. Soon after that Gary became a mentor, a friend and a family member. Knowing that I didn’t know anyone out here, he took me under his wing, introduced me to his family, his daughter Audrey and his intimate circle.
Wanting to take my career to the next level I decided to create my own material and write my own show… and Gary Austin offered to direct it. In 2015, Gary and I were presenting the very first Work In Progress of my One Woman Show. We did 3 Works In Progress at The Groundlings Student Stage, as we were still writing and developing the show. In our last rehearsal, Gary and I found the name of the show. It will be called: “Balls’ON” which is the same pronunciation then my last name “Balsan”. It is the story of what made me put ON my Balls and move from France to America.
On Aprils’ Fool day of 2017, Gary Austin, Founder of The Groundlings, who has helped shape the history of American Comedy, passed away after having battling cancer for many years. At the Hospital, I promised Gary that I would make him proud and that I would finish the show that we started together. Gary joined Denis’ team and went from being an Earth Angel to a real Guardian Angel.
I finished writing “Balls’ON” and in January of 2018, for the very first time, I presented the finished version of the show, at the Thymele Arts Theater. I continued doing the show in Santa Monica Playhouse in February and in March. It was a success with packed houses and standing ovations. I knew Gary was there, happy that I had kept the work going. I then registered the show at The Hollywood Fringe Festival 2018 and presented “Balls’ON” throughout the month of June at The Broadwater Studio.
“Balls’ON” got nominated for Best Solo Performance at The Hollywood Fringe Festival, the show won a “Platinum Award” from TVolution and a “Double-Sweet Critics’ and Audience’s Choice” Award from Better Lemons.
Every day I get to do what I love. Whether I’m on stage, on set or just in my living room recording self-tape auditions, I play pretend to the highest level and I’m a happy grown-kid. I’ve been cast in different TV shows (Major Crimes, Hollywood girls, Hack My Life…), in a few Feature Films (Faithfully, John Henry, Radical…), and short movies (Award winner “They Plot By night”) and have met the most interesting people in this industry.
From the countryside of France, the snowy Swiss Alps, the grey sky of Paris to the city of Angels, the beaches, the palm trees, the mountains and the desert; following my heart, following my dream, following my Hero Denis and with the love and support of my mom and my friends and mentors like Gary, life is now a happy meaningful journey!
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It sure hasn’t been a smooth road! When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was undocumented and didn’t have a work visa. I had to find ways of making money with no ID. I did all sorts of small jobs. The hardest job I did was being a cleaning lady. Scrapping toilets and bathtubs not only breaks your back, it also breaks your self-esteem.
I also got scammed from a Craigslist ad (haven’t we all…), I applied to a caregiving job for a handicapped boy and the people who were supposedly hiring me, send me a check of $2000 to cash and deposit on a different bank account to pay for a wheelchair. I did. The check bounced after a few days and I owed $2000 to Bank of America who didn’t want to hear anything about any Internet Fraud… I had to close that account and couldn’t pay for my rent anymore.
Following this event, I wasn’t able to get a new lease, and I ended up crashing on the sofa in the conference room of my (at the time) manager’s office in exchange of some caregiving for her (she was an old lady). After almost a year living like this, I was determined to move out.
I was on my way to an interview to become…. a stripper (yes, I was this close to stripping to make a living), and on my way there I got into a car accident. A hit and run type of accident… and to top it all off; my car insurance had expired 2 days before the accident and they wouldn’t cover the damage. I took it as a sign of the Universe that maybe I shouldn’t become a stripper. I became a babysitter instead and moved out from my old manager’s conference room.
I then got a nice bungalow, apartment in Glendale, a 2 bedroom apartment, I was renting out the second bedroom on Airbnb which was the perfect situation, it paid for the rent, and gave me time to audition and focus on my acting career. It was perfect until I helped some “friends” who were in a tough living situation. The couple was living in a hotel room with the mom and the daughter; that’s 4 people, 3 generations in one hotel room.
When they told me that they were ready to sleep in their car, I couldn’t let this happen and so I offered them to rent my Airbnb room at a very low price while they get situated (a temporary situation). The temporary situation became permanent and 7 months later when I asked them to move out and find their own place, they turned their back and talked to my landlord and with force of blackmailing her (as they knew that the lease wasn’t in order), they managed to have me kicked out. I lost everything; my apartment and my way of making a living through Airbnb.
Back to zero, I drove lyft/uber, did more babysitting, and little by little started booking more and more roles. I now live peacefully in Pasadena, with my boyfriend, with a thicker skin and I only surround myself with good intentioned people!
Please tell us about Balls’ON.
My business is my brand! It’s “Balls’ON” !! It started as a One Woman Show directed by Gary Austin, Founder and Original Artistic Director of The Groundlings and is now a true image of who I am.
The show was originally about my journey from France to America, all the crazy stories that happened to me in France, that made me put ON my Balls and move to America. And once in America, breaking a few French Stereotypes.
After the success of the show throughout the year and at The Hollywood Fringe Festival, my producer and I realized that it was more than just a show, it is a Brand. People knew me as “Balls’ON” or “The Balls”… not as Katt. And as we were developing the show we also realized that it was a comedy. That I had a few stand-up routines within the show itself. I think this happened by mistake because it was never meant to be funny. We got offered to present “Balls’ON” during a Cabaret, only a 5-minute snippet of the show, so I did it as a “Stand-up routine” and that woke up a spark in me! “Balls’ON” is expanding.
“Balls’ON” is now the name of my production company and isn’t limited to a One Woman Show, it’s growing into the development of several artists. “Balls’ON & Friends” featuring comedians, dancers, singers, magicians… Next show in 2019!
I think what set us apart is the story behind the name, the fact that it all started just so that I wasn’t just waiting to be cast in a movie, but instead to create my own destiny “Put your Balls ON, put yourself ON stage, ON camera. Just go ON”!
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The only thing I regret and would change in my life is the fact that I didn’t tell Denis: “I love you” while he was still alive.
Apart from that, I would not do anything differently. There is no mistake only opportunities to grow.
- Website: www.kattbalsan.com
- Phone: 416 256 0276
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kattbalsan/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KattBalsanActor/
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kattbalsan