Quintuple threat Micaela Wittman is a talented actress, writer, producer, and director. Born in Rhinebeck, NY and raised in Arizona, Wittman lives and works in Los Angeles. Micaela is immensely smart, well-spoken, and has strong credits for someone so young. Micaela can currently be seen in the coming of age film Remy & Arletta which premiered at Outfest 2022. In addition to starring in and producing the film, it is based on a novel of the same name which she authored. Up next, Micaela will be appearing in Netflix's Shirley opposite Regina King and Lucas Hedges.
Wittman's feature debut, Clairevoyant, is about a Los Angeles socialite and so-called wellness practitioner named Claire (who Wittman plays). Claire seeks to overcome her life of luxury and achieve nirvana, after hiring a film crew to document a more authentic journey along the path of enlightenment. Micaela stars in, co-directed, co-wrote, edited and produced Clairevoyant, which received international distribution with Myriad Pictures and sold during the Cannes Film Festival's Marché du Film. Matt Fagerholm of RogerEbert.com called her work in that film “a tour de force performance” and called the film “uproariously funny and cringe-inducing.” Micaela has also appeared in hit shows such as Teen Wolf , Modern Family, and HBO's Sharp Objects.
When Micaela had a moment to stop, she spoke with Gemma Magazine about specific roles, upcoming projects and her creative process. Let's get into it!
Did you always know that you wanted to become an actress? Did you have a particular mentor?
I knew from a very young age. I was hooked when I did an educational play about brushing your teeth in second grade. I had to put my dreams on the back burner for a while because I grew up in a very strict household, but that's okay because it taught me to be grateful for what I have now.
I know that you did theatre at a young age. Have you done more theatre in Angeles? The first job I ever had in Los Angeles was a play for the Young Playwrights Festival. It actually gave me the confidence to go on to book my first TV role, too. It was life changing. Before that, I had only ever done work as an extra on TV shows. I felt so out of place in Hollywood, quite literally in the background, and I had no proof to validate that I was doing the right thing by following my dreams and pursuing acting. So I owe a lot to that play and I hope to work in theatre again sometime in the future. Maybe even in New York.
What was your experience like appearing on the HBO show? I thought Sharp Objects was brilliant.
I was shocked to hear about Jean-Marc Vallée's passing. He had such a unique way of directing that made you feel like you were living in the real world instead of just being on set. He used natural lighting and tried not to call action or cut to keep the scene rolling as fluidly as possible. His blocking was minimally planned, and he encouraged you to embody the character's life. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to work with him; it was one of my favorite experiences.
You have already accomplished so much and have much to look forward to with your projects. Your feature debut, Clairvoyant, has received excellent reviews. How did you co-write, co-produce, co-direct, and star in the film?
I was creatively starved. I hate waiting. I hate giving my power away to other people who have the opportunity to decide if I'm talented enough or if I have a future. I knew I was talented enough; I just had to find a way to get out there and show everyone. Luckily, with the help of my co-director, Arthur De Larroche, we could make something on a tiny budget that resonated with people.
What was the creative process like of making Clairevoyant? It was the opposite of strategic. That makes it intuitive, I guess. There wasn't much pressure. On our first day of shooting, we just set the camera up in Arthur's bedroom and hit record. We would stop to change the batteries and drink water, but that's about it. We both just sat there for 12 straight hours as I improvised as Claire. After that, I watched the 12 hours of footage and started to piece together the story out of the funniest moments we captured. It was really immersive because Arthur and I would do things like take the camera out to our locations and just start riffing. As I go on to work in more "professional" settings, the laid back and creative style of making of Clairevoyant will always have a special place in my heart.
Can you please tell us about Remy & Arletta, which screened at Outfest 2022?
Remy & Arletta is about two girls in their senior year of high school who are in a will-they-won't-they friendship. It's what I jokingly call a "real movie." Clairevoyant was a mockumentary, and while many people loved it, it was too easy to dismiss. So I took one of the most serious things I've ever experienced and turned it into a film.
What was the process of writing a book for Remy & Arletta?
It was fun. I enjoy the creative process. Something comes over me when I'm deep into editing a film or writing a book. It feels like I can stay awake all day and night and not get tired of it. I guess that's called the flow state.
You enjoy many elements of the creative process when creating a film/series. Do you feel that taking on each one makes you a better actress?
Definitely! Making my movies was pretty much an intense scene study class. I now profoundly understand storytelling and what is required of a scene and a movie.
How does the craft of acting sustain you?
Financially? We'll find out in next quarter's earnings report! Emotionally, I don't see my life without it. Even if locked in a prison cell, I'd probably find a way to do it somehow. I'd likely force my inmates to do a play with me or something.
What are you inspired by that is non-entertainment related?
Nothing, haha, just kidding. Life, I guess. All of my inspiration comes from life. If life gives me a bad, funny, or crazy situation, I'll probably make a movie about it.
Do you get nervous when auditioning or have learned not to take it personally? "Both. One of the first things you're taught as an actor is to not take things personally but I think that's a pretty difficult request. You have to numb yourself and go partially insane to not take things personally. Everything about it is personal. You're judged based on your looks, your talent, your resumé, all in a high-stakes situation that lasts about 60 seconds. For me I found a way around that by making my own movies. Now when I go into auditions I feel a little bit like I can take it or leave it. But even with that being said, I do still get nervous. I just try not to shame myself for it anymore. It's exciting, it's human, it's normal!" (Micaela Wittman)
Can you please expand upon the character, Maggie, who you play in Shirley, which stars Regina King and John Ridley?
My character Maggie is a college student at Florida State University and an ardent supporter of Ms. Chisholm. I believe that Maggie is ready to put her life on the line for Shirley and what she stands for. It was such an amazing opportunity to work with Regina King and John Ridley.
I know that you grew up in Arizona. What are your impressions of Los Angeles?
I have positive feelings of nostalgia for Walmart parking lots and 120-degree weather, but outside of my nostalgia, I'd take LA any day. I pretend to hate it here, but LA is secretly my muse. Some people here are strange, but overall, the people are friendly. It's also kind of what you make it, which I appreciate. I've had both my best and worst years in LA, and I've grown attached.
Are there particular actresses' that you would like to work with? Kate Winslet. She has so much integrity and has continued to evolve. She hasn't assumed a persona, to this day. She takes on challenging characters and if something isn't being made that she wants to be in, she makes it.
What type of projects are you attracted to? I try to look for honesty in my projects. Comedy or drama makes no difference to me. So long as it's truthful and holds up a mirror to the world in some way, I'm down for it. When people found out that I followed up a comedy mockumentary with a drama based on a true story, there was already some pigeonholing going on. "You nailed it the first time, why change?" And the answer is, I'm not here to be a brand, I'm here to make art. And that comes in all shapes and sizes.
If a young girl approached you and asked your advice about becoming an actress and succeeding in the industry, what would you tell her?
This is a complicated one! It depends on her parents. People pretend that kids in the business are super mature and can handle it, but they're still kids, and I think they need a lot of guidance and nurturing. But I'd tell her to go for it, even if that means doing community theater. Acting is acting, and your path will find you.
To keep up with Micaela Wittman and her exciting projects, you can follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/micaewa/