Every aspiring actor/actress dreams of one day making it BIG in Hollywood – the movie capital of the world – but for SA-born actress Tayla Schaffner it’s no longer a dream but reality.
The Johannesburg born and bred talent, grew up with an immense passion for the arts. She worked tirelessly to perfect her skills and before she knew it, the youngster packed her bags and jetted off to the States for a promising career in film. Today, with only a few short years in the entertainment business, Tayla is already racking up awards in Hollywood.
Watch out Charlize Theron, because your “maatjie” is not far behind!
We chat to Tayla to find out more about her two-year journey at The New York Film Academy, convincing her parents that acting is “a viable career” and lastly, her award-winning short film When It Rains.
Indie Does It: Why the decision to be an actress?
Tayla: Acting is telling a story, it is taking viewers on a journey, tricking their minds to alternate universes. As an audience member, I would get mesmerized in that journey. I wanted to do the same and feel rewarded by taking people on that journey.
Indie Does It: How old were you when you decided that acting is wanted to do for a living?
Tayla: I was 9/10 years old when I found out that acting was a possible career. I pointed to the TV screen and asked, ‘Can people get paid for this?’. My Dad nodded his head and that’s when I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life.
Indie Does It: What were some of the your favourite movies growing up?
Tayla: The Lion King, Lilo & Stich and my all-time favourite is Titanic and The Parent Trap.
Indie Does It: Who were some of your early influences?
Tayla: Actresses like Reese Witherspoon gave me hope from a young age to act, I followed her acting since she was a child and it ignited my passion.
Indie Does It: Why the decision to study abroad?
Tayla: It never came across my mind until last minute. I was accepted into all of the prestigious drama schools in South Africa and my plan was to attend UCT. Only 6 months before my matric graduation did my drama teacher mention an acting audition. I thought: ‘why not?’
I really didn’t expect to be accepted with a full talent based scholarship and fly off months later, I sort of just saw it as a fun activity. When it all became real my dad just told me, “Tay you have the opportunity to spread your wings now. Why wait?” So with their blessing I left and hoped for the best.
Indie Does It: What is it about acting that you love most?
Tayla: The best part about this craft is being able to become someone else everyday, and honour them and their story. We are here to celebrate life and share it’s moving tribulations with the world daily.
Indie Does It: Tell us about “When It Rains”?
Tayla: When It Rains is an original story I wrote about a girl who gets burdened with the devastating disease of cancer for the second time. This time she decides to choose a holistic route of treatment against her father’s wishes and it questions their relationship. This story is about trust, love and sacrifice. Everyone struggles from the need to be taken seriously and to be their own person. This story shows Lila finally standing up for what she believes in and not just abiding by what she thought growing up was allowed. I think everyone can relate. It was my first time writing and making my own film and the journey helped me grow as an individual very much.
- Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival – Nominated & won an award, “Best Drama Short”
- Best Shorts Competition – Nominated & won an award, “Awardof Recognition”
- Los Angeles Film Awards – Official Selection/ Nominated & won, “Honorable Mention: Student Film
- United International Film Festival – Official Selection & won, “Award of Merit”
- The IndieFEST Film Awards – Nominated & won, “Award of Recognition”
- Los Angeles Movie Awards – Nominated & won, “Honorable Mention”
- Los Angeles Cinefest – Nominated & Semi Finalist
- Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards – Official Selection/Nominated & Semi Finalist*
Indie Does It: What are your plans for the future?
Tayla: To continue career in acting. I will write more and produce projects as well. The film (aforementioned) helped me notice other skills I can use relating to my work. I hope to work on a TV Series by the likes of Game of Thrones, The Blacklist or Orphan Black.
Indie Does It: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?
Tayla: Everyone knows hardest challenge is rejection. You work so hard and literally sweat blood and tears to be told in 5 minutes you are not what it takes. It has been hard but what shows true strength is the ones who get up again and keep fighting. I won’t stop.
Indie Does It: Tell us about your plans to return to SA and impart some of the knowledge and skills you have acquired with the SA youth?
Tayla: I hope to one day return to SA and share the experience and knowledge I have with people who can’t get to where I’ve been. I think it would be selfish to keep all of this knowledge to myself. This country shaped me and I want to give back, give workshops and so forth.
I want to remind the youth that it starts now, never give up and don’t let the old guys tell you it’s not a life choice.