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Conversations with the Inspiring Janet Travis

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janet Travis.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always wanted to be an actor. In high school, I was in theater and performed in one-act plays and also in duet acting competitions for UIL. It was through one of the judges at a duet acting competition that I became aware of an audition for AMDA (The American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in New York that were being held in Houston.

I was told I had a good shot at a scholarship, which was a dream for me. My mother, however, did not share my enthusiasm. I was told I would not be auditioning and could instead choose a university within a 3-hour distance from home. I wound up attending Texas A&M and becoming a Spanish major and Latin minor. I still stretched myself artistically–I auditioned for and became a vocalist for a music student who composed an original piece for his senior thesis, and I performed it for his professors and peers in the Academic Building, the lone bastion of liberal arts on campus. The piece eventually became part of his audition for The Juilliard School in New York. While a student at A&M, I stumbled upon a Latin teaching position at a private school in Bryan, and I taught there for three years while taking a full load at A&M. I loved teaching and found it to be my own personal stage. I married my college sweetheart and moved on with my life, thinking that teaching would be my only artistic outlet.

Fast forward many years and four children later, and my second oldest son became interested in acting. My husband and I decided to give him every opportunity to stretch his wings and enrolled him in acting lessons. My son took to his acting coach immediately and began to thrive in the industry. At the same time, our family was going through a stressful time as my mother battled cancer. In an effort to help me, my husband suggested that I take lessons from my son’s acting coach. He told me he knew it was something I had always dreamed of and thought it might be therapeutic for me. I loved it! It felt fulfilling and freeing to me. After a few classes, my acting coach suggested I get an agent, so I did. My very first audition was for the feature film, Grow Up, Tony Philliips. I booked it, and it made it into SXSW! It seemed from that point on for about the next six months, I booked everything! The came the first dreaded lull–this business is filled peaks and valleys. However, I continued to train with my acting coach and auditioned constantly, booking commercials here and there.

In the spring of 2017, I booked the role of Gena Hamilton on Vindication, which currently airs on Amazon Prime (I am in episode 2). That fall, I booked the role of Mirabelle in the short film, Cecilia, and booked the role of Pamela in the short The Darlings, two shorts being made by Elizabeth Tabish as part of an anthology of nine shorts that became Tales of the Dancing Maenads. At the time, Elizabeth was partnered with Lindsey Lemke in Maenad Films, a production company making films that dealt with female archetypes (the mother, the maiden, the queen, the huntress, the wise woman, the mystic, the lover) and addressed the ways in which Hollywood got the stories of women all wrong. Intrigued, I continued working with Elizabeth in other shorts within the anthology, meeting and working with Ashley James along the way. Elizabeth’s inspiration led me to write my own short film, Mother’s Day, which was about a woman raising a family with the dark cloud of generational trauma looming overhead, which is semi-autobiographical. I sent the script to Elizabeth in May 2018 and by August 2018, we had secured The Shag Palace in Ft. Worth as our location and were filming. Ashley James was the lead as Jane, I played Mother, Elizabeth directed, and we had assembled a Dream Team of a crew.

By the time Tales of the Dancing Maenads was ready to screen in February 2019, Ashley and I had joined Elizabeth to form Maenad Productions. In March 2019 Mother’s Day was an official selection of the Austin Film Society SXSW Shortcase and by May 2019, Maenad Productions was incorporated.What a whirlwind when I look back on it! The fall of 2019 was equally exciting, with Mother’s Day and The Darlings getting into many film festivals. In October, The Darlings won Best Soundtrack at Haunted House Fear Fest in Berlin; Mother’s Day got into the Grapevine Film Festival in Grapevine, TX, where Ashley James won Best Actress and Elizabeth Tabish won Best Director; in November, Mother’s Day got into The Blow Up International Arthouse Film Festival in Chicago, where Ashley and I were both nominated for Best Actress (along with Susan Sarandon! That was surreal), and where Mother’s Day won Best Narrative Short; and then The Lone Star Film Festival in Ft. Worth, where we also won Best Short Film for Mother’s Day.

Immediately before we left for Chicago, we assembled our Dream Team crew once more to shoot a Proof of Concept Trailer for the feature Elizabeth and I wrote, Day of the White Rabbit. We shot it in 16 hours and Elizabeth had it edited and ready to share before our back to back Chicago/Ft. Worth film festivalpalooza. We are currently in preproduction for Day of the White Rabbit as we look for funding and investors.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would say the biggest obstacle for me would be the late start I got in beginning my career. I don’t regret a single thing about the course of my life, although I do wonder from time to time what may have been had I started down this path as a young actress with zero responsibilities. That said, it is absolutely true that my life experiences give depth and poignancy to my work at this stage in my life. My advice for young women would be to follow their passion and not settle for what they may think others want for them or expect of them.

However, my biggest piece of advice is for women who may have gone the route that others laid out for them: IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO TURN YOUR DREAM INTO REALITY! If you are serious and ready to put the work in, talented people will gravitate to you and see your potential and want to collaborate. Just TAKE THE FIRST STEP! If you are a writer who doesn’t know where or how to start: write what you know and just GET STARTED! Even if the first draft is garbage, just get the juices flowing and watch the magic happen!

What should we know about Maenad Productions? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Maenad Productions is a female-led production company dedicated to telling compelling and unexpected stories with a vintage aesthetic. We have produced ten award-winning short films and we currently have an award-winning feature film screenplay, Day of the White Rabbit, in preproduction.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
In my industry, training is of utmost importance. Find a qualified acting coach who will work with you to find your true voice and help you access your emotions in order to create a compelling second reality. No one can just jump into auditions with a pretty headshot–you have to have the talent to back it up. And know that this business is filled with peaks and valleys. There will be times when you book everything and times when work seems to dry up. It’s important to just keep training during the valley seasons and to not get discouraged.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.maenadproductions.com
  • Email: maenadfilms@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @maenadproductions
  • Facebook: Maenad Productions
  • Twitter: @maenadfilms


Image Credit:
Personal photo of me: Elizabeth Tabish

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