COVER & FEATURED
By Diego Valiente
San Francisco, CA. – Sitting with the beautiful and talented actress and writer, Shelene Atanacio, at her favorite cafe, Progressive Grounds, in Bernal Heights.
Acting is where I have really been given the freedom to explore life and the different parts of myself through different scripts and characters. I also like working on different projects with the opportunity to work and learn from new people, have fun and challenge myself.
You live in Los Angeles now, how does it feel to be back to San Francisco with all these new projects?
I love being here. San Francisco will always be my real home.
How did you start in the business?
I started through modeling, and eventually fell in love with acting and became more serious and committed to the craft.
Did you ever expect to be doing all that you are doing right now?
I wouldn’t say I expected it… but I feel I have been working towards… creating it. That’s what I would like to do in life…create, create, create. There is so much I would like to do.
Tells us about the short film Dragonfly, how did that come about?
I like the idea of playing action roles that will challenge me and are fun to work on; I had worked with Director/Producer Ron Santiano of Redcape Cinema on a web series he created called Eve. From all of the great publicity and feedback he received from Eve, he has plans for RedCape to produce their first full length feature. He called me and asked me if I would be interested in playing the lead in the film. We were suppose to do a trailer as a way to get more funding, but the short turned out to be more developed than he expected, a little mini movie . The full length feature is in pre-preproduction.
What was the best part about shooting Dragonfly?
Working with Ron is always great. And we have such a good group of people around us. I also looked forward to working on the fight scenes. I was able to stretch myself physically. If I had time, I’d love to train in martial arts more seriously , but right now that opportunity comes to me through working on these types of projects. For Eve, we were able to train in Japanese Samurai Sword Fighting, for DragonFly, I trained in mixed martial arts with a lot of Filipino stick fighting techniques. I love it.
And the worst?
I didn’t anticipate that my body was going to be challenged like that…I was sore and bruised for weeks. I hoped to be more physically prepared, but we shot the short in February and I pretty much was down with a very bad flu all of January. So I didn’t feel I was at my best.
How was Shelene as a child?
I was super shy and very awkward. (as she laughs). And yes a big nerd. I loved to read. Still do. It also didn’t help that I grew to this height (she’s 5’7) at a young age, I think 6th grade. which really is not that tall, but when you grow up in a predominantly Filipino community… it’s tall. I remember boys teasing me and calling me daddy long legs because I was tall brown and skinny. I used to try to wear the flattest shoes. Hunch my shoulders so I wouldn’t stand out. I laugh about it now. I think I’m just now starting to really grow into myself.
What has helped with that growth?
I always had a strong desire to pursue so many different things in life, so I think it was doing that, that has forced me out of my shyness and awkwardness….like Polynesian dance, martial arts, figure skating, acting, all kinds of dance.… I think I’m still naturally shy. Then I started modeling, which helped me gain more self confidence. When you are put out there, I think you naturally develop a resilience to life which can help with growth.
Tell me about your background?
I grew up in Daly City a.k.a. Little Manila, in a big Filipino family. I am the oldest of two sisters, and we have twelve cousins on my mom’s side and twelve on my dad’s side. For the most part we all grew up together, and living around each other. Raised by our grandmother while our parents worked.
Growing up…I always had so many dreams of what I wanted to do in life but I also felt it was this uphill journey, especially since I was shy, going outside of the comforts of a big family, and being thought of as a minority can make it challenging at times, to stay true to your dreams. …but I never started out wanting to be an actress. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. That’s a whole other story…
How is your family?
They are supportive and they love everything that I am doing. They’ve always been the first ones to come out to my plays and support my work.
What would be your ideal role?
I would love to play a character that is far from myself in terms of comfort zones right now…I would like to really transform…and stretch myself.
What actors do you respect?
I admire the work of actors such as Edward Norton, Penelope Cruz, Cate Blanchett…actors who are really skilled at transforming themselves from character to character.
So, you also write?
I started writing short plays a few years ago. I have a lot of stories in me. I’m good at entertaining myself in my head, so I’ve learned to turn them into plays. (she laughs) Other reasons too…one of the plays I wrote… I took first hand stories from my grandparents and memories and use them as inspiration for my writing. It’s been a way for me to preserve their history, their memories, my history. There is a bit of a historian in me. I also feel with all of this technology, extra noise and busyness in the world, it’s easy to forget where you come from, who your family is and what is really important in life. So a lot of what I have written, in terms of plays, has been a way to stay connected to that and share with others especially the younger ones in my family. And now, I just finished writing my first book.
How did the idea of a book happened?
I always knew I wanted to write a book but I didn’t know in what context..… I knew there was an author in me too…Which is what my book is about…creating your ideal real life roles…. encouraging self growth. It became natural to write it in the context of acting, since it is what I love and has been so powerful in my own life. It’s a journey I feel I’m on….desiring to live life to the fullest. Helping others do the same. In acting, we create chemistry out of nothing, which is what we forget we can do in real life.
How did you come up with the name of the book?
Well… I have come to make prayer and meditation a regular important part of my life, especially when it comes to decisions like these.…Act From The Inside Out came to me! (as she laughs) I believe this is how God speaks to me….
Who do you think will read your book?
I am hoping my generation will read it….The Filipino community…of course my biggest inspiration and who I primarily wrote it for was to share it with my close friends and family. But I also hope that it will transcend and relate to other communities like the Latino and African American community. This book is pretty universal but it especially speaks from the perspective of being a woman of color.
Why read Act From The Inside Out?
There has been so much talk about positive thinking, and although it sounds simple, it really is not so simple as a way of life. My book shares with readers how to open yourself up the way actors are encouraged to do…from the inside out. If you think about it, actors do a tremendous job bringing life to imaginary characters, imagine what non-actors have the power to do in their real life. I put a little bit of my own perspective on acting and how to apply it to real life, not exactly what you would find in a book about acting for actors.
How are you going to manage being an actress and author at the same time?
So far, it goes hand in hand, because I write about what I do and it is very supportive of each other. There is a part of me that would like to contribute to helping create positive change. At least it’s what I desire it in my own life…to have positive change that is…and it’s another purpose I feel I have in this world. Another real life role I would like to live into.
Where is the book going to be available?
Amazon.com and we will distributed in small bookstores around San Francisco. I’m working on larger distribution. But really the trend right now is online distribution. You can also go to http://www.ActFromTheInsideOut.com
Three wishes for Shelene?
I’m sure my parents would like this….but I always say, I would love for my parents to be able retire and enjoy life more, help put all the kids in my family through college and live my life doing everything I love with good people around me. Is that three?…well I gave you a loaded answer.