Creative Careers in the Arts

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Spirited Woman Q & A

Interview with Actress and 'Audrey' Movie Producer Sybil Temtchine

By Nancy Mills | Posted June 1, 2009 | Updated May 12, 2019

Sybil Temtchine is a woman on a mission. I like that about her. Passionate about her beliefs and focused on her goals, Sybil is one of those rare talented beings in Hollywood that can do it all.

She grew up in an array of cities, and later went to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Before graduation, she crashed an audition for a great play that she was told she had no chance of getting and landed one of the leading roles. She left NYU, finished the play, and then moved to Hollywood.

Sybil began her movie career, as both producer and star of "Ten Benny" opposite Oscar winner, Adrien Brody. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to her many subsequent movie roles, Sybil has also starred in many TV shows. Recently she starred opposite Ving Rhames as the edgy, sexy Lt. Emily Patterson on USA Network's "Kojak."

Her life as I said is full of her passions. She adores her cat Max. Is engaged to an extraordinary man. She loves, loves, loves to hike and she loves to volunteer.

But right now professionally, she is passionate about ensuring that she raises the money that she needs for her film project "Audrey." And we at Spirited Woman are very supportive of Sybil because we 100% believe in her message: that every woman is enough as she is. So we urge you to get behind this movie project and help Sybil raise her much needed funds.

Here's Sybil.

Q. When did you know that you wanted to become an actress and what does being an actress mean to you?

A. I knew I wanted to become an actress when I was four years old. My father took me to The Improv Comedy Club in New York for a children's acting contest. If you won you would receive an ice cream sundae. I did not win, so I think I really do it all just so that someday "I'll get that sundae." In all seriousness, I knew that day, with every fiber of my being that I wanted to be an actress and I have never wavered. For me it's more than simply a desire, it is synonymous with being alive. Many people speak of feeling close to God when they meditate or when they are in their respective religious settings. The feeling I have when acting is about as close to God or a Heaven on earth that I can imagine. I feel perfectly at peace. I really love all kinds of people so much and have such a respect for humanity that it is an honor to be able to portray and bring to life such a great diversity of human beings.

Q. Do you come from a creative family (or not) and how have they influenced you?

A. Yes, I come from a creative family. My mother was a ballet dancer and is a great art appreciator and exposed me at an early age to the arts and fervently encouraged me to be myself. My father always encouraged the arts in my life as well and took me to many plays and films as I grew up. My stepmother is a fine art photography dealer and is deeply passionate about photography, particularly from the early part of the 20th century. As a result, I was exposed at an early age to another very special visual medium. And my sister is an incredible singer/songwriter.

Q. Who or what has been the greatest influence on your life?

A. My greatest influence in life has been my love for film and all that it can convey. I have learned some of the greatest lessons and discovered so much about life from film. And over the years, through the film making process with all it's challenges and triumphs, I have gained an incalculable respect for the art form and treasure all that it means and allows us as an audience to experience.

Q. You are also a producer — rare for a woman — how did that come about? And do you find that easy, hard, what?

A. I began producing because when I was just out of school, the first leading role I was offered in a film was in one with no financing. I wanted to act more than anything and have always believed that if you want anything done, you should do it yourself. In my business you can wait a long time for an agent to "discover" you. The director of the film had tried to get the film made many times and been rejected by many companies only because there were no well-known actors in the film. So, I said to the director, "Let's raise the money ourselves and make the movie." I had NO idea how hard that would be. But we did it. The film went to The Sundance Film Festival and was released worldwide. And the great part is, it starred a little known actor named Adrien Brody who is now an Oscar Winner.

Q. What led you to write, produce and star in "A Piece of Cake"?

A. I, like too many young girls, battled through my adolescence with a variety of body issues, food issues, and the like. I soon realized that the fear of food and getting fat was taking over my friends and me. One day I was sitting in a New York coffee shop having a Herculean battle in my mind as to whether or not to have a piece of cake — certain that my life would surely take a grave turn for the worse if I indulged. I kept thinking, "If I have this cake I'll get fat, no one will want me and I'll just wind up alone in life with nothing" — and all this for the want of one piece a cake! I was laughing through this thought process as I sat at there and realized just how sad it is that we as women are fed (no pun intended) so much nonsense about our looks and weight. It was then that I felt compelled to make a short film that exemplified this struggle as best I could. I had no idea the impact it would have.

Q. Tell us about Audrey. How did this project come to be?

A. The short film "Piece A Cake" premiered at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, sponsored by Women in Film. As we had made a comedy, we were obviously hoping at the premiere, that the audience would laugh — and they did, a lot. But what we did not expect were the overwhelming amount of tears as well. So many women, over and over, told us that before seeing the short, they felt so alone in their struggles as women, and now they knew there were others just like them. The director and I thought if we had such incredible response from a short film, imagine what a feature could do. We wrote the feature shortly thereafter and titled it "Audrey", the name of the main character in the short film.

At its core, "Audrey" is a very meaningful comedy about our deepest insecurities of inadequacy, both as women and as people. It is about all that we are told, and all that we believe is not enough inside us. And in the end, it is about facing those insecurities and overcoming them with the grace, strength, and dignity to empower ourselves to live the life we were meant to live.

Q. Why are you so passionate about Audrey?

A. I am VERY passionate about "Audrey." It is so important to me that people, particularly women, value themselves. So much in society tells all of us that if we just change this, add that, chop this off don't eat that, look a particular way, then we will be valuable human beings. I believe that there is so much more to human beings than all of that and that true power comes from one's spirit and mind, not dress size. "Audrey" delivers that message with great power and in a wonderfully funny and accessible way. Too, I am so blessed to be working with the greatest new comedic director alive today, Dean Pollack. He also has an uncanny sensitivity to the female experience. And last, but not least I am excited to work with our dynamite line producer, Tommy Rasera, who does everything he can to stretch a dollar, imperative in the independent film world.

Q. What are your goals in raising money for Audrey and how do you plan to accomplish them?

A. Our budget for the film is a modest $600,000 of which we have raised a significant portion by appealing to many people we know and many others we don't. It is the power and message of the script that has been the inspiration for the wonderful support we have received so far. We are still looking for another fairly sizable portion and I am currently seeking other investors who believe in what we are doing so that we may complete the financing. The plan is to sell the movie at Sundance or another major festival and garner a wide and very successful theatrical release. And I must mention that we are blessed to have the great support of such amazing and powerful women's organizations as The Spirited Woman, Powerful Women International and 85 Broads.

Q. Sybil, why do you feel that you are a Spirited Woman?

A. I am a spirited woman because through all of the obstacles in life I forge ahead. I never give up and am always grateful for the miracles I have received.

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©2009 Nancy Mills. All rights reserved.

Next: Interview with Mediabistro's Laurel Touby