I’m a little behind on my posting here, but you have not been forgotten! Have I been forgotten? Give me a comment to let me know you’re still out there! 🙂
It’s been a busy time. After Switzerland I went to Holland, where I stayed for about 9 days. From there I went to visit friends in Fontainebleau, before arriving in the south of France. I spent weeks looking for an apartment (don’t even get me started on the French “CDI”) and finally moved in and have been dealing with boxes, and finding furniture and all sorts of things like that. But let’s go back to Holland!
Audrey spent her childhood in Arnhem and Velp, during World War 2. I can imagine it looked quite different back then…. The house she and her mother and relatives lived in during the war is no longer there, replaced by a block of apartments. This is where the Dutch launch of Robert Matzen‘s book was held, back in September while I was visiting. When Robert told me the date of the book launch, I decided it would be a good time to visit, and it was! I met Robert in person, I saw Luca again briefly, and I made a couple of new friends as well. I have to admit, that even though I was trying to learn some Dutch, I failed in my mission to learn enough by September to be able to converse with anybody. Dutch words are not sticking in my brain! I’m not giving up yet though, of course. I really didn’t study regularly, and that would make a difference.
Anyway, I once again created a little video tour of as many places as I could manage, which you can view here on YouTube:
Soon after arriving in Arnhem, I decided I needed a little change, and sought out a hair salon nearby. It turns out that I was very close to one apartment building that Audrey lived in briefly before the war, on Jansbinnensingel, and on that street there were several salons. And as luck would have it – there was one right in her building! So of course I went to that one.
The next day, I attended the book launch of Dutch Girl, along with perhaps 200 other attendees at Rozendaalselaan 32, where Audrey spent her war years. It was a great turnout. Several people gave speeches, in Dutch and in English. A ballerina performed a short piece to the music Audrey danced to in Secret People, Waltz No. 2 by Chopin. A statue by Yvon van Wordragen was unveiled outside in the front garden by Luca. After this celebration, we all moved to a nearby church (and I got to ride in an old fire truck!) where Luca and Robert were interviewed and a reception was held. Of course I got my (English) book signed.
The rest of my stay was spent exploring Arnhem and spending some time with my new friends. I really look forward to my next trip… which actually will be quite soon… 😉 I’m planning on having a very merry Dutch Christmas!
So I’m nearly halfway through my Roman holiday and still so much to do! I now understand why the Romans leave the city in August. The heat is almost unbearable. As soon as I step outside, I’m covered in sweat. It’s like walking around in a sauna. I’ve been limiting my time in the sun and trying to do what I can after dark, but of course some things must be seen during the day!
One thing that can only be seen on Saturday mornings is the Palazzo Colonna. And you really should see it. It’s magnificent, and filled with artwork dating back hundreds of years.
I spent my last Saturday morning there, and spent much of my time just chatting with the security guards and tour guides. They all of course were familiar with Roman Holiday, it being one of only two films ever shot there. One of them was kind enough to take several photos of me so I could share them with you.
Palazzo Colonna is the gorgeous gallery you’ll see in the very last scene in the film. Seeing it in colour was amazing. I may even go back again before I leave Rome.
One of the guards wanted to play the Gregory Peck role, so we had a little fun.
I’ve been taking video whenever I go out, to put together at the end of the month into another video for you. I’m also planning on at least one photoshoot, of course! I’m glad I have a month here, because there’s a lot to explore (and I spend every other day in front of the fan at home!!).
I’m packing up now for a quick trip up to Siena to meet a friend and experience the excitement of the Palio race, but I will continue on with my Roman holiday on Saturday…!
So if you read my previous post, you know that I’m traveling around Europe this summer and spending time in the cities where Audrey lived and worked and spent long periods of time. I just spent one month in London, where I took some ballet classes (at Pineapple Dance Studios, and I highly recommend it!) and wandered around getting to know the city a bit better. I took the routes I figured Audrey would have taken between her home(s) and the theatres she worked at while living there. And of course… I made a video. 🙂
I apologize for some of the bad audio, I didn’t realize it wasn’t picking up my voice, and I will do better on my future tour videos! I hope you enjoy it anyway, and if you have any other locations in those remaining 3 cities that you think I should cover, please let me know! I am currently in Rome. 🙂
After moving back to France from Los Angeles, I decided I would take the summer to follow in Audrey’s footsteps, before signing a lease somewhere. I’ve been to many of these places before, but never for more than a couple of days. I’d also always wanted to take some extended stays in certain countries and I thought this might be a good chance to do that! I love to really settle in and get to know a place, make friends, feel at home… when I get citizenship, I want to do something like spend a year in Spain, and a year in Italy, etc….! Oh the things you can do when you are location-independent (and dual-citizen, fingers-crossed)!
It’s been a bit of a challenge pulling it all together over the past few months, and I’m praying things go a little more smoothly for the rest of the summer, but so far I’ve made it to London, where I will be spending the rest of July. I have a new (to me) car which I drove from France to England a couple of days ago and will pack up and continue on with from here at the end of the month. After London, I will make my way down to Rome (I have to decide on where to stop for a rest, because the drive is very long!). After a month in Rome, I will head north again and stay in Tolochenaz for about a week (with a quick day trip up to Oberhausen, Switzerland, where my ancestors were from), before going up to Arnhem for about 10 days. I would have gone simply from North to South, but the Dutch Girl book release is in September along with an unveiling of a new statue, so I thought I would definitely meet some Audrey fans there! I wish I could stay longer in all of these places, really, but I must get back to France in order to deal with some other things, and I’m also finding the traveling to be more expensive than I had anticipated! At least I will get to know her homes a little bit better, and see if I would like to spend more time in any of those places in the future.
So there’s the rough plan! Lots of driving, and lots of exploring. I’ve been in London for a few days, and have mostly been dealing with some issues surrounding parking, the flat, some things I had shipped to myself here, and just setting myself up a bit. But today I wrote down the ballet classes I want to attend while I’m here, at two different studios, and will make sure to go take some classes. I’m mapping out the routes Audrey might have walked between her home, dance school, and the theatres she worked at. I’ll be strolling Hyde park as she did (on Sundays, according to one brief blurb I read). I wish I was able to stay for a whole year and maybe join a theatre production (can I? I don’t even know if I can), or go to drama school… perhaps next year. If I can get a flat for half of what I’m paying this time! ha! But for now, I’ll get to know her city, her neighbourhoods… hopefully I’ll make some friends and have a wonderful experience, and who knows, maybe I’ll leave here with a bit of an English accent if I’m lucky! 😀
So before I packed up everything – including Oscar! – to be shipped to France, I made absolutely sure to make a little video for you. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (“A BIT?!” I can hear my parents saying) but I know this is a process, and I want to share it with you. This won’t be the last time I record this speech, because I want to work on everything until I’m completely satisfied. I have a handful of interviews and film scenes I’m working on, in English, French, and Dutch, and I will be posting videos as soon as I’m confident enough to share my progress with them. I will most likely do each of them two or three times, asking for feedback and suggestions along the way. I’m not working with any wonderfully talented directors or Audrey specialists on these things, so I rely on myself and the astute observations of others to refine my impressions.
Hello out there! I know I’ve been a bit quiet since what, February? Well, I’ve been juggling life and putting in time to practice Audrey’s manner of speaking and soon I’ll share the progress with you. I’m a little nervous about posting any attempts before I’m confident with it, but on the other hand, some outsider’s observations could be quite helpful. I’ve also been working on ballet, since it was such a large part of her life. I’m trying to figure out a way to practice at home, because once I return to France and travel around Europe over the summer, it might be difficult to join classes. And I’m working on her Secret People routine as a bit of an Audrey-specific challenge, but I can’t safely work in pointe shoes at home! If anybody knows how to pointe-proof a floor, please let me know! I don’t want to injury myself or damage a floor.
Tomorrow is Audrey’s birthday, by the way! As if you didn’t know. 🙂 I do so wish we were able to send her our birthday love. I’m very grateful we had her for as long as we did. We don’t know how close we were to not ever having known her! I’ve recently read Dutch Girl, by Robert Matzen, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should. I have to say, it’s my new favourite book about Audrey. Every other book covers the years after the war, but this one is unique. You can buy it on Amazon now, at least in the US:
I posted a brief video update on YouTube yesterday. I decided to get tar filters for the herbal cigarettes (which I’m very slow to smoke, mainly because hanging out outside and listening to the freeway isn’t my favourite thing to do, and if I smoke indoors, well…. I don’t know what’s in them, but they stink!).
Hopefully my next update will be fairly soon. I do have a video I want to make before I leave for France, so fingers crossed I get that done for you!
The Oscars have come and gone, leaving us all with petticoats on our floors, bobbypins stuck in our hair, and lipstick on our pillows! OK, maybe not all of us. I’m probably one of the few to wear a petticoat these days! Or even to put my hair up. My goodness, how casual the world is getting!
I thought I would check in, since I haven’t written recently. I was really on a roll there for a few weeks! But this project is a pretty drawn-out one. There’s no script and they aren’t casting for a long while, so it’s just me doing my homework for now. Last week I completely lost my voice, so I couldn’t work on accents or French or Dutch or anything! But I’m better now, just in time to attend some Oscar parties…
I decided to wear the dress I based on Audrey’s Oscar dress, under a pretty teal blue bolero. The viewing party I got to attend was held at the old Harry Warner estate in Beverly Hills. I SOOOO wanted to see the front of it, and the inside of it, but we were restricted to the back yard, and had dinner and watched the Oscars in a large tent. The pasta was fabulous… I don’t know what was in that sauce… it was sort of a smoky flavour… I loved it!
I missed probably half of the Oscars because I was in conversation, or the screen was blocked, and we had to leave a bit early for this other Oscars after-party I was committed to, but all in all it was a good evening!
And now I thought I’d make my own little thank you speech here! I’m just so grateful for everyone who has believed in me, who continues to believe in me and offers their support and assistance in reaching my goals, especially this one. The film industry is a tough one to break into, and to be in, and a person can definitely get discouraged when all you hear is no, no, no. The week I learned about this Audrey project, I was taking time for myself to decide if I would make the decision to quit pursuing acting for good. I was really re-evaluating my life and gathering courage to move in another direction. And then one sleepless night in London, around 3AM I believe, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw the Variety article. It was as if the universe were saying ‘no, don’t quit yet. Here is the project you’ve been waiting for, here is the thing that will re-light that fire, that passion for acting that got lost along the way. Give everything you’ve got, one more time, and if it’s not enough, then you are free to stop. And if it is enough, then you’ve finally achieved what you came to L.A. to achieve.’ And it really means a lot to me to have you, my lovely reader, cheering me on. Because I may have dreams and goals but I’m not the most self-confident person. And I can’t do this alone. Every word of encouragement and every kind gesture matters and makes a difference, and if in a year from now I can be thanking you again for getting me into my dream role, you have no idea how happy I will be!
There’s one thing I’ve never been much good at, and that’s critiquing artistic works, writing reports on anything, analyzing thing, or in general doing any of those things you’d get graded on in school. Which is probably the main reason I ended up skipping college and heading straight to work in Los Angeles.
However, I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Dutch Girl, a book on Audrey Hepburn’s years in Holland during World War 2 by Robert Matzen (Hi, Robert!!!), and of course I have to say something about it here!
“When the elephants fight, the grass suffers…”
In general, I’m not a fan of books or films about war. However, following one person’s experiences during a time of conflict does capture my attention. I suppose it’s that connection you can more easily make with one human, versus trying to empathize with thousands of general experiences, or be interested in humans killing other humans en mass. The details make it relatable, and you’re rooting for that person to make it through. You’re learning about a real human experience, and not just being bombarded with names and dates and battles and death. I won’t be able to repeat back any names of generals or dates of battles, but I will remember what the people of Velp and Arnhem and so many other cities suffered when I walk their streets later this year… I will appreciate what these people had to go through, as innocent victims of war. We are all very lucky that Audrey made it through.
It was interesting to read in more detail what those years were like for young Audrey. It’s difficult to imagine having to live through these things, having your life disrupted and affected so much. Intellectually, I know that this is still happening to so many around the world. It’s easy to forget, when you’re in the middle of living your own pretty safe and standard life. It was heartbreaking to read about her uncles’ capture and killing. One of them kept a journal during his captivity, parts of which are shared in the book. He and his wife were so brave and strong… I doubt I would have been as courageous under the same circumstances. I would want to be. But I know myself and I would probably be the angry defiant prisoner! Who really knows… I hope never to find out.
This is definitely a book I’m going to be keeping on my shelf. Most other biographies are pretty similar in their content, but this one fills in so many years that are normally just glossed over. Years that made her who she was. I can absolutely recommend reading Dutch Girl. You can preorder it on Amazon and get it in April. You know you want to! 😉
Speaking of Dutch, I’ve started taking Dutch lessons from a teacher on iTalki.com, which is also where I found my French teacher. And once I get the hang of Dutch (hahahaha… oh my goodness it’s taken me ages for French, let’s see how this goes), I’m going to add in a little Italian before I reach Italy. I know I’m not going to reach any kind of fluency in the next year, I would be happy getting to A1 level. I’ve always wanted to be multilingual, but haven’t put enough effort into it. Thanks to Audrey though, I’m getting a little push off on the languages and dancing. Fortunately, I do have at least two Dutch friends I can practice a little with before I get to Holland. And three Dutch relatives that I haven’t seen in years but I’m sure they would be happy to hear from me!
I can’t wait to look back on 2019 and see all the new things I’ve learned, all the new people I’ve met, all the new adventures I’ve had….
Dancing was Audrey’s obsession from the minute she discovered it as a child. She didn’t have great aspirations to be an actress. No, she wanted to be a dancer and a choreographer. Funny the directions that life takes us.
My parents didn’t expose me to much as a child, nor did the school I attended. But in 5th or 6th grade I had a friend who was a ballerina, and when I saw her dance, I desperately wanted to do that too. It wasn’t just ballet. At her house we would watch music videos (I remember watching Thriller for the first time, there on her floor) and I wanted to do what they did. I wanted ballet, and jazz, and modern dance – whatever it was called, I wanted to do that. I looked up dance classes in the Yellow Pages and settled on one I was interested in. I don’t remember if I called them up or not (I was and always have been extremely anxious about making and receiving phone calls) but my goal was to get into dance class. I even kept a journal documenting everything I did to try to get my parents to let me take classes. Sadly…. they never agreed to it and I never took classes. I let my friend take the spotlight when we would choreograph something for the talent show, and I stood aside wishing I could dance, too.
Cut to my early 20’s. I was working hard when I first arrived in L.A. Night and day, weekends, everything. I was background on so many shows and films that I couldn’t even name them all for you (but I did keep a journal of each one, with time worked and amount paid – to make sure they paid me, and so that I could tell my parents where to look for me on TV!). After my stand-in gig on Buffy, I took a break and went on unemployment. It was at that time I began taking ballet classes, three times a week, at the Westside School of Ballet. Part of my inspiration at that time was actually Audrey. I had seen the 2000 TV biopic about her life and thought, she deserves better. So I started writing something of my own. I spent a LOT of time on it, and decided that if I wanted to play Audrey myself, I would have to start those dance classes. So I did. At some point I even joined the adult pointe class (where my teacher would make fun of my “skinny fat” and I would try hard to suck it in). I continued there off and on for several years, and then tried out a couple schools in Paris, when I moved there. Life got in the way and I stopped for a long time, until I moved to Pasadena recently, and found a place nearby and decided to start it up again. I thought I would like to once again join the pointe class, but felt I had to build up strength and re-learn a lot. My attendance was inconsistent, but with my renewed determination to play Audrey, the real possibility of this dream coming true… I’ve recommitted. And yesterday, for the first time in about a decade – I put those pointe shoes back on.
It wasn’t bad! I had to stuff some extra tissues in there at one point, and definitely was worn out around the 50 minute point, but I survived and did almost all of the exercises. I decided when I came home to order some new toe protectors, however, since mine were old and sticking together. So I hopped onto Amazon (and by the way, if you go to smile.amazon.com you can choose a charity that your purchases can benefit. I contribute to the Malala Fund, personally) and ordered some more. Then decided to get even more serious and ordered this thing:
And a stretching strap, to help me with those splits (which I still can’t do). It’s unlikely that I would get to the level of skill Audrey had by the time she was dancing in London revues, but I’m going to work as hard as I can. I’ve even started looking up dance classes across Europe, for the road trip I might be taking over the summer. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that classes are cheaper practically EVERYwhere – why on earth am I in L.A.?! I struggled to find a class costing less than $20 here, the one I’m in now is $16 (with discounts if you buy a pass for 5 or 10 classes). It adds up.
Anyway! I’ll be headed to the barre 2-3 times a week (and in between, I’ve got my ballroom dancing, salsa, and belly dancing, because I love ALL dance!!!) and now I’ll be dancing en pointe. It’s about time. It’s amazing how wonderful dancing makes me feel. I think when you neglect an activity you love for long enough, you forget how fulfilling it is. I actually feel the same about acting, because I go so long in between actual roles with character development and lines that I think to myself, “why am I pursuing this? The pursuing is miserable, I’m not happy.” And then when I get to act, I’m reminded of what it is I’m pursuing. Anyway, that’s another conversation all together! I just wanted to share my dance accomplishment today. I’m very proud to have survived my first pointe class in ages. The pain I’m feeling today makes me very, very happy.
I’m not perfect. Heck, there are reminders every day of how imperfect I am. And even though I know that I’m not such a bad person, that I’m actually probably in the category of “good people,” I seem to have such huge insecurities that they subconsciously sabotage me. I’m calling you out, subconscious.
So back in December, I scheduled the first 2 of 3 dialect coaching lessons, because my coach is very busy and was booked up until January 7. He’s located in London, so I was very careful to figure out the time differences and I put the first lesson in my calendar. For some reason, I did not enter the second lesson, and I’m sure you see where this is going. These lessons cost about €75 each, and I’d also paid for 2 hours of research time for him to analyze her accent. I made it to the first lesson on time, bright and early at 8am on a Monday morning. But for some reason, starting some time before this day… I had it in my mind hat my next lesson was around the same time the following Monday. 7 or 8 AM, couldn’t remember exactly so I figured I would check earlier in the morning since I would be up for another webinar (on Forex, boring, I know, but I’ve never been able to count on acting to pay the bills) at 6AM. I’d left my friend’s house early the day before telling him I had to spend more time that evening preparing for my lesson, and get to bed early so I could wake up early. Which I did.
So I was fast asleep when my teacher Skyped me and texted me around 11:45PM wondering where I was. Because it was 7:45AM for HIM… and time for our lesson. When I woke up and looked at my phone at 5:45AM, this is the first thing I saw, and the air was just sucked from my chest. I panicked. I texted and emailed and couldn’t pay any attention during the webinar. I was texting a friend in London, freaking out. And for about 3 hours I was just a mess. Had this been a French lesson for which I pay $10 or so, I wouldn’t have been so distraught. But this was a lesson I couldn’t make up right away, and couldn’t really afford to pay for again. I had been trying so hard to save money, and to make more money (hence, the Forex webinar)… I’d already been going through my belongings and listing things on eBay, and was so thrilled just a few days before, when an old French magazine with Audrey on the cover fetched $87. And now I’d just blown it. Not only had I wasted a large sum of money, but I missed a lesson that was really very important to me. This role means a lot to me, and all I had to do was double check the time before I went to bed on Sunday. I was just SO certain that it was the next morning, and I don’t really know why. I’m usually very good with appointments. I think I’ve only missed one or two others in my entire life (and I’m older than you think I am!)
I was crying and kicking myself, and my friend tried to assure me that surely my teacher would understand and take pity and wouldn’t charge me for it… I stayed in this state for 3 hours before hearing back from my teacher, who no, did not take pity, and would not excuse my mistake.
I knew it wasn’t a good idea to stay in a foul mood all day, I know things can just snowball if you do that, but I was miserable. I hid under the covers for another 3 hours until I knew I had to get up and go to another appointment. This one has nothing to do with Audrey, but you might find it amusing anyway, so let’s take a detour.
I’d received a call a few days earlier from a guy who just introduced himself as Josh. From his message, I couldn’t tell if we had already met, or not. He didn’t introduce himself or anything. He was interested in casting me in a short film he had written and wanted to meet to read the script. So that’s what I thought we were doing. It was raining that day, and he arrived at the café in Burbank a few minutes before me. He texted to say he was there and outside. I soon parked, got out my umbrella, and found him. Turns out the place was all outdoors, and basically closed (Also, I didn’t recognize Josh at all). Not quite sure why he couldn’t have said that before I got wet, but OK. I followed him in my car to another shopping area, where he turned in and then led me into a Chinese restaurant. “I’m guessing they won’t serve coffee here…” I said. We sat and for at least 20 minutes he talked about the character, and also made sure to mention that he was the best writer in Los Angeles. Seriously. Then he suggested going elsewhere. Which I agreed to, because the smell of Chinese food was getting to me and we obviously weren’t going to order anything, so why be rude to the owners?
We drove again, and ended up in a bright bakery with high ceilings and pretty cakes. I ordered a late and a tiny tira misu. He didn’t get anything, nor offer to get mine. He continued on about the character and script and finally took it out of his bag to ask me to read “just the first line.” Which was 3 words long, two of which were profane. Fine, OK. I did. Then I asked, “is there a reason why the script isn’t formatted…?” “Oh, it’s still rough” etc etc… So I asked “When do you think it will be ready for me to actually read?” “Oh, it’s ready now! It’s done! We could shoot it today if you’re ready, even.” And that’s when I knew that he didn’t know what he was doing, for sure. I apologized and said I’ve learned from past mistakes and had to insist on reading the script and seeing some of his previous work, and the work of his DP (if there was one), before committing to the project. He then started getting extra-weird, saying he doesn’t give his work to people who might not like it, why would he do that? “Well, not everybody is going to like everything…” I said, staring out the window at the women waiting for the bus and wondering if I should just get up and excuse myself. “That’s not even an original thought, you probably heard that somewhere,” he said. “Yeah,” I replied. “Because it’s something everybody knows. It’s not original, it’s common sense.” Who is this man, who thinks he’s a genius and is afraid of people not liking his writing to such an extent that he would behave this way?? Then he started getting aggravated and said that it wasn’t just up to me to accept the role, he had to want me in the role too, and now he’s thinking I’m just not right for the part… then he packs up his bag and gets up, saying “you’re not right, there’s something wrong with you,” as he heads towards the door. To which I reply, in between sips of my latte, “something’s wrong with you!” I sat for a moment digesting this whole event, before packing myself up and heading home.
Normally, something like this might have been just amusing, but in my mood, it was one more sign that I should leave L.A. for good. The universe was laughing at me, sending me crazy people rather than actual work. It’s never been confined to L.A., and I knew it. The project I had once agreed to act in without reading a script or seeing the director’s work was a French man in Paris, years ago. Taught me that lesson. But I had come back here hoping to get decent representation and a few impressive things for my résumé that I could bring back to Europe, and in nearly 2 years, I had failed. And the only person calling me up about a role was this crazy person.
I was not seeing the positive side of life on Monday. I managed to get myself to ballet class that evening, but found myself struggling with combinations that were a bit beyond what I could easily do (I finally decided to start attending a more intermediate level class recently, which has been challenging). I know one must practice practice practice, and that’s what I’m there for, but I was so down on myself for not being able to do anything right that day. I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I forced myself to dance even when I had no clue what I was doing. The feeling of failure was heavy that day, but I made it through to Tuesday.
Somehow I had attracted this. This failure, this sabotage… I am still trying to figure out how. The biggest goal in my life has ben simply to act, to create beautiful, thoughtful, magnificent films (ideally set pre-1960 and based on true stories) and somehow I’ve sabotaged myself the entire way. In my 20’s, I was so quiet and introverted that I didn’t understand the value of networking, and missed numerous chances to connect with people who could have potentially helped me. In my 30’s, I started focusing on that, but then now had no clue where to meet these people. I didn’t have access to the same successful crowd I had been exposed to as part of my previous relationship. Life has felt like one of those films where the protagonist is in a hallway of doors, opening each one in search of someone, while the person they’re seeking is zig-zagging between doors right behind them when their back is turned.
I need to get clever and stop the self-sabotage somehow, especially if I’m going to be successful in this current goal. I’m aware that something inside of me is afraid of success. But what to do about it? That’s what I need to work out…
My name is Kendal Brenneman, and I believe in dreaming big. In 2020, filming is to begin on a series based on the life of Audrey Hepburn. In 2019, my goal is to become the perfect candidate for the role.
And yes, I’m wearing a pair of Audrey’s shoes. ;-)