In the romantic comedy “Amelia’s 25th,” actress Electra Avellan (“Machete Kills”) plays the title character, a young woman who is fighting to build a career for herself as an actress in the cutthroat entertainment industry. During our interview, Avellan, who is the niece of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”), talked about how her character’s story parallels her own life in Hollywood and reveals what she would never to do get a part in a movie. “Amelia’s 25th” was recently released on DVD.
How much of what Amelia is experiencing in her career have you faced in your own?
Well, the writers based the movie on real events that happened to me when I was 24. For example, my agent at the time told me not to tell anybody I was 24. He told me to tell everyone I was 21. He told me I should stay 21 from now on. I was like, “OK, what does that mean?” I also went on an audition like the one you see in the movie. [The casting director] was like, “Next!”
Was that the worst audition you’ve ever been on?
I would say so. But I did have another really bad audition. I wish I could tell you what movie it was for. The casting director didn’t have shoes on and was looking at a magazine the entire time. It was so sad. I felt so bad at that moment. I realized later when I started producing movies that a lot of these movies are already cast, but studios still have to legally audition people. So a lot of these auditions are fake. It was very disappointing to realize that. It made me have even more compassion for actors.
Have negative experiences like those caused you to second guess your career?
I second-guess my career all the time. I’ve done a lot of things in the entertainment industry and I don’t like the dirty politics of it all. That is what really discourages everyone. But I still do it because I’m very passionate about acting. I’ve just decided I’m going to be very picky about who I say yes to, what roles I take on, and what I audition for. When you’re an up-and-coming actor you have to do something else to survive. You can’t just rely on acting because then you’ll start becoming desperate and make poor choices. You’ll start making really shitty movies and start sleeping with people to get there. That’s what every producer wants. It’s the No. 1 rule in Hollywood.
Have you ever been propositioned like that before?
Absolutely. Many times. Everyone I know has – men and women. I don’t disrespect anyone’s decision, but it would be very difficult for me to do something like that. I am not interested in doing that so I can work. It’s a really intense choice to make. Everyone has their reasons why they would say yes to that.
You’re credited as a producer on this film. Do you feel like you’re at a point in your career where the only way you’re going to get the roles you want is if you create them yourself?
Well, I’ve learned to heal so many pieces of my life through film. I love movies so much and that has guided me through difficult times. I decided that to do this for other people I had to create my own content. I can’t say I’ve necessarily done a movie yet that I’m truly moved by, but [“Amelia’s 25th”] gets close.
How real are you with other actresses? I mean, if someone asks you advice about dropping everything they are doing to move out to Hollywood and pursue a career in the industry, what do you tell them? Do you sugarcoat it or tell her how small the percentage is that she is actually going to succeed?
I am completely real. I’ve actually taken a lot of my time and gone out of my way to have serious conversations with women about that. I tell them they really have to think if they’re passionate about it. If you wake up and all you want to eat is acting, then you should go for it. It’s just like anything in this world. You have to have a Steve Jobs-mentality to succeed. You have to be willing to learn as much as you can and you have to watch everything – the good and the bad. You can learn a lot from bad movies. At the same time, you have to have another job that supports your life. It’s necessary.
Did you just describe yourself right now?
Yes. I’ve been like that for a long time.
What about your sister Elise? It doesn’t seem like she’s working as much as you.
She doesn’t want to act, even though I think she is a much better actress than I am. She is a filmmaker and a photographer and a jewelry maker. She goes by the name Alice Rabbit (alicerabbit.com). She’s really amazing. I’m a huge fan of her work. She [got into acting] for Robert because we love him so much (Electra and her twin sister Elise play the Babysitter Twins in “Grindhouse” and two sexy nurses in the “Machete” franchise). He called us and said, “I have a crazy idea!” She was like, “Fuck it. I’ll do it.”
Do people assume just because Robert is your uncle means you have every opportunity available in the industry?
Yes, exactly. Everyone thinks that. I must admit, he has been a ticket in [to Hollywood]. He auditioned us for “Grindhouse,” but after that he called us back for “Machete” and “Machete Kills.” He didn’t have to do that. He was definitely a ticket in, but you just can’t stick with that. You have to become your own individual. It’s been difficult for me to get away from the horror genre. Horror [movies] are the only roles I’m offered. When it comes to other genres I still have a lot to prove.
So, what makes you say yes to one horror movie and no to the next?
It has a lot to do with the script. There is a lot of crap out there. But there is a lot of great stuff, too. So, you just have to read it with an open mind. You can’t just skim through a script. You have to read it all and really think about it. Then you have to make sure the entire [filmmaking] team is solid. There is more to a movie than the script and what actors are involved. I’ve been able to turn a lot of things down because of the knowledge I have.
So, you’ll be 27 years old this month. Has your opportunity past you up to make it in Hollywood?
(Laughs) No. Tell that to Helen Mirren. It all depends if you have it stuck in your head that you have to play the hot, young high school girl. I’ve met a lot of girls in their late 30s that still want to do those roles. I’m like, “You don’t want to play high school girls! You’re a woman!”
So, you’re going to stick to acting for a while? Or would you rather be producing?
Well, I don’t know. I mean, I love acting, but I don’t think it’s truly fulfilling. I want to branch out into filmmaking myself. I have a lot of ideas. I really want to see if it is something I can do and if I’m passionate about it.
As an up-and-coming actress, you said you also had to have another job to survive. What else do you do?
Well, I’m part owner of a company with my father called Dos Lunas Artisan Cheese (doslunascheese.com). He created a cheese company about two years ago. You can find them in all Central Markets in Texas; mainly in Austin.