Julia Konrad: Lessons from the Intersection of Art and Life
An International Student's Journey to Film and TV
College graduates face the daunting task of finding a job that is not only fulfilling, but sustainable, the ultimate test to any young person’s perseverance. Now imagine the same struggle, but with the added layer of obstacles that immigrants face in the United States. This journey is all too familiar for Brazil native and AMDA alumna Julia Konrad (Viezzer), who attended AMDA New York to follow her dreams of being an actress. Juggling work and studies while pursuing her passion, Julia proved that she was up to the challenge; she landed her first major role in a film, straight out of school.
Allure, released in March, was described recently in the New York Times as a “largely improvised drama [that] mixes professional and nonprofessional actors in a loosely constructed portrait of immigrant uncertainty.” Sound familiar? The character Julia embodies in the film is not all that different from her own. She plays Marta, an undocumented Mexican waitress, one of four immigrant women portrayed in Allure, struggling to make ends meet amidst the commotion of the Occupy Movement in New York City in 2011.
In a recent interview with AMDA, Julia discusses her experience as an AMDA international student, as well as her burgeoning professional career in the United States and internationally.
How has AMDA (specifically the two-year Integrated Program) prepared you for your career in acting and contributed to your success?
At AMDA, we all learn so much about always being prepared, always being on mark, ready to go, no matter what. If I had to pinpoint the single most helpful thing I learned during my time at AMDA, this would be it. Even though after graduating I have worked mostly on television and film, I feel the Integrated Program really polished me in regards to being prepared. No matter what I am auditioning for, be it a big role or small one, the amount of preparation is always the same, and I have felt this definitely singles me out in every audition situation, as well as on set. Having everything ready to go allows me to truly relax into the work and connect with my colleagues, making the experience so much more enjoyable.
As an international student, how was the AMDA environment different from that of your home country of Brazil?
The first thing that blew me away when I started AMDA was the level of professionalism, discipline and excellence expected of each and every student regardless of background in acting. It was something I had never experienced before back home, and it was amazing to learn. Although it was a personal choice to come back home after AMDA, I have to say that the opportunities I had to work in the United States after AMDA were enormous. My very first audition after graduating was for a feature film, Allure, and I got the part right away. I have to say that the discipline instilled in me through the program was instrumental for getting that first job! As for life in the US, adjusting to it was so easy, New York City being the cultural melting pot it is. I have to say I felt right at home from day one!
Tell me a bit about the film ‘Allure’ and your experience working on such a big project right out of school.
Allure was such a blast and such a challenge. All of the dialogue in the movie is improvised around a certain set situation determined by the director. It was such a challenge to have to tell this character’s story through my own words, not being able to rely on text. However, working like this really made me have to prepare my character down to the smallest detail—I had to have an extremely strong sense of who Marta was before filming, since my words would be her words, my reactions her reactions. The character work I had to put in was enormous. When working with a regular script, you get clues about your character through the text, and that helps you build her or him. But Marta was almost like my own creation! All of the actors were asked at the beginning of the process to write their characters’ biographies, so we were basically shaping our own characters the whole time. Character work was instrumental, to make sure when the cameras were rolling, it was Marta speaking, acting and reacting, instead of Julia.
This film is about immigrant women's experiences and struggles in NYC. Were you able to relate a bit to the characters’ stories since moving to the US?
Definitely! As an international student on a visa, our survival job opportunities, and even acting job opportunities, are extremely limited legally. All of the juggling I had to do during AMDA in order to be able to work and study definitely made me connect with Marta’s struggles, which were huge, trying to support and care for her sick mother, all the while being an illegal alien in the US. My experience as an international student definitely made me relate to and appreciate more all of the choices she had to make.
I'd love to know more about the projects you are working on today, in Brazil.
I just finished working on a TV show here in Brazil that aired during all of last year, where I got to play a singer! It was an amazing experience, the size of the productions for television here in Brazil is just unbelievable. As of now, I am enjoying the time off after a whole year of hard work, and getting prepared to start auditioning again soon!