Actress Lara Pictet finds herself on the cusp of greatness as the star of brand new movie By The Light Of Desert Night – a dark, feature length thriller that explores the dynamics of friendship between three childhood friends, as they reunite for one final getaway before entering the next phase of their lives. But when things begin to go horribly wrong, the girls find themselves in a state of total despair as they uncover a series of twisted secrets that threaten to change their lives forever!
For Lara Pictet, the road to success has been ladened with hard work and sacrifice, pursuing her dreams from a young age and showing complete dedication to her craft, grabbing each opportunity presented to her with both hands, whilst using her creative talents as a way to further better herself as both an artist and as a person.
We caught up with the gifted actress, writer, producer and performer to talk new movies, inspirations, diversifying her talents and the importance of family…
Firstly we must ask, in and amongst all of the chaos that 2020 is throwing at us, how are you?
I’m good thank you! I’m in Geneva (Switzerland) with my family right now, which is great – I’m based in LA normally, but I took the last flight out of there when confinement started so honestly, in my situation, I can’t really complain.
How are you finding life in lockdown?
Do you know, it’s been really good in a way because I’ve been able to do a bunch of things that I didn’t necessarily have the time to do before, but wanted to do. So I’d say it’s been a time for re-energising and resourcing for me. I know it’s a scary time for many, but I try to think of it like, maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us to just sit back, re-energise and re-think things.
So, the big news for you right now is the release of your new movie By Light of Desert Night, which has just premiered in the America, how does it feel for the film to finally be coming out?
It feels good, but it’s also a mixture of feelings to be honest with you – it’s exciting and exhilarating because we’ve worked so hard on this, but there are some nerves there for sure! We’ve had a really good response for far from the American audiences which is great! We should have released in the U.K. and Europe by now, but there have been a few delays due to COVID-19, but you know what, I can’t wait for it to come out there because I’m very interested and intrigued to see what people in those countries will think of this project because obviously this film was written by a European, from European culture and the European mindset, so their take on it means a lot.
Maybe this is Mother Nature’s way of telling us to just sit back, re-energise and re-think things.
How do you feel when the reviews start to come in, it must be a little scary to hear people’s feedback and opinions on something you’ve worked so closely on over a prolonged period of time?
Hmm… (laughs). Well I’m my own worst critic for sure, let me tell you that! And really that’s because once I’ve watched something that (that I’m in) I always put myself in the mind frame of thinking ‘okay, what could be improved? What could I have done differently? How can I do better next time?’ But at the same time, it is really important to listen and get other people’s reactions and opinions… obviously you have to take some of it with a pinch of salt and try not to overanalyse what they’re saying too much, because for me as an artist I can tend to get in my head a little bit too much at times and overthink things. But on the whole I’m grateful for any kind of constructive feedback because it helps me to get better at what I do… and I really love what I do!
The title of the film is so beautiful and poetic…
Yeah, it really is isn’t it… it’s funny you say that, because thinking about it, it would make a great title for a poem wouldn’t it? It reminds me of the phrase ‘the road less travelled’ – I really love that saying.
…it’s described as being a ‘dark thriller’, can you tell us a little bit about the plot?
Ultimately it’s about three best friends who take one last road trip together before they have to finally grow up and enter adulthood. There’s a kind of underlying tension between them already that sort of prevents their experience from being what it should… but, I don’t want to say too much or go into more detail, because I just want you to watch it! (laughs) I’ll say though that friendship is 100% at the heart of this film, and how people come together during hard times and how a person can move forward and have a happy life despite what the universe gives them.
So there’s a real message here for audiences to maybe learn and grow from…
Entertainment is a great source of escape for people, that’s why they like to watch films so they can lose themselves in another world, and forget their own troubles and life. But at the same time it’s also great if there is a message in there that people can relate to and I think with this film… it has a really great way of showing people that no matter how much we want to control every aspect of our lives, things just sometimes happen in the midst of nowhere and so it’s just about the decisions you make moving forward – are you going to sink or swim? Those difficult times and decisions that you have to make can really help you to grow as a person and enable you to become who you are meant to be.
You star as April in the film, was she a fun character to play?
100%! She was super fun to play because there is such a huge arc to her journey throughout the course of the film, she really goes through the ringer literally from beginning to end, so as an actress she’s a really interesting character to play. I was able to go through all these different facets in order to get to her ultimate objective in life and… it was just super fun and a great experience for me.
As an actress taking on a new role, how do you approach that challenge of really embodying a new character? Do you draw on personal experiences from your past in the hope of finding the truth of what you’re trying to portray?
I’m all about naturalism, and trying to find a quality or an angle that I can relate to as Lara in the hope that if I can relate to it, then an audience will be able to as well. In the beginning of production, I usually write an autobiography of the character I’m playing, and I write it in the first person, so I talk about the character as if it’s myself. Then I take all of that information and I look at the script, which helps me to have an even better understanding of the part. And then I take little tit-bits and past experiences from my own life, and see how they can relate to what the characters going through. It’s a fun process, I love it!
A fun process for sure! But also sounds like quite a therapeutic experience for you personally as well?
Definitely! You’re absolutely right, it really is a therapeutic experience for me too, because sometimes as you’re acting out a characters story, it can help you to realise that you’ve moved forward and made amends with situations from your past. Hard times can make you a stronger person, but we don’t always have the opportunity in life to see that because we’re always so busy!
Have you always had your heart set on becoming a professional actor?
YES! I flew out of my Mum’s womb and that was that, I was ready to go! (laughs) When I was younger I would force my entire family to watch me put on little shows and performances. In fact I remember making them watch me act out this play I’d written when I was 4 years old, I was playing four different characters all at once so it was probably very confusing for them to watch but I loved it!
Were there any actors or performers around at that time that inspired you?
There were so many! Most important of all of them though was Meryl Streep… I mean come on, there is NOTHING that she cannot do! She’s so cool, so timeless and so humble… I adore her!
At what point did you start to take things seriously and really focus on making your dreams a reality?
Well my parents got divorced when I was just a year old, and my Father moved to London so I was on a plane to the U.K. every single weekend until I was 14. The journey was a lot, and the only thing that made me excited about doing it and was an escape for me on those flights, was to dive into reading plays and books. It helped me to forget my own world and my own reality, and I would just fall in love with the characters and the fantasy of it all. From there, and once my family realised that I was never going to get a ‘normal’ job, they told me that I needed to go train, so I moved to London and attended various different drama schools.
That was a pretty brave and bold move to make for someone so young! How was your experience living full time away from home and in a different city?
I LOVED London! London is like the New York of Europe – it’s amazing! It was really therapeutic being there… it was like 10 years of therapy! (laughs) I met the most talented people, and I learnt so much from them. It was so special because it really felt like we were all in this unique experience together – we shared so much with each other, like, our deepest, darkest secrets. And we encouraged one another, we pushed each other to become better artists and performers. It really was like a family… I’ll cherish those moments for the rest of my life.
So all in all, a positive time…
Drama school really helped me to better understand how the industry works, and more importantly the work you have to do behind the scenes to be successful. You know, it’s not just all glamour and fun all the time – it’s the work you put in, that’s how you become a wonderful actor.
And you did it! You made it happen, you worked on your craft and you made you dream come true!
(Laughs) yes, thank you! I have immense gratitude that things have worked out so well so far.
Your most recent project Beast has been a huge success – congratulations! You served as producer on the project, can you tell us a little bit about what that experience was like?
It was a really amazing experience for me! Regardless of the fact that I got to work with some incredibly talented people, I just learnt so much. It was good to test myself outside of acting and do something completely different. Growing up my Dad always told me that if I wanted to be successful in my career than I had to know what everyone on set does, and learn how every single department works. So I really took than on, and I was really interested in how things worked behind the camera – in the long run I really do think that will make me a better performer.
What were some of the main challenges and differences you found being a producer, as opposed to being ‘just’ an actor on set?
It was a totally different thing for me. As an actor you develop your character, you learn your script, you go on set, do your job, you wrap and then you’re pretty much done – you don’t really hear anything until the film is ready for release. But on the production side, you really get to see something being made from scratch. From hiring the actors, to scouting locations, working with the crew, securing permits – then you get stuck into the process of filming and once you’ve wrapped you dive into the post production office and you’re working on editing, colour grading and audio… it’s a lot, but it’s amazing and so satisfying.
Do you think it’s something you’d like to do more of in the future?
Yes! I’m actually working on a pilot right now, which I’m acting in and producing as well. We just shot the trailer – it was a bit difficult being the actor and the producer onset but, it was cool.
Difficult in what way?
Just like I couldn’t just walk off set, and be done once I’d finished acting, I had to be on the monitors looking at the daily’s, the camera angles, the props but I’m not complaining because I really loved it – it was amazing!
So I guess the main challenge in that scenario is the constant switching of hats from actor to producer, producer to actor…
Right! And the challenge of working on an independent project is that everybody is wearing different hats and taking on multiple roles, so everybody has to really help each other and be supportive. When I was putting together the shooting schedule, I made sure before any of my scenes I had at least 2 hours of time where I could prepare and be focused on the character that I was trying to play without worrying or thinking about something else that was going on that day.
You obviously need to have a good team and support system around you then?
Oh yes – it takes a village! (laughs) Everyone on set is so important, everyone there has a skill and a part to play, you have to respect that.
You know, it’s not just all glamour and fun all the time – it’s the work you put in, that’s how you become a wonderful actor.
What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to do what you do and looking to break into the world of entertainment?
If you want something really badly, you have to work for it! That’s the biggest thing, you have to be wiling to work – there are no shortcuts, it’s all about hard work. And it pays off, it really does, your hard work will pay off you have to remember that!
And believe in yourself…
Absolutely! And also, it only ever takes one person to believe in you too, so you have to open to opportunities that come your way because you never know who you might meet or how they might be able to help you out in your career.
And develop a thick skin…
(Laughs) you know what you’re talking about! Rejection can hurt for sure, but if you want to be a performer or an artist, it’s just something you have to learn to accept. You have to let that pain and disappointment motivate you! You have to develop a really thick skin and strong backbone to survive.
Once life gets back to “normal”, and we can resume our everyday lives, what plans do you have for the rest of the year?
Well, I have a few things in the pipeline that I can’t talk about just yet. But I’m working on chapter 2 of ‘Beast’ and the pilot I told you about earlier, but really, I’m just waiting for the entertainment industry to lift its lockdown, so I can get back to LA and kind of go back to my daily, normal routine.
Is there anything you’d like to do that you’ve not yet done before career-wise?
I mean I’ve done some already, but I’d love to go back and do more theatre! I love working in front of a live audience, it’s nerve-wracking but I love the thrill of it! The theatre in the U.K. is amazing – not just West End shows, there are some incredible plays too!
In the crazy world of showbusiness, what keeps you grounded and level headed, when everyone and everything around you can be so manic?
I have an incredible family that allows me to do what I do, and supports me and the decisions that I make with regards to my career. I obviously I don’t have my own children yet, but I sometimes think what it would be like if your child came to you and said ‘I want to go into the most unpredictable profession in the world…’ like what can do you say? (laughs)
Looking back on everything you’ve done so far, what do you believe to be the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your life?
That I’m still learning, and I’m always going to be learning. And trying to make things happen – it’s a hustle, the life as a performer and an entertainer, it’s hustle. You never stop learning or growing, you finish one thing and you’re onto the next, always on the go, always moving forward – you have to!
By Light of Desert Night is out soon and available on Sky Store, Prime Video, Virgin, Chili Cinema and Pluto TV!