SAG / AFTRA
Actor / Flutist / Stand Up Comedienne / Writer / Dancer / Producer
Cara in Los Angeles
MAJOR UPDATE 6/9/2019
TOP NOTCH / AMAZING review on Waking Venus from Teddy Durgin, a professional movie reviewer for over 20 years!!!
Teddy's Take on Waking Venus
It's rare that Teddy's Takes reviews a short film. Short films are those near-mythic little flicks, each generally under a half-hour in length, that most of the general public doesn't even hear about until Academy Award time when they get their own special category. In general, but not always, they are films made by budding directors looking to showcase what they can do in the hopes of one day convincing Hollywood or -- at least someone with bucks -- to finance a feature-length film of theirs that will get distribution. They play mostly at film festivals and on various digital outlets.
OK, full disclosure. This isn't so much a review as it is an endorsement. "Waking Venus" is a new short film (under 18 minutes) that had its premiere at the Hollywood Film Festival back in February, will next be screened at the Long Island International Film Expo on July 14, and premiered this past week on Amazon Prime.
So, why is it getting coverage in Teddy's Takes? Two of the main creative forces behind it are friends and former classmates of mine at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)! "Waking Venus" is written and directed by James Brown Orleans and it stars Cara Shaffer in the title role. Cara also gets story, casting, and producer credit here. It's an intense piece of indie cinema that I am privileged to applaud here -- further proof that UMBC should never be thought of as U Made a Bad Choice (that and we kicked the University of Virginia's ass in the NCAA Tournament last year).
Making a short film and getting it into legitimate film festival competition is almost as hard as a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed in the annual basketball tourney. An untold number of filmed works don't get nearly as far as James and Cara's "Waking Venus" have.
The film centers on a recently recovered anorexic (a brave Shaffer), who is on the verge of learning to forgive herself and expel that terrible eating disorder voice (creepily personified by Stephanie Patent) that's been in her head ever since she was a teen. The film is a look into Venus' mind at a critical crossroads, with the tension being: "Will she finally move forward empowered into the light of the future or, once again, allow herself to be pulled back a victim into the darkness of her past?"
Briefly, her story echoes off of another patient's, Janet (Kayla Barr), who seems to have it more together and is even making plans once she is discharged from the eating disorder clinic -- plans that include her and Venus getting a place together and being each other's support system. Janet's fate is one of the film's more quietly powerful revelations.
If you haven't surmised by now, "Waking Venus" ain't exactly a fun flick to watch. But it's not intended to be. As with any good short film, the narrative is lean and plunges you right into the drama in its first seconds. If you do give it a look, you'll definitely dodge more than a F bombs, and Cara's character gets pretty bloodied (in her mind's eye). It's pretty unflinching material. But, for sure, worth a look-see.
I am almost ashamed to say one of my first reactions afterwards was one of the most common reactions my novel, "The Totally Gnarly, Way Bogus Murder of Muffy McGregor" received when it was published in 2016. I had a lot of people write and tell me they enjoyed the heck out of reading the book. But several of those who knew me best inevitably would preface their kind words with the phrase (or some variation of it): "Huh? It's actually a REAL novel!"
So, yeah, after watching "Waking Venus" and peripherally following the film's progress in the months leading up to it's film festival and Amazon Prime debuts, my reaction was, "Huh? James and Cara actually made a REAL film!" Well, bravo for them. My only criticism was James didn't appear in the film himself, as he was one of UMBC's best student-actors back in the day and he has played Banzai in "The Lion King" on Broadway for the past 16 years.
The man should be more famous and just needs the right vehicle to showcase his talents. Hmmmm, maybe if I got in on some of this short film action...
Watch Waking Venus online - Prime Video
A newly recovering anorexic must learn the power of forgiveness if she's…
MAJOR UPDATE 6/6/2019
Waking Venus is now on Amazon Prime Video as part of the All Voices Film Festival! WOW!!!!! Check it out!!!!!
So far 3 AMAZING 5 star reviews!
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving film with strong acting and direction
June 7, 2019
Format: Prime VideoVerified Purchase
Strong acting, insightful direction, and realistic dialogue are just a few of the great things about “Waking Venus.” It’s not always easy to watch (Venus’ pain practically jumps off the screen) but the payoff for squirming in my seat was witnessing great performances by the entire cast. The film is playing at a bunch of 2019 film festivals (Hollywood, Long Island, etc.) and it’s easy to see why: actress Cara Shaffer (Venus) leaves it all on the field. Her performance is full of raw emotion that never devolves into melodrama. I can’t wait to see what she and writer/director James Brown-Orleans do next.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
June 7, 2019
Format: Prime VideoVerified Purchase
While social commentary movies tend to be difficult to watch, this one was different. A tough subject but I was glued to the screen. The ladies did a marvelous job bringing it to life and I felt like I was a fly on the wall witnessing their struggles as opposed to just watching a movie. The stand out performance, just by a bit - they were all amazing - was Cara Shaffer. Her mannerisms, her speaking, and the way she actually became the role was acting genus.Well done all the ladies in this short.
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST SEE SHORT FILM!
June 6, 2019
Format: Prime Video
An incredible short film! Beautifully written and directed! A MUST SEE!!
Waking Venus WORLD PREMIERED on Monday, February 18th at 2pm at LA Live in The Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival and has NOW been accepted into the Long Island Film Festival on Sunday, July 14th at 9:15pm! I hope you can join us! http://longislandfilm.com/
As of August 2018, I moved to LA after living in NYC for 2 years and STARRING IN MY FIRST FILM, Waking Venus, to continue my dreams of being on TV/Film. My ideal project would be a TV show like Friends or CSI! I can play anything from the tough cop to the quirky best friend!
I have been an actor since I was 5 years old and a flutist since I was 8 years old. I can't remember a time when I have not been on stage performing.
Step Forward Entertainment
AND I am SO VERY, INCREDIBLY THANKFUL!!!!!!
Quotes from casting directors, acting coaches and fellow actors:
"You are SO FUNNY I don't have any adjustments or suggestions for you at all! You are awesome! Not only am I going to tell my cd friends about you but I want to create a show just for YOU."
"There needs to be a show all about you. A sitcom!"
"You are brilliant!"
"You are SO funny!! So funny. I don't have any adjustment for you."
"Excellent job! Let's do an adjustment just for fun. Adjustment was super too!"
"i can see you in any drama. You have this wonderful vulnerable yet strong quality about you."
"You have so much talent, it's coming out of your toes!"
"You have the most amazing range."
"YOU ARE FREAKING HILARIOUS!!!"
"I fucking love your work!"
"You have this LOVELY Catherine O'hara quality that I LOVE!"
"Your work reminds me so much of Laurie Metcalf."
Your presence here came from something greater than you.” Oprah
Waking Venus - A short film! 4/23/18 Directed by James Brown Orleans. My first starring role!!!
Waking Venus is wrapped! Production stills from 5/28/2018!
Director: James Brown-Orleans
Star: Cara Shaffer
Co-Stars: Stephanie Patent, Kayla Barr, and Kyle Mitchell
Full Demo Reel from Waking Venus
Cara's Comedy Clip from Waking Venus
Cara's Drama Clips from Waking Venus
"Bitch/Bastard" sitcom character
Playing flute during a headshot session with Andy Rooney
Commercial Voiceover Demo Reel
Narrative Voiceover Demo Reel