If you’ve ever thought about getting into the film industry, the Purgets have great advice for you! Rachel and Max Purget are a mother and son duo, both Cherokee Nation citizens, who currently work in the film industry in L.A. and Oklahoma. Rachel is an acting manager for Max, a media specialist for nonprofits and a gifted and talented teacher. Max is an actor, model and stand-up comedian, known for his work on “Dog Days,” “You’re the Worst” and “Life to the Max.”
The Purgets grew up and now live in Cherokee County, in the Cherokee Nation, and got into the film industry unexpectedly through a family connection. The film industry and acting have given them a way to practice their love of storytelling as Cherokee people, and they encourage others to pursue jobs in the film industry as well. The Purgets say there’s a role for everyone, as long as you have a positive attitude, are dedicated and want to have fun.
We dove deep with the Purgets to get a glimpse into what it’s like commuting from small town Hulbert, Oklahoma, to big city L.A. for film jobs, and what their vision is for Native Americans in the film industry in Oklahoma. Read our Q&A with them below:
CNFO: How did you get started in the film industry?
Rachel: My first experience in the film industry was in the summer of 2015. My husband has a cousin in the film industry, Allie Gonino. Allie is a Native American actress, singer and songwriter. She is known for her regular role as Laurel Mercer in “The Lying Game” and her recurring role as Michelle in “10 Things I Hate About You,” both of which were ABC Family series. Allie also played the role of Rachel, co-starring with Jason Momoa, in “The Red Road.” My son Max has always enjoyed performing and was encouraged by Allie and her mom, Linda, to come to Los Angeles. My husband and I were both teachers at the time and had our summers off. So, we decided to take Max, age 7, and spend the summer in Burbank, California. That summer Max signed on with an agent at Paradigm Talent Agency. He auditioned for some major roles including Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon” and CBS’ “Two and Half Men.” His agent informed us that if we were serious about being in the film industry we should come back to Los Angeles during the fall and spring when there are more audition opportunities. We spent the following year saving money, and that next fall I quit my teaching job and took Max back to California. My son started his career as an actor, and I started my new role as a manager.
Max: I have a cousin, Allie Gonino, who is an actress. My aunt invited us to L.A. to spend the summer, and since both my parents were teachers they had their summers off, we gave it a try. I was 7, so I figured it was about time for me to get a real job. I signed on with an agent and went on some big auditions. I love acting because I love becoming a different character and learning different roles. It was, at the time, an opportunity that I could only get if I was in Los Angeles. I was hooked! I’ve been going back every year, several times a year, for the last five years.
What advice would you give to those looking to get into acting?
Rachel: Acting is a hard business. You have to be used to rejection after rejection. For every 100 NOs you will get one YES. An actor cannot take rejection personally, and has to use every audition as a chance to improve. A good actor does an honest self-evaluation after each audition. Sometimes if an actor didn’t get the part because of things out of their control, maybe they were too tall for the part or they needed a different look for the character. Whether you are a young actor or an adult actor, rejection and growth are a pattern you have to be comfortable with. When you do get that YES, be a professional. Learn your lines. Act appropriately on set. Be on time. Have fun. A lot of casting directors will ask for actors with “good energy.” Filming days can run long, and having a positive personality on set can make a difference between an OK shoot and an awesome shoot.
Max: Reading, there is so much reading! You have to be able to read AND memorize several pages of script in a short amount of time. I have read hundreds of script pages in just one night. If you are not a fan of reading, then maybe acting is not for you.
What advice would you give to those looking to get into the film industry in general?
Rachel: There is something for everybody in the film industry. There are the well-known jobs such as acting, directing and producing. However, it takes a lot of people to make a production: location manager, set designer, craft services, hair and makeup, studio teacher, key grip, gaffer (lighting), film editor, screenwriter, runner, researcher, casting director, props manager, talent agent, talent manager, publicist, costume designer, sound designer, visual effects artist, cinematographer, and so much more. Whatever your craft, take every opportunity to practice it. Attention to detail and looking to anticipate what is coming next are key to success.
Max: A good test to see if you would be good in the film industry is if you constantly have an inner monologue. Film is the perfect way for a person to bring the inner voice to life. My advice is if you talk to yourself you probably have a good story to tell, so start telling it to others.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?
Rachel: Relationships and a positive attitude are everything. The film industry is actually a close-knit group. A casting director might not have chosen you for a certain role, but talks to the producer of another project that you might be perfect for. Producers, crew members, writers, casting directors, they all talk to each other and try to help one another out. Always present your best self, learn names and exchange contact information. Creating positive relationships is how we help each other be creative and learn from one another.
Max: Have fun! Being a part of a project is the coolest experience! I have seen other kids get mad, throw fits and even cry on set. It really is the funnest job in the world; you get paid to play pretend all day. If the fun stops, you should stop being in the film industry.
What are the differences between Oklahoma and L.A. crews/experiences?
Rachel: I have had the unique experience to have been on sets in both L.A. and Oklahoma. The giant sound stages at FOX and Warner Bros. studios are absolutely unbelievable. On these big projects the crew size is huge; you cannot even count the number of people working on a project. Being on set in Oklahoma is also great because you get all the professionalism of a crew in L.A. with that Oklahoma hospitality. I was on set in Oklahoma with a project called “The Sneak Over.” The cast was mainly made up of middle school boys filled with energy and curiosity, and the crew was fantastic with them. The cameraman would show the boys how to work the equipment, the lighting crew would show them tricks on how to adjust and get the correct amount of light, and the director and producer would work with the boys energy to redirect a scene. It was really the best filming environment we had been a part of.
Max: The biggest difference between working with crews in L.A. vs. crews in Oklahoma is that Oklahoma crews seem to interact with the kid actors more. I really enjoy all areas of making a film, and the times I have filmed in Oklahoma I learned so much. The light guys would show me how they use different shields to diffuse light. I wear glasses and there are certain tricks used to not get a glare off my lenses. The sound guy hears everything! He would point out sounds that I never paid attention to before, like an air conditioner turning on or the tick tock of a clock. The cameraman even showed me how to properly frame a shot and film a scene. Knowing what the crew is looking for and their taking the time to show me helps me be a better actor.
If more films come to Oklahoma, will you spend less time in L.A.?
Rachel: Yes, the more opportunities here in Oklahoma means the less time we will need to spend in L.A. I was born and raised in Cherokee County, and it is always a blessing to be able to work close to home.
Max: The more films that are filmed in Oklahoma means I can spend more time at home instead of being far away from my family and friends for months at a time.
What is your vision for Native Americans in the film industry?
Rachel: I am Cherokee, and storytelling is a huge part of the culture. We have a wealth of untapped stories, creativity, talent and culture. I feel like the Native American stories have always been told through the filter of other cultures. My vision for the Native American film industry is to have an outlet to capture the uniqueness of the Native American perspective and start telling our own stories, with our own vision and our own voice.
Max: My vision for the Native American film industry is to see some amazing new content emerge. When I was a Cherokee ambassador, I heard amazing stories told just in casual conversations. Cherokees have a natural way of telling stories. I would love to see an animation department that produces shows for Cherokee kids. It would be a great way to pass down Cherokee stories or to work in the Cherokee language at a young age. It would also provide another avenue for all the great Native American artists.
Where would you like to see the Oklahoma film industry go?
Max: I would like to see huge soundstages built in Oklahoma. Soundstages are amazing! They are a giant soundproof building that can be redesigned into anything you can imagine! Since Oklahoma weather isn’t always predictable, a soundstage could be used all year long.
Thank you for tuning into this month’s industry spotlight! We hope you’ve learned as much as we have from Rachel and Max Purget. If you’re looking to get your start in the film industry, there are FREE online classes being offered from Sundance Collab. The Sundance Masterclasses are an amazing opportunity to dive into learning new skills and what your role could be on set.
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