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By Doug Brunell | August 1, 2003

If you’ve seen Life/Drawing, you know that Beth Ulrich gives one hell of a performance. If you’re like me, you’re wondering why more producers and directors haven’t picked her up for their projects. I’ll tell you why: They aren’t doing their homework.

As a reviewer for Film Threat and other publications, I get to see a lot of movies. Over the years I think I’ve become pretty good at spotting talent. When I saw Beth Ulrich, I knew there was something there. I could easily see her on stage accepting an Oscar (not that that should be the goal of any actor, but it is what society recognizes as “making it”). She was everything Hollywood promised Sandra Bullock to be, but with talent. I could see her holding her own against Nicole Kidman and that tired personality that is Streep. I saw this, but the rest of America hasn’t had the chance just yet, and it’s really the fault of directors and producers.

If you are a director or a producer and you have read this far without at least considering checking out Ulrich, you aren’t doing your job. It doesn’t matter if you’re working for New Line or some garage indie project, you need to at least give this actress a look. Can she be versatile? No doubt. Can she bring something to the screen that your average actor straight out of film school can’t? You bet. She’d even shine in a piece of garbage like The Lights, which brings up an interesting point about something that tends to be a problem with independent cinema.

Many independent film producers are hindered by money and local talent. They also seem indebted to their friends, and use them despite the fact that they may not be right for a project. That’s all well and good, but if you have the means, why not seek out the best you can get? I’m sure that some of it is laziness, or maybe they just don’t have the time to wade through endless auditions to find the right person and end up taking what will simply “work.” There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but look at it this way: If critics are telling the viewing public that a certain actor is talented beyond belief, people will listen. Those people will also look for that actor in other roles. If they find him or her, they will most likely check out the movie. That’s not hard to figure out.

So, directors and producers, you now have a name to track down. Beth Ulrich. You’d be smart to remember it. You see, one day there will be this one movie that makes her name a household word. People will go out of their way to see this movie because they’ve heard such good things about the actor. All you have to do is decide whether or not you want your movie to be the one that puts her on the map. If I made movies, I’d make a role for her. I don’t make them, though, so this is the best I can do. The rest is up to you. Are you willing to take the challenge, or are you content to continue using cannon fodder like Jeni de Auguste (one of the stars of The Lights)? I guess it all comes down to how well you want your movie to work … and the caliber of actor you want in it. Do yourself and your viewers a favor for once. Start giving the talented people work … or get the hell out of the business.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section!

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