Sara Barret sits down and interviews actress, reporter and former Miss California Dawna Lee Heising about her projects, her shows Eye On Entertainment and Horror In Hollywood.
SB: What inspired you to get into acting?
DLH: I started out as an actress and was Miss Hawaii on Fantasy Island and Cleo the Snake Dancer on the last Magnum P.I., among other roles. I have an A.A. in Theatre Arts and A.S. in Chemistry and I studied acting at U.C. Berkeley, while majoring in Chemistry. I’ve always loved entertaining and studied with Sal Romeo for over twelve years. I took some time out to get my MBA and become a Marketing executive in technology, but I missed the entertainment industry so much that I started a television show called Eye on Entertainment (EOE) that I could do while working full-time. We covered red carpets and Indie films and filmmakers. The show really took off after I met Matt Chassin, but I was interviewing all of his exciting clients and I missed acting. In late 2011, I decided to go back to acting full time and Matt became my manager. I did 11 films last year and, this year, I became the Hollywood Correspondent for MoreHorror in Hollywood.
SB: You were Ms. World 2008 and have an extensive pageant background. Tell me how you got into pageants and are you planning to do any more in the future?
DLH: It seems like I’ve been doing pageants my entire life, and I am grateful for the opportunities the pageant world has brought me. When I was Miss Los Angeles Chinatown, I won a trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong and learned a lot about my Chinese heritage (I’m Chinese, Japanese and American Indian). I was Miss San Francisco Universe when I attended U.C. Berkeley and Miss Orange County Universe when I lived in Orange County, and I learned about the communities around me.
It was wonderful to represent my state as Miss California Hemisphere and Mrs. California United States as I was born here and love everything about it, especially the people, beaches, weather, technology and of course, Hollywood! I won Mrs. American Achievement through my education and achievements in the film and technology industries so it was very special to me. Through Ms. World, I’ve worked for the American Heart Association and met so many interesting people from diverse cultures. During my tenure as Ms. World, I also began doing public relations for the Engeye Health Clinic in Uganda, and that continues to be an eye-opening and fulfilling experience. Through pageants, I’ve traveled around the world, won scholarship money and met people from many cultures, and I loved the experience. And no, I’m not planning on doing any more pageants. Now I want to use my acting training and act in as many projects as I can!
SB: What are your three favorite horror films of all time?
DLH: My uncle Tak Fujimoto was the Director of Photography on “Silence of the Lambs” and “Sixth Sense”, and those are two of my favorites. The other one is “The Exorcist”, which probably scared me even more because I’m Catholic.
SB: In your show, Eye on Entertainment, you have interviewed just about everybody. Do you produce that show?
DLH: John Cox and I started the show together seven years ago, and I’m the Executive Producer and he is the Producer. In the beginning, I would get the press credentials and interview subjects and set everything up, and John handled the technical aspects and shot and edited the shows. I started Eye on Excellence Productions, which is trademarked, and John and I also produced a web series called “The Alien’s Wife” together. I played the role of the alien’s wife, Betty Styles-Gray. In the beginning, we shot in the Time Warner Cable studios, but in the last few years, we’ve moved into shooting on location at film sets, film festivals and at industry events. This year, we’ve moved into the horror community and are shooting shows for Seth Metoyer and the show “MoreHorror in Hollywood”. It’s been great and I love the Horror community! I’ve moved into movies now – I was the associate producer on “Finger Bang” and currently am the co-producer on “Shadow of the Monarch”.
SB: What would you tell young people who want to get into the business?
DLH: I would tell them to get a good education in Theatre Arts and to continue acting classes with a great teacher. Then I would tell them to take advantage of the fact that they’re young and get a good agent. After that, I would advise them to be tireless in learning to audition, to follow up on every opportunity, to network and to be professional and prepared on every set. I’d tell them to always stay positive and to learn from every rejection (and there’s a lot in this business!) It’s also important to know your brand, but not limit yourself. I’ve played a lot of cougars, prostitutes, strippers and sexy-type (PG-rated roles), but I just played the mother of a Julliard student in Mandy SooHoo and John Cox’s “Unfinished Sonata” and it was wonderful. I also open John Trujillo’s “A Worthy Gentleman” in my underwear, so I’ve played a wide range of roles. I’m just returning to the film industry so I have a lot to learn about it myself, but I love it. I learn something new on every project, make new friends, perfect my craft and every day is rewarding and fulfilling.
SB: Who would you most like to interview?
DLH: I love interviewing everyone, but Domiziano Arcangeli and Bill Oberst Jr. are two of my favorites. I always enjoy and learn from the interviews that I do for Seth Metoyer and MoreHorror in Hollywood, as the horror genre is fascinating. It’s a small and close-knit community, and it’s one of the most profitable areas of film making.
I find it especially rewarding to interview the filmmakers of the projects that I’m working on these days, and helping to market those films and projects. “The Famous Joe Project” from Eli Rarey is one of the first films I worked on last year and will be premiering this month. My good friend (and co-founder with Seth Metoyer of Dismal Productions) Bill Oberst Jr. is in “The Famous Joe Project” and is starring in Gregory Blair’s film “Scare Tactics”, which I am excited to have a role in. I played Lady Goldfist in Creep Creepersin’s “Finger Bang” and will be in his upcoming WIP film. We also did the special feature interviews for Empire Films’ “Brides of Sodom”.
Last year, I played Michelle, Von Helsing’s assistant, in Domiziano Arcangeli and Steve Oakley’s “Waiting for Dracula”, and I’ll be playing a bikini model named Beth in Oakley’s upcoming “The Moguls”, starring Arcangeli. I’m a co-producer and am playing Agent Flambeau in John Luksetich’s upcoming mind control thriller “Shadow of the Monarch”. It’s got a great plot and Agent Flambeau will get to do a pole dance and kill people so I’m excited. I am excited about working with Seth Metoyer and Bill Oberst Jr.’s Dismal Productions in the near future. And, last but not least,
I will be appearing in Arcangeli and Mauro Borrelli’s film this summer. I can’t talk about it yet, but I know it will be HUGE!