Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Interview with the Hollywood Girl, Actress- Courtney Zito

Artwork by Brett Guida, El Guida, inc.

I had the privilege to chat with up and coming Jane-of-all-Trades Courtney Zito, as we discussed her new concept and show, Hollywood Girl, where she plays the lead character Quinn Monroe. Catch a condensed version of this interview in the upcoming Broken Records Magazine issue and Reviewhouse.webs.com
How did you get into acting, and was it always your life's ambition? 
I basically came out of the womb singing, acting & dancing. I have been on stage since I was 2 years old. Performing has always been my life's ambition and I suspect it will always be. If I am not creating something, I don't feel alive. 

What do you prefer more, acting or directing? 
That's a tough question to answer. Of course my dream has always been to be in front of the camera, but as I have grown in this industry, I am finding that I really enjoy some of the behind the scenes aspects as well. Like directing and producing. It is a new arena for me and one I am humbled by, but one that I definitely want to gain more experience in. I think if you have what it takes to be a Director, and you have an acting background, you are really going to be able to get the best out of your actors and connect with them in a way that only a fellow actor can. When something isn't working, the last thing I would ever do is give the actor a line read. I want them to experiment and make it their own. I may give one note and then let them draw their own conclusions, because as an actress, that's what I want. I want the director to allow me the space to try new things. So far, it seems to be an approach my actors respond well too.

At Hollywood Girl's Red Carpet Screening
Where did the concept for Hollywood Girl come from? 
My life. This show is based on my own experiences in LA with love, dating, friendships and all things entertainment. Not everything you see actually happened, but there may be a sentence, or a person, or a moment in each episode that was inspired by something that took place in my life. It started out as a book, but because I love movies and television and because I am an actress, I decided to create a web series, because I felt it was a realistic creative outlet for me. I chose a web series, because I didn't want to wait to sell a screenplay or a pilot before I could see my vision realized.

How'd you get the name Quinn Monroe and how'd you choose Hollywood Girl for the title?
I had her last name first, actually. It's after Marilyn Monroe, because I have always adored her. She may have had a lot of personal problems, but she was way ahead of her time  as an icon and a business woman. I think she knew exactly what she was doing most of the time, and let people think she was just the ditzy bombshell. She's an icon till this day, and people still love her. She was the original Hollywood Girl. As for Quinn, I had a few first names picked out and just sat with them all to see which went best with Monroe, because I was sure that was going to be my character's last name. If you notice, all of the main character's last names are those of classic Hollywood stars.... Taylor, Davis, Hudson, Grant, and Carroll. It's my little wink to that era, because that to me, was an amazing time in Hollywood history. The name of the show was actually inspired by a song that my friend of many years, Jon Santos wrote for me. I played around with several names, but in reality, it was simple and right to the point. It just felt like that was supposed to be the name of my show so I went with it and Jon's song became the theme song of the show.

What has the response been like so far? 
Very positive! I think most people were initially just impressed that I pulled it off. From conception to the premiere it was about 6 months, and I think that maybe people didn't initially take me seriously. I probably sounded like all the other people out there that talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Most of the comments I got were about the production value being high and that pleased me. The first episode was a learning experience (As they all are!) and there were things I would've done differently or better, but with each episode, we have tried to learn from our mistakes and upgrade the show so that it feels more like a half hour comedy you might see on television. The best response yet has been to episode 3. I am being told it's the funniest and it's a little edgier then the first two. The story is developing more so people are starting to identify with the characters more. We have the most amazing fan base, they are so supportive and so excited about the series.

What's the best review the show has gotten, and what's the worst? 
It's very early, so we haven't had many reviews yet. We got a great write up in PINK Magazine and a nice blog write up, as well as a radio appearance, all were favorable. However, you aren't going to please everyone with a show like this. Initially, anything negative I heard would hurt a little, because the project is so personal to me, but I quickly grew a thick skin, because I am not doing it for them and if they don't like it, don't watch. I have a few thousand people who love it and those are the people I want to focus my energy on.  

From episode 1 with Johnny Wactor
What do you say to people who say the show "copies" off another show, say like Sex in the City? 
No one has ever used the word "copies" because the people who watch the show, know that it's based on my own life. If someone compares Hollywood Girl to Sex and the City or a 'female version' of Entourage (Which I have been told), I take that as a compliment. Yes it has bits and pieces of both of those shows, and maybe a dash of Bridget Jone's Diary too, but there are always going to be similarities like that in TV as well as movies. If the fact that Quinn has the occasional voiceover, makes you immediately think Sex and the City, then so be it. But I personally happen to LOVE narrating a story, that's how I am in real life, and it adds another dimension to the character, because you can hear their thoughts and what they really feel even when what comes out of their mouth is contradictory. Plus, because this started as a book, that's the writing style I used and it kind of just stuck when I started converting them into episodes.

The first two episodes are about nine minutes long. Will the episodes be getting longer, or is this what you will be consistently aiming for? 
As web series go, mine is actually considered long form, because most of them are about 5 minutes long. I would love to get the show to 22 minutes long, but a longer episode also means higher production costs and longer shoots, so for now we are going to keep the episodes ranging from 8-12 minutes.

How long does shooting take, and how much work goes into each episode? 
Months of work goes into each episode, because I write the episodes, (I recently brought in a co-writer, Kelsey Scott for episodes 4-10) Then I need to cast them, find our locations, get everyone's schedule, gather props and equipment needed and try to coordinate the shoot days, gather music with the help of Jon Santos, and I sit for hours on end listening to that music till I can decide what music to use for what scene. Then we shoot anywhere from 1-4 days, and finally we begin post which could take several weeks. I am fortunate to have a team that loves this project as much as I do. My Co-Executive Producer is Taryn Teigue, who is also my cousin and this is our first project together, and along with my producers, Melissa Pombar Teigue and Jon Santos, we do what needs to be done to keep this project moving forward. Each of us has invested our own money into this show because we believe in it. The hope in time is to gain sponsors so we can focus more of our time on the show and move the production at a quicker pace.

Will the show be available anywhere else besides the site and Youtube? Is that the plan? 
Right now our plan is to utilize youtube because I shoot in HD and their player is working for us. However, the goal is to either get picked up by a network, or to gain enough sponsorship that we can upgrade our player on the web. 

 Red Carpet Event 
What's Jon Santos role on the show? Why is music so important to you on the show? 
Like all of us, Jon plays a few different roles in the show. How he started his involvement in the show was by helping me with the music. Now he is also producing and I recently brought him on as Director of Photography. (Darren Rydstrom shot episodes 1-3). Jon and I have been friends for over a decade and I knew even though I live in Los Angeles, and he lives in New York, that I wanted him to be a part of the show. In regards to the music, having been a singer myself, it has always played a HUGE role in my life. I love all types of music and really feel that it is an intregal part of story telling on the big or small screen. I always envisioned that music would be like another character in the show. I wanted to feature original music by up and coming bands and artists, and with Jon's help, maybe help give exposure to some indie artists. Jon has produced a lot of extremely talented artists like: A'tris, Drew Torres, Stelladeora, Ninth Hour, Alter the Ending and Zo2. All of their music has been, or will be, featured in an episode of Hollywood Girl. I have even received submissions on our facebook fanpage (www.facebook.com/hollywoodgirltv) and found more great artists like Ty-n-Cli, Stone Ave., and Dan Dwoskin. Listening to the music we get and deciding where it will go in the season or in a specific episode is my favorite part. Sometimes I will just listen to the playlist of songs I now have to choose from over and over, and a song may hit me in a way that it inspires me to write an episode or take a different plot turn.  

What are some of the problems you face as the director, writer, and actor?
As a producer, I am constantly worried about the budget and locations, so when I am writing, I sometimes feel stifled, because I can't write it how I want to because we can't afford to shoot at a specific location, or the script may be too involved and expensive, so I have to make cuts and changes. That is very frustrating. As an actor, I am constantly being challenged, because one minute I am directing a scene and talking to my DP about lighting and how I want the scene shot, and then I have to put on my actor hat two seconds later and then back to director as I am acting in the scene so I can give my cast notes after and see if I like it. It's pretty hairy at times and it's something that takes getting used to. I have never been one to half ass anything, so I can get really hard on myself if I feel my performance wasn't great or if I didn't spend enough time with my actors, but I'm getting better at the multi-tasking with every episode, so I think eventually it will come second nature and I will be able to jump in and out of my roles with more ease. (I HOPE!)

What's your funniest behind the scenes story? 
Honestly, we spend so much time laughing on set, that it's hard to pinpoint one moment. However, I will say that rehearsing, and filming the mock commercial in episode 3 for "Prophylaxatives" is definitely a stand out moment. When Johnny Wactor (Shane Hudson on the show) and I started rehearsing, we were near tears with laughter. What made it even more difficult is that the delivery had to be dead pan, like our characters truly believed in this utterly ridiculous product. Imagine talking about a condom that also serves as a laxative, with lines like "Sometimes you've got two loads to drop" and now think about getting through that without so much as cracking a smile. It was tough. We literally just had to keep rehearsing it until it wasn't funny anymore, and that really never happened. We were still laughing on the the day of the shoot and so was the crew! 

Using your best elevator pitch, why should the world watch Hollywood Girl?
Because I said so! Just kidding... If you're looking for a light hearted, quirky comedy, based on real life circumstances in love, friendships and the Entertainment Industry, and that's full of physical comedy and a pretty hot cast, then you will love Hollywood Girl.

From Episode 3- Kelsey Scott, Courtney Zito, Shawn Ashley & Clarissa River Harlow
Check out the Hollywood Girl Website for all your Quinn Monroe fixes 

or the Facebook page at

Watch the episodes on Youtube


  1. Great article Justin! Isn't Courtney a doll? Thanks for sharing this :)

  2. yes very awesome in deed, especially since my music will be on the show too!!! lol


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