Katherine Geren: “Create your own work”

Create your own work. I wish I had started earlier! I was too shy and embarrassed, but now with the ease of social media, you really don’t have an excuse! There are so many creative people living in Los Angeles it is not hard to find like-minded individuals who want to create something. Find your […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Create your own work. I wish I had started earlier! I was too shy and embarrassed, but now with the ease of social media, you really don’t have an excuse! There are so many creative people living in Los Angeles it is not hard to find like-minded individuals who want to create something. Find your crew and just put it together, you will learn so much! It will open your eyes to how much it takes to put a production together.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Katherine Geren.

Latin Actress, Writer, & Producer Katherine Geren is behind the hotly-tipped new pilot series “Elisa’s Almost Thirty” that follows ‘Elisa’ (played by Geren) who on the brink of turning thirty meets a father she never knew existed, throwing her into a quarter-life crisis after learning her newly moved-in father is sleeping with her roommate. Katherine is a California native, who grew up in the Silicon Valley attending one of the most academically competitive high schools in the country. She decided to take her dreams down south to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and writing.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in the Silicon Valley region of the San Francisco Bay Area to the most amazing and loving parents. I was actually adopted at birth and so was my older brother (from a different family) so from a very young age, I learned what true love and acceptance really are. I had a very unique high school experience as I went to one of the most academically competitive high schools in the country and while at the time I hated the stress, it taught me incredible persistence and hard work. Getting an A wasn’t easy and I learned how hard a person truly has to work in order to see results. As an adult, I have to thank that pressure cooker of an experience because I absolutely believe that it shaped my extremely tenacious work ethic. Everyone that I grew up with either went into Tech (engineering), or something practical like medicine or law; it was very hard for me to walk my own path in a creative field and initially lost a lot of friends due to following my dreams. Thankfully I have always had such a supportive family and close few friends that really supported my decision early on which gave me the confidence to keep pursuing it. I played sports growing up and at one point thought I wanted to be a professional soccer player. I loved playing soccer and volleyball and still play recreationally to this day. I was lucky in that I was an hour’s drive from San Francisco and over the hill from the beach. I grew up with such culturally diverse friends that helped shape my view of the world.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I knew I always wanted to work in the entertainment business but I was always too self-conscious to really express it; until I was scouted by multiple talent agents while I was living in San Francisco for college. I figured the first one was a fluke, but after a few more approached me I knew it was my chance to follow what was in my heart. I signed with a commercial agency in San Francisco and began booking regular work. I dropped out of college (to the horror of my parents) and decided to move down south to LA to really take my career seriously. I knew that LA would be the true test; either sink or swim. Fortunately, I have been swimming for many years.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I won fan favorite in the 2017 LA Film Festival Danny Elfman Rabbit and Rogue contest. I submitted on a whim and very last minute. The prompt was to craft a short film around the iconic musical works of composer Danny Elfman. I wrote a story within a day and found a crew and another actor and we shot the film over the weekend, giving us just a day to edit it all together. We submitted our film with literally two minutes to spare until the midnight deadline. I wasn’t sure what to expect as the other films that people had already been voting on had been up on the site for weeks at that point. Since the films were going to be judged by Oscar winners, that’s all that really mattered to me. I just wanted my work seen! Also, this was my first attempt at putting my writing work out into the world; I was super nervous about how it would be received. But, to my amazement over the next few days, my film kept inching forward in the contest and on the last day I ended up placing first with over 500,000 online views within a week of being online. I was astonished, and to this day, one of my proudest moments! I got to go to the LA Film Festival and meet all the other filmmakers and screen the films, while also meeting the Oscar-winning judges. It truly was an honor of a lifetime!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Ugh, I cringe hard just thinking about my early mistakes! When I first moved to LA I signed up for a lot of casting director workshops where you basically perform in front of a casting director. They are great ways to get seen by casting and establish a relationship with them. I was so green and new that I had no idea you were supposed to bring a headshot and resume to the class. I assumed it was like a regular acting class where you show up, get sides, learn the sides, and then put them up in front of the class. It all started out like that until the casting director asked for everyone’s headshots and resumes. I hadn’t really done any TV or Film work at that time so I didn’t have a resume and the only picture I had was a modeling picture in my purse. So I sheepishly tried to hide it in the pile thinking they were going to take the stack of photos home with them. Nope! The casting director then proceeded to tell the class everything that was either working or wrong with their materials. They got to mine and obliterated me. Tore me to shreds. I was so embarrassed that I held in my tears and once the class was over I sobbed by my car. A fellow actor came by to console me, but I learned a very valuable lesson that night which is; always be prepared. You never know when someone is going to look you up or watch your reel or search the internet for you. I learned that I needed to start treating myself as a business which helped take out a lot of the personal pain as I learned to separate myself from the job. While soul-crushingly embarrassing, a profound lesson was learned.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am currently shooting my comedy pilot ‘Elisa’s Almost Thirty’ which I wrote, am starring in as the lead, and executive produced. I am so incredibly proud of the show and couldn’t be happier with the cast and crew we have assembled. It truly has been a dream come true. Sometimes I will sort of pinch myself and think about how when I was young this is all I wanted to do to create my stories, and it is unfolding right in front of my eyes.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Keep going! That’s my number one piece of advice. Just when you are about to quit can come the most amazing opportunity. Rejection is redirection. Honestly, creating your own work will open your eyes to the casting process like no other class can teach — you will learn that booking the role is dependent on SO many factors outside of your control. As an actor, all you have control over is your performance. So when auditioning, just do your best and bring your own authenticity to the role, you never know, your unique perspective might just book you the role. Also, learn to separate yourself from your work. That helped take the sting out of rejection a bit. Learning that my craft is a business and to not take everything so personally.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I am so happy to see the industry changing and embracing diversity! Honestly, it took me a long time to embrace my own diversity. Growing up all I wanted to do was fit in, and at the time I didn’t know my ethnicity so I very much downplayed my cultural features since I didn’t have any Latin friends. I would straighten and highlight my hair and tweeze my naturally very full eyebrows; features that now set me apart. It took me a long time to embrace my ethnicity and now that I have, I couldn’t be prouder of how ethnically diverse I am. I am indigenous Peruvian mixed with Chinese, African (from Ghana), Spanish, and lots of other European countries. Entertainment should reflect the cultural landscape and I feel like it is finally doing so. We still need more diversity on screen but I feel like at least marginalized voices are finally being heard.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Be nice. I can’t tell you how far kindness and a good attitude will take you. Being nice to every single person on set is truly so important. Everyone is in this together and working so hard to create the story.
  2. This town is all about relationships. Take time to really cultivate relationships with people. Not just so you can gain something from someone else, but because you can learn from others. I have so much respect for the mentors in my life and they have in turn turned into lifelong friends. Honor your relationships.
  3. People remember bad attitudes. Just like I said for #1 people remember you for being nice, people will do so for the opposite as well. No one wants to work with people with bad attitudes and they will remember.
  4. Create your own work. I wish I had started earlier! I was too shy and embarrassed, but now with the ease of social media, you really don’t have an excuse! There are so many creative people living in Los Angeles it is not hard to find like-minded individuals who want to create something. Find your crew and just put it together, you will learn so much! It will open your eyes to how much it takes to put a production together.
  5. Have fun. Sometimes we get so caught up in the grind that we forget to rest and relax. I think it’s really important to have hobbies outside of the industry to help keep you grounded, and sane.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Find happiness outside of the business. If we base all our happiness on the business it puts a lot of pressure on ourselves. Know that it takes about 10 years of hard work for every overnight success — so be in it for the long haul. This means, don’t stress yourself out trying to “make it” overnight. Take time and really learn the craft. Experiment with all sorts of classes — even ones you don’t think pertain to acting. Like dance, art, music, whatever your heart calls. Take time to honor what makes you happy and don’t feel bad about taking that time out for yourself.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the world needs more kindness and empathy more than ever. The world is scary right now so even just smiling at a stranger while walking down the street can have such a huge ripple effect. Asking a stranger how they are doing, or paying for someone’s coffee can make someone’s day in ways you never dreamed possible. There is an epidemic of loneliness so check in on your friends and family and don’t be ashamed of talking about how you really feel. As actors, we are blessed at accessing our emotions and we should use that power for more good in the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say my now sister Raquel Gardner. She is an industry veteran having worked in the industry for over 30 years playing iconic roles. I really look up to her and truly feel blessed that she came into my life to help guide me into the person I am today. I look up to her like a big sister and love her to death. She is my acting teacher as well as the director in ‘Elisa’s Almost Thirty’. When I first approached her with the project my script was only 10 pages and she allowed me to feel comfortable and confident enough to weave my own personal stories into the script giving life to a fully formed show. She also taught me how to feel confident enough in my acting work to fully commit to the work. I had to trust her and ultimately she taught me how to trust myself. I truly can’t thank her enough, she is so amazing!!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Everybody has their own struggles,” I think at times we can get so caught up in our own lives that we fail to realize that there is a whole world out there filled with people on their own personal journeys. This quote helps me not only in my work; in giving empathy to every character I play knowing that each character I write and play needs to have comprehensive backstories of fully formed lives filled with heartbreak, joy, pain, sorrow, happiness, love… Humans are incredibly complex and we need to open ourselves up to other people’s stories more.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Darren Aronofsky. His work is what inspired me to become a filmmaker. I would love to sit down and know more about him and how he crafts his work.

How can our readers follow you online?

My Instagram is @katgeren and my Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/Katherine-Geren-711879259006503/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much!

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    5 tips to help your child feel seen, heard, and supported

    by Katherine Sellery
    (Photograph Provided By IvyWise; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

    Wising Up In Ivy’s Education!

    by Lauren K. Clark

    Empathy Is the Driver

    by Henry De Sio
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.