…It is a very tough industry, as we all know, and now more than ever because social media has increased the competition tremendously in most areas. I think the most important thing is to create. You cannot just wait for your agent to call you and therefore, must create your own opportunities. Ultimately, hard work pays off. The more skills you have, the better. For me, it’s definitely languages! I speak a lot of them but that never stopped me from learning even more! Also, I would advise people to wear several hats. If you’re an actor, learn how to edit, if you’re a director, learn how to act, if you’re a writer, learn how to produce! They are all intertwined and they are a goldmine of opportunities when put together! That way, if you’re stuck in one area, you can always explore something else in the meantime.
As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Papel.
Melissa Papel is a French actress, TV show host and voice over artist. She starred in several feature films and TV series worldwide, hosted a popular sports show on Turkish National TV during 78 episodes, and voiced several big ad campaigns for brands like Apple, Google and Fuji. Melissa speaks French, Turkish, English, Spanish, and Italian. She has also won some Awards for her work as a short film Director. You might have seen Melissa Papel in a few Buzzfeed videos as well!
Thank you so much for joining us Melissa! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks for having me Yitzi! I think this industry is very interesting and filled with surprises. I started out as an actress and ended up hosting a cycling show in Turkish for a couple of years! Now I do a ton of Voice Over and dubbing work too, as well as some writing. Who would have thought?!
Initially though, I grew up in a little town in the suburbs of Paris and while my friends were dreaming of having a stable job, a house and a family, my head was always filled with fantasies of something incredible happening to me, so that my life would be more exciting. I was imaging that I would discover an alien in the forest nearby, or that some FBI agents would come looking for my parents, or that I discovered I had superpowers, and and a ton of those improbable scenarios! The idea was that life was too boring in and of itself, so I wanted to act in order to live a thousand lives within my own. That was very attractive to me. To think and scratch like another person, and embody them for a few weeks or months at a time. Who else gets to do that for a living?
So at 15 years old, I graduated from middle school, packed my suitcases and moved to Australia on my own, where I learned English and became an independent… teenager I guess! After that, I was hooked on adventure, and ended up living and working all over the world!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I had a lead part in a feature film called ‘The Precinct’, which represented its country at the 2011 Oscars in the foreign film category. I shot for 2 months straight in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was a pretty intense experience to begin with. There was a scene with a car explosion deep in the mountains in the middle of nowhere, at night, and I had to lie down on the floor, next to a car in flames, covered in fake blood and freezing my bones. We knew that there were a lot of snakes in the area and every time we cut, a PA would bring me a blanket and another one would stomp on the ground next to me to make sure that the snakes stayed away. That was quite scary! But super fun at the same time!
Also during that shoot, we had a scene in a huge abandoned library, which was filled from floor to ceiling with all sorts of used books from every era. When I arrived to that location, I was mesmerized. The first book I picked up completely randomly was the biography of Maria Callas. And it turns out that I always dreamed of playing her life in a biopic. I saw it as a sign, and that moment was quite magical!
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?
I was in a very popular Turkish TV series for 35 episodes, named ‘Elveda Rumeli’ (Farewell to the Balkans). It was a period piece in which I was playing a rebel in the mountains with a horse and a rifle. I remember the first time I had to shoot that rifle. Nobody had really walked me through it, except for where to aim, and to show me that the bullets were rubber ones. I shot it, and thought I was going to go deaf! I learned afterwards that I was supposed to slightly open my mouth while shooting in order for that not to happen! Trust me, that was a good lesson and I will never make that mistake again!
Also in the mistake category, when I was hosting my show about cycling races, I had to interview one of the winners and I called him by another name, that of a competitor’s team… That was a tad embarrassing!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have been developing a sci-fi TV series concept for the past 2 years. It’s about… a virus! (believe it or not), and it’s set in 2091, which is the near future. I’m doing a lot of research about future technologies, and also having long conversations with biologists and scientists to make sure that everything about my virus is plausible and scientifically viable. I initially had the idea in a dream and thought it had huge potential. But it’s ultimately a drama, more than a sci-fi, and I’ve developed an array of fascinating characters around that premise. I would say it’s Black Mirror meets The Leftovers…! I have a Bible and a 2 minute teaser that I shot, and I’m about to finish writing the pilot, which will hopefully end up in the hands of someone at Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon!
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I am one of the biggest Werner Herzog fan! I love everything he does and especially his vision of the world, and overall thought process. A few years ago, I wrote him an 8 page letter, and to my bewilderment, not only did he respond but he invited me to have lunch! That was an experience I’ll never forget, because he has the most fascinating stories and he is one of the most creative and talented people I’ve ever met!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It is a very tough industry, as we all know, and now more than ever because social media has increased the competition tremendously in most areas. I think the most important thing is to create. You cannot just wait for your agent to call you and therefore, must create your own opportunities. Ultimately, hard work pays off. The more skills you have, the better. For me, it’s definitely languages! I speak a lot of them but that never stopped me from learning even more! Also, I would advise people to wear several hats. If you’re an actor, learn how to edit, if you’re a director, learn how to act, if you’re a writer, learn how to produce! They are all intertwined and they are a goldmine of opportunities when put together! That way, if you’re stuck in one area, you can always explore something else in the meantime.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
I work out every day, and get those 10.000 steps in! Even if it’s just a 30 minute workout per day, it will make a difference! Not only in terms of appearance, but also for our well being, our immune system, especially in these times of pandemic, and to keep us alive and motivated. And drink lots of carrot juice!
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- Spend your money wisely! This town is filled with scammers who want to drain newly arrived artists! Stay away from the ‘if you’re a serious actor, you should do this’. When I first moved to LA 7 years ago, I wanted to do things right and ended up being scammed and spending a ton of money on useless workshops, bad photographers, and websites etc. You should definitely take classes, and workshops, and do photo sessions, but choose them wisely, read reviews, ask other professionals their opinions. Same goes for agents and managers. Make sure they are legit and trustworthy.
2- Your body is your temple. I obviously knew this in a corner of my brain, but I didn’t realize how important it was to treat your body right, get the right amount of sleep, exercise, meditation, and good nutrition. Especially if you’re an actor, your confidence and the energy that you carry are truly important factors.
3- Network correctly. It’s sad to say but there are so many useless networking events in this city. At the beginning, I was attending every event I was invited to, and I met some fantastic people along the way, but looking back, I am realizing that a lot of them were a waste of time. You either end up with people who are lying about their accomplishments and promising you unrealistic things, or you get into party mode and that ends up distracting you from achieving real work. However I would strongly recommend being part of organizations such as Women In Film, Film Independent, The Actors’ Network, or Stage 32, which all taught me a lot. But like I previously said, it’s rare to land a job through a networking event. If you do good work, people will hear about it, find you, and hire you.
4- Do not accept everything that comes your way. There are some projects that I did that I could have lived without… and those will stay forever. So make sure you don’t accept anything just because it’s a work opportunity. This is your career, and you should treat it as a monument that you are building. Each stone counts.
5- Cover yourself legally. This does not concern me directly, but a lot of my friends got their material stolen, or ended up doing partnerships with the wrong people and suffering the consequences. Always register your material, and choose your business partners like you would choose a spouse!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life’ Mark Twain. This quote is pretty self explanatory. In my case, what I love the most about this career is that it’s such an exciting lifestyle. Every day is a new adventure. Every morning, when I wake up, I have to remind myself what awaits me that day because every day is so different! One day I’m a writer, one day I’m on set filming something, one day I have to record a huge voice over, and so much more! Not to mention all the traveling, which is simply a dream!
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?
As cliche as this may sound, my parents were always very supportive and backed up all of my dreams. I am so thankful for that and cannot imagine what it would have been if they were against me making certain choices. I am very well surrounded by loving friends too, who are always encouraging me to keep fighting for my dreams.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start 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 Black Lives Matter is the most important movement there is out there at the moment and I will keep supporting it as much as I can. Racism cannot exist in our era. The color of one’s skin, their religion, intercourse preferences or appearance should not define a person. We are all human and equal. Period. Except maybe for Brad Pitt, he is a little bit above us all.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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 see this. 🙂
To be honest, having breakfast with any executive at a big streaming platform right now would be my biggest dream! And based on my research, and the current trends, I’m 100% sure that they would love my series concept, too! Wink wink:)
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram: @Melissapapel and Facebook: Melissa Papel
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!
Thank you, it was my absolute pleasure!