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Melissa Riemer: “If you choose to do it, do it with all of your heart or not at all”

As much as I love the performing side of things, I’ve found a huge pull towards writing for film and TV. Through writing, I can ensure characters are written with diversity, and gender inclusivity in mind. I want my writing to reflect the real world around us, and not just an old fashioned Hollywood ideal […]

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As much as I love the performing side of things, I’ve found a huge pull towards writing for film and TV. Through writing, I can ensure characters are written with diversity, and gender inclusivity in mind. I want my writing to reflect the real world around us, and not just an old fashioned Hollywood ideal of solely caucasian, beautiful, young people.

I’m excited about the changes that are beginning to happen, with the #metoo and #BLM movements and all the other equally important voices that need to be heard. But experiencing it firsthand, I can still see most productions are slow on the transition to inclusivity. They’re definitely making the step in the right direction, but many productions are still hesitant to include more than one actor of diversity. It’s like there’s still a quota of how much is acceptable to be shown on screen.
I really want to change this and see this change happen in my lifetime. It would be incredible to see shows with multiple diversities in lead roles, various genders and all of these people portrayed fairly and not as the joke or punchline in the story.


Asa part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Melissa Riemer.

Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, Melissa Riemer was born to be a performer. She attended The Jaanz School of Singing & Performing Arts School, where she studied stagecraft, movement, voice, dance and overall performance.

At a young age, Melissa received her first modeling contract and moved to New Zealand. After spending many years in various cities throughout Asia and the world, Melissa found a new passion in film and also made her way back to music.

She eventually moved to Canada, spending a year in Toronto training in film and tv, then eventually settled in Vancouver which she now calls her home base. She is pursuing a busy career in acting and screenwriting.

When she’s not pursuing the arts, Melissa has many other activities to keep her busy. She’s an avid scuba diver with hundreds of dives logged and places importance on eco-friendly practices.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

It’s so wonderful to be able to talk to you about my experiences in the film and fashion industries. I grew up in Australia but spent much of my late teens and twenties modeling in various cities around the world.

My immediate family always placed a big importance on following your dreams and pursuing a fulfilling career rather than making it just about the paycheque. I always felt nurtured and supported in my choices to seek a career in creativity and entertainment.

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

I started out writing my own music in my teens, and performing in night clubs I wouldn’t normally be allowed in at fifteen. Once I began modeling, I both loved and struggled with the challenges thrown at me. The Australian fashion industry at the time was fairly close-minded to diversity, and it was eye-opening to realize that clients wouldn’t book me simply because of my mixed heritage.
I set out to change the way the industry viewed diverse models, pushing for change (alongside my supportive agents and agency). I found that gaining success overseas in other countries and fashion markets like Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong helped to bring acceptance to Eurasian and Asian models in Australia and the Western world.
From there I discovered a love for moving images through commercial work and eventually moved into film and TV. I encountered the same roadblocks I had experienced years before with diversity in modeling, happening all over again in television and film, so I turned my musical writing skills to writing for film. I am now incredibly conscious of inclusion in my writing, roles and music that I produce.

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

When I was starting out I attended an audition where the casting director took one look at me and said “Oh sorry, I didn’t realize you’re Asian. We’re only looking for Caucasian girls right now.”
I was sent home without being able to audition, but it pushed my resolve to keep fighting for both myself and other diverse entertainers whether it be models, actors or musicians.

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?

When I landed my first role, I actually didn’t understand the “order” that exists on set. I ended up at the background tent, eating food and sitting with all of the background performers for an hour before the producers found me. They had apparently been frantically running around trying to find me, knowing I was on set somewhere.
After that, I learned to read my call sheets properly, and to always double-check that I’m where I’m supposed to be!

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 corny as it sounds, my parents have been the two people that are always there for me. I’m pretty lucky to have such strong support behind me while pursuing a career in such difficult and fickle industries. From fashion & music to film and TV, they have always stood by my choices. Their advice has always been “if you choose to do it, do it with all of your heart or not at all.”

I’ve always carried that with me, no matter what shoot I’m on, or what I’m filming. I don’t always get a choice in what roles I book or what campaign I’m shooting, but the one thing I can control is the effort and approach I take to it. I pride myself in giving my best effort to achieve the best results.

You have been blessed with great 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?

Failure is inevitable, it’s what you do with it that sets you apart. For all the hundreds of “No’s” I’ve been told by casting directors, I don’t take it personally. Sometimes these things are completely out of your control, you might be the most talented, prepared actor/performer in the room, but it can come down to something as unpredictable as a producer not liking your hair color.

What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

As much as I love the performing side of things, I’ve found a huge pull towards writing for film and TV. Through writing, I can ensure characters are written with diversity, and gender inclusivity in mind. I want my writing to reflect the real world around us, and not just an old fashioned Hollywood ideal of solely caucasian, beautiful, young people.

I’m excited about the changes that are beginning to happen, with the #metoo and #BLM movements and all the other equally important voices that need to be heard. But experiencing it firsthand, I can still see most productions are slow on the transition to inclusivity. They’re definitely making the step in the right direction, but many productions are still hesitant to include more than one actor of diversity. It’s like there’s still a quota of how much is acceptable to be shown on screen.
I really want to change this and see this change happen in my lifetime. It would be incredible to see shows with multiple diversities in lead roles, various genders and all of these people portrayed fairly and not as the joke or punchline in the story.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Thank you! It’s been such a great journey getting to work with many wonderful productions and companies. It’s been very interesting to navigate the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I’ve taken this time to focus on my writing and pitching for a new TV series that will link Western audiences with Asian storylines and culture.

We are very interested in looking at 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 and our youth growing up today?

Where to even begin! I have a million reasons why diversity is so important in being shown on film and television! Growing up I never saw anyone that looked like me on screen, until Lucy Liu. People would always compare me to Asian female roles on TV, and I would be cast as the “exotic woman”. I think that including diversity in “normal” roles instead of a caricature will show younger audiences that it’s ok to be different and that just because you look a certain way, doesn’t mean you’re destined to be one thing only.
The same goes for diversity in gender. Hopefully, the more visibility diverse people have on screen, it will normalize it for those who aren’t commonly exposed to them. The more diverse voices are heard on screen, the closer we get to universal acceptance — or at least get the conversation going!

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. The casting director wants you to get the role. It’s so easy to let nerves get the best of you and think that everyone in the room is against you. However, that’s the furthest from the truth. Casting directors want you to book the role almost as much as you want it. It makes their lives easier if you get the role, and let’s face it no human is sitting behind a desk judging you and waiting for you to fail. They’ve called you in because they see potential in you.
  2. You can say no to something you don’t feel comfortable doing. I was lucky enough to have an amazing agent when I started out, who told me this from the day I signed with her. I’ve seen too many talented people fall prey to shady practices by dishonest people who sometimes aren’t even part of the industry.
  3. Confidence is the most powerful tool in your tool belt. Sometimes it’s hard to feel confident when things aren’t going right on set, but I find the best way to counter it is to stop and reset yourself. I’ve been on sets where I’ve felt flustered and overwhelmed and not given my best performance. When I’ve been able to, I find a quiet moment to take a few deep breaths and reset my thoughts to something calmer and more positive.
  4. You don’t need to be “skinnier, prettier, taller, shorter” etc. The beautiful thing about acting is that you’re portraying life. If everyone on screen looked nearly identical, it would make for some pretty boring viewing. You’re there because you’re unique, so let that shine through on screen. I once auditioned for a role where I was supposed to be playing a “beautiful” woman with no lines. However, when the casting director got talking with me and we joked around, she asked me to read for a completely different role. I ended up landing that part.
  5. If you don’t see a role for you, create it yourself. Starting out as a model it wasn’t the most collaborative experience in terms of a vision for the final images. The same goes for acting, however now with the ease and accessibility of good camera gear, phones, lighting etc, you can absolutely create the roles you want for yourself. That was part of the reason I found the calling to write stories that were grounded in diversity, I saw a lack in Hollywood films and wanted to express it.

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? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I’m aware that if I’m feeling healthy and strong, the rest will follow. I work out regularly, it’s almost my version of meditation. I also love surrounding myself with tropical house plants as a way to feel in touch with nature and my time in South East Asia — living in a city it can sometimes make me feel detached from nature. I’m lucky enough to be living just a stones throw away from mountains, beaches and world-class hikes, so I try to get out into nature as much as possible.

I also love collaborating with other creatives. I have an incredible scriptwriting group of highly accomplished and talented writers/producers/directors that I meet with virtually once a week. We come from all around the world, and it’s been amazing getting a global perspective on ideas.

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

“Do it with all your heart, or not at all.” I love it because it’s pushed me through some tough times when I’ve been living in far-flung places without a single friend or knowing the language. It’s always given me a perspective of why I’m there and what I want to achieve from my career.

You are a person of huge 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?

I would love to inspire diversity and inclusion in TV and film. I want more stories of acceptance and the normalization of diversity in every way.
I hope that people watch my stories, whether I’m acting in them or writing them, and I want them to see the sort of people that are normally “invisible” on screen.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would absolutely love to sit down and have lunch with Jonathan Nolan and pick his brain on all things writing & directing. His way of storytelling is absolutely magical.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on Instagram: @islanoir
Twitter: @Islanoir

Youtube: www.youtube.com/islanoir

Website: www.neumertribe.com

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

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