Born in England and relocating to the US at the age of ten, Karina Michel chose a career in acting before deciding to move to the other side of the camera becoming a producer which she continues with to this day. Her acting career saw her film on hit productions such as TV series Dexter and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Karina has produced a number of short dramas and in 2017 she co-produced The Us Festival 1982: The US Generation Documentary which featured Mick Fleetwood and Stewart Copeland along with many exciting projects upcoming. Chatting to us, Karina tells us about moving to the US, appearing on Hell’s Kitchen and her career as a producer.
What was it like moving from the UK to the US when you were ten years old?
It was an adventure, a big change and kind of a culture shock all in one. I went to a very strict private school in England and when we moved to Ohio I was the new different girl. The other kids would ask me to talk so they could hear my accent. Which is kind of humiliating when you’re in fourth grade! I was also in my awkward chubby phase, which didn’t help! Having said that, I made some of my best friends there and I love the seasons in the midwest – I’m planning a visit there soon.
How did your acting career start?
When I was seventeen, I was a finalist in a modeling contest with The Eileen Ford Agency in NYC – that kind of jump-started everything. I did some local work and was still in school at the time. Nothing really happened until my freshman year in college in Texas, I decided that I needed to move to LA. The first year in LA was tough, just paying the rent and living the struggling actor lifestyle. But I worked hard and did a lot of driving around LA to auditions and jobs over about twelve years and all the experience was invaluable.
When did you decide to concentrate more on producing?
In early 2010 I guess I felt like I wanted a change, I wanted to be more creative on the projects I worked on. I wasn’t really sure what that was yet. I’d done some clothing styling and makeup before and I was also a fashion editor for a local magazine – so I thought something like that. As a model/actor you’re limited sometimes as to how much say you have – you show up, wear the clothes and makeup that they pick, do your job and leave. I enjoyed being behind the camera, the whole process leading up to that moment and the business side of TV and Film. The idea of being a producer was daunting, but exciting, especially as a young woman. But it felt right and I just kind of went with it.
What was your first show you produced and how did you feel watching it back?
I think it may have been the videos for Demand Media. I think anytime you finish something, you feel this sense of accomplishment. I enjoy helping bring it to life and making it into something. As far as watching it back I usually watch it once and that’s it. I’ve always enjoyed the creative process more than seeing myself or the show on TV. I think I’m such a perfectionist, sometimes it’s better to see it and then move on to the next.
What was it like on set of Transformers?
Transformers was probably the biggest film I’ve ever worked on. It’s such a huge production. I remember Michael Bay and the huge crew – it was a bit of a stressful set – it was everything I thought it would be!
How did you find being involved with the series Dexter?
Working on Dexter was one of my favourite jobs to this day. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I was already a HUGE fan of this show and remember feeling like I wanted to take in every minute. Such an incredible cast, great writing and really a dream job. I’m still a huge fan!
How were you involved with Hell’s Kitchen and was it fun to film?
My husband and I were asked to be on the show together. It sounded like a great gig. The restaurant was very nice, only complaint was the food took hours and we were starving. I think they felt bad about it, so they kept bringing us wine. It was a funny night.
Is there a difference producing documentaries to film and TV series?
Yes, they are very different. Working on TV moves very quickly. I focused on segments and working to fill spots. With film production you’re working with a much longer timeline. There are many parts, it’s a much bigger collaboration. It’s all about staying on deadline and under budget and keeping everything flowing. Of course there are always things that come up, so you have to be flexible too and know how to work around things. Sometimes it ends up working in your favour!
What’s your next production release?
I have a few projects in the works right now through my company Tallulah Films. I am involved with a couple of short films that will be released and hopefully at some film festivals early next year, The Beautiful Lost in association with Domain Pictures and American Boyfriend by Helen Morales – which reminds me a lot of Sophia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides. I’m looking forward to seeing what these two little projects do.
What projects do you have coming up and when will production start?
I’m currently working on two features – both start filming early next year and both are set in Florida.
Can you tell us something about each?
One is The Land That Meets The Sky written/directed by Preston Walden. It’s a family/faith based film with an uplifting message. I’m excited about this as it’s something you can watch with the whole family. We’re hiring a lot of local actors and shooting primarily in the Tampa area. The other is Huckleberry Island, a psychological thriller about a family from New York who moves down to Florida to live the simple life, which ends up being a lot more complicated than they had anticipated.
How often do you get chance to visit the UK?
I try to go as much as I can. Even though I’ve lived in the US for most of my life it’s still my first home. My whole family is there – so summers and Christmas time we usually go over and visit. They are outside of London and we spend most of our time in the countryside. My two girls love it.
Are there any plans for film-based work over here?
The two features coming up are both in the US, I’m also involved (as Exec Producer) in a British documentary film by Matt Kay called “Little Miss Sumo”. This is a project about a female sumo wrestler in Japan and the struggles she encounters in a sport reserved only for men. The film talks about gender equalities not only in sports, but also the world today. I came in later on this project – I can’t wait to see it. It’s such an important conversation to be having right now. Things are changing.
What are your career plans for next year?
There’s a lot of prep work involved through the pre-production phase. This will keep me busy until shooting starts in February/March. Then we start filming almost back to back though the spring. You can plan out everything for months, but I feel like you never really know exactly how it’s going to be until you start shooting. Everyone comes together to their part and that’s when you see the project come to life. It’s a great feeling!
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