Dear Lemon Lima…that’s how a majority of the scenes in the film of the same name begin. The indie comedy is a coming of age story with a native twist that features a bevy of veteran and novice actors. One of the newbies include Savanah Wiltfong, who plays the lead character Vanessa Lemor. Not only was Lima her first feature film gig, it was her first gig — ever. That’s not a bad way to start a career. I recently had the opportunity to speak to the young actress about her work in the film, the cast, the story, and what’s next for her…
Check out the interview…
Is it true that Dear Lemon Lima was your first acting gig?
Savanah Wiltfong: Yes, that is correct. The only role I had before that was in seventh grade in a small play I had.
How did you get your hands on the script?
SW: That was forwarded to my mother and she thought that I would enjoy auditioning for something even though I’d never done so before, and I did.
How was it having your first acting job be the lead?
SW: It was amazing. It was completely nerve-wracking and a lot harder than I expected it to be. But I’ll tell you, every moment was a lot more fun than what was hard.
How was it working alongside such veteran actors like [recent Oscar winner] Melissa Leo?
SW: It was wonderful. She was actually a really big role model to me as was everyone including Eleanor Hutchins and Elaine Hendrix. They were all very supportive of me. They were helping me and guiding me and taking me under their wing on set. Honestly, I didn’t exactly know how seasoned some of them were until afterward and that’s when it really struck me how amazing this opportunity was and how lucky I am.
Were the other young actors novices, or did some of them have acting experience as well?
SW: Actually, if not all of them, I believe had done acting for quite a few years before me. Zane Huett who had been on “Desperate Housewives” for quite a few years, Meaghan Martin who played in Camp Rock, and so on and so forth.
In the film, you have scenes where you perform Sign Language and speak Spanish. How was it learning that?
SW: I think the Spanish was kind of scary but it was all a lot of fun. I got to learn sign language and I still remember how to say strawberry in it. So it’s all awesome.
Your character Vanessa is in love with a guy [Phillip] who’s completely rude to her. He’s not a good guy. Why do you think she’s infatuated with him?
SW: There’s something I can also relate to [laughs]. First love is especially blinding. I even had a first love in the eighth grade and that’s how I channeled kind of my emotions to Vanessa because the summer after eighth grade is when we filmed. He was a real jerk.
In the film, your character is half-Yup’ik.
SW: I’m actually part Yup’ik too. I’m an eighth Yup’ik and if you really want to tell you can just look at my mom and her rosy cheeks.
When the movie went on the festival circuit, how did it feel to walk the red carpet and talk to the press for the first time?
SW: I actually only attended three film festivals. At The LA Film festival, which was the premiere of Dear Lemon Lima, I did get to walk the red carpet for the first time. I remember taking the first steps. I counted the steps. It was kind of nerve-wracking but in the end I thought, ‘Yes! I did it!’
Is acting something you want to continue doing, or do you want to concentrate on finishing school first?
SW: My opportunities are honestly boundless, especially with the tax incentives here. All these new films are coming to Alaska so for all I know my next project could be next week. As for school, I’ve been home schooled so my schedule’s more free than most teenagers now-a-days.
Is there a message in Dear Lemon Lima? If so, what do you think it is?
SW: I guess the overall message is be yourself. Don’t let anyone else stop you or bring you down because of that. If you’re a so-called FUBAR then no one else should care. That’s your thing. I guess when I got to high school the summer after, I kept that in mind and now I’ve got friends that I could never ask to be better.
What’s next for you? Do you have another project on the horizon?
SW: Yes, Coldwood. it was filmed here in Alaska and it’s actually based here in Alaska. It’s a paranormal thriller and hopefully that will go great. So far we’ve seen some rough cuts and it looks amazing. Carly Jones and Les Mahoney from LA are in it. Justin Baird [was the director] and it’s written and produced by Charles Baird.
Phase 4 Films will release Dear Lemon Lima Theatrically and on VOD on March 4, 2011.