’09 Class Profiles took a Thanksgiving hiatus, but we’re back now and should remain on an biweekly schedule through the end of the year!
Lovell Holder is a film producer and director living in LA–and one of the most caring and thoughtful people I’ve ever met. I’m thrilled he was able to take some time out of his busy schedule and travels to chat with us!
Can you tell us a bit about what you were involved in while at Princeton?
I was an English major with a Theater certificate. Outside of the classroom, I spent much of my time working with Princeton Shakespeare Company, as an actor, director, and board member. I learned extraordinary professional and personal lessons about making art with this organization, and I was fortunate enough to meet several of my dearest friends and some of the most talented people I know. PSC also led me to collaborating with several other on-campus theater and dance groups as well, from acting at Theatre Intime to stage managing several DiSiac shows. In addition to haunting rehearsal spaces around campus, I had the privilege of working as a Mathey College RCA, serving as a Chapel Deacon, and being a proud member of Tower Club.
Talk about what you’ve been up to since Princeton. What are you currently working on? What has the path been like to get to where you are today? What’s next?
Princeton provided an invaluable opportunity for me in that it truly allowed me to entertain (pun partially intended) the idea that a career in the arts was possible. After graduation, I spent three years in Providence, RI, at Brown University getting my MFA in acting. The program, which partners with Providence’s amazing regional theater Trinity Repertory Company, afforded me a fantastic environment in which to grow both as an artist and a person. Of course, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult and extremely challenging. In many ways, I think this was the first environment I’ve ever been where in many ways the goal is to fail. By pushing yourself and expanding your capabilities, you naturally run into some very thorny, hard places, and I honestly had a tough time understanding that sometimes learning what does not succeed is as valuable as learning what does. Simultaneously, working with the same seventeen classmates (no matter how genuinely lovely they are) for fifteen hours a day, six days a week, for three years will admittedly drive anyone a bit insane, but amidst the madness I was blessed to learn incredible things both from my teachers and my fellow students. One of the reasons I selected the Brown program initially was the fact that they require all their MFA students to both direct and write in addition to their acting work, which ended up being such a gift. I remain so thankful that I was able to direct multiple productions in addition to my acting roles, and I was thrilled that I also got to teach on the faculty of LaSalle Academy, a really special Providence high school, as part of my final year at Brown.
Since graduating from Brown, I’ve been living full-time in Los Angeles, working in the film industry. I spent my first two years in town as the assistant to a really terrific independent film producer, Clark Peterson, and I could not have had a better introduction to the inner workings of this rather crazy business. While working for Clark, I also began producing my first full-length film project, a small independent drama called “Some Freaks.” Written and directed by one of my good friends from Brown, Ian MacAllister-McDonald, the film follows the turbulent romance of two high school outsiders (a boy who lost an eye to cancer and an overweight girl). Since the fall of 2012, we’ve been working on all the various aspects of the film: financing, casting, locations, shooting, etc. I never fully grasped how long a journey it is to take a script from the page to the screen. Several fellow Princetonians also joined the film in various capacities both behind the scenes (Daniela Kende Ploszek ’09, Sash Bischoff ’09, and Jerry Peng ’10) and in front of the camera (Chris Ghaffari ’12), which was a lovely component to the experience. It has been a mightily steep learning curve, but I am very proud to say that we completed production on the film in September, and we’re currently submitting the project to several festivals for competition in the coming year (fingers crossed!). To be fair, this all sounds much more glamourous than it actually is, so I don’t mean to give the wrong impression of filmmaking: the hours are maddening, the uncertainty is paralyzing, and the financial issues are often borderline farcical. The magic of the movies! But… a big part of the past five years for me has been learning to be grateful for struggles, because they make us appreciate our successes even more. Forgive me the fortune cookie mantras.
Looking ahead, with “Some Freaks” mostly completed, I’m now diving into the next adventure, a new film called “Loserville,” which I will be directing. It’s a charming little comedy, and we’re aiming to shoot the film in Nashville this spring. The project is also lucky enough to be produced by our classmate Evie Whiting ’09, so I’m very excited to start this next endeavor.
Who is a Princetonian who has helped you along the way? Can you talk a bit about how this person has been an influence on your life or career?
I would be remiss not to immediately single out Stacy Rukeyser, a supremely talented screenwriter and producer, who recommended me for my first industry job with her husband, Clark Peterson. Stacy and Clark gave me such freedom and guidance while working with them both on their various projects, and I am so grateful to have had such a productive and safe space in which to genuinely begin my career in the entertainment industry. Amidst my own Princeton peers, I have been lucky enough to encounter many folks whom I hope will continue to be lifelong collaborators and friends. For example, as mentioned above, I would never have the opportunity to direct this upcoming film without the faith and endorsement of Evie Whiting ’09.
Perhaps one of the most significant debts I should identify, as should each of us pursuing careers in the arts, is all the many Princeton friends who support us in the audiences of plays, dance performances, gallery openings, etc. Without the belief and support of my friends from Princeton, I would never have had the confidence to seek out the path that I have. From on-campus shows back in the day to “real world” projects now, seeing a familiar Princeton face in the audience is a treat for which I am undeserving and forever grateful.
What about your life now would your Sophomore-year self be most surprised by?
I suspect I would be most surprised by the fact that I’m living in Los Angeles. I’d always sworn repeatedly and far too cavalierly that I never wanted to leave the East Coast… and then I finally spent more than a day in Los Angeles, and I loved it. For all of its sprawl, I’ve never seen any other city in the world where you can truly carve out whatever experience you want to within it. I also will freely admit that being in such an outdoorsy city has inspired me to be healthier in so many ways as well (and I can never give enough credit to Daniela Kende Ploszek ’09 for shepherding me to a healthier lifestyle through her new health business, Color Me Complete – I recommend her to anyone and everyone!).
What’s your favorite thing about your life right now?
Honestly, my favorite thing about my life is the people that I am fortunate enough to share it with. I am so blessed to have parents and friends who support me, inspire me, and challenge me. Whether I’m writing or acting, smiling or crying, I couldn’t be more proud of the fantastic community that the world has given me, and so many of those people come directly from my time at Princeton. Indeed, there is one person I will forever be indebted to: Princeton Dean of Admission Janet Lavin Rapelye, for not just admitting me, but for admitting so many of the people who would affect my life so significantly.
Thanks Lovell! Classmates, please send in nominations for people to be featured in the new year!