Anna Gustavsen on Being A Student Filmmaker & Actress


Ben Russell

Ben Russell

·9 min read

An actor from Montclair, New Jersey, Anna Gustavsen is currently studying performing arts and filmmaking at Savannah College of Art and Design. Anna started acting at age fifteen after convincing her parents to let her create a Backstage profile, and she’s spent the last three years soaking up experience on film sets. Anna’s love for acting was born while watching Carrie Fisher's performance in Star Wars: A New Hope for the first time, and she still listens to Princess Leia's theme whenever she is preparing for a role.

Tell us about your casting credits. What projects have you worked on?
The first film I worked on was a student film called Brownie Points, directed by Adrienne Civetti. I was fifteen and it was the first project I had ever auditioned for, so the whole process of driving to and from Baltimore with my amazingly supportive parents for production was really exciting for me. Seeing everything that goes into making a film for the first time definitely solidified the idea that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry. After that I did Eunbi Kwak’s A Day in the Coffee Shop, and I took a few background roles here and there just for the purpose of being on a set. You always meet interesting people that way, which is one of the things I love the most about acting. In 2019, Adrienne Civetti reached out to me again about coming back to Baltimore for her senior thesis film, Subject 17, with co-director and writer Brooks Gray. I immediately said yes– I love working with them, the environment they create on set is always so fun and supportive. Subject 17 ended up going to South Texas Underground Film Festival in early 2020, which was very cool and affirming.

What are you working on right now? Anything cool?
I wrapped a short horror film a little over a month ago called The Judas-Abel Medical Center, directed by Jo-el Gordon. I had never worked in that genre before and I had such a great time. I play the role of Kira, who I was super intrigued by, because her circumstances have rendered her physically voiceless. So, for the whole film I’m emoting entirely through facial expression and movement, which was definitely made easier by the physicality of some scenes between me and my talented scene partners. The hardest parts were not being able to scream and getting through the one day we didn’t have coffee on set. It’s in post right now, and I’m excited to see where it goes. Other than that, I’m currently packing to move on-campus at SCAD, where I have plans to write and direct a short film. I’m excited to get behind the camera and collaborate with other people again.

What’s your favorite TV show of 2021?
I really loved Wandavision. The direction Marvel is taking their content in is so new and interesting, and it was fun to share that viewing experience with people all over the world who were tuning in every week. I’ve also been watching a ton of Criminal Minds, which has definitely gotten me through the past year at home. I actually got to chat briefly with Matthew Gray Gubler a few weeks ago, who plays Spencer on the show. The episodes he’s directed are so terrifyingly creepy, I’d love to work with him one day.

If you could work/be on any show, what show would that be?
I mentioned Wandavision, but it would be mind-blowing to work on literally any Marvel project. I think every actor shares that goal– if not Marvel, entering into any franchise that universally loved would be such a magical experience. Another show like that for me would be Doctor Who. I haven’t kept up with the later seasons as much, but David Tennant shaped my childhood. Realistically, my dream show to work on would be any show I’m lucky enough to get cast in. The shooting schedules for those kinds of projects seem insane but I would be so thrilled to do anything of that scale.

What advice do you have for others looking to break into the industry?
Have fun with it! If there’s any time to not take yourself too seriously, it’s when you first start. There’s a certain beauty about being able to take roles in little projects that very few people will see. This is your time to fall in love with what you do and make art without the threat of a bad review hanging over your head. It’s inevitable that we’ll all look back at the early phases of our careers and cringe, but everything I’m doing right now will always hold a special place in my heart.

What’s one insider tip to success you’d give for others in 2021?
I think making the mental distinction between goals you can achieve on your own and goals you can’t is a really healthy thing to do for yourself as an actor. It’s helped me figure out what my personal relationship with success is, because that definition is so different for everybody. For example, deciding you’re going to submit yourself for a certain number of roles by the end of the week is a goal you have total control over, as opposed to saying you want to get nominated for an Oscar by the time you’re thirty. Those goals are fun to set for yourself too, but it’s easy to get discouraged when you aren’t frequently checking things off your list. Making that distinction helps me feel more in control of my traction, especially in an industry like this one. I’m only eighteen, so I’m just taking it day by day.

Where can we find you on social?