not too many who can say they have played in a movie starring
Angelina Jolie - but Chiang Mai resident Renee Weygandt has that
in her CV. That alone would make her an interesting person, but
there’s much more to this vivacious young mother.
She was born in Ohio USA, eldest daughter of
a real estate businessman and his Indonesian wife. When she was
five years old, the family moved to Oklahoma and then to Broken
Arrow, a suburb of Tulsa. With all these theatrical names, it is
probably not so strange that the young 13-year-old Renee knew
what she wanted to be when she grew up - she wanted to be an
I asked her was this interest as a teenager
because she dreamed of being famous, wealthy or being with movie
stars? The answer was an emphatic, no. “I liked being on
stage. During school plays is when you catch the acting bug, and
you know it right then. It’s never been for money or fame -
it’s just doing it!”
She went to university to do TV and video
production, “I was interested in the technical side of movie
making. I wanted to know how it happened, because I’m an
artistic person, not a technical one,” but while there she met
her husband and movies and TV and video took a back seat.
“Having a family became a priority,” and this was followed
by six years of mothering, which included ‘home schooling’
But busy as she was, there was still this
‘bug’ in her system. “I needed an outlet, and it was
community theatre.” She joined and taught drama for other
Through this she met others of a like mind to
herself. These were people who also had commitments, children
and families, who wanted to act in more than just community
theatre, but could not just move to Hollywood and work in a
hamburger shop while waiting to be discovered. They decided to
form their own independent film production company. All they
needed now was a screenplay.
“I had to do something, so I wrote a
feature length screen play called ‘Soiled Doves’ about three
Wild West American saloon girls and their struggle to escape
from that lifestyle.” That was not just a case of jotting down
some dialogue, but involved research into the language of the
day, and what life was really like in the 1890’s, not the
popularized celluloid version.
It took six months of full-time work to
complete the screenplay, but movie producers were not beating a
path to Oklahoma. “I hadn’t done all the research. I
hadn’t done the research to find the budget to make this film!
We’re still waiting,” she said wryly.
However, she entered the screen play in a
film festival and it was selected as a finalist, so she knew
that it was worth persevering, but news then came of her
husband’s transfer to Thailand, so looking for a grant or
other finance for ‘Soiled Doves’ had to be put on hold.
But that ‘bug’ was still there, “I
wanted to shoot something before we came here. I wrote a short
film called ‘Edges’ about a love triangle and shot it with a
small cast of friends. We learned a lot on how to be really
flexible. I also ended up playing the ‘other woman’ though
originally I had cast someone else, but she never showed up!”
‘Edges’ was also entered in a film contest and was selected
for screening from hundreds of entries.
I asked Renee how difficult it was to play
the part of a character that is not ‘you’. She described the
differences between ‘Method Acting’ whereby you ‘become’
the character, even when you are not on stage. “I don’t do
it that way,” she said, “because it can be damaging.”
Instead she follows the method given to her in training sessions
called Responsive Intensive Training for Screen Actors (RITS)
where the actor can call up the emotions required without having
to ‘live’ the emotion.
She did also say that you have to ‘think’
the part while on stage. “When you stop, you feel that
something has been pulled away. That’s why you have to find
another role to play,” she said, explaining the need for
actors to continue in their chosen profession, looking for more
For a while, it looked as if the move to
Thailand was going to pull Renee away too, but she heard that
there was going to be a movie shot here with Angelina Jolie. She
contacted the casting director and was told to send in her CV.
This led to her being given the role in the movie of an NGO
worker in Cambodia. “It was exciting to see what a big
production was like. It was fun,” said Renee, eyes bright with
the memory of it all. However, her ‘bug’ was still not
satiated, so she went back to America to shoot another short
film, writing the screenplay again by herself.
Returning to Chiang Mai, she rejoined
community based theatre, and started drama classes here. “I
really like doing this with young people who have an artistic
bent.” That in turn has led to her teaching movie making
classes for 9th graders and up, classes that are allowing
interested children an avenue for their artistic expressions.
She is also involved with adults through the
Chiang Mai ‘Indie’ Club (independent film-makers) which is
part of a world-wide movement. Making movies is now very much
part of Renee’s life.
I asked her what movies did she watch herself and it is
romantic comedies. “I don’t want to see movies that make me
cry. I get so involved with the movie that it can affect me for
weeks!” So happy endings are what Renee enjoys, and her own
screenplays are that way too. I am sure her life will also have
a happy ending, but that’s a long way off!