Vanessa Lua

Watch: Comedy House by Vanessa Lua

Vanessa Lua Vanessa Lua is a Dallas Comedy House (DCH) graduate who currently lives in Los Angeles. Before moving west, and while taking classes at DCH, she worked on and directed a documentary about, well, DCH called Comedy House. However, the movie is about more than the venue, the people who call it a second home, and improv in general. It's also about overcoming barriers (in Lua's case, language and accent) and self doubt (something many performers routinely experience). It's a testament about support and how even just a touch of support, be it from family or friends, can help a person overcome difficulties. You may be the most confident person in the world, but I bet my last pair of pants you would still like someone (anyone!) to believe in you and your dreams. In Comedy House, we see support manifest itself through Lua's parents, classmates, troupe members, and teachers.

Before watching the movie, though, let's find out more about Lua and Comedy House.

What have you been up to since leaving Dallas? A lot! I have been taking improv classes at IO West and The Groundlings, sitcom classes at Actors Comedy Studio, and singing lessons with Corinne Dekker. In addition to all my classes, I'm super excited to have been chosen for a co-star role on Michael Bay’s show The Last Ship, which lead to an invitation to be a guest on a very popular Latino talk show called Noches con Platanito. I am currently working on the development of a one-person show, and I interview celebrities with my pink iPhone for my YouTube channel, whatthehelldidshesay.

From the time this was filmed to now, how have you grown in your comedy and acting skills? I have learned a lot in my classes, but just through the process of moving to L.A. and the awkward moments of getting to know a new city and roommates, I've been able to find and express humor in many ways. I love learning, and having English as a second language gives me the chance to learn something new everyday and have fun doing it!

There's a particularly poignant moment about halfway in the film where you talk about language barriers and how your accent could hinder your success. Do you still have these experiences and feelings?  Some casting directors still tell me to get rid of my accent, but others tell me that my accent is super cute. I still struggle. I know that being able to turn my accent on and off will be an extra skill that will open more doors. I took a couple of accent reduction classes, but it was very hard for me and really didn’t help so I made the choice to embrace my accent. I am proud of my YouTube channel, and I am not waiting for the opportunity to come to me. I am creating my own opportunities.

I really enjoyed the video chats you had with your parents, who are very supportive of your dreams.  Support is everything. I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family, friends, and all the strangers that support my YouTube channel, like my performance after a show, or give me positive feedback on my documentary.

My parents have always been so proud of my craziness but when I quit my engineer job to moved to L.A., they were worried at first. It's a little better now they know I am happy, but I think it is still difficult for them (and any parent) to understand how slow this business is and how tiny successes mean the world to you but don't pay your rent.

What are the future plans for Comedy House? When I finished the film, I submitted it to several festivals in Texas, but nobody accepted it. It was heartbreaking for me, but at the same time, I knew the competition would be fierce. In the end, I did this film to honor the people who changed my life and made me grow as a person. I hope I accomplish that. I keep telling my editor that the film will get famous when I get famous or when I die--haha. I wanted to screen the film at a theater in Dallas and have all the DCH family there because the film was for them. Now, I just need an investor who would like to rent a theater for me!

What's your advice for aspiring comedians and actors who may want to make a living in the entertainment business? It's all about work ethic and teamwork. So many people quit too soon because they are waiting to be discovered. I think it is about being prepared, taking classes, networking, promoting yourself, and helping others succeed. I couldn’t have done this documentary without the help of Sean Anderson (director of photography), Alex Wagner (editor), Amanda [Austin] and Clay [Barton] who let me film at their facilities, and all the students, performers, and teachers that I interviewed.

COMEDY HOUSE(dir. Vanessa Lua - 2014) from Alex Wagner on Vimeo.

Anchor Baby

Anchor Baby "Jim is a border patrol officer. Maria is an undocumented immigrant. Together, they stand strong against the pressures of illegal love." That's the description of a new movie written by—and starring—DCH graduate Joshua Morris, along with another DCH graduate, Vanessa Lua.

"The original incarnation of Anchor Baby was a stage sketch I wrote for a larger show to be put on by our improv troupe, Captain Donkeyface & Mr. Ponytail (CDMP)," Morris said. "We weren't able to pull it together, so I rewrote it as a screenplay. The inspiration for it goes to CDMP and DCH. They provided me with structure and a safe environment during the writing process. Not to mention putting up with some really bad jokes in earlier drafts."

The Oak Cliff Film Festival named Anchor Baby an official selection of its event, and the film's screening takes place on Sunday, June 17, at 5:30 p.m. at the Kessler Theater in the Bishop Arts District (1230 W. Davis St. Dallas, Texas 75208). After its showing there, Morris says he hopes to take it to other venues, having submitted it to other film and comedy festivals around the country.

For Morris, improv really helped with the film and writing.

"I've always known the advantages that improv training afforded me as an actor, but I've also discovered how much it helps me in the writing process," he said. "A good improv scene has rhythm, heightening, strong characters, and high stakes relationships, among other things. I think a good script has the same. Improvisers hold these keys to storytelling, because we're regularly discovering them. I say be fearless. And then surround yourself with others who share that sensibility. After all, as Del Close says, 'We're all supporting actors.'"