Interview: Courtney Baxter, Actress, Producer, and Just Out of Her Teens

Posted on October 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Pennsylvania native Courtney Baxter attends Pace University in Manhattan as a double major in Economics and Film Studies.  In her early teens, Courtney filmed over a dozen national commercials and also appeared in television shows such as Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, and Criminal Minds.  At 16, Courtney became an Executive Producer/lead in the drama “Reco” which garnered many festival nominations and wins.

She has received widespread recognition for her character “Meghan Cleary” on the Onion News Network, leading her to become the backstage host at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards.  As an 18 year old, she Executive Produced and starred as Eve in the horror feature film “Hallow’s Eve” which was recently picked up by eOne for 2013 US and Canadian distribution.  2012 brought other feature and short film acting and producing opportunities in films such as Night Has Settled, ImagiGARY, and Parallax.

In 2013, Courtney appeared as “Serena” in the reboot of “All My Children” and will appear  as a guest star in the new MTV show “One Bad Choice” this fall. Courtney produced and starred in the independent feature “Chasing Yesterday” in the fall of 2013 before filming the cult-phenomena Sharknado 2 in early 2014. Sharknado 2 premiered on SyFy on July 30th 2014 and has since become to the most watched SyFy movie ever!  With “Sharknado 3” in the works for 2015, Courtney is eager to end 2014 strong with the production of “Donny Brook!”  Many thanks to Courtney for taking time for an interview about what it means to be a producer and what she’s learned.

People are often confused by all the different producers listed in the credits.  Why did you want to become a producer at such a young age and what exactly do you do?

Copyright Courtney Baxter 2014
Copyright Courtney Baxter 2014

The role of a producer can vary under different titles and for different projects.  A lot of time when I am on set solely as an actress, I do not get the full experience of making a film because my responsibility was simply to show up, and act!  I found myself wanting to make projects of my own, and producing came very naturally to me. In the most basic explanation, a producer puts the film together.  Producers find financing, hire the crew, scout locations, handle contracts and insurance, manage the budget and make sure everything runs smoothly on set.  Right now I am an associate producer on the upcoming feature Donnybrook.

Why do you think people love the “Sharknado” movies so much?

For one thing, the word “Sharknado” is super fun to say!  I think the Sharknado phenomenon found success by being commercially appealing, ridiculously self-aware, fun, and super entertaining.  Undoubtedly, much of the Sharknado’s success comes from the crazy amount of social media attention.  Sharknado is everywhere, you couldn’t avoid it if you wanted to!

How do you think the phenomenon of tweet-watching has changed the way we look at television?  Do you have a favorite “Sharknado 2” tweet?

I think that live tweeting is an awesome way for people to communicate and connect.  It is one thing to hear that 3.9 million people that watched Sharknado 2 on its premiere night, but it is absolutely incredible to see the millions and millions of people who not only watched the film, but took the time to write something about it.  As for my favorite tweet, I tweeted a picture of the scene when Kelly Ripa kills a shark by stomping on it with a stiletto, and she retweeted it.  Made my night.

How has what you have learned in your economics classes helped you as an actress and producer?  

One thing that is cool about studying economics is that everyone can benefit from understanding how the economy works.  We are all consumers, and it is really interesting to look at the economic choices we make, and feel confident in making fiscally responsible decisions.  The film industry has a major impact on the US and global economy, and when it comes to making a film, a lot of choices must be made.  By grounding my studies in business economics, I can produce films with good quality with a reasonably lower budget.

If you could go back in time to star in one favorite movie, what would it be?

Well I don’t know how this would work out, but I think it would be really cool to have starred in Forest Gump…and not as Jenny.  I would want to be Forest.  Then, of course, the obvious answer would be starring in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or just about any Alfred Hitchcock movie.

What’s the best advice you ever got about acting?

One life lesson that I always stand by with acting, is that no one can work harder for yourself than you.  The best acting advice, is to listen to whoever you are interacting with, and if it is just you in a scene, then listen to yourself. It keeps you present, and helps you take in each moment.

Which director you’ve worked with taught you the most?

Oh that is a tough one!  There are two directors who have not only taught me lot about acting, but also how to communicate effectively.  I think the relationship between a director and an actor is a really incredible thing because as an actress I put all my trust in the director. Steve Clark is a brilliant artist and filmmaker; I worked with him on Night Has Settled and I was amazed at how he could pull out such raw emotions in each actor’s performance. Joe Pernice directed our feature film, Chasing Yesterday and I was able to be there with Joe for every step of the way.  When Joe is directing, he knows exactly what he needs out of myself and out of the scene, and he knows how to finish a film right.

You have been involved in several different initiatives to help your community.  Is one of them closest to your heart? 

Absolutely, The Andrew L Hicks Jr Foundation was started in August of 2010 after Andrew, one of my classmates at Henderson High School in West Chester PA, was killed in a tragic accident.  Andrew had an infectious nature and dedicated his short life to helping others.  Upon Andrew’s passing, his incredible family started the foundation with the goal of connecting the underprivileged youth of Chester PA with the youth of West Chester PA in an effort to build relationships, create service opportunities, and help unite the two communities.  I have been working with the foundation since 2010 and have loved every second of it!  My favorite tradition is being a chaperone at Camp Paradise.

 Tell me about “Chasing Yesterday” — what is it about and what do you hope audiences will enjoy most about it?

Chasing Yesterday (formerly known as Running on Empty) is a coming of age story about a former college track star, who has fallen into a dangerous cycle of drinking and self-prescribed depression medicine after his girlfriend dies in a car accident.  My character, Jenny, comes into the picture and convinces Junior to get his life back on track by entering a half marathon.  Chasing Yesterday is a movie that people of just about any age can enjoy.  There are lots of laughs and some tender moments that stay grounded in my good friend (and lead actor) Eric Nelsen’s performance.

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