Perhaps the fact that Jessica Laine was born in Hollywood — the Florida one, not the California city made famous by the entertainment industry — may have influenced the aspiring actress to move to Tinseltown.
Raised on Sanibel and bitten by the showbiz bug at an early age, Laine is currently a featured player in a movie entitled "Emergency Contact," which will be screened at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday at the Fort Myers Film Festival.
"I play the sassy sister who doesn't take any crap," said Laine, interviewed on her cell phone last week. "But honestly, this was truly a project of love. And, hopefully, it will lead to bigger and better things for me."
A 29-minute short comedy written by and starring Clint Childs, "Emergency Contact" is the story of the worst day in the life of Mike Lafferty. He finds out that Tiffany, the girl he was casually sleeping with only a few weeks ago, has passed away. Unbeknownst to him, she had named him as her emergency contact at her new job.
Without knowing much about her, Mike decides to drive to San Diego and inform her family that she is dead.
"And (Mike) is definitely not the type of guy you want delivering that kind of news," added Laine, who plays Tiffany's sister, Rebecca. "It's a dark comedy."
Laine, who attended The Sanibel School and The Canterbury School, graduated from Fort Myers High School in 1999. She enrolled at Florida State University, studying Telecommunication Production. As the actress recalled, she always knew she wanted to be a performer.
"The very first play I was in was at BIG Arts," said Laine, who has also appeared on the stage of The Schoolhouse Theater. "My mother directed it... the stage version of 'The Wizard Of Oz.' But I didn't play a big role... and I so wanted to be Dorothy!"
After college, Laine pursued acting work in New York City (where she engaged in additional studies at The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute) before moving west to Los Angeles. Since relocating to the west coast, she has landed roles on the television series "Gilmore Girls," voice-over work on the animated series "Home Office" and "A Guy And His Beaver" as well as on a web series entitled "Writer's Block."
"My long-term goal is to be doing romantic comedies," said Laine. "My philosophy is that if you can make people laugh and have fun doing it, why not? I think that's my true calling."
In addition to Thursday's screening at the Fort Myers Film Festival, "Emergency Contact" will be shown at the Garden State Film Festival (March 31-April 3) in Asbury Park, N.J. and at the "Other" Venice Film Festival (Oct. 14-16) in Venice, Calif.
"I'm flying home for the Fort Myers Film Festival, and then I'll be going to the other festivals in New Jersey and California," said Laine, who is also in the process of auditioning for other roles while seeking an agent to represent her. "Everything is very new and exciting right now."
Recalling her upbringing on Sanibel, Laine noted that she tries to return to the island "at least every Christmas."
"I'm so proud to be from there," she added. "I get excited when I talk to people and they've heard of Sanibel! It will always be home to me."
A movie still from the film 'Emergency Contact,' which stars Jessica Laine, who grew up on Sanibel. The film will be screened Thursday night at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers.
Fact BoxAlliance hosts Fort Myers Film Festival
Lee County Alliance for the Arts announces its participation in the inaugural Fort Myers Film Festival on Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26. The festival celebrates culture and community with the presentation of local independent films created by area filmmakers, as well as “shorts,” films in length of 30 minutes or less.
Programming begins at Alliance for the Arts on Friday, March 25 with a “Short Showcase” at 1 p.m. The showcase consists of four short films, all less than 20 minutes long, which narrate stories of personal struggle, success, humor and heroism. Presentations of different categories continue throughout the day on both Friday and Saturday and include short films, strictly local documentaries shot in Lee, Collier and Charlotte Counties, and kids programming.
A detailed schedule of the films, to be featured at Alliance, can be found at the organization’s website, www.artinlee.org. Tickets, $5 per session and $10 per day, can be purchased at the door. For more information or directions to the Alliance for the Arts, call 239-939-2787.
More films and events for the Fort Myers Film Festival will be hosted by local organizations including the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center and Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.
For tickets, a complete program guide and more information about the Fort Myers Film Festival, visit www.fortmyersfilmfestival.com.