She worked 12-hour days for months away from home, all the while under the scrutiny of strangers.
Yet for former Country Day student Ginny Gardner, show business still hasn’t lost its glamour.
Of course, not many 16-year-olds decide to skip high school to hightail it to Tinseltown. And even fewer teens actually make it to the small screen, let alone the big one.
But Gardner did. And since flying the coop after her sophomore year at St. Francis, she’s landed a recurring role in “The Goldbergs” (an ABC sitcom), starred in “Glee” as Katie Fitzgerald and now has a role in the upcoming sci-fi film “Project Almanac,” produced by Michael Bay.
Getting the role was especially surprising for Gardner. “I had auditioned for (the movie) back in November, and I got a couple of callbacks, but I didn’t think much of it because you expect a lot of rejection,” she said.
But luckily for Gardner, she got another call in April, and two days after her second audition, she was on her way to Atlanta to shoot her first movie.
Although filming ended in July 2013, Gardner said that she still talks to all of her costars, including Sam Lerner and Johnny Weston.
“You get really close working with people on movies and practically living together, and you don’t really get that shooting a television show,” she said.
In television, the show isn’t usually filmed on location, so there’s no opportunity to live with the cast, she said. But with early-morning shoots starting at 5 a.m. and late-night shoots from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., there wasn’t a lot of time for casual chitchat or partying—instead, the group was more focused on making the movie.
“I was scared out of my mind when I got there, but after the first week (the cast) became like a family,” she said.
The film follows a group of friends who go back in time through a garage-constructed time machine, which they exploit to win the lottery and to fix past mistakes.
However, because of the complexities of time travel, a lot goes wrong.
And, of course, with famed blockbuster producer Bay (who directed and produced “Pearl Harbor” and “Transformers”), there’s bound to be action.
Gardner plays Christina, one of the five teens who builds the time machine. It also appears as if Gardner “films” a lot of the movie, as “Project Almanac” is filmed in a found-footage style.
The idea is that the footage is presented more realistically, as if the entirety of the movie were filmed on a camcorder left behind by one of the protagonists.
Gardner found integrating acting behind a camera to be the most challenging aspect of the film.
She explained that the actors had to look at the actual camera instead of at her when they were speaking, as she didn’t film the footage.
According to Gardner, “Project Almanac’s” director, Dean Israelite, is committed to this realism despite the far-fetched plot.
“A lot of the acting was improv, which made it feel a lot more natural, and the time machine is made out of Xbox parts,” she said.
And audiences will be seeing more of Gardner, as she just finished filming her second full-length movie, “Good Kids,” an indie coming-of-age film slated to release in 2015.
But despite finally “making it,” Gardner still emphasizes the difficulty of acting.
“People are out here for six years and being told no is exhausting, and it’s really difficult work,” she said.
“Being on set is easy—getting the job is the hard part.”
Previously published in the print edition on Jan. 13, 2015.