It’s important to be able to see yourself on-screen growing up. When you have people from different backgrounds in your cast, they will bring a lot of creativity and insight to the project and that is felt on set as well as on-screen.
Having just done a film with over 80 people with disabilities, I can tell you that it means a whole lot to those individuals who aren’t normally given the spotlight. Seeing a representation of yourself on screen makes everyone feel like they are worthy of existing and that they are not alone. Moving forward with this sort of mindset, stories will open far and wide and we can stop churning out the same things over and over. Who knows where stories can go the more you broaden the talent pool. Beyond being the right thing to do and a morality issue, producers and studios now realize that DUH…diversity in a cast will help increase the market share box office value and sales of any project. I believe inclusion should be organic to any story, however, and not forced through casting just to meet a quota’s sake, because that is glaringly obvious to everyone and takes you out of the presentation. We should want to know and learn from each other and this will only become the norm by doing.
Asa part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tamela D’Amico.
Tamela D’Amico is an award-winning American recording artist, actress, and filmmaker (writer/producer/director), as well as a social influencer, who started her own production company, La Strega Entertainment and now BELLONA Entertainment, to create vehicles for the many facets of her career…in addition to making others dreams come true. A true multi-hyphenate, many people know her in different ways, as an artist.
For those who know her as a music recording artist, D’Amico launched onto the jazz scene having recorded her debut album Got A Little Story, executive-produced by actor/producer Peter Krause (Parenthood, Six Feet Under, 911), produced by 6 time Grammy Award winner Jimmy Hoyson, and arranged by Multi-Grammy nominee Chris Walden at Capitol Records. The album was released by LML Records/The Orchard (SONY) distribution which went into worldwide release and is available wherever fine music is sold, along with others singles and soundtracks she has recorded. She can be heard on over 140 national radio and cable outlets in various jazz-based/Adult Standard & Contemporary markets as well as many International radio and Internet streaming markets. She was named Clear Channel’s Best New Jazz Vocalist, the re-launched MySpace’s Rising Star, and is in constant rotation on The Penthouse Radio Network, The Jonathan Station, Martini in the Morning, and MUSIC CHOICE’s Singer and Swingers channel via satellite, cable, & Internet. She executive produced an album for 2013 Grammy Winner Billy Vera (known for the hit “At This Moment”) entitled BILLY VERA: BIG BAND JAZZ (released on Varese Sarabande/Universal). D’Amico duets with Mr. Vera on the album with “I’ll Never Be Free”, which is a radio favorite on WBGO NY and KJAZZ in Los Angeles.
D’Amico honed her skills as an actress in television, film and theater, which she states has afforded her writing and directing skills as a storyteller. She recently recurred on the hit Disney + show Best Friends Whenever, as nemesis Janet Smythe, playing the younger counterpart to actress Nora Dunn (SNL). She can be seen in the feature films Walt Before Mickey with Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie) and Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) about the life of Walt Disney and can be heard singing the Bond-esque theme song “Love and the Gun” in both English and Italian in the feature film Rob the Mob (Millennium Films/Lakeshore Records) directed by Raymond De Felitta (City Island, Madoff) both now streaming on NETFLIX. Now streaming on Amazon, she stars in the award-winning series Englishman in L.A. with actors Cameron Moir (Non Stop), Eddie Jemison (HUNG, Oceans 11, 12,13) and Ashley Fink (Glee) for which she was awarded “Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Web Series” by LA WEB FEST. She also stars in three upcoming independent films in post-production: Quinn, Love is Not Love and 3 People I’ve Never Heard Of. Taking time to stay creative in quarantine, she wrote, produced, directed and acted in the Twilight Zone-esque pandemic short film FEVER now on YouTube and touring film festivals.
After spending the last two years filming the Indian drama One Little Finger in India, a film in which she stars as the lead, and promotes the theme “Ability in Disability” for having employed over 80 disabled actors, she returned from the Cannes Film Festival where the film premiered. One Little Finger, directed by Rupam Sarmah is being released on all streaming platforms on November 16, 2020.
Just as astute behind the camera, D’Amico gained recognition as one of the top 24 finalists on the FOX reality show On the Lot, produced by Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett. She garnered attention from the show’s producers with her heartwarming entry film entitled Volare, starring Federico Castelluccio (The Sopranos), based on her father’s life story, which led her to a first-look deal with DreamWorks. Prior to this, D’Amico began her career in film and theater at Florida State University’s much-lauded Film School, which accepts only 16 students a year from all over the world. After majoring in Film and with a minor in Theater and Psychology, she continued her schooling in Los Angeles at The Strasberg Institute, (she was the first to build and shoot in their soundstage), while working in Hollywood for many well-known producers such as mega-producer Chuck Roven/Atlas Entertainment (City of Angels, Three Kings, Dark Knight, Wonder Woman), in all facets while making her own short films, web series and winning many festival awards.
D’Amico produced and directed the hit web television series Sex Ed: The Series, starring Joanna Cassidy (Bladerunner, Odd Mom Out), Matt Barr (One Tree Hill, Blood & Treasure) and Angela Sarafyan (West World) for which she received the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant, which gives a promising filmmaker a full Panavision camera package. Sex Ed: The Series garnered much TV press and accolades and boasts over 150 Million views on YouTube and counting. The show received nominations for both a Streamy Award and a Webby Award and TV Guide listed it in the “top 10 of notable television shows worth watching”. D’Amico has gone on to create other several TV web serials with Atom Films, Funny or Die, and Comedy Central and has many feature film projects in development through the BELLONA Entertainment banner.
Recent producing/directing projects have gone viral: the music video for “How Does a Moment Last Forever”- from last year’s Beauty and the Beast film, “What Might Have Been” (30 years after Blade Runner, actress Joanna Cassidy resurrects her character Zhora to do the reptile dance that Ridley Scott never got to film for the movie.) and The Modern Fundamentalist — Kim Davis Parody starring Broadway chanteuse Rena Strober and finally, TRUMP (Ya Got) Trouble which is a parody of The Music Man starring Stephen Van Dorn as Donald Trump.
Now on a small musical recording break, Tamela has been solely focused on her acting and filmmaking, which has been a daily endeavor as a brand ambassador and content creator to many International brands through her influence on social media.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for having me!
The story of how I grew up is filled with a lot of food, laughter and LOVE. I belong to a huge, loving and funny Italian family, most of which still reside in different parts of New York. We are like an army of 450 people or so, at this point. My father is from Sicily and he moved to the States as a child. He met my mother, who is the eldest of 8 children, in Brooklyn, NY and they married quite young. I am first generation Italian-American with four older siblings and many, many cousins. There is a large age gap between us all and I believe that is why I have had always been okay to have a discourse with people of all ages. My childhood was heavily influenced by the many European ways when it comes to health and food choices that I didn’t realize until I became an adult. I am truly grateful for that. My siblings were born in Brooklyn, but I was born on Long Island, NY. So, I sort of had this Brooklyn/Long Island hybrid of a NY accent growing up. I have fond memories of my childhood there with family parties where the entire neighborhood would join in and literally become extended family. Playing outside with kids who lived in the surrounding areas until the sun went down was completely safe because the neighborhood took care of us. I feel lucky to have had that as my immediate foundation because that sort of socializing in the neighborhood doesn’t exist as naturally as it once did for children today. It certainly set up the basis of my personality. I am a “people” person by nature. I was actually pretty shy as a child, more of a sponge, taking everything in. I adored being around many different types of personalities and learning what they’re about and still do. My family eventually moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida, where I spent most of my days fantasizing about the dreams in my head (mainly how to return to NY). It was difficult to be in “The Sunshine State” with a “New Yawk” accent and fair skin but I enjoyed it because we did a lot of boating and I made friends quickly but also traveled back to NY often. Due to us always traveling back and forth to NY and having a strong tie to family, when I was growing up, I consider myself a New Yorker first. I have been bi-coastal between New York and Los Angeles for my entire career. I love both places, but I will always be a New Yorker first, even though I have technically lived in Los Angeles longer than anywhere else.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
My parents did a great job at nurturing the things we were each good at doing from a very young age. For instance, my brother is a doctor now. As a child, he was really amazing with his hands, drawing and sculpting as an artist. He studied the human body and my mother bought him a Disney Medical Encyclopedia. In the back of the book, it depicted Goofy and each page was a cellophane layer that you could turn and see further inside to Goofy’s organs. It was a neat way to learn about the human body and also gently champion his interests. My mother figured out ways to nurture all of us like that without being pushy. By the time they got to me, I had great interest in the arts and became an old-time movie buff very young. To this day, my father asks me to do my Katherine Hepburn impression and laughs his head off. I’m a bit of an old soul and studied a lot of film noir and seemed to know a lot of jazz music innately growing up in a house filled with great music. Whatever I set out t do, my parents told me to “reach for the stars” and that everyone in life was a peer. So, naively, I took that as fact, I guess. I never thought that a career in Hollywood wasn’tpossible because of that. I was involved in all things media and arts in high school and was accepted at the much-lauded Florida State University Film School, which only accepts 16 students a year from all over the world, and then made my way to Los Angeles, as quickly as I could. I started immediately working with major producers, many who I had admired, behind the scenes, while continuing my studies at The Strasberg Actors Studio. From the mentality that “everyone is a peer”, I researched and started working with some major players in the biz, because I literally called them up and presented myself as an asset. I had nothing to lose. Once I finished school, I established my own production company, at the urging of my father, and produced vehicles for myself in music, film and new media under my own banner.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I guess that would be how I landed the role in One Little Finger. I have worked in almost every aspect of this industry in front of the camera and behind the scenes, so a lot of people know me in different ways. The way this film came to me was with a little bit of magic I think. I had been asked to do two other films in India in the past and my reps were against me doing either of them because they didn’t know the infrastructure in India and they had no way of protecting me if I went over there alone. So prior to taking this role in One Little Finger, I was actually led to be afraid to go to India because of all the fears they put in my head. Then one of those films that I did not take ended up getting into Cannes. I was bummed. Later on, I was at Lake Shrine hanging out in the Japanese gardens with my friend who is a very spiritual person. We decided to go to the side of the lake where a swan was in the water to meditate. Why not? We were in the perfect location. We settled in a cross-legged position and I closed my eyes and as instantly as I did I saw a flash of India. It was the strangest thing. I opened one eye and turned to my friend and said “I think I want to go to India.” He opened one of his eyes and said “It’s already happening.” We were sort of kidding but two weeks later the director of One Little Finger contacted me through Facebook messenger and offered me the role. He said he had sent it to my reps who had turned it down and he figured that I must have not been notified about it at all. He was right. No one told me. (Not cool, by the way). I read the script and I was moved by the story and I knew it was something I was meant to do. As to why director Rupam Sarmah chose me specifically I have no idea except that he works on feeling/vibe too. He knew of me from the Grammy Foundation because we are also both musicians but I did not know him personally prior to this project. I will have to ask him now. You have me intrigued! He was persistent in reaching me and I am glad he did and guess what…we premiered at the Cannes Film Festival! Legendary multi-Grammy winner Quincy Jones has music in the film as well as so many other amazing and notable artists. Quincy was on my vision board prior to this project. Maybe I manifested all of this. Who knows! All in all, this is a lesson to all actors. If I wasn’t so involved with my own career networking and knowing what is going on in the business or staying religiously on top of my social media accounts I would have missed this opportunity. Do not blindly trust your reps to handle your career. You need to stay invested in yourself.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m so glad you asked me this because it was not when I first started and I think people should know that just because you have experience doesn’t mean that you don’t continue to make a complete ass of yourself in any random occasion later in life. This was just a few years ago. I was in NYC working on a show. I had a dream one night that I ran into Bette Midler on Fifth Avenue. In the dream, it was a pleasant exchange. I woke up happy. Then a week later, after I had the dream, I had gotten out of an event where I was dressed to the nines, wearing heels. I met up with my friend Ken and we were walking late at night up Fifth Ave. Low and behold, out of nowhere, in real life comes the very real and tiny Bette Midler sans makeup and coifed hair. She was power walking after her Sue Mengers theatrical performance and nomination from Theater Critics something. I am a 5’8 1/2 gazelle and in heels, it makes me roughly about 6’1. She was passing us in a brisk walk on my left side. I was in mid-conversation with Ken when I noticed her. I hit Ken in the stomach and then sotto voce “that’s Bette Midler, I dreamt this, we have to say hi!” As we turned around, Bette was so quick that she had already made it to the corner behind us. The doorman next to us whispered, “Yup that’s Ms. M”. He could feel our little hearts beating in our chests. I made two long-legged steps to the corner and shouted “Ms. Midler!!” just as she was crossing the street. She turned around and did a comical North-South glance up and down of my appearance like 5 times. I was towering her height. She said “Yes?” in a very demure way. I said “Congrats on the theater critics blah blah and I just want you to know… YOU are my biggest fan!” We paused and looked at each other confused. I looked back towards Ken not knowing what to do next. He said matter of factly “ Yup that’s what you just said.” I laughed so hard, my voice lit up the heavens. She didn’t find the mistake funny. She politely stepped away and excused herself and power-walked away. I laughed like crazy for about 7 blocks. I tweeted her the next day saying sorry for the blunder. No reply. Nonetheless, a great funny memory with one of my idols. Maybe my sleeping dream was prepping me and I didn’t take the hint.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
A lot of people are asking me this lately. Everyone I have ever met is the sum total of me. I had great teachers growing up who taught me to look at all sides of what was being presented to me. I question everything. I have had so many great mentors in this business, there are literally too many people to list and I don’t want to sound like a name-dropper. I cannot pick one of them but I am in deep gratitude for all of them. At the end of the day, the words of my grandmother, my mom’s mother, a woman who was loved by anyone who came in contact with her, if only for mere minutes, are what keep the engine of my soul running: “If you’re bashful, you lose. Don’t ever be afraid to go and get what you want in this life.” I’m not bashful.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Words have power. You have to be very careful about the stories you tell yourself. If you set out in your career worried about failure that is exactly what you will bring to yourself. My father, who has nothing to do with the entertainment business, taught me to seek out every inch of the actual business side of the industry as well as the artistic side. He said that I should look into every crevice of what makes it work and learn as much as I can. In doing so, he told me that as I climbed up the ladder, if I ever lost a job or missed an opportunity (a rung) it would be okay to fall because I would have the knowledge of what to expect on the rung below it and would always have a job. And vice versa, if there was an opportunity to advance, I would have a leg up because of my prior research and understanding. He was correct. Knowledge is power. If you are an actor, find out what a manager does, if you are a director, find out what a producer does and so on and so forth. Once you have as much knowledge as you can, you soon realize that you don’t need to entrust your dreams into someone else’s hands. You have the knowledge and the power to create your own opportunities instead of remaining a pawn to be moved about without any say-so. Don’t ever wait. Start now, as life is very short. Being an artist means being willing to give all of yourself and to do so with the vulnerability of knowing that it may not matter or work out. Just get started, learn your craft and the rest will come if you persevere.
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
I am a storyteller at my core. I have a need to create. End of story. No one has to push me to work. I would love to see a day where we didn’t have to have special programs for women or diverse groups or push for inclusion. It should just be the norm.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I’m working on an anthology feature film called The Antiviral Film Project. It’s a collaboration of international filmmakers telling stories from different cultures around the world to the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m directing the story from the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota and I am super excited about it. I was offered the opportunity to direct a piece within this anthology and it was important to me to convey a story about indigenous peoples because their stories are not told enough. Beyond this, I have several projects in pre-production. As an actress, I am looking to sink my teeth into my next role whatever that may be. I am looking forward to COVID being thought of the past, so I can get back to work properly.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
It’s important to be able to see yourself on-screen growing up. When you have people from different backgrounds in your cast, they will bring a lot of creativity and insight to the project and that is felt on set as well as on-screen. Having just done a film with over 80 people with disabilities, I can tell you that it means a whole lot to those individuals who aren’t normally given the spotlight. Seeing a representation of yourself on screen makes everyone feel like they are worthy of existing and that they are not alone. Moving forward with this sort of mindset, stories will open far and wide and we can stop churning out the same things over and over. Who knows where stories can go the more you broaden the talent pool. Beyond being the right thing to do and a morality issue, producers and studios now realize that DUH…diversity in a cast will help increase the market share box office value and sales of any project. I believe inclusion should be organic to any story, however, and not forced through casting just to meet a quota’s sake, because that is glaringly obvious to everyone and takes you out of the presentation. We should want to know and learn from each other and this will only become the norm by doing.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
TRUST NO ONE.
TRUST NO ONE.
TRUST NO ONE.
TRUST NO ONE.
TRUST NO ONE.
I have had many lessons but I just gave you that one five times. In this business, you will come across a lot of dream-stealers and a handful of dream-givers. The lesson is figuring out who is who and hopefully as quickly as you can so that you can survive.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Whether it is singing acting or making movies, I prep by taking superb care of my health and body above and beyond the norm whenever I can. I have a very sensitive constitution and do my best not to upset it. Performing and being on set sometimes for 12 plus hours is very taxing to the body and spirit, so I need to gear up before, during and after. I normally work out using the Cardio-Barre method, yoga and hiking before any project. Since quarantine, I have been doing P-90x with my fiancé and we have had a blast. As someone who has been the victim of not being caught after a fall from the top of a cheerleading pyramid and a many-time passenger in numerous car accidents, I also like to do infrared saunas and need deep tissue massages. If I don’t do anything to work out my body, it tends to lock up with knots from old injuries. It blows. I used to be a spa-junkie. Beyond that, I just do regular vocal warm-ups while connecting to the lyrics/words of whatever I am working on, knowing what they are about and tackling them like a student actress would. I love learning and relearning. What is the meaning behind these words, not just the meaning of them? It’s always something deeper. I thrive on set or in a performance space. It’s where I am most happy. The energy floods me and raises me up. On stage, I normally get nervous about five minutes before, but no one ever realizes it. My stomach feels like I have to desperately go to the bathroom and then as soon as my name or entrance is called and I hit that stage, it all melts away like awesome sauce. I just consider it a silly part of my process now because it literally happens every time. In addition to taking great care and drinking as much water as I can remember, I do mini-meditate when I wake up in the morning and before bed. Before quarantine, strangely my meditation practice was more consistent, longer and more focused, but I am a huge believer of it. And for my spirit, I am constantly creating something. I need to always be creating, even if that means simply creating a homemade meal.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Outside of the entertainment business, Don Fehr, the executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association who became nationally prominent while serving as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, gave me the best life lesson quote of my life, which I try to remember all the time and live by, especially in this business when starting a new project: “The greatest source of unhappiness in the world comes from having unreasonable expectations about the behavior of other people.” I have to constantly remember that not everyone works or cares as much as I do. I care a lot about the people and the projects I am a part of. Sometimes too much. I put my heart into them. That is not the norm. When you are that way, you get burned. I have learned to curb the level of my expectations and let things be, but I am still working on it daily.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My branding hashtag on social media is #EcoGlam. I try to be the most eco-conscious I can be in my daily life, while still maintaining a sense of glamour. No one is perfect, but if I can help it, I choose to live a life-based in sustainability and shop that way. There is a huge problem with fast fashion (expendable cheaply made clothing from foreign countries) exploding on Instagram and other social media purchasing platforms. I think if most people knew that the majority of those brands were made by children in impoverished conditions not being paid a fair wage, they would be hesitant to buy that “cute outfit”. I believe in recommending and working with companies that pride themselves on sustainability, being culturally responsible and cruelty-free while also being cool. This is just my small way of helping out the planet as a whole.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
If I could go back in time, I would want to talk to so many historical people and some families who have passed. But current times…I have a film project on my slate that, if I don’t find a director and tackle this role myself, I would like to direct Lady Gaga in it. It is a tour de force acting role that requires a deep and serious level of acting/singing that I believe she has the ability to take on. This type of role needs a quality relationship of trust between a director and actress in order for it to come off correctly. I haven’t reached out to her yet, but plan to. After all, she is an Italian sister!
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Tik Tok @TamelaDAmico
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
THANK YOU for having me!
About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.
In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.
Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.
With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.
At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.
Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.
As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.
He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.
A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.
Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.