Actor Katie Chang This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 25, 2014
Katie Chang seems to be your typical American teenager. Raised in the suburbs of Chicago, she is a freshman at Columbia University, studying creative writing and adapting to college life. However, Katie’s freshman year has been anything but typical. Her first feature film, “The Bling Ring,” was released last June. Her next film, a coming-of-age story called “A Birder’s Guide to Everything,” was released in select theaters and On Demand in March. I talked with her about her career as an actress, going to school, and what it was like working with Sir Ben Kingsley.

Sydney: How do you balance school and your work as an actor?

Katie: Right now I’m mostly just doing school, trying to finish out my freshman year. So it’s not really much of a balance because I’m probably doing more school than work right now.

But in general, just balancing going to auditions and going to the library is difficult. You have to have your priorities straight and make compromises between the two. It’s definitely hard, but I feel it’s worth it.

Has being an actress affected your college life in any way?

Every once in a while, very randomly (this doesn’t happen all the time), I’ll get recognized by people I go to school with. It’s kind of awkward, and it’s affected me a little, but not too much. I’ve been able to find a good balance between doing the films and going to school.

You got to wear some pretty outrageous stuff while filming “The Bling Ring.” Did you get to keep any of those designer clothes? What’s your favorite thing that you got for free?

That’s a good question. I’m trying to think of something I actually use … Um, I got a pair of Tory Burch moccasins from “The Bling Ring” that I wore every day for about two years.

Do you think you’d be a successful robber in real life (like in “The Bling Ring”)?

[Laughs] I think if I set my mind to it, I could be a really good house robber. But I’d probably have some moral qualms with it, but if I dropped my moral problems with robbing a house, I’d be very determined and get the job done. So, if I wanted to be, I could be a really good house ­robber.

What was it like working with Sir Ben Kingsley, who plays famous birder Lawrence Konrad in “A Birder’s Guide to Everything”?

Oh, that was so cool! He is – I don’t want to sound silly – but he’s such an actor. When I was working with him, I was two years younger, I loved acting, and I was really passionate about it, but it was still kind of a fun thing, something I didn’t totally treat as work.

And then when he came to set he had such an elaborate back story and had done so much work to create his character, it really helped me realize that acting is more than just standing in front of a camera; it’s doing a ton of work to build up a character. So I definitely feel like I learned a lot working with him.

Did you relate at all to your character, Ellen?

Yeah I did, definitely more than I related to my character in “The Bling Ring” [as ring leader, Rebecca]. Ellen, I feel like she’s more like me. She’s a little studious, but she’s headstrong. And I think those are probably things that I am. She’s also loves photography, and that’s something that I love too, so I definitely related to her.

Did you ever interact directly with the duck?

[Laughs] Kind of. Well, not with the live duck. There was one scene that Alex and I did where the camera was over our shoulder looking out onto the lake, and they had a duck – a trained one that they were trying to get to fly across the lake so Alex and I would look at it. But the duck just wouldn’t fly. Then randomly, a wild duck flew into the shot and flew perfectly across the lake, and that’s the shot we used.

I was standing next to Kodi [Smit-McPhee, who plays David] when he was holding the dead duck too, so kind of by association I was involved with the duck.

Was that an actual dead duck?

Yeah, it was real dead duck, and it was kind of gross.

Did anything eventful happen while filming out in the wilderness?

I got bitten by a tick. [Laughs] Really the only eventful thing was that we all got so many bug bites, tick bites, mosquito bites, spider bites … Yeah, we got eaten alive.

Let’s see … anything else eventful. When we were shooting in the river I fell in when I wasn’t supposed to and had to get a complete change of clothes. They all thought that was really funny, but it wasn’t funny to me.

How was working on “A Birders Guide to Everything” different from working on “The Bling Ring”?

“A Birders Guide to Everything” was a smaller film, so it really had that family aspect to it. Whereas “The Bling Ring” was just like a crazy, ­intense, amazing experience. It was glamorous and wild. I don’t think I would describe “Birder’s” like that. They were both different in good ways.

Tell me about your upcoming ­projects.

Well, in November I filmed a movie called “Anesthesia,” I don’t know when it will be out, but that’s really exciting. Other than that I’m just staying in school. School is going to be my project for the next four years, which I’m really excited about.

What are the challenges that come with being an actress?

You know, it’s a very unstable job. You never know when your next job is going to happen. That’s part of why I’m going to college – I just don’t like the instability of it, that’s really pretty difficult to deal with.

And also I think there is kind of a weird stigma with being an actress. People don’t really think you’re the most intelligent or beneficial to society. [Laughs] Which is another reason I’m going to college – I want people to think of me as more than an actress. But I really love acting, and I’m proud of being an actress too.

If you could hang out with any celebrity, who would it be? And why?

Lucille Ball. She’s so funny. I feel like she was just crazy and funny and hilarious and really smart all at the same time. I would love to sit and talk with her. She was the first woman that the world looked at and said, “She’s really funny, and she’s pretty, and she’s intelligent. She could totally carry that TV show on her own.” Plus the way that she and Desi Arnaz filmed their show, it was revolutionary to modern American sitcoms. I just think she’s a very innovative presence and affected women in TV and film, and I would love to talk to her.

Look for “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” in select cities and
On Demand. And check out their Facebook page.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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