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Former SHS valedictorian developing acting career

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Emily Scott (playing Ellie) and Jackie Dallas(playing Tess) perform in a scene in “REPRESENT.” Submitted photo
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From left, Michael Ridley, Emily Scott, Jackie Dallas and Sailakshmi Moorthy star in “REPRESENT,” a web series created by Shelbyville-native Scott.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Emily Scott is living her dream.

The 2010 Shelbyville High School valedictorian is living in Los Angeles, writing scripts and finding jobs on camera as often as possible in Hollywood. She had a speaking role in the movie “A Kind of Murder,” which starred Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel, while completing an internship in Cincinnati.

But it hasn’t always been an easy road.

As a woman, Scott has found numerous obstacles along the way to fulfilling her dream of being an actor. So much so that it inspired her to create, write, direct, produce and edit her own web series, “REPRESENT,” a 12-episode show that’s being shown at film festivals.

It all started during her time in Bloomington as an Indiana University student.

The Campus Movie Fest is an annual event that allows students to rent equipment for free and shoot a short film. The films selected are then shown in local movie theaters.

Scott performed in a movie and it inspired her to come up with a new idea. She wrote a script, enlisted friends to help film it and made a short film that was shown.

That experience inspired her to keep going with it. For the next couple years, she wrote a little bit more.

By the time she arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the fall of 2015 following her internship in Cincinnati, she had an idea for a web series. She wrote the first draft – all 12 episodes – but that draft sat around because she stayed busy with other projects.

When she hit a dry patch of finding work on screen, it prompted her to return to the material.

She re-wrote the script and started forming a production team, using Facebook and her connections in the industry.

“I found a lot of people who were willing to help,” she said in a phone interview last week. “I had friends who were willing to be producers and put their money in it. I’m really grateful to them.”

Through Facebook, she met Marissa Vonn, now a collaborator for the show, who was in Indianapolis at the time working on the television show, “Good Bones.” Vonn told her she had read the script and was coming to the West Coast to help her with the project. The two have since made a couple of short films together in addition to “REPRESENT.”

The series tells the story of Ellie (played by Scott) and Tess (played by Jackie Dallas, who has appeared in “Stranger Things” and “Criminal Minds”), two struggling actresses who are trying to build a career in Hollywood. Facing real-life issues such as the pay gap between men and women and body shaming, the story focuses on the same issues that women like Scott deal with.

“A lot of issues in terms of the way that women are treated in society, I think a lot of that goes back to the way they’re represented in the media,” she said. “Women in movies and TV are objectified. If we focus representing women in the media as more complex and fully-realized humans, I think that would go a long way to healing society’s understanding of who women are.”

The series was made on a shoestring budget paid from donations raised and her own bank account, along with her team spending their own money. She also received help through her connections on the West Coast for the use of borrowing equipment and shooting scenes, sometimes for free.

“It’s been really hard and really great,” she said. “I think the best way I can describe it, I started it unsure and uncertain of myself. Developing this community of something I was making, having people fly on their own money to help me make it, having people agree to do it for way under budget just because they believe in the material, I think that has given me a lot of confidence as a writer and belief in myself.”

The production team is made up entirely of women, although that wasn’t done on purpose.

Scott, who first got the acting bug while performing with Shelby County Players and at the high school, said she was hoping for a 50-50 split among men and women on the crew, which would have been unusual in the industry.

Some men initially expressed interest in helping out but backed off. She believes they decided against helping because it was “harder for them to connect” to the project. So she ended up with an all-female crew.

“I wanted women but it wasn’t necessarily on purpose,” she said.

The Shelbyville native, who still comes back to visit her mom, Annie Williams, and her sisters, hopes to inspire young women with the series, which is not yet available for public viewing. But she also wanted to educate those who don’t know the harsh realities that women face in the industry.

“One of my main tenants in writing it, I didn’t want to shame people not knowing about this,” she said. “I think there are a lot of people who don’t have the resources to learn about this stuff. I wanted to present it in a way that’s funny and engaging but also make it more understanding.”

“REPRESENT” is being shown at several film festivals, including the Broad Humor Film Festival, Web Series Festival Global and Webisode Film Festival. It was previously a finalist in the script competition of the Broad Humor Film Festival last year in which the script had a live reading by a group of actors.

The web series isn’t available for public consumption because some of those festivals will disqualify a film if it is posted online beforehand. Scott said she is in the process of looking at various web series distribution websites.

Homegrown talent

There’s another local connection to Emily Scott’s web series, “REPRESENT.”

Some of the music in the series comes from the New York City-based band “Taylor and the Apes.”

Lead singer Taylor Elliott was a high school classmate of Scott’s and is now pursuing his rock ‘n roll dream in the Big Apple.

“Every time we’re back in town for the holidays, we go to Waffle House and talk,” she said.

The song used in the web series’ credits was performed by “Taylor and the Apes” and a couple other songs were also used in the series.

“Taylor and the Apes” released their debut album, “American Livin,” last May and toured along the East Coast in support of it last summer.