Dancing brought her to Los Angeles. Acting is making her stay.
Welcome to a new XPAT Spotlight Interview! Today we are talking to Angel Hass, a dancer and actress from Germany who made Los Angeles her new home.
Having been a dancer all her life, Angel Hass worked as a performer and dance teacher while also finishing her BA in health communications in Bielefeld. After visits to California and Florida for leisure but also for professional development in dance, an acting workshop in Los Angeles had a profound and long-lasting effect on her. She realized that acting is the missing piece of the puzzle that would make her the artist she desires to be, and her L.A. adventure suddenly took on a completely new dimension.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
Originally, I came to Los Angeles for a four-week ‘Acting for Film’ workshop at the New York Film Academy, but my desire for acting and being on stage is what has kept me here so I could pursue my dreams.
My love for California began when I did a road trip with a friend in 2012. I loved the sun and the whole California vibe. Four years later I visited California again, this time for three months so I could take different dance workshops like Debbie Reynolds, Movement Lifestyle, Millennium Dance Complex, and Edge. Despite my growing desire to live here, I actually did not expect to make California my home.
In fact, I was briefly thinking about staying in Miami after having attended some dance-related activities there but that’s when I booked the course at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles and things just started falling in place by themselves. I feel that I finally have arrived at the place where I want to live and settle.
Is living in the USA a dream come true for you?
Well, in a way yes. My dad owned a Kung-Fu school when I grew up and I loved to train martial arts with him and watch movies from Jean- Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan and Jet-LI. I always had wished to be in one of these movies where I felt the audience is encouraged to embrace their powers and to never give up on their goals.
When I was thirteen, I heard of the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. I researched it then and it became an cherished goal that I wanted to realize one day.
In the town where I grew up, there wasn’t much available to support my acting dreams aside from participating in my high school’s theatre performances and I was already really busy with dance at that time, too.
I had started early on to study dance at the Royal Academy of Dance which happened to have one of its schools in my city. So, I did a lot of acting but within dance at that time. But, let’s face it, the ultimate dream for an actor is being somewhat near to Hollywood.
Tell us a bit about your experience of studying acting in California.
Being a dancer really prepped me for my career as an actor. After only two weeks of attending the New York Film Academy, I knew I had found the missing piece of the puzzle that would finally complete me as an artist.
While on set for a student film at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles I met another actress and connected with her immediately. She studied at UCLA and told me about its acting program. I canceled my flight back home to Germany and instead enrolled in the UCLA Acting extension program.
I loved the program and its flexibility of being able to take classes also in directing, production, and writing. The great thing about UCLA is that it is very diverse. You meet people from across the board. Actors, directors, writers, and producers from all over the world. It’s fantastic. It’s a melting pot of people that all love the film and entertainment industry. Furthermore, the classes are mostly in the evening which gives you time and the opportunity to work on campus and participate in different film projects or even do an internship.
What’s the application process like for the UCLA Acting extension program and what are some benefits of attending it?
The UCLA Acting program is open to everybody and through it, you are eligible for a student visa. International students, however, need to prove that they have enough English language skills for this study program by taking the TOEFL or similar test.
The student visa that you will get through UCLA is for about two years and allows you to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training) later, which means after your graduation you can work for one year in the field that you have studied, in my case as an actress.
I would recommend everyone to do a lot of projects during their studies at UCLA and be open to their classmates. My advice is to network in your free time and always do your homework, since being prepared is the most important thing in this field. Build your credits, so it’s easier for you to apply for an artist visa after the OPT.
Who would benefit most from the UCLA Extension program in your eyes?
The UCLA Acting Extension program is much less expensive than other programs in the field. If you already have graduated from an acting conservatory, then UCLA extension is perfect to get to know L.A. better and learn how the industry works. If you are new to acting, I would recommend applying for one of the conservatories and doing perhaps a three-year full-time intensive program, for example, Stella Adler’s Professional Conservatory.
During my studies, I felt inspired by the Meisner technique in acting so I simultaneously started the two-year Meisner program at Baron Brown studios which I will graduate from in July 2022.
What were the most challenging times for you after you have moved to California?
To be honest the hardest part of this journey for me was the unexpected pandemic. I was so excited and enjoyed every moment of being a student and doing short films, assisting, and experiencing new moments.
Then after three months at UCLA everything went online. All the dance schools where I spent my time in the afternoons were closed and people were scared to meet up. My parents could not visit me for two years, all the flights got canceled, and the university stated that laws were changing so quickly that they couldn’t guarantee that we could come back on our visas if we left the country.
This was the most challenging part. And for all of us international acting students who needed to gain credits for future work this was a huge setback, of course. The entertainment industry shut down for a certain amount of time. So, I appreciate the time now, where I’m able to audition and be out again. I got signed with an agency in 2021 for theatrical, voice-over, and commercial and I’m excited for every audition I get.
What are your thoughts on Los Angeles?
I think L.A. is a great opportunity to connect, learn, and explore your creativity. I would tell anyone who comes to L.A.: Don’t be afraid but be excited about what the next project brings. You will spend a lot of time figuring things out and understanding how the country and the system work in Los Angeles.
One thing I highly recommend is to save up as much money as possible since L.A. is super expensive. Not only are the rents high but also the groceries! Fortunately, the weather is the best thing in L.A. and allows you to do a lot of outdoor activities like hiking, skating, volleyball, or just hanging out at the beach.
Any words of wisdom for any newcomer to Los Angeles, particularly in the entertainment industry?
The entertainment industry is so vast that you might discover other interests or fields. My tip for anyone trying to break into this field is to learn as much as you can to understand everybody’s job on set. Currently, I’m assisting on a production for a documentary, and I have to say I’ve learned so much that will help me as an actress as well.
As an actor, you need to have a lot of patience, passion, and dedication. You need to always give your best, be prepared, and never stop learning while remaining cordial and humble.
L.A. is a city with a very fast pace, so you need to learn to keep everything in balance. It’s important to carve out enough time for yourself and find your group of friends who make you feel safe and supported. I have built my own little community so I won’t feel lonely or lost.
Living in L.A. is definitely a challenging but amazing experience, especially when you are attending school in person because everybody comes from somewhere interesting and wants to connect.
To everyone reading this interview, who is considering to give L.A. a try – I hope this inspires you to come out and join the acting community in L.A. Try a workshop first and if you love it, then the path is yours!
Thank you so much for this refreshing and informative interview, Angel. We wish you much luck in your future acting career!
To connect with Angel and her work you can follow her on Instagram at @anghass
Images ©Angel Hass