Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Highlands Senior Sophia Manyet Takes Aim For Hollywood

Sophia in David James' short film "The Next One" (provided)
by Colin Moore

You might recognize Sophia Manyet.  She’ll be a senior at Highlands this year and works at Highlands Fitness Center and at the Highlands Country Club. She was Audrey in Highlands High School’s performance of Little Shop of Horrors. Oh, and she’s also an aspiring movie actress who you may have seen in a recent feature film or commercial.

“I love to step into other people’s shoes and show what they’re thinking. Maybe sometimes you can be an evil character and show why they’re doing what they’re doing. For me it’s almost as easy as breathing, it’s a way to live a thousand lives in one lifetime.”

Some of us have to work out what we want to be when we grow up, Sophia has known for some time. “I think I’ve known I wanted to be an actress since I was four or five. We would go to the movies and when we came home I would be pretending to be one of the characters.” Her mom, Rebecca, knew even earlier.

“When she was about three she would go in front of the mirror. One minute she’d be crying, the next minute she’d be smiling. My husband and I looked and each other and thought “We’re into something here!””

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Sophia started really getting in to theater in second grade. “The first play I was in I had to play a boy and I cried because I wanted to be the princess. But the play was the Emperor’s New Clothes and I was actually one of the leads, the tailor. After we were done with the play and I was home I didn’t want my Mom to wash the fake mustache off!”

But, like any actor, Sophia hasn’t been playing lead roles since day one. “I remember auditioning for a play in middle school. I thought for sure I would get the lead role and when I got more of a background role I was torn apart. I decided I was finished with acting- so overdramatic! But I kept doing it and as I went on I got better roles every year.”

About four or five years ago, while watching the Hunger Games, Sophia realized she wanted to move  away from theater to act on film. “I love theater, but it’s big and loud, it’s all about projecting. Acting on film is quieter, you have to show everything with your eyes. You have to be able to say everything without saying anything.”

Her first role in a movie was in a low budget movie about tennis called "Wimbledon Dreaming". Since deciding she wanted to concentrate more on film she discovered that there were actually a lot of movie makers on her doorstep, in Kentucky and Ohio.

“We’ve found lot of hardworking individuals that make really amazing movies. There’s like a little underground film community right here.”

Sophia’s first major role was in the movie "75"directed by Joe Zappa, which deals with the heroin epidemic. “When I read about what heroin is doing to Fort Thomas and Northern Kentucky communities I thought, “I have to be involved with this.”” 

To begin with Sophia was to be in the background at a party scene, but after another actress dropped out, she sent the producers some monologues and landed a much bigger role as the girlfriend of a heroin addict.  “I already knew the script was amazing. When they called to offer the role they were just very nonchalant about it, “We want you to play the role” but I was so excited. It was a bigger set than I’d been on, a bigger budget.” Sophia made such an impression on the crew that she’s currently making a short film called “The Next One” directed by David James, the co-producer of "75".

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Since then Sophia has worked on "PayDay", a heist/ robbery movie which was filmed in Elizabethtown. A lot of the cast of the movie were flown in from L.A. “There were a bunch of people I had seen on TV before.” Sophia had a supporting role as an angry mom, “I had a fake baby, I get frustrated with the service and chew out the waitress.” The director, Chase Dudley, has stayed in touch and may use Sophia again.

Sophia as a mean girl in an anti-bullying video for Scenario Learning (provided)
Throughout her career Sophia has had great mentors, acting coaches like Lana Read. Colton Wheeler, who has appeared on many TV shows and starred alongside Sophia in "PayDay", has also kept in touch and offers advice. Brand Old Productions, who  produced "75" have taken her under their wing and shown her encouragement. She also receives guidance from Kay Vermeil, a Highlands grad who received a highly sought after full ride scholarship to film school at USC. Kay’s mother Heidi has also been a huge source of advice for Rebecca. On top of all these mentors, Sophia believes that a scholarship to the Governor’s School for the Arts has really given her the confidence to pursue acting as a career. Every year the state of Kentucky awards scholarships for a four-week program at Center College. The places are highly sought after and Sophia was accepted in both musical theater and acting, before choosing to accept the acting place.

“It was a huge springboard. To go from Fort Thomas, which is quite suburban, to there, and be around people that wanted to do the same thing as I want to do was amazing.  It was really inspiring, they really taught us to shoot for the stars." Rebecca believes that main thing Sophia took from G.S.A. was the confidence to market herself. “She got home and updated her resume and sent it to a lot of groups, which landed her a lot of roles. They taught her that the worst thing people can say is “No,” and that a lot of people will.”

Sophia’s goal is to graduate from Highlands and study acting at college. Ideally she'd be in Southern California, or possibly Atlanta, since she wants to be able to audition for work while she’s at college. She knows that this is a tough task, tuition at colleges in California is hugely expensive and scholarships are keenly contested. Instate schools are also a possibility, according to Rebecca. “One of the great advantages to having come through the Governor’s School for the Arts is that they hold auditions/ All the colleges in Kentucky who have acting schools meet at Center College, so she can audition for them all at once.”

Despite being only seventeen Sophia has the wisdom to know that despite her talent and hard work, finding a great role can sometimes be outwith your control. “There are thousands of blond, 5’4” teenagers in LA. You can show up to an audition and be professional, on time and in wardrobe, they could love the acting but maybe you just don’t look the way they pictured the character. You have to be there at the right time, right location with the right dress, as well as have the talent.”

If everything goes her way Sophia would love to be a working actress in Hollywood in five years, but she knows that might not happen. If it didn’t she’d might like to teach acting “I’d like to pay it forward and be a mentor to other people, to give back some of what I’ve been blessed with.”  She may also write, in her senior year at Highlands she’ll be taking screenwriting classes at NKU and she may consider writing as a dual major at college. 

Sophia’s resume is impressive but what is more impressive is her positive attitude and work ethic. It's true that only a handful of students in the country will receive scholarships to acting schools in LA this year, having heard first hand how dedicated and hard working Sophia is, I certainly wouldn’t bet against her being one of them.

Sophia modelling for Carabello Coffee (provided)

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