Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hip + Urban Girl of the Week: Andrea Dana

I recently met Andrea Dana at a TIFF Gift Lounge and was drawn to her warm personality and stack of StarSitter books. Then I found out prior to being an author, Andrea's teaching career took a lucky turn and led her to the sets in LA where she tutored child stars such as Lindsay Lohan, Hayden Panetierre and more!

You had quite a unique job as an on-set teacher for child stars! How did you get started in that?

I had been working in the Toronto School Board and was considering switching careers because I felt so unfulfilled and was sick of the politics in the schools. I bumped into an old friend from high school during TIFF one year who was a personal trainer to the stars. When I told him about my dilemma, he suggested I try teaching on sets. He was well connected in the industry and hooked me up to get started. I ended up becoming friends with the production manager on my first job (Mean Girls) and I worked for him on all his shows until he recently moved to LA.

We're dying to know which young celebs you tutored?

I started off on “Mean Girls,” teaching Lindsay Lohan, then went onto “Ice Princess” where I taught Hayden Panetierre and all of the young girls from The Young Skaters of Canada. I also worked on the 50 Cent movie “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” as well as the Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange re-make of “Grey Gardens”. I also had a great opportunity to teach Chloe Moretz on “Kick-Ass,” who I knew back then was destined for stardom by how poised and cool she was at the age of 13. I also spent a chunk of time on “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” where I taught some really fabulous kids such as; Emilie Kassie, who I believe will single handedly save the world, and Michael Cera’s stunt double, Riley Jones, who did amazing and impressive stunts, like jump off of Casa Loma a gazillion times. I also worked on the pilot for the new hit series “Falling Skies.” I had the opportunity to meet Steven Spielberg, which is possibly the highlight of my life to date. Recently I’ve been working in television at some great shows such as; the new hit series “Life With Boys,” on YTV, which is by the creators of Hannah Montana. It stars a fantastic group of kids, Torri Webster, Madison Pettis (of Cory in the House), Jake Goodman, Michael Murphy and Nathan Macleaod. I am now also finishing up my second season on “What’s Up Warthogs” for the Family channel where I was reunited with my two awesome students from last year, Ana Golja and Connor Price.

Was Lindsay Lohan a good student?

She was great. We had a lot of fun together. Mean Girls was a tough show because first of all I was completely new to the business and I was also teaching a lot of other kids on it. They were mostly day players, and I was the only teacher on the show so I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Lindsay was a good student and she was under a lot of pressure having to get 3 hours of school a day and being written into almost every scene of the movie. It wasn’t easy, but she did great.

What is a typical day in the life of Andrea Dana?

I don’t think I’ve had a “typical day” since I started working in the film industry. Every day is pretty much different and constantly changing. Working in television is different than working on feature movies because there’s more stability in TV. I pretty much know what my day will be like when I get the callsheet, whereas features can sometimes be a bit of a crapshoot.

Tell us more about your StarSitter series!

I wrote the first book on a whim. I realized after being around child actors for a while and seeing the pressure they are under, that they really didn’t have much of a voice. I spent a lot of time with Lindsay and I saw how things weren’t as easy for her as some may think. There are so many stigmas associated with child actors and it seems that people often don’t understand that at the end of the day, they are still children. I think that even though they have chosen this path, they still deserve the right to enjoy their childhood. My main point of “StarSitter” was to show this point. I hadn’t planned on writing the second one “StarSitter: Thank God For You!” but I received so much positive feedback on “StarSitter” and people wanted to know what would happen next for Maddy Malone.

I thought it would be fun to take the characters a further, age them a bit, and keep them alive in the fictional world. My second book was also a bit more personal because I was going through a really rough time and it was hard to keep it separate. Time wise, I know I have been very lucky because since the media is obsessed with young Hollywood, my books have piggybacked on that wave.

What did you study in University/College? Would you have done anything differently?

I did my undergraduate degree at The University Of Western Ontario and studied art history and English. Then when I graduated I took a year off and worked in Club Med, before going back to do my Masters of Science in Education at Niagara University. I don’t think I would have done anything differently because I am so happy where all this has led me to. I’ve had some amazing opportunities and experiences. However, I know this is totally out of left field for someone who doesn’t know me, but if I was going to do an absolute career change I would go back to school and become a veterinarian and then travel around the world to save animals.

Favourite places to shop in the city?

I actually am addicted to online shopping. I love and have gotten so many of my teenage students into it. I think their parents want to kill me! There are a few stores in the city that I am faithful too. I’ve recently fallen in love again with Club Monaco and I want to marry whomever it was that finally brought Sephora to Canada. Also my friend Zane Aburaneh recently opened a store on Queen West called “A to Zane” which has some hard to find designer purses and accessories.

Tell us about your neighbourhoods and what you like best about it.

Right now I’m really loving the Queen West area. Trinity Bellwoods is my favorite park in the city and I love all the new restaurants and bars along Ossington. Pizza Libretto is delish as well as The Golden Turtle, a Pho restaurant on Ossington which is a total dive, so leave your snobbish ways at the door.

What advice do you have for hip + urban girls who dream of writing a book?

I think there are so many people sitting on gold mines with the stories that they could be sharing and they don’t even realize it. My best advice would be to always document things that happen to you because a fabulous story can develop out of the most minute details of your life. Also to always have a notebook with you because you never know when an amazing idea will hit you. It used to be that I’d be driving and suddenly come up with an idea and then end up writing it down on an old receipt or parking ticket with an eyeliner. Now I keep a notebook and pen in my car.

The StarSitter series is available at Indigo Bookstores. You can also visit Andrea Dana's website for more information or follow her Tweets @andreadanaeisen

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