Young thesp talks about Hittman's dark coming-of-ager

Who: Gina Piersanti, actress
What: “It Felt Like Love”
Where: Friday at Prospector Square at 11:30 a.m.

Gina Piersanti is a true newcomer in front of the camera. The 14-year-old star of Eliza Hittman’s dark coming-of-age tale “It Felt Like Love” said the audition process was “a little bit nervewracking. I’ve had my fair share of auditions, but nothing on this scale. It was a good kind of nervous though.”

Piersanti hails from Hoboken, New Jersey and started out doing local musical theater before she was cast in several student films at prestigious New York City film schools such as New York University and Columbia University.

In her words, “It Felt Like Love” is “about Lila, a 14-year-old girl living in Brooklyn one summer whose best friend falls in love with this guy. My character feels alone compared to them, so when she meets an older guy on the beach, she invents this relationship with him in an attempt to keep up with her best friend. It gets to the point where she’s in dangerous territory, and the situation comes back to bite her.”

“When I first read the script, I thought it was way out of my comfort zone. But after getting to know Eliza and hearing about her vision, I warmed up to it,” explained Piersanti, who submitted for the part via Actors Access. “Some scenes were a little intense and I was a little nervous about them but in the end it was a great experience. The days were longer and there were more of them that I was used to but it was fun to be working on such a big project,” she said of the film, which screens at Sundance as part of the festival’s NEXT lineup.

Piersanti has been eagerly looking forward to her Sundance debut, but she wasn’t always so excited to entertain a big crowd. “When I was really little, I had really bad stage fright. My parents were worried about it so they tried to get me over it by enrolling me in musical theater. I had fun doing it and eventually realized that people get paid to do this and it could be a career.” Thesp said she’s “heard a lot about the skiing and snowboarding in Park City. It sounds like there’s always something to do there, and a lot of great films to see.”

Thesp, who considers herself a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence after “Winter’s Bone,” “Like Crazy” and “The Hunger Games,” as well as Scarlett Johansson and Elle Fanning, recently made her first business trip to Los Angeles, where she did a photo shoot. She said she’s a fan of “The Book Thief” and excited to see how the movie adaptation turns out.

“It Felt Like Love” also screens as part of the NEXT lineup on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. at Broadway Centre Cinema 6 in Salt Lake City.

One in a series of profiles on filmmakers and talent from the Sundance Film Festival 2013.

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