If Carlen Altman doesn't make movies about her guinea pigs then
nobody else will.
Hi! My name is Carlen Altman. I was born and raised in Manhattan, New York City. I currently live in Brooklyn, NY. I do a lot of various things such as stand-up comedy, jewelry design, art, and writing, but right now I am doing filmmaking with my first feature film, The Color Wheel. I think I must suffer from horrible ADD, which propels me to try out a bunch of things! Oh, and I also work part-time as a vintage shoe buyer/shop girl at Assembly New York, which is a really cool store in the Lower East Side. Come visit!
What made you decide to become an actress?
Well, I don't really consider myself an actress anymore than I consider myself a filmmaker or jewelry designer, but in the case of the movie I made, The Color Wheel, I decided to act because I love performing and making people laugh. It just seemed to make sense for me to act in the movie I wrote! It's rare I see a movie where I identify with female characters so I wanted to write a movie that spoke to me and my sense of humor.
Tell us about your latest film, The Color Wheel.
I just premiered my first feature film The Color Wheel, a dark comedy that I co-wrote and co-starred in with a friend Alex Ross Perry. It's a story about a brother and sister who are hateful and don't get along with anyone and are forced to go on a road trip together. They are so annoying and alienated by society; they end up being the only ones in the world who understand each other. There is a very surprising ending! We have been going to festivals the last few months on behalf of the film, which has been fun because I get to travel to film festivals and eat free food and meet other filmmakers and creative people.
What is the most fun part about filming?
Filming is fun because you can make things that you wrote out on a page come to life. I know that sounds cliché, but it is true! Filming is not fun sometimes because you have very long days and you have to wake up early and usually wear heavy makeup and can't take naps. Does that make me sound lazy?
My character is a bit awkward and annoying but hopefully relatable in some ways.
Were you involved in school plays growing up? What was your first acting experience?
Not really! I went to LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts and Performing Arts in NYC (Jennifer Aniston and Nicki Minaj are alumni) and majored in art. At that time, I had no desire to act! However, I should mention that in fourth grade at Hebrew school I played a rabbi in Fiddler On The Roof. Big break?
You do a lot of home videos, where do you get your inspiration for them?
I really like videos and films that feel homemade and like found footage. I find most of my inspiration from elderly people and funny people I meet on the street. Also, my mom and my pets are very inspiring to make videos about! They are pretty entertaining and if I don't make videos of them, nobody else will!
How often do you do stand-up and what is the best and worst part about doing it?
I do stand-up maybe once a month. I know that is sort of pathetic compared to real stand-up comedians who perform often more than once a night, but I don't necessarily want to make a career of it unless it presented itself in an organic way. The best part about doing stand-up is getting to act out all the loony characters you make up and, hopefully, having your audience laugh. The worst part about stand-up is that I don't really have many other good friends in the stand-up scene outside of seeing them at standup shows! I wish I had a group of comedian friends I could go to open-mics with and then go out to parties with, or discuss fashion or my obsession with weird animals with, but I find most comedians have only stand-up on the brain (and dress horribly!). However, I should mention that there are some super cool comedians out there like Dave Hill, Don Stahl, Eric Andre, Ben Kronberg, Hannibal Buress, and Rose Surnow, and they have great style to boot!
You do some illustrations, what do you find yourself drawing the most?
Goths and other subcultures! And Jewish Stars! And accidentally penises sometimes.
You also make jewelry. How did your line, Jewish Rosaries, get it's start?
It was pretty random! I am Jewish but I couldn't find any cool Jewish jewelry out there. I was really jealous of all of the beautiful crosses and rosaries that Christians had to choose from and I wished that a rosary existed for Jews! So, like all my other pursuits, I decided to take life into my own hands and do it myself! I am so very honored if I can in any way fill the need out there for cool Jewish-themed jewelry. I am expanding Jewish Rosaries™ to include cool Jewish-themed rings, earrings, and other jewelry under my new label JEW LA REE™. Pardon the unoriginal brand name!
What is something that you are completely awful at that you wish you could do?
Singing! I recently went to a karaoke event and sang Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and everyone laughed because I was so bad. Even though I was trying to sing sincerely, they totally thought I was trying to be funny! Whoops! I also don't know how to drive.
Your website says you have six guinea pigs, tell us about them.
OMG I don't want to admit this, but I only have three guinea pigs left! The other three died! And the ones that are still alive are five-years-old and seem very elderly. The ones who are left are named Monchichi, Ruth Gordon, and Cinnamon. You can see all of them in this YouTube video I made of a Guinea Pig Fashion Show. I have moved on from my passion for guinea pigs (no offense, guinea pigs!) and I am now obsessed with rabbits, specifically a breed called Lionhead Rabbits. If you haven't seen them, they are a crazy looking and have big beards!
You seem to be very close with your parents, have their careers as an artist and comedian influenced you to become an actress?
Actually no, the opposite! Neither my mom nor my dad want me to be in entertainment, especially not acting! They know how hard and competitive it is. I wish I wanted to do something normal, like work in an office and afford such luxuries as health care and maybe even have a lone ivy plant on my desk, but alas, something keeps propelling me to take the "road less traveled" and pursue artistic things such as filmmaking, acting, and comedy. On a related note, my parents and I are writing a screenplay together! I will put up details about it on my blog soon.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years, I hope my parents are still alive and that I have made them proud and that I can have enough money to travel and have lots of pets and plants and a real driver's license.
What are your five favorite movies?
Hausu, Scary Movie 3, Weekend at Bernie's, Splendor in the Grass, and Holy Mountain.