LAFF 2014: Olivia Munn, Demian Bichir on Their 'Ah-Ha' Moments and Why Budgets Don't Matter

Olivia Munn, 'The Newsroom' (HBO)
Joe Pugliese

Audition pals: "I first met Kathleen Rose Perkins at the audition for Two Girls, One Cup. We had no idea it would be such a big hit! We didn't get the jobs."

Alfred Molina and Abigail Spencer also shared childhood stories and sport analogies as they talked about their careers and the acting industry during one of the festival's Coffee Talk sessions.

At a conversation about acting held Sunday at the Los Angeles Film Festival, panelists agreed that one of the most important parts of any young actor's journey is meeting someone who can help urge the creative process along. The Coffee Talk session, moderated by Abigail Spencer (Rectify), included Demian Bichir (FX's The Bridge), Alfred Molina (Love Is Strange, The Normal Heart) and Olivia Munn (The Newsroom), who all regaled the audience with stories about their acting experiences.

Molina revealed that it was a teacher he met at secondary school who helped him find his way. "I think that happens to a lot of actors. You have that moment, that ah-ha moment, when suddenly this dream is possible," he said.

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For Spencer, her "ah-ha" moment was meeting actress-dancer Ann Reinking, and her first break came when she scored a three-year contract with All My Children after meeting the casting director at a talk show.

Spencer's chance meeting was a lucky break, one most people can only dream about, Munn said. Munn explained that she didn't move to Los Angeles to pursue acting until she was 23, in part because she had never had family approval to follow her acting dreams while growing up.

"I grew up with a lot of, 'You're not good enough, you're not smart enough, that's a silly dream, that's a stupid dream' … so I learned at a young age to keep my dreams inside," Munn said.

Munn ended up getting a degree in journalism because she "wanted to be a storyteller." But after working for a year at an NBC affiliate in Tulsa, she felt like she was at a "dead end," so she approached her mom about heading to L.A. to try acting.

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"The fear is that if I go there and try and I don't make it, then I know that I tried and I couldn't do it. I said that to my mom, and she goes, 'Well, you can always come home and answer doctor phones.' … So if my mom's not going to be disappointed in me, then why not?" Munn explained.

An 11-year-old aspiring actress asked the panel for advice they wish they had when they first started, and they all said to love the job and work hard.

"Just because you want it, just because you have a dream, just because you work really hard, it doesn't mean that it works out, so you just have to work as hard as you can, keep your head down, say thank you as much as possible. Nothing is ever too small … just be part of something great," Munn said.

"Love this job, however cruel it might seem at times, always love it, because eventually, it will love you back," Molina added.

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Munn also observed that big budgets are unimportant for many films, because in the end, the crucial part is having a compelling story.

"There's nothing wrong with having a great film, a great character, a great story and great money!" Bichir added.

It's nice to understand the money side of the business, but it's not the most important part, Molina said. "The moment that you hear action, it doesn't matter if there is $200 million behind the camera or $250,000 or whatever … the moment is the same. The way that all your cells and atoms rearrange themselves for that moment to do whatever it is you're doing, to get it right, it doesn't matter what's behind it."