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Meet Maria Liatis of Cart Reel Films, LLC in North Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Liatis.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My journey to where I am today and starting Cart Reel Films was a bit of a zigzag. Growing up, I moved around a lot. Changing schools so often, I loved doing plays and taking theatre classes as an extra curriculum, because becoming part of an ensemble made it easier to make friends. And being in Georgia, with the film industry booming around me, I was blessed that this is where I finally landed.

Once I got to college, I knew immediately what I wanted to major in – Theatre. Surprise, surprise! I attended the University of Georgia and focused on acting, my primary passion. I also signed with People Store talent agency, the same agency I am with today (that’s about 13 years, but let’s not do the math!), and I finally started working professionally.

However, after several years in the industry, of networking and training, and as an omnipresent human flaw, I wanted more! When I was an apprentice at The Shakespeare Tavern, part of our work-study was to coach students at a private school. If The Shakespeare Tavern gave me my first taste of coaching, then The Actor’s Scene provided me with the whole menu. For seven years, I coached students from ages three to whatever at The Actor’s Scene and it felt so rewarding. I realized that I loved challenging actors and pulling out performances from them. I started to understand how to convey what I wanted to see. And this is when I knew that I wanted to direct.

As a working actress, I felt the same frustrations my peers felt. I was becoming tired of the constant waiting — waiting to book something worth putting on a reel that would then help me book something else; waiting for footage from a non-paying project I only took because of the promise of copy and then realizing it would never be delivered; waiting for someone to give me a chance and put me in masterful work of art so that I can finally give my Oscar-worthy performance (still waiting on this one actually…). It just didn’t seem right to me that actors can train and take headshots and find our own auditions, but when it came to building a portfolio and showing off who we are, it seemed like we had our hands tied behind our backs. I was sick of waiting for the right doors to open, and I just wanted to create!

My journey brought me to a place where the tediousness of waiting was overcome by my desire to leave a footprint in the industry. For years, I had gone back and forth (hence the zigzag) about what I wanted to do, only to realize that I didn’t have to choose. I was looking for an opportunity to work alongside industry professionals, to create stories, and put my vision on film. I wanted to help actors show what they can do and have a fair shot. I wanted to act, write, direct, produce! I wanted to help in the way that I wish I could’ve been helped when I first started off. I grew tired of waiting and finally decided to just do. So, I created Cart Reel Films in 2014.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
To be honest, my biggest obstacle has always been me. I feel like this is something most artists and even entrepreneurs have in common. As an actress who just happens to be a bit shy, I feel most comfortable taking on a character and delivering lines that were written for me. But here I was, wanting to write lines for someone else.

Putting oneself out there is always scary. Convincing myself that I was qualified to not only create my own projects but also help fellow actors achieve their best performances was the hardest thing I had to do. With the support of family and friends, with the incessant self-reminder of my objective, and with my Type A personality breaking everything down into easy steps, I was able to shut my fears up and, as Shia LeBeouf would say, “Just do it!”

I still have internal struggles and have to constantly check in with myself. However, I know I am not alone. Working with peers and staying connected to the industry help fuel my passion and allow me to be a part of a supportive network of colleagues that challenge and inspire me. When I work with my clients, I make sure they know that they are enough, because they’ve made me feel like I am enough.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Cart Reel Films, LLC – what should we know?
Cart Reel Films is a production company dedicated to helping actors create professional demo reels by producing custom-made monologues and scenes. We write, direct, shoot, and edit original content that has been specifically designed for the actor.

Our style of filmmaking is primarily post-modern, indie-style. However, we strive to mimic different styles based on what the actor is looking for. Our main focus is on writing and shooting footage that was designed to showcase the actor’s ability.

We are known for working WITH the client. Each of our clients is dealt with independently based on who they are and what they need. We are devoted to working with them one-on-one. We want the actor to look and feel their best, so we’re there for them each step of the way in producing footage that is specifically designed to make them shine.

We’re essentially a “mom-and-pop” store, and I’m proud of how we’ve managed to keep the company small to keep our prices low while providing our customers with a great experience. We have been able to compete with the bigger out-of-state markets with clients that have come from all over the United States, including Florida, New York, and Los Angeles to name a few, just to shoot with us. We’ve been told they like our style and attention to detail. We get wonderful feedback, and I think that is because we actually enjoy what we do. I am proud of the actors we have worked with and I feel honored that they came into our path. I wish them so much success and I hope that we had something to do with it.

What sets us apart is our passion and desire to create quality work. We are only interested in creating scenes that we are proud of. We strive for perfection, which is, of course, impossible, but we purposely hold high standards. My partner, Michael Gorgoglione, and I have a combined 30 years experience in the industry. Our dreams of creating art don’t stop with Cart Reel Films. We shot the feature film Go Mad and Mark in 2017, consistently work on short sketches and are currently in pre-production for a short film. Because of our long-term goals and continued experience, our quality of work at Cart Reel Films only gets better. Our success correlates with our client’s success.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Michael Gorgoglione is basically my partner-in-crime. He is the editor and cinematographer for Cart Reel Films. He’s the one who makes all the scenes look so freakin’ cool. I write and convey my idea, and he makes it happen. In the time that we’ve worked together, he has grown so much as an artist and he continues to amaze me with his work. He sure does love his lights!

Michael was the first person I approached when I came up with the idea for Cart Reel Films. I was so scared when I pitched the idea, but he was absolutely on board when I told him about it. Even now, when I second-guess myself with my writing, he continues to encourage me. We basically just pump each other up.

Who else deserves credit? All of our clients! Without them, we would have no business. We thank them for believing in us, giving us a chance, and spreading the word. And especially to those returning clients. We love repeat clients because we get to see how much they’ve grown as actors.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Bjoern Kommerell, Michael Gorgoglione

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Dana Rice

    January 8, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    Congrats to Maria! Her work is outstanding. Loved reading her story and looking forward to hearing and seeing more from her.

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