• Michael Bezjian, Starving Artists Project | courtesy photo Kristin West
  • Armin Nasseri | courtesy photo Kristin West attends the Bare Bones International Film & Music Festival in Muskogee, Okla.

Valentina comes home to Texas

Award-winning actress Kristin West to attend film festival

Pleasanton native and award-winning actress Kristin West will be at the San Antonio Film Festival next week, for the screening of “Seeking Valentina.”

West plays the title character in this psychological thriller short and also produced this film which has screened throughout the world. It was written and directed by Armin Nasseri. The film also features piano performances by Judith Hooge, West’s mother and local music educator. 

“It is an amazing opportunity to be at the San Antonio Film Festival. It has been around for 22 years. The film has played all over the world. Being from South Texas, it is an honor to screen at the festival. I am excited to bring ‘Seeking Valentina’ home to San Antonio!” shared West.

Regarding the film’s success, her mother Judy Hooge said, “I did not realize the magnitude of this project. I am thrilled about the success of the movie and never expected my part to be so well received.”

Director Nasseri said, “I am very honored for the recognition the film has received and excited to screen this film at the 22nd Annual San Antonio Film Festival.”

In the film, Benjamin (played by Ali Bavarian) plays a writer in the pangs of grief, following the recent death of his wife. He takes in a whimsical and engaging tenant named Valentina (the role played by Kristin West) who mysteriously disappears.

West produced the film together with Nasseri.

“It is similar to David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’. The audience gets to choose their take on the narrative and decide if Valentina is a ghost, a runaway, a hallucination or a dream. Everyone who watches has a different take. It was very challenging to play the part of Valentina,” said West.

It is one of West’s more dramatic roles, since most people see her as a comedic actress.

The Pleasanton High School graduate has always loved theatre. While at PHS, she was part of the One-Act Play competition team all four years.

“One-Act Play is where my heart was. My junior year, we did ‘The Miracle Worker’ and I played Ann Sullivan. I won the Best Actress Award at District. One of the judges encouraged me.”

She was also part of the Drama Club, newspaper staff and different UIL speaking competitions.

Her first acting role was in an Atascosa County Troupe production of “Charlotte’s Web.” She also starred in ACT Theatre summer productions of Shakespeare.

West graduated from the University of Texas at Austin’s prestigious Radio-TV-Film program.

“They have a very good film program. I decided that I wanted to stay in the arts,” said West.

Her training also includes being involved in the UT Austin Shakespeare at Winedale program, which is done by the English department. Performers bring Shakespeare to life, under the conditions Shakespeare did. West performed an entire play, not edited down. As part of that, she had the opportunity to take classes that same summer. The program took the production team to the Globe Theatre in London, an experience that touched West.

“My grandfather loved London. He was a World War II veteran. It is one of the cultural capitals of the world. You get to experience so much culture– the National Gallery, the British Museum. They are all things that allow you to grow. I still think about what I saw and experienced in the city,” said West. “I thought about Nice, France, because I saw ‘Les Miserables’ while I was there.”  

West knew she wanted to continue to learn about the industry and she always had a sense of adventure, so she moved to California right after graduation. It has been her life’s path ever since.

“There is no such thing as overnight success. You have to put in the time, network with people and meet people.”

West has starred in several short films and also starred in “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

“I was in the episode called ‘Turning Down the Crown’ with Yolanda Foster and Carlton Gebbia.”

West recalled the first few times that someone recognized her. She bought something at a store she used to work at and the manager said he knew he saw her on TV. Another time while at an industry event, an editor from “The Real Housewives” approached her, realizing he knew her from somewhere.

West has also appeared in “Hell’s Kitty,” and “Circus of the Dead,” a horror movie filmed in Odessa.

She tries to make it down to Texas for her birthday and her mother’s birthday.

“I am thankful that the SA Film Festival is close to my mom’s birthday. I also believe in supporting the local film industry and I am always eager to work with them.”

She is always looking to develop material that could be filmed locally.

West credits everyone at Pleasanton High School when she was there, for preparing her for a world-class education like UT. She mentioned teachers Rick Dorn, Kathleen Bailey and Betty Pack as the ones who really had an impact on her.

Dorn was the drama teacher when she started performing. When West told him about pursuing acting as a career, he gave her a copy of “Entertainment Weekly.” He gave her the Hollywood issue and said he wanted her to read it. 

“It told all the different perspectives. It is bitingly truthful. It told how hard it is and gives real narratives. He wanted me to know realistically what I was up against. He was extremely supportive,” said West.

As for upcoming projects, she recently worked with Tawan Bazemore on a psychological thriller called “Sound.” It is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock and is about a woman whose hearing is compromised.  

She loves acting for the opportunity it gives her to experience the lives of other people and realize how similar we all are.

“It shows how we are humans and all have hearts and needs. I love being a part of that and discovering the lives of others through art. When you tell compelling stories- fun is a part of that. Valentina is heavy, dealing with loss and death. I like to experiment and I like the challenges of discovering the character.”

She is also grateful to have a family that supports her endeavors.

“I am so privileged to have that as my upbringing. If you have dreams, large or small, put your heart and effort in it. Some days will be harder than others, but stick to your plans. Thankfully, I have always had that. When I have been met with adversity, I have always been able to shrug it off. You have to believe in yourself to move forward. I have always been encouraged by my family and community... without them, ACT Theatre and the coaching, I would probably not be able to do this. I am a product of my community and the schools,” said West.

Visit www.kristinwest.net to learn more about her latest projects, news and more.  

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