Katie Chang talks The Bling Ring and working with Sofia Coppola

THE BLING RING is the newest film by Sofia Coppola (LOST IN TRANSLATION, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES). THE BLING RING centers around a group of fame-obsessed teens in Los Angeles who begin breaking into the houses of celebrities using Twitter to figure out when the homes will be empty. Based on a true story, THE BLING RING features newcomer Katie Chang, with whom we had the pleasure of speaking this month.

Katie Chang in The Bling Ring

Flix 66 – Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. THE BLING RING was your first major feature film – How did you get into the business?

Katie Chang (Chang) – I got into the business, uh, because I’d always loved theater when I was a kid and had never really found anything that made me more excited or interested or passionate than acting did. So around the time I turned 13 I asked my Mom if I could take some acting classes. So she set me up, um, at this studio near my hometown, called the Actor’s Training Center. It’s in Willmette, Illinois, just north of Chicago, and I trained there and took any acting class that I could take. Eventually I met people in class who were really into wanting to represent me and work with me, and get me auditions.

Katie Chang and Sofia Coppola in The Bling Ring

Flix 66 – So, generally, most actors have to do a lot of auditions before they’ll find their first role. How many auditions did you do before THE BLING RING?

Chang – Kind of the rule of thumb is that you might do 100 auditions and then only get 2 call backs out of all of them, which, oh god, is incredibly frightening. But my story is incredibly unusual because I found incredible, you know, I got really really lucky, um, quite early in my life and in my career. So, and the fact that I was in Chicago meant that I wasn’t able to audition in person, but I would say I probably went on, or sent in tapes for, about thirty different projects, which isn’t a lot considering the fact that I had just started. And then THE BLING RING came along, which was about a year or so, maybe two years, in to professionally auditioning.

Flix 66 – Wow – so, how was the casting process for THE BLING RING.

Chang – It was actually pretty unusual. Most of the time you get ‘sides’ and if you are not in the area, then you send in a tape and if you are then you go in and audition. But this time was different because I was just asked to send in a video of me talking about myself and so I talked about school and why I loved to act and my ethnicity and my family and where I lived. And we sent in a tape of me doing that, and then I flew out and met with Sofia [Coppola] and Fred Roos, one of our producers, and our casting directors Courtney and Nicole [Sheinlin and Daniels, respectively] and instead of auditioning again I just sat and talked with them for about fifteen minutes. And then a couple of months later, that’s when I actually saw my first couple of sides and then I sent in a couple tapes of me doing the sides. Eventually they flew me out and I auditioned with Israel and after that I got the part. So it was, it was pretty unusual.

Flix 66 – What do you think sold you to the filmmakers? What do you think, about you, touched a cord with them?

Chang – Huh, I always wondering about that because… I don’t really know. I uh, I don’t know how I got so lucky and why they wanted to work with me, um, it’s pretty incredible. I still, I mean, I wish they would tell me. I don’t know, I think part of it was that I was quite naïve, I was quite innocent when I went in and auditioned. I tried my best and I mean, I really gave it my all, but at the same time I was just this young girl, just like I am now, from Illinois. I was pretty much a blank slate, and I think that was a little bit interesting to Sofia. Uh, and I also, I really like to think that I had a very specific idea for the role, instead of being incredibly domineering she would be kind of sly, manipulative in a more quiet way and I think that was Sofia’s understanding of the character as well. It was really about, I guess, just chemistry with Sofia and, um, for some reason they wanted to work with me. I was very lucky.

Katie Chang and Emma Watson in The Bling Ring

Flix 66 – Yeah, you’re scary good in the role.

Chang – Thank you.

Flix 66 – It’s scary how much you like her and want to be liked by her. You totally get why Israel’s character want to be liked by her, and why he loves her so much, but I don’t think you could have approached it in any other way knowing you needed and wanted to make people feel that way. Was it strange putting together a character who is real, a real person? Was that a different sort of preparation/interaction for you?

Chang – Um, it wasn’t strange. I mean, I know that it was based on a true story but the way that Sofia wrote the script it was very much helpful, you know, because she’s not known for doing long scripts, with lots of dialogue and things like that. It’s much more the visual and the action. So there is a starting point for all of us and she wrote it really well, I mean, the way she put us all next to each other, but in terms of dialogue and personality and characters we were given a lot of creative license to go in whatever direction we chose to go in. So, I uh, while I did do my research about this girl and I did understand her actions I felt very much like I could go in and create my own character, then, off of the action. So it wasn’t very intimidating to me, I didn’t really think about the fact that it was a real character, I just tried to do my own thing.

Katie Chang in The Bling Ring

Flix 66 – Did anything about the shooting process or your supporting cast surprise you?

Chang – I didn’t really understand the concept of lighting until I started doing movies, so for the first week or so I probably messed up about 50 takes because of how many times I wasn’t standing in the light or wasn’t turning my head the right way to catch the light. Just all the technical stuff and the processes to make a movie really astounded me. There are so many things you just never think about, no only if you’re an actor but if you’re a crew member and when you’re filming it or directing it. It’s amazing to me how much goes into making a movie, that certainly surprised me.

Flix 66 – You’ve described yourself in the past as a ‘dork’ or ‘nerd’ – I wondered what about you makes the dork come out?

Chang – I met Perrey Reeves a couple of days ago at a fashion show, which is a ridiculous sentence for me to say, by the way, that sounds really weird coming out of my mouth. But that is the situation that I was in and I met her and she plays Ari’s wife on ENTOURAGE and that was one of the times I started dorking out. When I really love a T.V. show or a movie I nerd-out of that. But I guess also certainly things like, certain books I really like or certain classes I really like will get me very excited. I actually like school and I like learning, so it can make me nerd out a little bit.

Flix 66 – What’s your favorite book?

Chang – My favorite book? I really have a bunch. One is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It’s very dark but I really do like that book. I like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I just read Wild by Cheryl Straight and I really, really liked it. I also really love Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and just finished it for the fourth time or something.

Flix 66 – So, you’re headed to Columbia this fall, or, are you at Columbia now?

Chang – I’m actually sitting in my dorm at Columbia right now.

Katie Chang in The Bling Ring

Flix 66 – Nice. So, you’ve got school and you’ve got THE BIRDER’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING [with Ben Kingsley], so, what’s next for Ms. Chang?

Chang – What’s next? Well, there are a few things that I, um, that my Team now that I have a Team of people now, are talking about and considering but everyone has been really respectful to the fact that I’m doing school so right now I’m just focusing on my studies and then if a really great project comes along I’m taking time to think about that as well. It’s all about balance – how much you give yourself to each part of your life. So right now I’m really focusing on my studies, but in a year or so there will be a time where I have to focus as much as I’m focusing on school on acting. So I’m trying to find the happy medium, the balance between work and school.

Flix 66 – You’re a literature major, or creative writing?

Chang – Creative writing major in film.

Flix 66 – I know our time is about to come to a close. I’d like to close with our signature question – what is your favorite movie of all time and why?

Chang – Oh NO, you can’t ask me that! I can’t, I just, it’s too difficult. There are so many. I um oh god. Can I just give you like a list? (laughter) Maybe a couple? THE BREAKFAST CLUB. The Ocean’s Trilogy. I love CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. I love MIRACLE, the movie about the 1980 hockey team. Oh, and I just watch BEGINNERS with Christopher Plummer and Ewan Macgregor and I really liked that, so.

Katie Chang and Emma Watson in The Bling Ring

Flix 66 – Well, again, thank you for your time today. I wish you continued success and hopefully we’ll get to talk again.

Chang – Thank you so much, thank you.

THE BLING RING is currently available from On Demand digital format through iTunes and other vendors. You can purchase the Blu-ray on September 17, 2013.

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