Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl An Interview with Brieanne Jansen

On first appearance one wouldn’t think a burley, pony tailed, older man would have an interest in a movie dealing with young girls coming of age. One surely wouldn’t think that man would have any interest in speaking to a child actor who is debuting in that movie. No, one wouldn’t think that unless one was a parent of a young girl growing up with the American Girl Doll Series. Then if one had grown up as a father of a daughter whom had grown up with the series, no matter if a burly, pony tailed man or not one would realize the hope, dreams, aspirations, and help this series could provide a young girl. That was the case for me as I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brieanne Jansen one of the stars in the new movie Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.
As I was driving down I-70 towards Colorado from Kansas I had a phone conversation with Brieanne regarding her landing of the role in Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. I was amazed and impressed with this young girls story, a story that not only had her experiencing the excitement of being in a movie for the first time, but it had her taking a step of faith in life. You see, Brieanne had experienced an abduction hostage situation in her life when she was four years old. One may say that the Brieanne taking on acting was an extension of the healing process from that horrendous experience.

I asked Brieanne about her openness regarding dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a child. She was very open in her reply, “It was really my friends who were there to help me out. You wouldn’t think that kids could help each other out, but between my friends and parents, the hugs and love from them were very important. Their part in my healing process was critical.”

When confronted with the willingness to put her life on display before others I thought she must have had some experience in regards to being in front of people, after all, acting and being on the big screen for the first time had to be daunting. “I had done a few things at church.” Brieanne replied, “but never really anything big and not that much.” “How did it feel seeing yourself on the big screen for the first time?” I asked. Brieanne was just like a young lady when answering the question; “It was kind of interesting seeing myself up there on the big screen. It was nothing like I expected. I realized after seeing myself that I had gained weight and grown since we had filmed the movie. It was just different seeing myself that much smaller.”

While Brieanna may have had a “interesting” experience seeing herself on the big screen, it is likely we as viewers will see something special about this movie. While set in the early 1900’s during the depression era, we see themes that resemble to the news stories we see today. We see issues related to difficult employment opportunities for parents, the threat of one loosing their home to foreclosure, and the need in some instances of children having to grow up all too soon and take on responsibility to help keep the family together. We also see the importance of family, and while the “traditional” family may not resemble the family situation we see in the movie that much anymore, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. One can’t help but notice the importance of the family roles that includes both parents, and even extended family and friends.

Brieanne spoke to me about her thoughts regarding this movie, and what she hoped people would get out of it. “Kit Kitteridge is a story about young girls coming of age. I really hope there are more movies like this in the future, especially movies that will show young girls coming of age, and the importance of being themselves.”

In many regards this young actress who has had to come of age from her own personal experiences, understands the importance of being a little girl. I realized this when she told me about the things she enjoys doing in her spare time. “Oh I enjoy doing and going to the theater, being and seeing plays at church, spending time with friends, singing and I really like to spend time with my dog and cat.” It was that last thing, a simple concept of spending time with pets that I was assured that Brieanne had begun to balance life out as a little girl. There were the important things, but there was also the importance of those special moments of playing with a pet.

It was here I was reminded of my own daughter in a way. A deep thinking young lady when she was a child, but nonetheless, still a child. It was a concept that got this one old burly, pony tailed man realizing that this movie may be worth seeing after all. It may be worth seeing because it challenged young ladies to be just that, young ladies. I always wanted my own daughter to experience life to the fullest, despite my own issues of having PTSD while growing up and knowing that my own daughter had to live through much of the rehabilitative process in my own life. Brieanne was convincing me that there are others out there doing this, even at a much younger age.

I was also impressed with Brieanne’s work for charitable organizations. It seems as if this young lady has a faith that is real and important to her. It is not only evidenced by her willingness to speak openly about her relationship with Jesus Christ, but her willingness to raise money for various causes, or as is currently the case, raising food for the homeless. It seems as if my own pre judgment about the dedication and seriousness of faith related to an 11 or 12 year old little girl was quickly squelched when seeing or hearing the things she is saying and doing.

“I really want to do more movies in the future, but I would love to do movies like some of those done by Michael Landon Jr. in the Janet Oke Series. I want to find an agent that understands that there are roles for Christians out there. Roles that Christians can do and those are the types of movies I want to be in.

I don’t know what the future holds for Brieanne. I do know that she has a great start and is in a valuable movie for young girls. That said movies like Kit Kittredge: An American Girl isn’t just an important movie for her, it is an important movie for all children, parents, and even burley, and pony tailed dads. It is a reminder to all of us of the potential of children. It is a reminder of the importance of growing up and the maturity that develops in children. In a world where women were put down, prejudiced against, and not given much hope, it is also a movie that shows the potential for young girls to become beautiful young women. Not in a physical attraction way though, but in a way that shows the beauty of Gods creation and the intelligence given women. I suspect that on that note, even old, burly, and pony tailed fathers can have a place in their heart that is touched by a movie speaking to young women.

I kind of knew that before speaking to Brieanne though, I had forgotten about my own daughter, Marathana’s love and appreciation An American Girl series. It was she that reminded me initially of the importance of these books and these stories. As a family we were never able to afford her the dolls while she was growing up, but she did get the books, and the words of those books permeated into her life. Now she is a 26 soon to be 27 year old young woman who was touched by the series of books and stories. She was encouraged not just by her parents, but by the books to come of age, to become a fine young woman. It is one of the things the books did for my own daughter, it is one of the things the movie will do, and Brieanne, a wonderful young lady is contributing in that way as well.

I have to admit, I still buy my daughter a doll every Christmas. I think that is likely more for me than it is for my daughter. She realizes that though, and accepts and allows me this joy of being reminded that I have a beautiful daughter who has turned into a beautiful young woman. Even though she is married now, living away from the home, I still know she is my little girl. After speaking to Brieanne, after realizing the importance of this series in the growth of my own daughter I think I may have an idea of the doll I will buy for Marathana this year. Hamm…., I wonder which one that may just be?

To see the videos listed below just double click on the video, if the video don't appear, just click on the provided link:

The following has Brieanne sharing her story. It is well worth watching to better understand this little girl.


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