Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

From Film Lover to Film Actress Story


Allison Joyce on Life's Unexpected Turns

by Rob Lauer

Allison Joyce has always loved movies. "But I'm one of those people who watches and analyzes a film for the craft involved in making it," she explains. "My dad was also a big film fan, and I have so many fun memories of us discussing how well certain actors nailed down particular film roles. Our love of movies was one of the key things Dad and I had in common."

Despite that love, Allison never gravitated toward theatre in high school but instead was drawn to writing. In college, that interest developed into full-fledged love. "I didn't realize I had a gift for writing until one of my professors pointed it out," she says. "He encouraged me to develop it and helped by assigning me extra writing for extra credit." When opportunities to earn money from writing came her way, Allison took advantage of them.

After graduating from ODU, Allison was off to Washington, DC, spending much of the 1980s as a staff member in a Congressional office. Her gifts as a writer made her an invaluable asset. "I was always involved in writing-mostly letters and other communications with constituents," she recalls. "Not everyone likes to do that, but I loved it. Later, I was a speechwriter for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. I also worked for Washington Crime News Services as the editor of two industry newsletters."

After Allison and her husband, Andy, returned to Hampton Roads for his work as a government contractor, her jobs included a stint as a writer for "The Shopper." "It was a new sort of writing for me," she says. "When interviewing people for stories about their businesses, they would open up to me. I felt they trusted me, and I always valued that trust as something very special-a great privilege."

Allison reached a crossroads in life when, in her 50s, she began experiencing intense arthritic pain. "I knew I had to make changes in my life," she recalls. "It was a complicated time, but call it God or fate, I believe someone is steering our lives when we least expect it."

Fate came in the person of Ulysses Johnson, the physical therapist treating Allison's arthritis. Ulysses was also a local actor, and their chats during her treatments steered Allison back toward her earlier love of film.

"When Ulysses asked what I did for a living, I told him I was a writer, but given my condition at that time, I wasn't sure about the future," Allison explains. "With arthritis, all you think about is getting better. Then he asked if I'd ever done any screenwriting, and that got me thinking about filmmaking from a writer's perspective. Ulysses said one way I could learn more about screenwriting would be to get into acting. I said, 'If you think someone would actually want to cast a woman in her 50s, I'll explore it.' After Ulysses planted the seed, I discussed the idea with my husband, and he was behind me one hundred percent. Andy has always been my biggest fan."

Like everyone pursuing an acting career, Allison first had professional headshots (photos) taken. With her effervescent personality and photogenic good looks, she was soon signed by local talent agent Sylvia Hudson.

"Within two weeks, I got my first film work as an extra," Allison remembers. "Next, I was cast in a commercial for Sentara Ortho Joint Center, which also included appearing in their print advertising. Then I appeared in a commercial for Towne Bank. I began doing voice-over work with Studio Center in Virginia Beach. Over the last couple of years, I've also gotten into modeling and have landed my share of lifestyle shoots for people in my age range, appearing in ads for Albemarle Plantation and Bay Creek at the Cape.

"I just adore the work.
The people you meet
-in front of and behind the camera-
are spectacularly special."
-Allison Joyce

"I just adore the work," Allison says enthusiastically. "The people you meet-in front of and behind the camera-are spectacularly special. It's also a rush knowing that you were chosen for a particular project because you had 'the look' they were searching for. I get a lot of repeat work, which tells me I'm doing my job well."

To hone her craft, Allison also volunteers to act in student films at Regent University. "I started out doing small supporting roles," she says. "When I was first given a shot at a speaking role, I was so nervous! But I've appeared in a half dozen films and recently completed a leading role opposite actor Bob Shepherd, playing his wife in a film entitled 'The Buy Back.' It's currently making the rounds in film festivals but will be available soon."

Among Allison's upcoming roles will be playing what she jokingly calls a "Zombie Mom" in a horror film being produced locally. "Horror isn't my favorite genre," she says, "but I really like this script and the director."

Success in acting hasn't come between Allison and her love of writing. "Last year, out of the blue, I was approached about helping Brad Hughes, a Powhatan County Sheriff's Office deputy, to write a legacy book project. Ten years ago, Brad lost both legs in a horrendous car crash. Not only did he survive that awful ordeal, but he began speaking to community groups to prevent distracted-driver accidents. I am honored to be collaborating with him on his book. His story is very positive."
Allison also maintains a positive outlook on life.

"I was not one of those people who, at 16, knew what they wanted to do with their lives," she says, "but I was lucky enough to have a gift and opportunities to develop it and earn a living from it. Writing is such a diverse pursuit. With so many different genres, there's always an opportunity to try something new. I love wondering, 'Can I do this kind of writing?' and then discovering that I can. There's lots of negativity in life, and none of us gets through it without dealing with things that are toxic, but I look for the positive and focus on that. After all, you never know what's coming next."

Allison's success can serve as an inspiration for others to pursue their dreams no matter the stage of life. It is not age but talent and persistence that shape one's destiny.

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