How Bria Vinaite Became an Actress Overnight in The Florida Project

Bria Vinaite and Brooklyn Prince from The Florida Project
Bria Vinaite and Brooklyn Prince from The Florida Project

Bria Vinaite found movie stardom in a most unconventional way.

Director Sean Baker spotted her Instagram account where plugging her marijuana-themed clothing line. An out-of-the-box thinker who shot the acclaimed “Tangerine” on an iPhone using amateur actors, Baker liked her look and called her in for an audition.

The next thing she knew, the Ukraine-born, Brooklyn-raised Vinaite was on a plane for Florida to shoot “The Florida Project,” playing a protective but reckless mother of a precocious 6-year-old living day-to-day in a budget motel in the shadow of Disney World.

“I am not a trained actress so to even take on this project was really insane for me,” she tells Made in Hollywood reporter Julie Harkness Arnold. “But I was really lucky because I got to fly in two weeks prior to filming to take acting classes and workshops every day. … The whole process of it was a crash course of acting.”

What’s more, the role called for her to work with respected veteran actor Willem Defoe. ” I definitely was a little nervous because I just felt so thrown into this crazy situation and now I have to worry about Willem,” she says.

She didn’t have to worry for long. “I really, really appreciated the fact that he just treated all of us as we like we were equal,” she said. “And he was so helpful and just so there if we needed to talk or (get) advice or anything. To have him believe in our roles in the film was just so amazing. It was just a big help.”