Actress Michelle Hinsberg, who hails from Pleasanton, remembers when she was about 7 and first learned about acting.
"As a kid, my parents would put me to bed early and get to watch whatever they wanted," she recalled. "One night they were watching 'Scream,' and I walked in on a scene where someone was getting stabbed, and I freaked out.
"My parents described what an actor is, and my mind was blown. It piqued my interest."
Hinsberg said her latest creation, "It's What's on the Inside," is indie filmmaking at its finest. Released last month on Amazon Prime and Fandango Now, the comedic drama is the story of an agoraphobic life coach who takes steps to overcoming her fears with help from her clients and a delivery guy, played by Michael G. Gabel.
"My character's inner struggle with her mental health and self-isolation is on full display in this film, and my hope is that it validates anyone going through similar struggles because they're not alone and there is hope," Hinsberg said.
Hinsberg was born in Tucson, and her family moved to Pleasanton when she was 4. She attended Donlon Elementary and Hart Middle School.
She began taking acting lessons in the fifth grade, in San Ramon. When she was 11, she went to an Industry Network showcase in Los Angeles to perform in front of agents. She also performed in "A Christmas Carol," for Pleasanton Civic Arts, along with her father, Paul Hinsberg.
"I did not get into a theater group growing up. I always wanted to be part of a drama club but I was way too shy," she remembered.
Hinsburg graduated from Foothill High, class of 2010, although after two years of attending in-person she switched to homeschooling for the freedom it offered her to pursue her career.
"I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18 and did production assistance work," she said. "Then I decided to go to college."
Hinsberg moved to Reno to attend University of Nevada, Reno, where she majored in psychology.
"I had the option to do theater but decided I wanted to learn about human behavior," she said. "I had taken acting classes in L.A. and wanted to dive into the human aspect of it. I'm a big fan of psychology."
In Reno, she met Eddie Vigil V, who directed "It's What's on the Inside."
"He was in a film group I was part of -- and I made sure this time not to be shy," she said with a laugh. "In Reno, I made sure to jump in, and I made awesome friends."
Quite a bit of filmmaking is done in Reno, she said, and she made several commercials, including one for Heavenly Ski Resort and another for a local bank.
She returned to Los Angeles in 2018 and was able to hit the ground running toward her acting goals, Hinsberg said; she also took a full-time job as a human resources marketing associate.
"When you start out you have to invest a lot, in classes, head shots, marketing yourself to casting directors and producers," she explained. "Plus you have to have money to take time off to do free projects."
She has also done some directing.
"The directing is mostly just for fun. Sometimes as an actor you want to take over and direct things," she said. "It's fun to stretch that muscle."
Hinsberg made two other films recently: a five-minute comedy called "Planetary Forces," and "Horchata with Oat Milk," a Latino comedy.
She also co-starred in a short film, "Van Life," in 2019, another short film with costar Michael G. Gabel.
"We made it as a pilot to a potential TV show, so he can pitch it to producers," she said.
She said her favorite roles have been two extremes.
"Either I'm crying or I'm super quirky and over-the-top cutesy," she said with a laugh. "In 'Oat Milk' I was the quirky cute girl. On 'Inside,' I got to cry a lot."
"It was nice to have my psychology background to use for that," she added.
She is hoping someday to play a superhero in a Marvel movie, she said. But meanwhile she was pleased to just land the part of a fugitive on the run who lives in the woods, foraging for food and hunting with a bow and arrow.
Hinsberg recently received the script for the project, which she'll be shooting out of state for three or four weeks this summer.
"I'm calling it a Midwest indie drama," she said. "The role will be really physical. I'm working on it now, learning my lines and my character -- about her psychology."