For someone who’s been acting in TV and film for more than 20 years, Susana Gibb is surprisingly ambivalent about her chosen profession. The slender and attractive mainstay of local films says this as she discusses Daylight’s End, a horror film that she acted in, which got a large-scale theatrical release two weeks ago. “Over 20 years, I’ve had two films get a major theatrical release,” she said, citing the nature of the marketplace. “Sometimes I wonder whether I’d be happier without the highs of that followed by the lows of, ‘Now I have to look for my next job.’ But you can’t quit something that’s your passion. I tried to quit a couple of times, and I’d find myself going down the road with tears running down my face.”
She moved to North Texas from her hometown of Tyler to finish her college education at UNT, graduating with a theater degree in 1996. She was still in college when she broke into the industry as a stand-in for the female lead on the set of Walker, Texas Ranger. “I wanted to do film and TV from the start, and there’s so much more activity going on here than there is in Houston,” she said. “It was such a learning experience to be on a set every week.”
Early on, she worked for the great Robert Altman in his 2000 dramedy Dr. T and the Women, playing one of Richard Gere’s Ob/Gyn patients.
She was inspired to go into producing while acting in the 2006 Lifetime TV series Inspector Mom. She played best friend to Danica McKellar, who was producing the show as well as starring in it. “I thought, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ ”
Gibb served as producer and lead actress on Christopher Abram’s 2009 horror movie By the Devil’s Hands, but after finishing her work there, she became pregnant with the first of her three children, who now range in age from 8 to 4. “As a producer, you’re on the set 12 or 14 hours a day,” she said. “It’s hard to do that and do the kid thing.”
After her youngest child was born, she slowly made her way back into producing.
One of the first film projects she worked on as producer was Jon Keeyes’ dream-world thriller Element, which was written by Brent Bentman. Released this past April, it’s scheduled to screen at the Action on Film Festival in Monrovia, Calif., this week. “Our first draft, we talked to directors to get their input, and they said, ‘It’ll never make any money.’ But our writer was open to changes. He made it more of a thriller, and suddenly those same directors wanted to direct,” she said, adding that she helped Bentman rework the script. “It was a great experience shooting in Oklahoma, but it was hard being away from my kids for a month. They did not like it.”
To support herself and her kids, she still works a day job selling insurance at a satellite office in Dallas for her father’s Tyler-based firm. She also previously wrote a short film called Romeo, Juliet, and the Shark, based on an incident in college when a professor hit on her, and is currently working on a 360-degree virtual reality presentation for Dallas’ Housing Crisis Center, a charity that she has previously worked for, and would like to write scripted entertainment for the medium someday. She notes that she always plays either a wife or a girlfriend and wishes to change that for women.
“There are so many more women actors than men … that’s why [Element lead actor] Michael Ironside told me to keep writing,” she said. “My kids will see something totally different.”