It’s not unusual for students to find themselves balancing school and a job.
What is less common is when the student in question still attends elementary school and the job is as a professional actor.
But that’s exactly the case with Langley’s Karissa Ketter.
The Grade 7 student at Gordon Greenwood Elementary school is among the first group of young actors to be nominated for — and one of the first individuals to win — a Joey Award.
Karissa, 12, is one of hundreds of young actors and actresses from across the country whose work was submitted for the inaugural “red carpet” Joey Award gala which was held on Nov. 16 in New Westminster. And she was one of only five nominated in the category of Young Actress, age nine or younger, in a short film.
“I was pretty excited (to be nominated)” said Karissa last week, before learning she’d won the award. “I was told 200 people submitted short films.”
The nod came for her work in the short film Daisies — made when she was nine years old — playing Madison, a young girl who inspires her mother to live her life to the fullest.
“My character kind of knows she’s not going to last too long in the world, so she tries to convince her mother to go for her dreams,” said Karissa.
Chasing her own dream, Karissa booked her first roles at age six — playing with toys in television commercials. By then she’d already been begging her parents for two years to let her become an actor, according to her mother, Kristine.
Although having their daughter ask to become an actor before her first day of kindergarten wasn’t exactly ideal, Karissa’s parents were forced to acknowledge that she possessed qualities that made it a good fit from the start.
“When she said she wanted to go into acting, as her mom and dad (we thought) ‘Oh, it’s not what we wanted,’” said Kristine.
But others who knew Karissa found the choice an obvious one, she said.
“She’s comfortable acting with adults. She’s confident and outgoing.
“Even at a young age, she was very confident and mature,” said Kristine.
Karissa had her own, very simple, reason for wanting to act.
“I think I saw people on TV and thought, that looks like a cool thing to do,” she said.
Today, it’s more about the overall experience.
“I like the energy of being on set and being surrounded by people who love what they’re doing,” said Karissa.
In addition to working in film and television, Karissa, who studies at the Vancouver Young Actors School, also performs on stage, participating each year in the Christmas productions at Burnaby Village.
This year’s play — her fifth — is called Stealing Christmas.
In it, she plays a young girl who, along with her father, is homeless.
As he robs a bakery, she tries to convince him that there is a better way to live.
The plays aren’t long, involved productions, but after five years they have become something of a holiday tradition for Karissa, whose brother, Jeremy, has joined the show as a backstage manager this year.
“When we arrive for our first rehearsal every fall it feels like we’re coming to our home away from home,” she said.
Although she has had to miss school on occasion to work or audition for a role, the deal is that as long as she remains caught up with her school work, she can continue acting.
Despite her enthusiasm for her craft, Karissa isn’t convinced that a career in acting is what her future holds.
“I’d like to keep acting as a hobby,” she said. “There’s something about it — it’s just really fun.”
Stealing Christmas will run as part of Heritage Christmas celebrations at Burnaby Village Museum, 6501 Deer Lake Ave., six times each weekend from Nov. 22 to Dec. 14.