By Tanner Kent
The Free Press
MANKATO — Folks may remember Holly Schlingmann from her diving days.
She did, after all, win a high school state title, even receiving an Ambassador Award from then-Mankato Mayor Jeff Kagermeier.
But Schlingmann is done with diving now. She’s moved on to singing and acting -- and it hasn’t taken long for someone to take notice.
Though she’s less than two years removed from vocal chord surgery, Schlingmann has earned a role in an independently produced film about Patsy Cline that is slated for a midsummer release.
“I’ve never really thought of myself as an actor or singer,” she said. “I was always the sports girl.”
The shift began even while Schlingmann was still a student at Mankato East High School. While she was dominating diving competitions, earning attention from college programs and being voted “most likely to be an Olympian” by her classmates, Schlingmann’s enthusiasm for the sport was waning.
By the time she was diving at Minnesota State University, her enjoyment had completely fizzled.
After taking a hiatus from college and living for a while in Florida, Schlingmann returned to Mankato in 2008. Not long after she got back, some friends invited her out to sing karaoke.
Schlingmann reluctantly joined them at Dutler’s Bowl, where she remembers being terrified to sing Joan Jett’s anthemic “I Love Rock N’ Roll” in front of a crowd.
“It scared the hell out of me,” said Schlingmann, who’s now returned to MSU and is a few months from graduating with a communication studies degree. “It seemed strange that I could stand in front of thousands of people in my bathing suit but couldn’t sing karaoke.”
Gradually, Schlingmann became more comfortable with performing. And the nodules that doctors told her had developed on her vocal cords as a teenager helped give her a distinct, raspy sound that attracted the attention of other musicians. She was soon invited to sing alongside local crooner Sonny Bryant and prolific pianist Paul Durenberger.
But everything seemed in jeopardy in 2011 when doctors told her the nodules must be removed. In October of that year, she underwent surgery.
In the month afterward, strict vocal rest meant communicating by whiteboard. Even after three more months of intense vocal therapy, the therapist told Schlingmann not to bet on a singing career.
“That was a sad day, Schlingmann said. “My voice wasn’t getting any better.”
Gradually, however, her singing voice began to return. She retained her signature smoky sound, but her pitch wasn’t reliable. So she gave up smoking in late 2012. She gave up drinking two weeks later. Her voice started to rebound, this time stronger than ever.
Meanwhile, a Kansas City filmmaker was showing interest in the video he’d seen of Schlingmann singing Cline’s “Crazy.” At his request, she sent him two short videos of her reading scripts as well as a handful of other singing videos.
In February, Schlingmann learned she was chosen to play a supporting role.
“I had this overwhelming feeling,” said Schlingmann, who first discovered her selection when she was tagged in a photo on the movie’s Facebook page. “I was elated for like a week and a half.”
The working title of the film is “Patsy” and the director is John Russell.
The plot begins with a talent scout finding the perfect actress to play Patsy Cline in an upcoming feature film (sort of a movie about a movie). Realizing she could be a star, two record companies begin competing for her loyalties. One of the companies dispatches a dreamy actor to woo her into the fold, only for him to have a change of heart and attempt to sabotage the deceit -- and perhaps their budding romance.
The film is a remake of Russell’s straight-to-video 1998 release, “Oklahoma Faded Love,” which the director admitted was a “terrible, terrible film,” saying that he allowed others to have “too much creative control.”
This version, he said, will be a “feel-good” affair with a talented cast culled from auditions held in six cities.
Though Russell wouldn’t give specifics, he said the film has already procured a distributor and he’s in the process of securing enough financial backing to begin filming in the next six to eight weeks. He said he’s optimistic he’ll meet his midsummer release target.
Russell praised Schlingmann’s talent and said he only chose actresses whose vocal abilities could be relied upon.
As for Schlingmann, she’s just waiting for a phone call.
“I was humbled, excited, grateful,” Schlingmann said of earning the role. “I’m hoping that one day soon, it’s all a go.”