03/23/2012 08:59 am ET Updated May 23, 2012

My Journey Through The Games

I never dreamed that I would hear 10,000 people screaming when I stepped out onto a stage. Well, that's not entirely true. I dreamed about it but in a performing-on-the-stage-at-Staples-Center-or-Madison-Square-Garden context. But never in a I'm-in-a-movie-that-hasn't-even-come-out-yet one. That's one of the reasons why this has all been so crazy.

The summer before my junior year, I was a girl with a dream -- and yes, I know this sounds cheesy. I wanted to be a professional singer/actress, though I knew it would be hard. Things were starting to take off with my music -- I was going into the recording studio -- but nothing was solid yet. I would still spend days jumping around my room, performing for an imaginary audience, mouthing the words to Taylor Swift songs with a hairbrush. Actually, I still do that, but that's beside the point.

Anyways, I am a nerd, bookworm, geek... whatever you want to call me. I'm the type of person that would rather sit down and read a good book than go out and party. I have read each book in the Harry Potter series over 14 times. It is literally at the point where I know what words are coming up on the next page and where they are located on the page. The summer before my junior year, The Hunger Games was given out as the all-school read for my high school, so everyone had to read it. I sat down to begin, and I immediately became hooked. I finished the first book in a couple of hours! I immediately bought the second and finished that in a day or so. I found out the third book was coming out later that summer, so I waited up until midnight on the day of its release so that I could get it as soon as it came out. That summer, I lived and breathed The Hunger Games. I can't even tell you how many dreams I had about it!

While talking to my friends about the books, one of them told me through tears -- she had just finished Mockingjay -- that they were planning on making a movie of The Hunger Games! I flipped out. A movie? Of my new favorite series? It was too much to handle. Who would be Katniss??? I immediately went onto YouTube and spent a day looking up fan-made cast videos and commenting on them with my friends: "Maybe Hailee Steinfeld for Katniss...hmm not sure about that Glimmer...Emma Stone would make a great Foxface!" I know. That's why this is all so surreal.

A couple of weeks later, I was talking to my friend who said Gary Ross who was interviewing kids that had read/were fans of The Hunger Games to get their take on the story. I was so excited! I walked into the interview, expecting it to be very casual and laid back. However, I entered into a studio, complete with lighting, professional cameras, and director's chairs to sit in for the interview. I was a little nervous, but I thought the interview went well and I had a lot of fun. A couple of weeks later, Gary asked me if I would like to come in and read for "Foxface."

I couldn't believe it! I mean, I'd always dreamed of acting on the screen -- my previous background was all theater -- but I wasn't sure if the opportunity would ever present itself. Not only was this acting for the screen, this was acting in THE HUNGER GAMES! I knew that I had to give this audition my all.

I spent the two weeks leading up to the audition doing character work and my own version of agility training -- which involved jumping over stones in my backyard. The night before, I slept about 4 hours. I was tossing and turning! I don't remember much about the next day leading up to the audition (I know I had an AP Physics test somewhere in there...), but I thought the audition itself went pretty well. At least, Gary seemed happy! A few weeks later, I received a call saying that I got the part.

Fast forward through training, APs, and filming my music videos, to the week before I left for set. To say I was nervous is an immense understatement. What if I didn't make any friends? What if no one liked me? What if I sucked? As soon as I got to Asheville, my fears dissipated. The atmosphere was so friendly, and every person on set was unbelievably supportive. I made both friends and memories that will last me a lifetime.

People who say that age matters are totally wrong. My best friend was the (then) 12-year-old Amandla Stenberg, who played "Rue" in the movie. We would have sleepovers where we would stay up until 4 am watching movies and eating vegan cookies. One night, we were alone in our hotel because our parents went out, so we decided to entertain ourselves. We rolled through the hallways on luggage carts (Zac And Cody-style!), played ding-dong ditch, and made our way through the lobby in as many different ways possible (which included rolling, crab-walking, and crawling) -- all while keeping a straight face!

However, not all of my nervousness disappeared. In fact, I was probably the most nervous I'd ever been when I went up onstage to do my scene with Stanley Tucci! Imagine this: Your first line in a movie. Ever. Onstage. With your acting idol. Totally improvised. In front of three hundred people. So now you can see why I was so terrified! As soon as we started the scene though, my nerves all but disappeared. Stanley was really nice and supportive, and I ended up having a ball!

It was weird to come off of set and enter normal life once again. Though I had been working on my college essays all summer, I had to really crack down on them as soon as I got home. But a lot had changed. I was now being invited to red carpets that I never thought I would attend, meeting with agents and stylists, and bumping into people I'd loved for the longest time. The funny thing is, I still feel like an imposter. I'll walk around at an event and see Jessica Chastain, and think, "What the heck am I doing here?"

The grand finale to all of the craziness had to be the press tour compiled with the premiere. This was the 10,000-people-screaming thing I talked about at the beginning. It was completely overwhelming and breathtaking. I still can't believe how many people these books have touched! The premiere itself was unique. To see all of the people camped out there was shocking. I actually think I might have been there too, had I not been cast in the movie. I just had to keep remembering to stop, breathe, and take it all in.

The funny thing is that as soon as the world starts on the journey of the movie, I kind of end my journey with it. This has been a whirlwind of a ride, and I am sad to see it come to a close. But it isn't really closing, is it? The movie will live on forever. That's the cool thing about film. I am forever immortalized on the screen with Stanley Tucci!

On to the next journey, and on to a new chapter. I am hoping to release more music soon (in addition to my videos for "Peter Pan" and "Catch Me If You Can"), and I just signed with new managers, so now that I'm into college (YAY!), I can focus on auditioning and really working on my singing and acting. I am so excited for this next part to begin!


P.S. I know this was unbelievably long, so if you made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me!
P.P.S. Let me know what you all think of the movie!

Twitter: @jackie_emerson