Yes But Why ep 212 Phillip Wheeler knows you have to take risks if you want to live your life as an artist!
This week on Yes But Why, we chat with Seattle based actor Phillip Wheeler.
A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, Phillip has been working in TV, Film and Theater for over a decade.
In our conversation, we talk about developing your craft as an actor and about how to deal with the boring parts. Phillip mentions that he is taking a Zoom workshop with the Tennessee Shakespeare Festival right now! (SO FUN!)
Phillip is a character actor who plays a lot of bad guys. He shares stories about his first experience onstage in Three Musketeers and about making the horror film, “Junkie.”
We discuss how we think our current lockdown will change the film industry. Phillip notes the importance of learning the business side of acting. We chat about being supportive of your fellow actors and filmmakers, especially right now.
Phillip knows the hustle never stops when you’re an actor. Support Phillip Wheeler by checking out the short films he’s shot over the last few years: “Western Sol,” “Exposure,” and “Transitions“.
And keep your eyes peeled for Phillip’s upcoming acting performances — he will be appearing in the feature comedy film, “All Sorts,” the comedy pilot, “US+,” the Cold War short film, “The Assignment,” and a film about moonshine called “Hundred Proof”.
Yes But Why Podcast is a proud member of the HC Universal Network family of podcasts. Download the FREE HC Universal Network app for Android and iDevices or visit us at HCUniversalNetwork.com and join the fun.
This episode of Yes But Why podcast is sponsored by audible – get your FREE audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at http://www.audibletrial.com/YESBUTWHY.
(production notes: recorded phone call with Rodecaster at the home studio on 5/11/2020)
TRANSCRIPT by Otter.ai
Hello, Yes But Why listeners. This is your host, Amy Jordan. Welcome to Episode 212, an interview with Seattle based actor Philip Wheeler.
But first a bit about our sponsor. This episode of Yes, but why podcast is sponsored by Audible. You can get your free audiobook download and your 30 day free trial at audible trial dot come forward slash Yes, but why.
In this chat with Philip Wheeler, we talk a lot about navigating show business as an actor. When I put in show business into Audible, there are a lot of books with some great advice and oh, an autobiography of Dick Van Dyke. You’ve got to check this out. Audible is available for your iPhone, Android or Kindle. Download your free audio book today at audibletrial.com/yesbutwhy
In this week’s yes but why episode I chatted with actor Philip Wheeler. We talked a lot about what it takes to be an actor from finding the right market to developing your craft. The hustle of acting is intense, and Philip Wheeler is working hard in the thick of it. Philip was passionate and full of good advice. In our conversation, we discussed how we think the current lockdown will change the film industry. And we talked about how we all need to be supportive of our fellow actors and filmmakers, especially right now.
I now present to you Yes But Why Episode 212 Philip Wheeler knows you have to take risks if you want to live your life as an artist.
I’m Amy Jordan, and this is yes, but why podcast. Yeah.
So I was in high school, and I was doing a production of The Three Musketeers. And I auditioned for D’Artagnan, because all of us we all think that we’re like the leading man hero type and, and everything. And I thought I was so good. And I didn’t get that part. And I was furious because the guy who got it was so bad. He was such a pain in the ass. Nobody liked him. Nobody wanted to be around him. He was just causing problems. But then I got cast as Athos who’s the kind of the leader of the trio of the Musketeers. And I thought he was so much more interesting and in the retrospect to the process, you know, because he’s a hero, but he’s also lost his love. You know, he’s for Lorne but he’s still like a leader and I found so So many things about myself. And I got to go and do all of these really cool things like swordplay, right? To have this kind of introspective scene with porthos, where he’s talking about the woman who got away who turns out to be the assassin later, right, the lady. And it was just so interesting and that that by the time we were done with that production, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Awesome. What grade were you and you said high school?
Yeah, that must have been junior year because the year after that I played Korean and then taken and so I got the flipside of that experience, right. So went from being the hero and the antagonist, or the hero in the protagonist to the kind of very long winded antagonist and we did the 1940s version by john on we was a little bit. Yeah, it was a little bit outdated, but we had a long discussion about how this guy was basically representing Hitler in 1940s France and Brandt’s was using that as a way to, like, call attention to what was happening, right? And so, you know, when you have a six page monologue, you know, it changes things for you, right? Like you have to develop a process. It can’t just be moment to moment all the time, when you’re having to play off yourself, right? You have to learn how to follow that stream of consciousness. And, you know, to be forced to start exploring that sort of thing at a young age, I think really kind of shows you the stark reality of the craft. And I think what most people fall in love with is the craft is the business that gets everybody right. Yeah, and I just remember when we were rehearsing and taking the director was very upset where we were in our process of memorization at one point, and so he let all of the cast leave except for integrity and crayons. And we had to sit in a, like pitch black theater back to back and just run our lines for hours, until it was just so second nature. And that kind of thing is just really kind of brings things into focus, right? Like, the lines are only 10% of the work. And if you don’t have the lines, you can’t get to the meat.
Yeah, people always ask about that you can always tell, you know, when people take an acting workshop or something, or that’s like, you know, one on one, I teach a lot of one on one classes, I’ll be like, how do you memorize lines and you’re like, that’s really not even. That’s not what you need to worry about.
Oh, it’s important to talk about too because it can feel like a like a barrier to entry to a certain degree, right? Sure. Because, you know, I, I have found that the best way for me to do it is to just run it over and over again. And think about intentions. Um, because that’s when you discover a new way to say align. But you know, ultimately what it comes down to is it has to just be repetition, it has to become second nature, so that you’re not thinking about the line. When you’re saying the line, you’re thinking about why you’re saying the line, right? And so, like, I’m taking a workshop with the Tennessee Shakespeare Festival on zoom right now, which I would never have done, if I hadn’t. Yeah. And it’s kind of forcing me back into some of that process work because Shakespeare requires analysis. And so it forces you to kind of like think about what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. And what what is inspiring this character who’s speaking in a heightened state of text to say these specific words, because no one talks like that, right? So you have to find a way to motivate Your character in a way that it’s so passionate is so important that there’s no other word for it except for this 16 syllable word, which isn’t real. But you know, you get the point.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s amazing that you like tapped into that even in your like high school theater. My high school theater was very, like, Look at us were amazing. Now, you know, it wasn’t like any of us actually, were thinking about craft and whatnot. The teacher being like, run those lines, get it done. That’s the kind of stuff that makes like, you know, sweet john Hughes movies, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we had two really phenomenal directors when I was there. A guy named Steve neighbors who, sadly no longer with with us. But he was so passionate about the theater world, and he just wanted to share that with the younger generation. And so he was the one that directed Three Musketeers. And we brought him to tears because we weren’t doing the work the way that needed to be done at one point. And so the fact that he had this emotional response to the work, made us all kind of double down and work harder, you know. And then, when we were doing and take money, it was a graduate student at Central Washington University, who was directing the show, and he was in the trenches of learning all of this stuff himself, right. And so we were his guinea pigs really, right, because he’s learning how to direct he’s learning how to craft a show, and not just to performance, but like to help other actors and other performers. Find what they needed to bring that thing to life.
Man, so is the graduate student that made you run your lines like that, huh?
Yeah, yeah, probably cuz somebody made him do it. Yeah, totally.
That’s such a funny thing. Like, it’s funny to think about to like when you’re in high school, you know, like, who they let you who they let direct you first of all, but like, you’re like, how do they hire this guy, but because we had some 19 year old girl that like they clearly hire, we make jokes. You know, they hired her off of Craigslist, you know, notice at the time because we were so young, and we just wanted to do theater, but later we were like, hey, Jamie is realize that the theater teacher they hired for us was like a year older than us is that was
Here’s a funny story about in signee. Me and the girl who played in tyranny. We weren’t supposed to have a screenplay that year. And so we were really upset about that because we just kind of like sunk our teeth and three musketeers and we’re ready to do more. And they weren’t going to do it because they wanted to give all the money to the football team, right and so on. What we did was we were going to find something that doesn’t require a huge amount of stagecraft. And we’re going to find somebody to direct it. And so I was in the Running Start Program at Central Washington University at the time. And I already decided I was going to be an actor. So I skipped all of the like, academic classes that I probably should have been taking, and took all of the theater classes when I was in high school. And so when we went there, we found a student who was willing to do it. And so we were talking originally about doing The Glass Menagerie, which was still to a certain degree, one of my dream plans, I would love to play Tom. Um, but the school is like it’s too small of a cast, we need at least 15 people. And we’re like, all right. And so he chose Antigone, because it had he knew he had two passionate actors that were willing to get it done, which was me and this other girl. And we could just fill out the rest of the cast with other people. And so We did. I mean, we still had to audition for it. But you know, I think to a certain degree that was a formality at that point. Sure. You built
the whole situation. You’re like a producer for sure. What was the initial grad student?
Oh, man, I have to remember his name was Milton. I’m trying to remember what his last name was.
It’s not coming. Anything else. Melton is perfect. Every person I’ve ever known has been a sweet, kind, creative. So I’m glad that sounds perfect. So you are originally from Washington state then?
I was Yeah, I grew up in the Central Valley in ellensburg. Of all places. Or I guess I spent the latter part of my high school years in ellensburg. I grew up in a very kind of transience family, which was jumping around Washington State. So I think we lived in like 30 different little towns in Washington while I was growing up, which is probably part of the reason I became an artist because I was desperately seeking like a meaningful connection with some Right. Um, and so I think that’s one of the things that made theater so attractive to me, ultimately. But I grew up in Washington, largely in a lot of the Indian Reservation areas like wapato and toppenish. And Yakima, a white swan, which was a really tiny woman, um, and then ultimately landed in ellensburg, which is a little bit more of a small college town. But, you know, that’s kind of kind of where where the bug got, you know, got started.
So, did your parents move around where they like selling stuff? Or where like, they move around for their jobs or where their jobs changing?
Well, I think the jobs were changing. I honestly have not had much of a conversation with my dad about that period of his life. And we were young enough for a lot of the time that it didn’t really occur to us to ask what was happening. Yeah, Exactly, but he was a teacher at the heritage college, a community college out there for psychology. And he was also running a practice in counseling for a while. Which probably also to a certain degree contributed to my interest in other people and like understanding how humans work.
Sure. Now I was just wondering because you mentioned that like you guys moved around a lot and you have like a transient lifestyle. And then you said that’s, that’s probably what led me to wanting to be an actor and I was like that in my mind, it would seem to be the opposite like you moved around a lot so you wouldn’t want a job where you don’t have a job all the time like an actor goes gig to gig which sounds like exactly like what you grew up with, you know, job to job. But one would imagine that you would not be into it, but I guess you liked it. You were like, love moving soon.
Well, I think it’s a double edged sword. I think there is a part of me that craves stability. But I also have grown up and live the life where it’s not necessary. You have security and stability because I know life goes on. Right. And so I think it’s really important for actors specifically to be able to do that because to a certain degree, I think in today’s day and age where markets are shifting all of the time, LA and New York are really for people who have already made it. And so being able to go where the work is, and be okay with that is super important. And you know, like right now I’m having discussions with my partner about moving to New Mexico because there’s a big boom in production over there. And so like, all right, well, if that’s the place to get like all those co stars, those guest stars really start getting like seen by the industry at large That’s the way to do it. And I wish you know, this is something that I think somebody who is trying to get started will really benefit from. I spent like eight years in Los Angeles railing against the system of like favoritism. And I did a lot of stuff and I you know, I probably did 100 Productions in that period of time, you know, most of which are probably not credited on IMDB. But that’s where I learned the craft was with all of these amazing creatives. But there wasn’t a easy ladder to climb, there was no like, clear pathway. And if you can go to a smaller market where there’s still a lot of good work happening, and there’s still competition, so you’re learning how to deal with that, but it’s not insurmountable. That’s really I think the best place to start. You know, Seattle has not proved to be the best market because It’s so small in the state doesn’t offer a whole lot of incentives. But you know, if you’re looking at places like Portland, which isn’t so far away from Seattle, they’ve got a fair amount of production starting up now. You’ve got New Mexico, you’ve got Chicago, Atlanta, if you want to brave that, you know, Virginia is even got some stuff going on, you know, North Carolina, you know, just did the Swamp Thing series. And I know there’s production going on over there.
In Orleans, New Orleans used to be a very big hotbed for film.
Yeah. And so should be interesting to see how it all sauces out.
Yeah, and it’s coming. Well, I think there’s gonna be a boom jar, because there’s a lot of just generally delayed production that will probably be re started right for these major series and these major films. Yeah, there’s also sadly a lot of independent projects that are not going to make it because you know, the budgets weren’t there, they had a plan. And, you know, it’s, it’s possible that they, they won’t be able to or they’ll have lost their motivation to finish star scale.
You know, no, I would posit that independent films that are maybe already finished, you know, like, you know, people will make a film, they’ll finish it, and then they’ll shop it around the festivals and stuff before anything else. Anything that’s done now, I think has a better chance of getting out there. Because it doesn’t require there to be more work to be done. Like, it’s like a finished package. And you’re like, here you go put it on Amazon. They’re gonna be like, thank you. Here’s your cash like, because nobody else has to yen. Nobody has to be in danger or whatever. And then they don’t have to hire people. There’s no like extra work to be done.
Yeah. From where we are right now. Probably to the end of the year. We’ll huge like gap in content. And, you know, we’re already seeing TV series get postponed and push back film release dates getting pushed back, like a year. Oh, yeah. Um, you know, like they were working. I think it was, I want to say john wick four is one of the other ones that I heard about where they were, had started photography, but then they had to stop it. Right. Because, you know, that’s intense close up stuff, right. Anything that requires intimacy is the same way. Right? And, you know, there’s a few industries now like, the one that I heard about specifically was Florida, has put out guidelines for Rhian restarting production. They’re pretty extreme, and most people aren’t going to be able to do it. Sure. Um, and like, you know, I guarantee you, we’re gonna start seeing some waivers right, like, we need you to kiss in this film. We need you to sign this waiver. So we’re not responsible if you catch COVID Oh, goodness.
Right. You know, you’re totally right. There’s gonna be a lot A lot more stuff like that that’s going to change the way that the industry is going to be
really curious to see what the union decides to do about that.
Yeah, yeah, it should be very interesting to see how the level of protection changes and and how they are dealing with it. But let me let me come back to you. So you are where did you go to college? And did you go for like an acting Conservatory, you mentioned,
I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and studied for two years in a conservatory setting, and then started doing scene study classes outside of that, um, because I’ve always been of the belief that to a certain degree, I think that this is still true in my my ideology. It’s not going to be right for everybody. But my ideology, you need to do it. Right. There has to be immediate application. I don’t want to talk about doing doing it, and not practice it. Um, even when I was at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, they had You’re not supposed to do work outside of the school. But because they don’t want you to go out there and like tarnish their name or go out there and ruin your, your chances before even get started, right. But on the other side for me, I made the decision to do it anyway. Because I needed to, to apply what I was learning to projects that were being made, right because especially when you’re getting started and you’re doing a lot of this non union content, the scripts suck, the scripts suck. And so you do the same kind of work but then you realize that there’s this huge gap in what you need to do as an actor because you have to bring so much to that role. That’s not on paper, right? When you get to work on these larger productions are these great classics like Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller Shakespeare on then you get the opportunity to work in amazing text right? So a lot of what you need is there for you. But in film production, a lot of the time, it’s your job as an actor to fill in those gaps that are missing. Sometimes even given the opportunity to add dialogue, you know, you can’t just do it. Unless you’re working on like a Judd Apatow film, right? And so much of it’s based on improv, um, but you need to be able to bring a life to a character that’s really two dimensional. Hmm.
And you learned a lot of the techniques that you still use today at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. That’s where you’re like main, like ethos as an actor came from.
I think that that’s largely true. I think what’s interesting is that they gave me a strong foundation of a lot of different processes, but they didn’t really get me to a master level in anything. And so my mice technique has really become this bastardization of all of these different things. techniques and what works and what doesn’t. And I think that that’s important for every actor to discover at some point, because there is going to be things in certain techniques that don’t work for you. And just because it works for somebody else doesn’t mean it’s the right way. And I think ultimately, for me, what it’s come down to is you have to keep asking questions, you have to keep experimenting with the with the text, because there’s stuff in there that you haven’t found always, you know, you might be halfway through the run of production and, and have a epiphany about something. And that changes the whole second act for you, right? And so, you have to be able to roll with those punches and do that because once you’re into a theater production specifically, there’s a point where the director steps away, right? Yeah. So now you’re responsible for your performance or the stage manager is to a certain degree, right? Keeping it on the on the tracks. Um, but it’s so it’s so important, I think, as an actor just to keep asking questions, who am I? Where am I from? What are my beliefs? When I say this? Am I talking about this person talking to this person? Am I trying to hide something about that person from somebody else? And then experiment, try it all three ways, right? And whichever one seems to be the best, or the strongest choice is obviously what you need to be doing. And then you have to also be prepared for when the other actor shows up and has made different choices, especially in film, you often don’t get a chance to rehearse much before a scene. And so whatever they do, you have to be open enough to receive what they’re giving you to just do it. And so you have to kind of
don’t have a lot of film, do you talk about it? Like, like, do you run the scene at all before? stuff? You know, like, like, do you talk to the other actor and say like, I feel like this is what’s happening here in this scene, or do you guys just sort of wing it and hope it works out?
Well, it depends. Because some actors have this belief that the best time that you do is a line, it’s the first time and so a lot of people don’t want to rehearse because they feel in some way that’s going to become an inhibition, and they’re gonna blow their load for lack of a better word before they even get a chance to go right. And that’s
ridiculous. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to the people who believe that I apologize for having an opinion on your process, but Well,
I’ve fearfully phenomenal performances that way to tell you the truth. But, you know, then there are people who wants to just rehearse constantly and that’s great too. But you know, There’s, I’ve found that in the rehearsal process, there’s a plateau that happens, right? You have this, this initial part of the process where everything’s very spontaneous and new. And so there’s so much experimentation and exploration happening. And so we are seeing a lot of spontaneous moments. And then you get this wall. And there, everything is just very stagnant for a while. And then it becomes so second nature that then you’re able to just kind of like step into the sleeve of a human being, and be spontaneous again. Um, but they’re there, you have to get over that hump before. If you’re doing a lot of rehearsal. You have to get over that hump before moving forward. And that’s why a lot of rehearsal processes are so long because, you know, you have to explore the text, you have to do that experimentation. You have to get all the blocking and all of the rhythms down, and then you get to really act
Right, and then you get to really act.
It’s so true. It’s like that’s it, you know, you’re right. You know, all the all the work is done in the performances.
Yeah, it’s interesting because
I’m of the of the school of thought that the work never ends. And so, when you’re working with somebody on stage and something new happens, that’s like the most energizing thing in the world, even if it’s a mistake, because now you have to do something, right. It’s not rehearsed. Right? A phone rings off stage. somebody forgot to turn off their phone. You have two options. You can pretend it didn’t happen and go on. Or you can acknowledge it. And I have the school of thought that to a certain degree, you need to acknowledge what’s happening around you. And that’s why in turn Controlling the set is so important sometimes because, you know, if you’re doing like a period piece, people can’t have their cell phones around. Because what happens if there’s a problem that ruins the take? Right?
Yeah. When the Starbucks cup ruined Game of Thrones, it was terrible.
Right, you know, there was no like, no easy quick drive thru service during that time. Right.
Right. Well, I mean, there really should have been a PA. I mean, let’s be honest, somebody needed to get that out of there.
Yeah. And obviously, nobody noticed that nobody responded to it, right.
But But you’re right, like you get, you know, you get involved with 1000 things. You’re rehearsing, you’re working on a bunch of stuff. Everybody’s working on a different detail, and you know, so they’re not turning to you and saying, let’s make sure that when you’re doing this scene, you are acting like this. Like they’re like, Listen, we’re trying to get lights to work and this million dollar camera To turn on, you just say words, okay, like they’re not helping you
get through. Yeah, I mean, they’re they’re, they’re different kinds of directors in film and television too. And in television production is so fast, right? There’s no time for shenanigans. Because they’re just pumping out episodes, right? They get maybe two or three days sometimes to shoot an episode. If you’re lucky and you’re working on like a huge production for like HBO or something. And they’re dumping a million dollars in episode you might get more you might get more time it’s like shooting a Mini Movie every time. Um, but you know, you’re looking at like network, primetime television, that world runs so fast, it goes so fast, you don’t have time to not be ready.
So when you got out of your Conservatory, did that did the connections that you made there? Did they help you get an agent and get working? I mean, because we’re like talking about this work that you’ve done. And so like, I’m trying to connect to the story like you finished, you went to this Conservatory, you learned a little bit about, you know, your acting technique, but like, how did you get into the business? How did you like you’re in Los Angeles? So you’re closer. You’ve mentioned before that like the, you know, wasn’t kind of it wasn’t that easy to get in? So how’d you get in?
Well, it’s it’s feast or famine, right? You’re either working a lot or you’re not working at all. And I have scribed to work begets work, right? The more work that you’re doing, the more likely you are to get another work. And that’s because you are developing relationships with other people on sets. You’re impressing people, somebody sees that thing somewhere and they’re like, Oh, I really want that guy to do this thing. And, or that or that, that lady to come and do this thing, right? Yeah. And you have to keep a momentum and I find that a lot of those little A lot of those famines, and this isn’t always true. Because our trends in the industry, right, you might be on trend one year and off trend The next year, and then you’re not working because nobody wants to cast you because you’re not the trendy thing. Sure. Um, but I found that a lot of the times when I hit those famines was because I stopped submitting to focus on the craft and the books, the projects that I had already booked. And so unless you’re fortunate enough to have an agent who’s getting you out all the time, doing that work for you, then you have your especially at the beginning of your career, you’re so responsible for your own advancement. And so apps Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if if you have an agent, that’s great, but in the early stages of your career, even if you have a good agent, you might get four auditions a year. major projects, you know less, until they can trust that they can push you in any room. And that you’ll book because it is a business, right? Those people are there for you to help help you along. But they’re not there to develop your talent to develop your business sense. They need you to already be there. And that’s where the business side of things get so complicated because you have to learn how to do that stuff on your own. And you can never stop even when you have an agent. You know, some agents don’t want you to solve submit because they want to be in control of your brand. And that’s fine. But that means that you still need to be networking, you still need to be going and supporting other people’s stuff. You need to comment on it. You need to keep yourself in the public eye to a certain degree or the community that you’re a part of you need to be active in it, because that’s where a lot of that stuff comes from. And If you’re doing it from a place of being disingenuous, right, where you’re trying to take, you’re not giving anything back, then it’s not gonna work for you, right? But if you’re actually there, and you’re supporting people, and you’re like, that was really wonderful. And here’s why. And I can’t wait to see the next thing that you do and you mean it, then those people will be your friends because you support them, and they’re going to support you. Um, you know, I did a production of a few good man when I was in Los Angeles, and a couple of the actors that were in that show with me, we don’t talk much, but when we do it, it’s usually really valuable. And I just got to one of the biggest independent film auditions I’ve ever gotten from a guy I do a show with a decade earlier. because he’d followed my career and I’d followed his career and we kind of cheerleading each other from a distance. And, you know, he’s got In the huge amount of success in television and independent film, and probably some theater, I don’t know much about his theater life, because I’m not we’re he lives in Georgia now. But because of that, we were able to find a connection and be like, you know, we should we should work together again, let’s, let’s see if we can get you on this film. You know, that was right before COVID-19 happened that I sent in my audition. So who knows if anything will ever come of it. But he was willing to give me that opportunity, because of the relationship that we developed during that show.
Yeah, I mean, people are going to hire and connect you with the people that they see. So you’re right. You’ve got to stay connected to the community, because everybody’s part of it. And you know, if you stop going to that play reading thing that you’re going to who knows that one guy could be looking for you? Oh, he’s usually here. I don’t know where he is. Oh, man. I want him to be the lead in my new field. Whatever, right? You’re around because they see you, because you are sharing. And also when you’re doing stuff for the love, like things like play readings, or like helping people out, like just literally going to another person’s play that kind of thing to support. Like, that really just shows that you care about the community. And then the, you know, like doing doing theater being part of being an artist, you know what I mean? And I think that that’s who people want in their movies. They don’t want somebody who’s like, I want to be famous, and they don’t want somebody who’s like, I don’t care at all. They want someone who cares. And like, deeply wants to be involved and loves it, you know?
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s largely true. And, you know, there’s a counterpoint to that, that I’ll come to in a second, um, but they want to be on set with somebody they want to spend time with, right? They don’t want to hire somebody who is hard to work with. Doesn’t matter how good you are, right? Because if you’re going to be spending 12 hours a day on a set with somebody for two months, right? You they don’t want to hate you, you gotta be pills. Anyone who spent a long period of time with people in a car and like a road trip know how easily those tensions rise. And you know, making a movie is a very trying process, it can be very stressful, especially when you’re called upon to deliver or and you’re not, right, or you’re trying to prepare and you’re being distracted, or there’s a big delay because there’s a light that went out and they’re trying to figure out a solution and or get a replacement. Right, you know, so there’s so many elements that are outside of your control. And if you’re going crazy, and being a pain in everyone’s ass, that they’re not going to want to bring you back for another film. Because you just made everything a lot worse.
counterpoint, Christian Bale counterpoint,
Christian Bale, you know, if you really look at that story where he blew up on the Terminator Salvation set, you really look at what happened. They were already many takes into this shot. And this guy was trying to make adjustments behind them while he was trying to deliver a performance that they weren’t getting. And, you know, at some point, like everybody has a boiling over point, right, everybody has a breaking point, and we can’t judge people based on the one element that we hear about either, right? You know, I
love Kristen Bell. I scream in my face, and I’d be like, thank you. You’re right.
Possibly, you know, you look at somebody like Robert De Niro, who barely will take direction from a director sometimes if he doesn’t respect them. Right. And we’ll test directors, right? Because if he feels like they’re competent, and they know what they’re Doing listen to them. But when you’re at a certain level, and you’re so ahead of the game, and you’re so good, there are some people who just have nothing to offer. And so if they can get in your way, and so you have to be able to kind of weigh those things too, right? You know, you’re looking at a power house, and you’re telling them what they’re doing is wrong. You got to give them a better a better reason than I don’t like what you’re doing.
You know, you hear about Robert De Niro, and he played
Elvis, or when he played Capone in the untouchables. And the director was like, I need you to do more. Yeah, you’re not doing anything. And he’s like, just wait, when you see the dailies up close, you’ll see what I’m doing. And he was right. It was such a beautiful, subtle performance. Right?
You’ll see what I’m doing.
Just look, I mean, I don’t know if those were exactly the words that he said. But Various close to that if you if you watch like, or you hear the stories or you watch some of the commentaries on these things, I love it.
So so you’re in Los Angeles things are going well in the story. So you’re in Los Angeles, things are going well, you’re you’re it’s feast or famine, but you are occasionally working. So things are okay. What, at what point how many years were you there before you decided this isn’t the market for me or I need to find a smaller market where I can get more work done. You know, well, for me like
that, it, it was a couple of things. One, I wasn’t working as much as I needed to so I had to start looking for other alternative incomes, which I hated so much. And then I was in a really bad relationship for about a year and a half. And so that just took all of my energy and my passion away. And you know, part of that was my own fault, you know, holding on to something that really wasn’t working. And you know, I don’t fly like them at all. For that experience, but I made a lot of mistakes in that situation. And it really just kind of tore me apart on the inside. I learned a lot about being a person though. So as an actor, it’s great because now I have things that I can pull from that I never would have even imagined before. But I was just so demoralized, I had to go out, I had to get out. And so I moved in with my brother in Sacramento, and, you know, kind of just like, rebuilt my self esteem and my my sanity. And, you know, did a lot of work for nonprofits. I worked for an organization that did outreach for the ACLU for the Southern Poverty Law Center for Lambda Legal for Planned Parenthood. And I just learned so much about the world and politics, and what the different views are, and what these issues are really about. And that’s made me a better person and a better actor to answer. So after that experience, I was like alright, I’m ready to go. Get back on the boat. And so I moved back to Seattle because I had some contacts here that were still pretty strong, you know, you know, longtime friendships, you know, a decade or more. And I was like, Alright, I’m gonna do a film called The junkie, which I talked to the director into letting me play the junkie for. And there’s a lot of back and forth about that we don’t need to go into but you know, ultimately, he decided that I can play that role in the right body type because there’s a prosthetic sequence in it. And really, I used that project as a way to prove to myself that I still had it. And so I lost 30 pounds in six weeks to play a heroin addict. And I just put all of my energy into this project. And it turned out really nice. It turned out really good and I’ve gotten a lot of people will talk to me about that movie. Sadly, I don’t think it’s really readily available because there’s some nudity in it. As a short horror film, most of the festivals wouldn’t take it actually. Because there’s male nudity, there’s my nudity in the movie.
Yeah, and I was, I mean now
terrible things at film festivals. So yeah,
I mean, we know you know, with HBO and Showtime starting to show a lot more male nudity. It’s probably becoming a little less taboo. But this was four or five years ago now. Um,
yeah, I mean, tell that guy rerelease it man. I mean, we’re at the right time for it. They’re looking for stuff that’s done. Get it out there. On Amazon next week. You just never know. You
never know. You Really? You just really don’t. That’s the crazy thing about it. So cool. This movie got you back into it. Was it a good experience? Like Did you like working with the director? Or was the character that you were Playing was so hard to do that that was the challenge. Well, it was both
right. Like the the director was really good friends with my buddy that I’d known for 10 years and we’ve collaborated on and off again, even with a huge length of distance between us. And you know, I’ve always been trying to be his cheerleader, and he’s always been very supportive of me. He came and worked on a production that I was on in LA at one point. And this guy wanted to make this film, we talked about it, and he’s the festival director for a horror festival called bleeding ham, which is based out of Bellingham. So it’s a play on the area that they live in, totally. Um, and for the next several years, I was doing a film for bleeding ham every year that was getting a word recognition, which was something that I had never experienced in LA because I wasn’t Working on the level of productions, unfortunately. And it just seemed like a lot of the people that I was working with in LA didn’t understand the business either. And so their stuff was just never getting out in the world or I was, you know, every time I felt like I was gonna get a big break, you know that something happened with the production, right? And the film either never got finished, the funding fell out. The film got finished, it was never released, you know, whatever. And it was just like, ah, all the time. Yeah. But then I was doing all of these little short films, you know, 712 minute long, short films that were so much more meaningful to me that, that had better stories like the writing was good. The people who are making the movies weren’t making any money on it, but they were doing it because they love to do the work and even Most of those films haven’t really gotten much as ours like out like large scale critical acclaim. But it really kind of helped me start to understand how the festival circuits work, why they’re important, right? Because when you’re doing these short films with these people who are starting out, especially if they’re really talented, what’s what’s what they’re doing is they’re trying to get their names out there through these festivals. So somebody will give them a million dollars to make a feature film.
And, you know, if you have a good relationship with them, and you’ve developed this relationship with their other projects, or whatever period of time, and you’re not just friends, but your professional, like, collaborators, they’ll bring you back, and you’ll get paid. And you’ll make some real money. You know, like the non union software, usually making $100 $200 $300 a day if you’re lucky. Um, yeah. But that doesn’t devalue the the work if that’s what you mean. Absolutely, I would say, with a huge Asterix to that. And there does come a point where you have to stop working for free. You have to, because you can work forever and deliver amazing performances forever, then no one will ever see.
If you don’t
you have to get into a market at some point. And you know that that point will come for people at different points in their career. Yeah.
you have to be
willing to do what you need to do to get where you need to be. If that means spending two years in a class and not working and that’s what you need, do it. If you want to make 100 films like I did, and no one we’ll ever see most of them, really just learn the ins and outs of the process, do it. You know, I’m
not depends on the job you’re talking about where you’re, you know, working on political stuff. And that’s opening your eyes to sort of the way the world works that allows you to further develop your characters in a better way. Because you’re, you can see the world in a wider way. The idea of that is always valid. I’m like, you know, you want to you want to do character work, you know, go work at a hotel, you’re going to see thousands of people a day, from all over the world. Yeah, look at them, talk to them, see what they’re like, what do they care about? Those, that’s your character study right there. And there’s a ton of jobs you can have, like, you gotta have a day job, I get it. So if you do, just make sure it’s something that can like give you a little bit of fodder help, you
know, 100% I think you have to be careful with that to a certain degree to church because a lot of us are as artists there. Generally passionate people, and we don’t like to do anything half assed. And so if you get into an all consuming job because there’s money, and it’s good money, it’s very easy to get swallowed up by it. And so one thing I’ve always been very careful about is finding work that’s very flexible. Because you have to be able to say, Hey, guys, I’m leaving tomorrow to go shoot on this film. Sorry, I didn’t find out until yesterday.
And, you know, they have to be willing to do that. If you can, you know, obviously give them as much notice as you can don’t spring things on people. But you have to have a relationship with the people that are employing you. That they’re also your your cheerleaders. Because some, I’ve had many people in my life tell me that they live vicariously through me, because I’m doing what they wish they could do. And you know, they don’t understand on all of the trials and tribulations that come along with that the you know, you know, surviving on ramen for, you know, six months, you know, because you’re not making any money
by letting me do this for you.
Like, so many people just live their life with the same kind of mundane routine over and over and over again. And if that’s what works for them, that’s great. Do it if that makes you feel secure and comfortable and happy and you’re planning to have that 20 years after you retire, to do whatever you want. Great, you do that. Most of the people that I talked to that reached that retirement age and finally started doing what they wanted to do wish they had started 50 years earlier. So when I tell people is like, yes, do what you need to do, but you have to take risks if you want to live your life as an artist. You have to Yeah, because you know, that’s that’s the nature of the beast. I mean all Obviously, you have to do what you need to do to survive. You don’t have to be the starving artist. I mean, in today’s society, there’s so much good work. I mean, you know, if you go to school and you learn how to be a programmer, and you can do computer programming stuff from home and get paid a bazillion dollars for it, great. I’m not that guy. But I know those people. And they make so much money, but they’re also on contracts. And so they can say, hey, this contracts off, I’m not coming back. I’m going to take this money I earned and I’m going to go work for three years and be an actor. And then that run money runs out and they come back and they do it another contract for a couple years. And then they go back. Yeah. Or you can live your life the way that I have and do a lot of kind of, you know, jobs that don’t necessarily always pay the most. But you know, it’s enough to get by as you’re continuing the work. I mean, obviously, it’s always better if you have something that pays You enough that you don’t have to worry about your life. But those Oh, all of those jobs require skills and so you need to find something that that really is something that you can also love. Okay, but can never Eclipse, that artistic drive.
I feel like you said something a second ago and I was gonna say that there’s never enough money for you to stop worrying about your life. Like people are always saying, you know, if only I can make this much then I’ll feel better. You’re not going to feel better. It’s okay. I have very little money. And I’m fine, because I’m just content with the idea that I know it’s gonna be fine. It’s gonna be fine. It’s worked out before it’ll work out again. If it doesn’t, I know how to handle it not working out.
Yeah, and I think one thing and this is something that I learned very late. Is is financial planning and budgeting because
It’s very easy to buy the things that you want in the moment.
And if you’re an artist, and you’re living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes day to day, sometimes week to week, if you’re lucky. Um, you can’t afford to just spend money when you have it. You have to make sure you know where that money’s going. And as an actor, I mean, I’m sure that this is true for for other artists as well, you know, like painters have to invest in canvases and paint actors have to invest in headshots and reels, and, uh, you know, classes to stay sharp and all these things, right? Probably wardrobe to a certain degree, you know, and you have to create a brand for yourself, and all that takes investment in yourself because you’re a business, right? You are your own business as an actor. And so, it is important to have a little more than you need to just survive because if you don’t Then you don’t get to take the class. And let me tell you for me that’s always been so painful. Because it’s like, I can’t do what I need to do it to advance as a human being. I have to stay right here on this wheel that I’ve been running on for a long time. Because I just don’t have the the extra to invest and you can take free classes sometimes, like right now is a great time free classes, everybody. Oh, yeah. like everybody’s doing free online classes. And it’s amazing. You know, free theater is being streamed everywhere, free movies, if you’re if you need to relax, there’s free video games being given away, just to keep people saying it’s amazing. Um, you know,
most agents will require you to get a new headshot.
You know, so if you need when you’re in starting your career, find somebody who’s really good that’s not going to charge you $500 great. Give them $150 instead Get something that’s really you and passable, because you’re gonna have to take it again anyway, it’s just the nature of the beast.
So we’ve gotten in your story, right until so you you got involved with the community that is doing the horror festival. But like, What got you? is this? Is that the main film community that you work with now? Or are you? Uh, do you have a different crowd in Seattle? You working on different movies than the horror movies? Or? Yes, and
that’s what propelled me and a lot of the work that I’ve gotten sense has been in relation to those projects. How many years ago was that? Two or three, three years, I think. All right. So
three years, you’ve been building up a new community in Seattle.
And, you know, I get asked to do a lot of independent films now. Um, you know, I have an agent who gets me out on commercials and voiceover auditions, which is great. You know, I don’t book as many as I would like. But you know, that’s the nature of the beast. And that means that I need to work on becoming more of myself to bring more to these projects too. Or I’m just not right. You know, you can never be too judgmental about the process, because especially when you get into the bigger rooms, it’s never about you. Unless you’re unprepared, and you’re like just stinking up the room, which happens, and you always beat yourself up about it, you’re always going to be your worst critic. But they’re never going to judge you unless you’re consistently doing. If they’re shooting a film that requires a very specific type, and they think that maybe you’re going to be the right person. And the casting director loves you. And the director loves you. But the client who’s casting the commercial wants to go with somebody who’s a little more attractive or a blonde or something, the client is going to get what they want, because they’re the ones that are fronting the movie for the production or the money for the production. And so it might you might even have been the thing Have the creatives. And those people might bring you on to a narrative creative project later, or at least bring you into the room for an audition for it. But it’s never about you most the time. It’s about looks, and it’s about body types. And are you too short because the woman we’ve already cast is three inches taller than you but we need someone who’s taller than her for the way that we’re finding these camera angles. And we don’t want to put somebody on a on a on a Apple box like they do for Tom Cruise. You know,
Tom Cruise gets that.
Well, lots of people get that but they got there, right? They don’t so much out there. Right? Because when you get to a certain level, like there’s different tiers, right, you have your your first tier, which is the people who are really learning and really just starting to get in. You have your second tier which is the people who are consistently working at a lower level. Then you have the third tier, which are the People are starting to take on these really like prominent roles in major productions. And then you have celebrity. Right? And then you do have to kind of graduate because so much of it has to do with trust. And so much of it has to do with how profitable you are in a business. Because when they hire Tom Cruise for a movie, it’s because they know that he’s going to bring an audience. Yeah. You know, when they hire than Affleck for a movie? It’s because he has recently shown them that he’s going to generate revenue. He didn’t work for a while after Daredevil.
Yeah, he had to start making his own movies and get acclaim again. And now he’s Batman.
Yeah, even though he was like,
think of as already a celebrity had to work his way back into the hearts of them as well. You’re right. You’re totally right.
You know, there’s a The woman who is in Daredevil who played the secretary, I was just reading about her and I can’t remember her name off the top of my head. But she was talking about how she hasn’t worked in two years. Since they cancelled Daredevil. She hasn’t had a job and she’s so afraid she’s never gonna work again. Yeah. And And the thing is, like, that’s what happens when you’re at that level.
Yeah, no, you just never know. You’re right. The the tides turn, things are different. You just don’t even know, you know, what the market might be. And I appreciate the idea that you mentioned earlier, which was that, like, you have to know the market you’re working in. And it may be you maybe you’re like type would work better in a different market. And if you really want to do this, you have to be open to like moving like, hey, they because you’re talking about potentially moving to New Mexico for a new market. Great. Who knows? Maybe that’s the perfect market for you. Maybe you’re get there, and they’re like, Oh my god, you’re everybody. You’re running. Every day, your the funny best friend as well. You’re also selling Clorox like you just all over the place. They love you. You never know. I mean, well,
I’m a character actor, right. And so I’m not good, no good looking enough most of the time to be the standout leading man, unless they’re looking for a character actor to do the lead. And so most of my career because I’m a very intense human being is then playing villains. I play a lot of bad guys. And that’s because I can bring a level of intensity that a lot of people can. And that’s really been my bread and butter. And it’s wonderful when I get to play like a romantic character because that’s not something I get to do very often. And so it lets me explore a part of myself and a part of the human condition. That’s usually kind of off limits, or it’s coming from a really creepy angle right? Because that’s the characters that I get cast in. And so understanding your type and embracing it, and not judging yourself for it’s also important. And, you know, if you don’t like the type that you are, you have the power to change your type. Right? If you are, you know, skinny like I am, and you want to play some more of these, like really leading men kind of roles and get in competition with somebody like Jason stay at them, you got to beef up for it. So you’re not going to consider you for those parts, because they get 10 guys that are exactly like Jason Statham who aren’t and they can get through $150 a day.
While it’s true, I bet you’re like a different hair color or like, you know, your grow your hair out you you grow a beard, you know, even the opposite where it’s like, he’s he’s skinny, but he’s too skinny to be funny. Could you gain a little weight and he like put the weight on and they’re like, Oh, it’s funny, all of a sudden and you’re like, I don’t Understand, but that’s the thing. They just make these weird decisions about, like, yeah, look like this to represent that, and it changes every other year. But you’re right. I mean, if you’re an actor, you should have the ability to like, make yourself look different. I mean, that’s the whole idea of the costumes, right? So if they need you to be something go in with what they need.
Yeah, especially when you’re dealing with low budget stuff. And all of the projects are going to be available to people at the beginning of their career. There’s no money. There’s no money most of the time, so they can’t afford to get a custom made wig for you to have the hairstyle that they want. Right, right. You know, they don’t have the money to hire a personal trainer and put you into martial arts training like they did with Keanu Reeves for the matrix, right? You people who already know how to do that stuff. You know, a lot of the times stunt people get hired to play stunt characters and movies, because they don’t want to train somebody to do that stuff or they don’t want to hire Another person on top of you. So do those done for you? Yeah. Yeah, Tom. Yeah. And so, you know, for me, like, you know, talking about this kind of visual representation of who we are. I’ve been balding since I was 16 years old. Which was so traumatic for me especially when I discovered that what I wanted to do was be an actor, because that’s so limiting because I don’t get to be that like Greece guy with the really nice, you know, you know, big haircut with the you know, the all of the product and stuff in it is never going to be me. And so I held on to my hair for so long as much of it as I could. Because like I wanted to be able to change my appearance so readily. And I got a lot of great experience and crafts from that, but I don’t know how marketable I was in the beginning because of it. And when I started shaving my head, I started getting so much More of the roles that I wanted to play, because I suddenly fit the characters that I was wanting to play and had had rebelled against for so long. But when I embraced that this edge now people could envision me in those roles, because a lot of the time that people who are casting projects have no imagination.
And so you need to be what they want when you walk into the room.
And, you know, they’re like, that’s it.
Yeah. And some people like have wigs. Like, especially a lot of women that I hear about who have like a set of wigs with certain hairstyles and colors and things because like, they want to blonde, so I’m going to show up as a blonde. Yeah. You know, and that means when you go in for the callback, you still have to be a blonde. Right? And so, you know, you can dye your hair and completely change your your appearance or you can buy a wig and you know, there’s there’s a Another podcast called Audrey helps actors and it’s phenomenal. And I think every aspiring actor should listen to it. Because there’s so much valuable information partaken in that, um, but one of the things that she talked about, and that is just let the makeup person know that you have a wig and that it’s not your real hair, and they will know how to style it.
Right. And so, you know, that’s great on a small like low budget independent production where they may not have enough money to hire somebody who knows how to work with wigs. You might be responsible for dealing with that yourself. But, you know, I’ve seriously considered getting a couple of high quality wigs that look like real hair for me, because I can’t grow it. You know, the way that you know most people want to see a guy with hair. Because that will open up my opportunities for for roles that I play. They have to look real. If you’re Doing it on film.
Yeah, I mean, you’d have to get like a really high quality one, but they have one.
And we’re not.
Yeah, no, no cheap at all, you’d have a lot of money, but it would be an investment. It would be something that you really wanted, you know,
like, I don’t really
do because you talked about, you know, like embracing this part of yourself and, and like, it would seem like, perhaps that’s better. But hey, you know, you want to widen the breadth of the work that you can do, and especially as you get older, to change the way you know, people look at you say you beef up and yeah, and you look different. You need you need to have that hair or whatever. He could really help you out.
Yeah, I literally started a new workout regimen today focused on strength conditioning, so that I can get a little bigger. Because some of the roles that I’m working on creating for myself, as well as for projects that I hope to produce in the future, we’re going to require me to be that guy. Yeah, and I can’t expect other people people to do that for themselves. If I’m not willing to do it for me,
yeah, that’s a great point. You have to be willing to put in the work for yourself in order to expect anyone to put in any work for you. They’re trying to work together project, if you’d like to be part of it, you have to show them that you’re gonna, you know, be a valuable member of that team.
Yeah, absolutely. Wow,
Phil, this has been a chock full of great advice episode. I really appreciate this.
Yeah, absolutely. And I hope that people really, um, you know, when I was in LA, I found so many like, talkbacks with people who are working actors, and, you know, felt like there was never anything that was really actionable. Yeah, the things that I want to tell people are the things that they’re actually going to be able to do something about. Because it’s always going to be a lot of work in an artistic thing because it’s such an individual sport to a certain degree until you get that They’re, you know, as an actor, it’s there’s definitely a lot of collaboration. But all of that preparation work is all on you. And you if you don’t have something to bring in, what are you going to do you? So it’s really about making sure that you are good at what you do. And then learning the business so that you know how to open doors for yourself so that you get to do cooler things and bigger things and actually make money and and have a career doing this work.
Well, thank you, Philip, for being on the podcast. Thank you so much for sharing your story with my audience and with all the great advice. Absolutely. Thank you so much
for having me.
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