Hi, Michael! Transmission: Vol. I and II sounds like a great story! According to IMDB, “On the eve of concluding a multinational wireless energy pilot program, renowned inventor and known recluse, Robert Welles, spontaneously combusts in a hallway outside his long-term residence at a luxury downtown hotel. Tell us what you can about the movies.
Yes, the story is quite intriguing on paper. However, words cannot do justice to the experience you are about to have watching the film. Matthew Scott has put endless effort into developing the story and characters while simultaneously executing the production of the film. He has combined some of the classic features of film noir, sci-fi, and detective stories, with some incredibly original and innovative ideas. I love when a movie messes with your head and leaves you unsure whether you have understood the story because it makes you engage in the experience of watching the film. Let’s just say that the Transmission story is very engaging! I can’t give too much away but if you like a good detective story or have appreciation for physics, you will be pleasantly surprised.
My character, Carling, is a detective who has been laid-off from the police force. Carling has a troubled past and carries a deep-rooted cynicism. He’s concerned about how society has evolved and about the prevalence of technology. Carling is hired by the Welles estate to investigate the Robert Welles case and he encounters some strange things along the way.
There are a number of things that stand out about working so intensely on this film. First of all, Matthew has been an inspiring director through the entire process. There have been some highs and lows over the past year of filming but he consistently demonstrated leadership and vision while also including everyone in his thought process and welcoming participation from cast and crew, even in high level decision-making. This has given us all the feeling of being collaborators. Secondly, the ideas in the story are profound and I’ve had to work hard to wrap my head around what’s going on. Therefore, I’ve not only had the pleasure of developing the character but I’ve also learned and grown intellectually.
Did you have to do anything special to prepare for your role?
When I first saw the casting call for Carling, I knew I wanted the part. I worked with an acting coach through the audition process. My research for the role was probably predictable: I watched every detective story I could find, explored the characteristics of traditional detectives in both cinema and literature, and studied the key features of both noir cinema and science fiction. Once I had the role, I started brushing up on some of the science and philosophy found in the script. I highly recommend one of the books I read, titled “Flatland”, which gave me some insight into some ideas found in Transmission. At a certain point I stopped reading and working on the ideas although a lot of questions still remained. I think not understanding everything fully was helpful with playing Carling because as a P.I., he is fundamentally questioning things and trying to figure things out. I also reacquainted myself with the writings of Tesla who I had read when I was a young electrician. Overall, most of my energy has gone into analyzing the script and having conversations with the director.
What has been your most memorable role to date?
Carling is number one because I’ve been with him so long during the production of “Transmission”.
My second choice is Ben in “Rhapsody”, an independent short film I made with director Samuel Dayomi. This was my first role and I put everything I had into it, for better or worse. Whatever the quality of my acting was, preparing for Ben solidified the idea that proper preparation for a role is essential. I tore apart the script, asked a ton of questions and felt like I had some success in finding Ben’s character.
What type of acting roles interest you the most?
I’m interested in roles that are clearly defined but with a little bit of wiggle room. I like when both the writer and the script know who the character is. Playing Carling has been a privilege because Matthew Scott wrote tight dialogue and provided well thought out ideas. At the same time, he provided me with the opportunity to make some choices and share some creative input. I don’t want to have to improvise every scene but I think an actor knows the character in a different way than the writer, as if the character has two best friends. The actor might know what the character is thinking in a way that the director might not and a degree of collaboration is highly rewarding and can help keep things flowing well. Being too highly constrained and being treated like a model or puppet, I find claustrophobic and unenjoyable. I prefer bigger roles and lead roles because I learn more doing them and because I need to work as hard as I can now to catch up since I started late in the game.
If you could choose a role you would like to play, what would it be?
I’m very open to new opportunities now. Discovering acting was like finding water in the desert. I love it and I’m not picky for the time being. I’m still teasing apart some of the psychological stuff and egoism that’s lurking under the surface but mostly I feel like I’ve found something that helps the rest of my nonsensical life make more sense. I’ve had a lot of fun playing a somewhat archetypal role – the detective – in Transmission. I think I’d enjoy playing with some other archetypes, say a cowboy or a leading man in a romance. I like to bite off more than I can chew though, so it would be good if the role was out of my comfort zone. Complex characters are preferred. It feels truer to me for it all not to make sense and to be working toward some kind of understanding. Drama attracts me more than comedy at this point and I enjoy cerebral films. If I could go back and play Leonard Shelby in Momento, that would be good. Or a character in a David Fincher film.
Based on your current projects, what have been your favorite takeaways?
- Some of the early lessons are the most fundamental. Many of the things I learned while studying have been reinforced on set, such as the importance of preparing properly for a role, asking “why?” until you reduce it all down to something you can do, and other simple things like knowing your lines, showing up on time, and being easy to work with. These are the first things I try to bring to a project now. It has been crucial to keep things simple playing Carling because we’ve had hundreds of shoots scattered across our busy lives and they have often had serious constraints of time and space.
- Be flexible. Everybody has a unique creative process. Every time I start a project I am delighted to meet the strange and wonderful people involved. It is inspiring to witness a group of talented, skilled people trying to create something beautiful together. I try not to expect anything in particular and to respect everybody who’s involved.
- Acting isn’t easy. I do believe in the integrity of the craft and that there are practical skills to be developed. When I was younger, I went through a grueling, old-world apprenticeship as an electrician and it hurt but it made me a good electrician. You’ve got to do the work. There are A-list actors that berate the craft or play it coy about what they’re actually doing on camera. I think they are selling it short because most of them have entire careers of hard work, successes and failures behind them. I don’t believe everyone can be a good actor. I’m convinced that a certain level of self-awareness is necessary, along with a proclivity for honesty. I also believe that there are real, learnable skills that need to be cultivated in order to be good. I apply this knowledge through continuous study and by attempting to keep a “beginner’s mind”. I hope to be a good actor in 10 or 15 years from now.
- Acting isn’t hard. I understand the criticism of actors who behave overly “actorly” on set, taking it all perhaps too seriously. The actor is not the most important person on set. Film making is a team sport. You’re part of a team. It’s a collaboration. You have a job to do like everybody else there. Just do it and don’t be a dick. I try not to be a dick. I do want to work hard to develop acting skills to a high degree although I still need to learn not to take it too seriously myself sometimes.
- Play yourself. Going “deep” into character is a bit of romantic idea for me and if we had shot Transmission intensely over a couple of months I think my tendency would have been to live alone in a bachelor apartment in Chinatown or something and take up smoking and drinking whiskey. But Matthew and I had to get up every morning and go to work which meant we had to keep things real. This was a blessing because we’ve had a blast shooting the film, had a ton of great conversations about the film and about film making, and have become friends in the process.
- Stay healthy and physically fit. Making movies can be demanding. While making Transmission, Matthew and I would often shoot late into the night and then both have to get up in the morning for our day jobs, sleeping just a couple of hours a night. On other projects, it has been common to work 16 hour days. You need to be strong.
Thus far, what has been the best experience working in the film industry?
“Transmission”, for everything that it is and because of Matthew Scott’s vision and professionalism. I had a lot of creative involvement, and gained some experience on the production side of things too. That has been highly satisfying. “Women Not Permitted” because of Brad McDermott and because the story is abstract and magical but has a clear message. There was a big crew and it was a full film set experience. It ran like clockwork though and between scenes, I just watched it all happening and was flooded with a sense of beauty as people worked side by side, every one doing their jobs well, the creativity flowing, and the project being born. “Fastball” because of Jeremey McCracken, who is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. He has a mind full of light and ideas. He is a gentleman of the cinema and sure to do great things. “Rhapsody” because of Samuel Dayomi, who is a visual poet with a great instinct. “Love is Love” because of Collin Chan, who is a talented visual artist and a great warrior of the creative spirit.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we haven’t mentioned?
The “Transmission” teaser will be released soon and a full trailer later this year. You can join the newsletter to stay informed and check out the website at:
“Women Not Permitted” should be released later this year. Brad McDermott’s previous film, Imp, is making the film festival rounds currently and I’m excited to see where his newest film will go.
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to do anything I want, I would ___________.
I would become an integrated person, influence positive change it the world, become highly competent in my trades, be an amazing dad to my daughter, and also be a great actor!
I would be intensely engaged in my community and world in a healthy way. I’ve been a bumbling activist for years but never quite found my focus. I’m still quite scattered, currently teaching meditation to prison inmates, working on by-law development in the cooperative housing movement, and dabbling in outreach with youth at risk. When I was a student, I co-founded a not-for-profit food collective in Montreal that works on important food security issues and still serves hundreds of by-donation, fully accessible meals daily. I want to contribute to more projects like this that work for positive change at the grass roots level in the areas of food, water, and education.
I like when things are beginning and tend to dive very deep into them and then I like moving on. I guess that’s related to my love of acting. To sum up, I would be the Littlest Hobo, moving from place to place, rescuing children who have fallen down wells and then disappearing into the well-framed landscape.
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