Friday, September 02, 2005

Interview with Actor/Producer James Dumont

FS: How early on did you know you wanted to pursue the film business?

JD: As a Child Actor in Chicago, it was all about being "Discovered" & flown to Hollywood. As the Big movies came to town: Blues Brothers, Risky Business & Class, I knew before I was 10 that I wanted to be in the film business.

FS: How did you get started?

JD: I was a Gerber baby model and worked the local Chicago market, which had Sears and McDonald's, so print and commercial work was available to us. I also did Children's Theatre, some professional and some not. Sherri Mann (Actress, Agent & Casting Director) took me by the hand to my early appointments, she was a mentor to MANY Chicago actors. She will be missed. The 3 films I mention above I had small parts in, some Extra work and some speaking parts, which got cut out.

FS: Who are your influences?

JD: I have far too many to mention here all for various reasons even to this day, but here are 3 and why:

Gene Hackman - To me the most believable "Movie Star" in any role or film, few actors can say that as they become cliches of themselves over time by doing the same roles in each film. I aspire to be REAL and BELIEVE ABLE in each role and project.

John Cassavetes - The Original Independent Filmmaker-Actor, Writer, Director & Ensemble player, a rick dark storyteller who allowed actors to create and let their work and moments happen on film. The king of master shots, handheld and letting dialog roll into improv. Big fan!

Woody Allen-Despite recent events, he still tells great stories blurring the lines of art and and personal life and his earlier work as both actor and director are simply brilliant, I would love to work with him.

FS: When you first started pursuing your acting career, what kind of path did you envision for yourself?

JD: I left Chicago when I was 19 for New York City with $200 to my name and a place to stay for the summer. I threw myself into waiting tables and DJ'ing and Developmental Theatre at New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre, a who's who in American Theatre & now film & television stars: I thought I was headed for "FAME & FORTUNE" in EVERYTHING I did: Readings, DJing, Auditions, Waiting Tables, Plays. That's what got me up each morning and built up an armour to rejection and defeat. I thought and still believe that "it's about the JOURNEY, not the destination" for anyone in this field. If you think you should be further along in your career, you may be right, but you may not be ready IF that opportunity comes or came, so be prepared and learn to enjoy the RIDE, not where you THINK you should be or end up. Hard lessons to learn. Bottom line was that I left New York on Top in Six Degrees of Separation on Broadway, which was a long way away from when I arrived, Los Angeles was my next move.

FS: What is the toughest reoccurring challenge you face as an actor?

JD: Getting out of my own way. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has created more obstacles than were absolutely necessary. Realizing later "I made it so much harder for myself". Simply put, this is a hard business, make choices and decisions that make it easier for yourself, not harder. Also having to PROVE your talent and experience each and every day, day in and day out. It is REQUIRED to do this at ALL levels of the business, having to SHOW people what you are capable of, that is not easy to do all the time for anyone no matter how far along you are in the business.

FS: You are a working actor who's resume includes some impressive movies, from "War of the Worlds," to "S.W.A.T." to "Catch Me If You Can" and it goes on and on. Which role and project has been the most satisfying for you?

JD: I think from this list I have to say the Role of Gus in S.W.A.T. because the size and scope of my work and who I held myself up to in the scenes with Colin Farrell & Sam Jackson. WOW and Catch have special meaning from working with Steven Spielberg twice. Having him remember my small contributions to his films. He is very gracious, generous, supportive and he likes me, so I like him. One film that has been most satisfying was the movie Bellyfruit
I had a nice role in that film, but was most proud of it's IMPACT on audiences. It was after KIDS and before the movie 13, which is the tone of this film on teen pregnancy. It rode a fine line between drama and documentary, as it was based on true stories, great rental.

FS: Tell us about your recent role on "”Statistics," an independent feature film by Frank Robak whom we just interviewed.

JD: A good friend David Michael told me about the project over lunch, I said "if the script is anywhere as good as what you told me, I'm in!" I read it and LOVED it, it's Short Cuts meets Crash in Hollywood Speak. I got to the scene of the Gas Can Guy and was like "I gotta do that scene!" David & Frank knew that I would bring some goodies to the table, like actors, some location help and passion for getting it SOLD later on, so they were kind enough to acknowledge that with a producer credit, I will EARN that and they know it. This will be a powerful film.

FS: In a earlier exchange, you mentioned ways to find money outside of Hollywood and getting A and B list talent in your project with their agents support. Would you like to elaborate your thoughts on this subject with us?

JD: Think outside of Hollywood for financing: Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists, Bankers. I found $400K from one investor in FL of all places for an Indy I produced. The script MUST be solid, then the money, then the talent, or if the script is strong, you can get the talent, which will get you the money. Tricky? Solid Script first, Business Plan second, Financing outside of Hollywood & Talent will come. Think about creative ways to get to your talent. Jim Sheridan bribed the doorman at Daniel Day Lewis' apartment in NYC with the My Left Foot script. That turned out well for everyone. IF the material is good and you are creative on who and how you get it to talent, you may hit a home run. Actors are ALWAYS looking to stretch and their reps are looking to raise their price. Giving back end points to get talent, when you have little money is good. Find the right vehicle for the right actor, like Sideways for Paul Giamati and you could do well. Make sure you have your script ready to be judged, don't put it out into the marketplace too soon, do readings, give it people who read books and LISTEN to make it as strong as possible, because you may only get one shot at someone. Did I mention the importance of having a good script enough? It's KEY!

FS: As if your acting career doesn't keep you busy enough, you are also working with a company called "Speedreels." This incredible tool is catching on like wild fire and is revolutionizing the industry. How did you get involved with this company?

JD: I helped build a start up company 4 years ago called PACE which was sold to for 10 million dollars last spring, as an actor first and business man second, I didn't do as well as I should have, but managed to cash out some stock options and move on. My manager kept nagging me to get a Speedreel, I finally got one. Here is my Speedreel: James Dumont I FLIPPED for the product and went to the owner Matt Draper and asked to help him build it. To date we have over 500 actors, 100 agents & managers use it and the top 50 casting directors in town all love it. It has generated over 2,000 appointments and meetings for actors in only 8 months.

FS: For those who haven't heard of Speedreels, what is it?

JD: I just showed you an example, however we take an actors demo reel or even a directors reel or short film and cut it into a 60 second trailer or clip that is an e-mailable link. Just as I did, I brought you 60 seconds of my work, a picture and resume' all you would need to know about me for getting a job or interview. The difference is I brought the work to YOU, unlike a website THINKING people will come to you and DOWNLOAD your work. This is one of the quickest ways to get your work in front of someone. Imagine having a 60 second clip of your short or feature on a Film Festival website or being able to simply e-mail it to friends to go to your film or press in cities where you need to be reviewed. Big films, do trailers why not shorts or indy features?

FS: Will it's continued success ever take you away from acting?

JD: I have always found a way to have more than one successful career, but would never quit being an actor/producer, it's too rewarding. Please keep in mind that I only produce projects that I am in, as I need to have a creative outlet as the work of being the producer alone is not that exciting to me. The same is true of Speedreels, I am a client and part of building it.

FS: Are you content with where you are right now in your career?

JD: This is a tricky one. My LIFE right now is far greater than I ever imagined it to be in terms of my wife and my family, so my CAREER is really all GRAVY. One of the quotes I live by is "My Life IS my Art", therefore my career is part of that. We all think we should be farther along sometimes, but I have found that I need to keep setting the bar higher and continue to make efforts to check off goals and desires, that is contentment to me. You will never get rich counting your neighbors wealth. The same applies to where you are in your career and where other people are, your journey is your journey to compare can be a slippery slope. I work very hard to not compare my career to others, it's not easy.

FS: What changes, if any would you have made thus far in your life?

JD: The only change I think I would have made and will be making is staying closer in touch with friends and industry relationships. I used to dismiss this as being a 'hanger on' or using that relationship or friendship to further my career. I wanted to do it by myself, which is silly as some of the people I did work for early in their career have done very well and I would have continued working with them had I stayed better in touch, now they are hit from so many angles and people it's hard for them to see that I really just enjoy being with them. These are 100 million dollar movie people now, but were student filmmakers then, we ALL have the chance to be in that world, may you stay connected is my lesson.

FS: Last one. What is next on the horizon for you?

JD: I'm on hold for a Guest spot for "Closer to Home" & just did a Guest spot on "Ghost Whisperer" all for CBS. I'm trying to finish shooting a comedy short called, "Mail Models" and in post for another short called "2 AM", I produced and starred in both. I have optioned a feature with another friend and want to option another project with a director friend. Working on Speedreels growth and am ALWAYS on the lookout for Great Roles in features and shorts:

The Rolling Stones


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