You and everyone that you know are in for a treat. I have the privilege to not just know but interview Chad Eric Smith for the third time. His talent mesmerizes me. His performances are textured…layered and his writing and directing, thoughtful, rhythmic and with a splash of hilarity.
I assure you that this giant of a talent will mesmerize you too. Read on…
Hello, hello friend. I am so glad that we are never too far apart to catch up. It’s been sometime between our in-depth conversations and you sure have been busy. 🙂
Your freshest film, Rumination has been gathering quite the Buzz. Remind us all about this short.
Yes, I am very excited about how well it’s been received at film festivals all over the country.
Rumination is a short sci-fi drama that follows Elliott (Kelvin Drama), a heartbroken man haunted by regret and memories of an ex-girlfriend (Angus Whinfield). He meets Renard (Danny Gavigan), a quirky neuroscientist who offers to alleviate his grief with a new scientific method: a top-secret drug that enables time travel. Check out the third and final teaser trailer here:
So to date, how many screenings has the film had thus far?
Rumination has had seven public screenings thus far: The Reel Independent Film Extravaganza, The Rosebud Film Festival, and Capitol Hill Film Classic in Washington, DC, The Boston SciFi Film Fest, The Northern Virginia International Film & Music Festival (The NOVA Fest), the Maryland International Film Festival, and a special screening at the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center.
I’ve also seen that Rumination has picked up some awards. Tell us about that.
Yes! This year, Rumination won the Rosebud Award for ‘Best DMV Film’; ‘Best Supporting Actor – Short Film’ (Danny Gavigan) and ‘Best Editing – Short Film’ (Kelvin J) at The NOVA Fest; Diamond Awards for ‘Best Sci-Fi’ at the LA Shorts Awards and the Mindfield Film Festival in Los Angeles; ‘Best Local Film’ at the Capitol Hill Film Classic; and the Platinum Award for Best Supporting Actor (Special Jury Prize – Danny Gavigan), Gold Award for Best Sci-Fi Short, and Gold Award for Best Editing (Kelvin J) at the Independent Shorts Awards.
(Actor Danny Gavigan (Rumination) w/ Director Chad Eric Smith at the 2018 NOVA FEST Awards)
Oh wow! Where can those who have not seen this film see it? Is it available online as well?
Unfortunately, Rumination is not available to the public just yet. Believe it or not, I’m still waiting to hear back from a little over 25 film festivals, with notification dates extending into the fall.
Good for you! I know that the film addresses loss, grief, and depression. In talking with audiences about the film, how much has this subject struck home with them?
Aside from the filmmaking process being personally cathartic, it has also been very gratifying to know just how many people it resonated with it. Just goes to show that universality and specificity go hand-in-hand. At just about every screening we’ve had, audience members tell me that they can relate to the main character’s rumination, which is a form of obsessive thinking in which a person has an uncontrollable preoccupation with the past. Thus, the desire to go back in time to make different decisions, especially with regards to a past romantic relationship, is a relatable sentiment.
Beyond screenings and film festivals, what are your future distribution plans for the piece?
Once the film completes the film festival circuit, I will then determine how and where Rumination will be distributed. The film will most likely be released on an online platform.
Now, you have been responsible for and have been in many other projects. You have a wealth of experience as an actor, writer, and director. Right now, at this moment which of your performances and/or projects has had one of the biggest impacts on you? Can you name just one?
It is hard to name just one! But, I’ll go with my performance in Harold Jackson III’s original web series, Counselor. It’s about Dr. Venahzen, a hardened therapist played by Curtiss Cook (House of Cards), as he struggles to treat David (yours truly), a troubled man who must complete eight counseling sessions as part of a court ruling related to a DUI. The court ordered treatments quickly transform into a scathing examination of addiction and the human psyche. Through unorthodox and sometimes questionable treatment methods, the two realize just how similar they really are.
Of all the characters I’ve played, David is the greatest departure from who I am in real life and my most complex film role to date. I believe I became a better actor as a result of this project and I’m forever grateful for the experience. Folks can binge watch all eight episodes here: http://tinyurl.com/hb52936
(David in Counselor an original series)
As a writer and director, what sort of topics would you like to address in the future?
As a writer and director, I’m interested in creating a political allegory that deals with the topics of race, White privilege, & respectability politics, something that captures the zeitgeist of the current political era we are living in. In fact, I already have a short screenplay written with that idea in mind and I’m considering producing and directing it this year. I’m also interested in doing some sort of horror mystery, but I’m still in the brainstorming phase though.
Where do your ideas come from? Do you write subjects down as they come to you and come back to them later or do you select a genre first…? What is your process?
Ideas come to me in different ways. Sometimes it’s like a coup de foudre, a thunderbolt of an idea that is too good not to do. For instance, my directorial debut, Dark Therapy, in which I played a vampire with an irrational fear of blood who seeks psychiatric treatment, was motivated by my desire to play a ‘larger-than-life’ character, with costume and makeup, à la Johnny Depp and Gary Oldman. I wanted to create and bring to life a character I knew I’d never be able to audition for. So, the writing process was fast. Dark Therapy can be viewed here: https://goo.gl/joUKAq
(Erebus the vampire in Dark Therapy)
Rumination, on the other hand, was inspired by my own personal experience with grief following a breakup a few years ago, coupled with my love of the time travel genre. In the fall of 2015, I began by writing the film’s most pivotal scene, and then put the script down for about a year. I like to say that I let the script marinate in its own words. I revisited the script in 2016 and the words had a foreignness to them as if they were written by someone else. I was overcome with a new zeal to complete it. I also did lots of research to write the screenplay so that it felt rich. I explored topics like the special theory of relativity, the philosophy of time known as eternalism, the neuroscience of both heartbreak and consciousness, as well as the effects of psychedelic drugs. I hired a crew and shot it over the course of 3 days in the summer of 2017.
So what projects do you currently have brimming?
A feature-length comedy I’m in, entitled An Accidental Zombie – Named Ted, has secured
distribution and release dates for the U.S. and Canada and are coming soon! In it, I play a werewolf suffering from alopecia. The film stars Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story), Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th ), Gary Anthony Williams (The Boondocks), Sandi McCree (The Wire), and many other great actors! We shot it in Ocala, FL and I had so much fun on set! Check out the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywDjnUNH1CM
This year I’ll also be acting in filmmaker Michael DeMasi’s upcoming feature film Secret Police, in which I’ll be playing a corrupt ambitious government official. This will be my second time working with the director and the plan is to shoot the film in the Boston, MA area sometime this year. We are currently raising money via Kickstarter. Folks can check out our Kickstarter campaign and donate here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/secretpolice/secret-police/
Is lecturing or coaching something that gets you excited? Would you educate aspiring actors and filmmakers? Would you travel to do it? 🙂
I would absolutely travel to do it! During the past couple of years, I’ve had several public speaking engagements in which I spoke about all that I do and am passionate about. In fact, last year, I traveled to my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, to be the keynote speaker for their “Humanities Day”. I spoke about the importance of the arts and humanities, diversity, and how exposure to those things fosters empathy. It was a very enjoyable experience and I look forward to booking more speaking engagements in the future.
(Smith speaks at Pitt-Greensburg – April 21st, 2017)
What is one thing you would like to say to aspiring actors right now?
I would tell aspiring actors that being an actor is as much about your brand as it is about the craft. And your brand is made up of both what you choose to do and what you choose not to do. Actor David Oyelowo once said, “You erode your talent by being in things that are lesser than your talent. You are only as good as what you subject yourself to by way of the material, the people you work with, and the parts you accept.”
I also recommend that aspiring film actors strongly consider performing in theatre at some point. I believe performing on stage in front of a live audience is the best training an actor can receive because it truly is the actor’s medium. It’s where the actor has the most control over how he or she portrays a character. With regards to technique, as the late, great comic George Burns once said, “Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
What is one thing you would like to say to aspiring filmmakers right now?
I still consider myself pretty new to filmmaking. However, one thing I’ll say, regarding writing, is that when you have great ideas, make sure you write them down right away so you don’t forget. I’m always typing ideas into my cell phone’s memo pad. It could be a plot idea or a piece of dialogue. These notes come in handy once you begin turning your ideas into screenplays. For directing, I suggest looking at the behind-the-scenes featurettes of your favorite films. That’s a good way to get inspiration for how to execute a scene. Finally, filmmakers should put as much effort into the marketing of their film as they did in pre-production, production, and post. In my opinion, a piece of art is meant to be seen and it takes a lot of hard work just for people to know it exists.
What many may not know is that you are also a talented musician. Please share your life journey with, and love for music?
Yea, I love music! My father, Jonathan Bey, is an EMMY Award-winning producer based in Gainesville, FL and owns the independent record company TrackCrafters. So, my entire childhood allowed me to witness music production up close and personal.
(Jonathan Bey working on Rumination)
My all-time favorite musical artist is Prince. I mean, he was a brilliant songwriter, versatile singer, innovative producer, virtuoso multi-instrumentalist, and a consummate showman. I saw him perform live three times! In fact, in March of 2006, at club Nation (formerly The Capital Ballroom) in Washington DC, I was picked out from the crowd, pulled onto the stage, and shared the microphone with his Purple Highness! He and the late hip-hop producer, J Dilla, are probably my two greatest musical influencers.
I began playing piano by ear during my senior year in high school. By the time I was in college at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, I started a jazz trio called “Soothing Sensations” (because we made soothing, sensational music) and even composed and performed original jazz and blues-inspired music for Bertolt Brecht’s play, Mother Courage and Her Children, during my junior year. Since then, I occasionally create new music and post it on my SoundCloud. Folks can listen here: https://soundcloud.com/chad-eric-smith.
(Soothing Sensations perform at Pitt-Greensburg Coffee House, circa 2007)
Do you compose original music for your projects? If not, will you?
My father was the film score composer for both Dark Therapy and Rumination. However, in Rumination, I did utilize one song that I produced, arranged, composed and performed entitled “Klexos”. The title means ‘the art of dwelling in the past’; and comes from “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows”, a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Listen to ”Klexos” here:https://soundcloud.com/chad-eric-smith/klexos.
(Photo/Art by Nick Apostolides)
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’m not sure. I always tell folks, “I’m catching up to my future self,” and, while I don’t know what that entails with regards to my career and personal life, my hope, at the very least, is that I’m happy. Of course, generally speaking, I plan to continue to tell stories, as an actor, filmmaker, and musician, and anticipate a growing fan base.
So what would 2018-Chad like to say to 2023-Chad to inspire him to reach ‘5-year-plan’?
I believe in eternalism, a philosophical approach to the ontological nature of time, which takes the view that all existence in time (past, present, and future) is equally real. And so, 2023-Chad has already reached the 5-year plan, even as 2018-Chad is still fleshing out the details.
(Photo by Elise Perry)
Beyond being a great talent Chad, you are a remarkable human being. Thank you so much for always being ready to talk with me. Any final words?
Thank you so much! As always, it was a pleasure chatting with you! I hope your readers get a chance to see Rumination at one of the several upcoming film festival screenings. People can learn more at www.facebook.com/RuminationShortFilm.
For a behind-the-scene look at the film, check out the below featurettes!
Follow me on social media, as well: