In anticipation of the release of sensational short film “Rwanda Blend” we are excited to present producer and star, Tara Samuel – WMM’s fearless co-founder. Always a beacon of inspiration, Samuel shares with us her journey into and through the arts. Part sprite, part philosopher, she humbly and whimsically navigates motherhood and her artistic endeavors, helping to create some of the most memorable projects to have come out of the WMM pool. If you don’t believe us? Meet Tara Samuel…
WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker / actor / writer?
TS: I am Canadian; a white-mutt of various ethnic origins (British, Welsh, Scottish, Finnish) raised in artistically-vibrant, ethnically-diverse downtown Toronto. Aka: A Honkie Torontonian Canuck.
You know, I think being Canadian deeply informs what I seek as a storyteller. I am realizing this more and more. Though I’ve dreamed of moving to NYC all my life, I’m drawn to the bravado and singularity-of-vision that seem to distinguish all Yankees; though I married American singer-poet-rockstar Matt Flugger in Brooklyn, then put down American roots in Los Angeles, there is a philosophical quality to Canadians I think, that I can’t seem to shake. In my work I am definitely philosophical, many times awkward, forever curious, often downright silly, and certainly drawn to the heart in all things weird and unsettling. All Canadians reflect all of the above, yes? Exactly.
Also a profound influence on me: my Mom, my Dad, and my brother. All three are musician-writer-singer-performer-storytellers. They are also inventors, and adventurers.
Now: Insert high school drama-class-flailing, then theatre school revelations in my early 20s, then mid-20s career angst/agony – then a decade of Who-Am-I in my 30s (more agony) – and then a realization just before The Dawn Of My Prime: yes, I have to keep making films.
So yeah, I am basically still doing now, what I did with my family when I was five.
WMM: When did you know you wanted to pursue your craft as a career? Were you supported in your dreams?
TS: Since I come from musician-performer-storyteller parents, all artistic undertakings were simply treated as normal. Encouraged, yes, but at the end of the day seen as a given, really. I wonder if it’s like this for all artists, supported or not: I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I wanted to pursue my craft as a career. I’ve been putting on shows; writing stories; performing in plays; singing & playing instruments for family & friends – since as far back as I can remember. What followed this certain knowing I had from the get-go, was a long and winding road of figuring out how to make a life of it. I’ve pursued every avenue; every version of “how to make a career” – and have now ended up back where I started: Make stuff that I am inspired to make.
WMM: Did you study anywhere in your field? Where? Any notable stories/experiences/peers/teachers?
TS: Right out of high school I was accepted into Canada’s beloved George Brown Theatre School: a conservatory for training in classical theatre performance. I will never forget the day I got the phone call. I can remember the sunlight in the curtains. A turning-point day in my life. Three years at George Brown introduced me to an outstanding collection of fellow actors, instructors, directors, future-employers… and also to how very much I had to learn.
WMM: What else do you do besides your craft? Day job?
TS: Oh heaven. Everything? Since graduating from theatre school I’ve been a waitress at countless bars & restaurants throughout Toronto, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. I’ve also been a personal assistant. I think I like waitressing better. For CanStage in Toronto I sold theatre subscriptions, was an usher, then later performed in main stage productions, to an audience of 876. I’ve done children’s theatre, fringe theatre, theatre in Vancouver and in San Francisco. I’ve done voice work for years. I’ve done day-gigs on series television, commercials, and years of series-regular television work. Then back to writing again. I have fallen more deeply in love with the craft of screenwriting. Day job now: I have a successful script consulting business: www.scriptkicker.com
WMM: What is the lowest budget you have worked with? Highest?
TS: Lowest: I produced and starred in a feature film called “Ruby Booby”, which we filmed for $7000. Aspiring filmmakers everywhere: please be encouraged; go make your film; read more about Ruby Booby here: http://www.moviemaker.com/diy/movies-better-steps-making-movie-zero-money/
Highest: Imminent. Stay tuned…
WMM: Describe your first foray into professional film making/acting? First screening? First show?
TS: Ha – I have about 40 first-forays.
Most useful story perhaps to actor-readers: As an actor I am always terrified at every “next level”. Elated, sure, and also terrified. But the bottom line is, after umpteen rejections at every turn always, I always seem to find myself at a “next level”. Keep going.
Most useful story to filmmaker-readers: You must make your film. First things first: Ensure that your writing is air-tight. I know you know this. Still, have one more reading. One more workshop. Because once you start the search for financing, then the galvanizing of your creative team, your locations, your actors, and on and on, it is the story, the story, the story that keeps you alive; keeps you fired-up; inspires others to join your ride. Your fire for your story is what will get your film made.
WMM: What is the most stressful situation you have found yourself in as an artist? Most rewarding? Most memorable?
TS: Ha – you know, I think being a regular in a tv series has been my most stressful gig, thus far. At the exact same time, I was also elated; the experience was life-changing, and I thank my lucky stars for that time. But yeah: I was basically a theatre person, entering a tv world, and it scared the shit out of me. It definitely showed – at least during the first few episodes – so I’m forever thankful I wasn’t fired. For a glimpse of raw, unbridled panic: search the first few episodes of “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye”, Season One.
WMM: What are your current project(s)?
TS: I am currently shopping Season One of a new series, along with my writing & producing partner Sam Zvibleman [stay tuned for next week, folks, as we will be featuring him on Profiled]. We wrote it together; Sam will direct; I will play the disillusioned wife on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Comedy abounds. More Canadian Greatness coming your way, people.
WMM: How has WMM influenced / shaped / supported you with this process/project?
TS: WMM Founder Sam Mestman has been vitally helpful in the shopping of our new series. Also, thanks to WMM, I met the much-lauded Samuel Zvibleman: I watched a reading of his work about 5 years ago and began stalking him immediately. The poor guy will never get rid of me. Thank you, WMM.
Dear reader: attend a WMM meeting – any one of them – and you will meet fascinating, talented, welcoming kindred spirits.
WMM: Who are your biggest influences?
TS: Actors inspire me daily, as this is my utmost favorite job to do. (I am addicted to YouTube actor-interviews.) Actors I can’t stop thinking about: Tilda Swinton, Sam Rockwell, Judy Dench, Emma Thompson, Peter Sellers, Frances McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchette, Bill Murray.
But my biggest influences I’d say, are writers. Writers, to me, are humans at their most evolved, heartbreaking and enlightened. I am smitten with writers. Writers I can’t stop thinking about: Louis C.K., Sarah Polley, Emma Thompson, Lena Dunham, Charlie Kaufman, James Gray, Tony Kushner, Tina Fey, Wes Anderson.
WMM: What are your top 5 films? Who are your favorite 5 actors? Top 5 directors? Top 5 pieces of lit? Top 5 anything else that applies?
TS: Hardest question ever? Top 5 films: Take This Waltz /Royal Tenenbaums / Amelie / The Master / Hedwig And The Angry Inch. Top 5 directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet / Spike Jonze / Charile Kaufman / Sarah Polley / Paul Thomas Anderson / James Gray / Wes Anderson. (Ooops, that’s seven.) [We forgive you, Tara]
WMM: What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?
TS: The Rwanda Blend. My most deeply fulfilling project thus far, on so many levels, including: transcendent tone of the work / delicious script / delectable role to play / feeling of being in total cahoots with writer-director / immense satisfaction of creating a film that plays with storytelling form / excellent feeling on set.
WMM: What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory?
TS: I wouldn’t change a thing. My career trajectory is itself an original work of art.
WMM: Any advice for filmmakers / actors / writers …?
TS: Keep going keep going keep going. No resentment allowed. Fill yourself ONLY with thankful, inventive, keeping-going-ness. All of you.
WMM: What is your favorite thing about WMM?
TS: My most favorite thing about WMM is the collective, overall inextinguishable spirit of keeping-going-ness. I am so looking forward to my ongoing WMM collaborations. Always something new and exciting coming down the pipe. (Ahem: Sapna Gandhi + Eric Michael Kochmer + Tara Samuel. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, ladies and gents…)
WMM: If you were stranded on an island for 6 months, what 5 items would you wish you had on your person?
TS: A photo of my hubby & our kid / A really thick pad of paper / A pack of 20 pens (Is that cheating?) / A solar-charged radio with remarkably good reception / A water filter
WMM: If you were not doing what you do now, what would you want to be doing?
TS: I’d be a jazz singer.
WMM: What’s next for you now?
TS: This June, I wrap shooting feature film “Wild Prairie Rose”: I am playing obnoxious Rose (so much fun) who falls in love with local ostracized (transcendent) deaf mechanic (the outstanding Troy Kotsur), who sets her straight. For sure watch for Troy in this one: https://www.facebook.com/WildPrairieRose
Upcoming production: afore-mentioned digital series written by Sam Zvibleman & myself.
Also upcoming: playing title role in another new digital series by writer-director John Sandel (another WMM veteran!) https://twitter.com/HeartsBonesShow
Currently collaborating with artist Jose Feliciano as we wrap final post production on feature film “Ruby Booby”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTVq66DyVI4
Also singing & composing music for a new children’s music album we’re producing: http://bewhoyouareproject.wordpress.com
And my own writing continues…..
WMM: Describe yourself with 3 adjectives.
TS: Curious. Fidgety. Game.
WMM: What, other than your craft, brings you joy?
TS: My son, my husband, my coven of phenomenal women friends, other artists, other people, trees.