Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, actor, writer & producer, Bruce Nachsin. Bruce is known for Under the Doghouse, Approv-O and his latest release Dark Specter. When not creating content, Bruce can be seen around Los Angeles comedy scene with his comedy troupe Bizarre Love Triangle.
Norm: Good day Bruce and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you choose to be a film producer as one of your careers and what training did you have before deciding you wanted to become one?
Bruce: To start, thank you for interviewing me.
My journey down the path of becoming a film producer was born out of my attempts to start another unlikely career, being an actor. I had decided that I was unhappy with my life working in IT and wanted to try something a little different and completely unlike me to be doing. One of the first things I learned about becoming an actor was that you needed experience to get work but without having a resume showing extensive work, it is difficult to get opportunities to audition for more roles. So, after several frustrating years, I made the decision to try and take some control over this dichotomy and create my own projects, that was the birth of Under the Doghouse.
Norm: What exactly is your role as producer?
Bruce: In my case, being a producer means originating the project, I decide something that I have written would make a worthwhile webseries or a film short, I come to terms with the temporary descent into poverty that this decision brings on me and then I start putting the pieces of the production together.
Norm: I believe you were the head writer of Under the Doghouse, where did you get your ideas for the series and how was it like working with the crew?
Bruce: I was the head writer, the other writer was my friend Abi Wurdeman who helped me refine ideas and kept me on track. The prebirth took place about four months before I set out to do Under the Dog House, I had created a demo piece called Pete and Stacey's Boob Quandry, which was goofy, funny and had a great central relationship with wonderful built in chemistry. It made sense to expand that since I knew I could mine a lot of good comedic situations out of the nice and hapless guy being imposed upon, which is one of my butter castings. That was the perfect basis for me to build a series around.
Some of the series ideas were exaggerations of things that either happened directly to me or to one of my friends. The idea of Pete not being qualified for his work came from my early experiences as a budding computer technician. I landed my first few jobs mostly by lying about my experience level and then I figured it out on the fly. The difference between Pete and myself is that I could figure it out as I went along while Pete doesn’t have the wherewithal pull that shtick off. The luck of Pete’s dating life came from the trials and travails of a friend’s “love life”, his skills at amour were definitely putting him at risk for getting tossed out of the gene pool. I thank him for his pained contribution to my creative perspective on the world.
Aside from the bits inspired by actual life, some of the ideas that made it into the series had been living in my head for a few years. The corporate hydra had been a character I thought up years prior and just never managed to figure out what I wanted to do with it. Episode 4 is all about my first experience dealing with the IRS when I had turned 19 years old. Other bits just were absorbed out pieces of pop culture that were influencing me at the time. For example The psychic stuff was inspired by watching the Ouija board episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullsh!t. which I had been watching again around the time I was writing.
As far as working with the crew. It was a very interesting experience for me, this is where I learned how a crew and a set operated. I learned how to say no and how to stand up for what I want. I also learned how to create an environment where people are comfortable and engaged. It was a very good experience and I built several longstanding relationships out of it, as well as a few close friendships. If you look at the credits to Dark Specter, you will see several Under The Dog House crew listed.
Norm: What is the inspiration behind Dark Specter and how did you go about casting the actors for the film?
Bruce: Dark Specter was actually a sketch I wrote as a member of Fred Willard’s MoHos Sketch comedy troupe. I was heavily inspired by a looming deadline and the need to be very funny for a man whose life’s work has been spent creating hilarity. The idea came to me after I watched one of the Marvel movies. So, being of nice Jewish boy stock, with all the mother issues that come with it, I began to wonder what kind of relationship a supervillain might have with his mother. What would happen if he couldn’t leave her alone for too long? That must have an impact on his ability to follow his chosen career path and how his colleagues and enemies relate to him. It was an easy script to write once I had that idea in my head.
As far as the casting, I
had written the part of the Dark Specter for myself so I was just
honored I had been thinking about myself in the first place, and I
was further pleased when I accepted the role. The mother is a
wonderful actress named Judy Nazemetz, and I had written the part for
her to play all along. Judy is a fellow member of the Mohos, in fact,
it was her performance on stage as the mother that convinced me that
I should make a short film.
Finding the Spark took a little effort. There was no one in my circle whom I felt would be right for the part so I put out a casting notice and booked a room at a local casting location named CAZT. We saw about 40 actors for the role. The actor I ended up casting was Evan Alexander Judson, he had a great grasp of the script and innately understood where and what the jokes were. Plus he had a great friendly energy which said to me that he would be fun to have on set, which is almost as important as the acting skills.
Norm: How did you go about
securing financing for the film?
Bruce: As my current love of Ramen noodles will tell you, I am self-financed, with my producing partner Roe Moore throwing in some of her money as well. I wanted to make something that looked like it could be in a movie theater and while I tried to do that on the cheap, it’s still a nice pile of money to come flying out of my pocket. Having said that, I was amazingly fortunate that I had a lot of resources available to me on the cheap or for free, especially in the areas of sound and visual effects. A nice amount of my colleagues from the Under the Dog House days returned to work on Dark Specter and without their professionalism and generosity, it would not have been possible to complete this film.
Norm: You indicate in your bio that you are part of the Fred Willard's Moho sketch comedy group. What is this all about?
Bruce: The Moho’s is a group of entertainment professionals who get together and put on a sketch comedy show every so often, mostly for fun and to lab various comedy bits they might be working on. It is a lot of fun and a humbling experience to be in a room with that many incredibly funny people. I’m still getting used to the idea I am part of it, I was brought into the group at the beginning of the year by a wonderful and funny actor named Lou Wagner, I guess he thought I was a funny guy.
Norm: How do you decide on the kind of film you wish to produce and/or write and from where do you get your ideas?
Bruce: I’m still figuring that out for myself. So far, the ideas for what I will try and produce comes out of figuring out which of my script ideas are currently feasible to try and pull off. Since I have a perfectionist streak in me, I need to know I have a realistic shot of creating a high quality film otherwise there really isn’t a point to doing it. My writing ideas mostly come from my absurdist perspective of the world. I also find that I can use improvisation to create concepts and premises to explore.
Norm: What do you know now that you wished you knew before you produced your films? What advice would you give to aspiring film makers?
Bruce: That is a good question. To start I would say, no matter what your budget is, providing good food to your crew will buy you more good will & effort than just about anything else. I know it sounds funny to be the first big point for me to trot out but treating people right, especially at the Crafty table brings a feeling of community and emotional investment in you and your project. It is part of the reason that the same people work with me over and over again, lord knows it’s not for the money.
Beyond that, if you are someone thinking about starting your first project, my advice is to try & be ambitious but be ambitious within your reasonable means. This is tricky since you probably won’t know what you are capable of, but that’s part of the learning curve. Before you set out and start shooting, know what you are trying to accomplish and then try and get a grasp of what your vision will translate to on the technical end. Know what your skills are and where you will need help. Accept that there will be pitfalls and setbacks, and these are okay because you will learn from them. Be cool with the fact that it will likely take far longer than you expected to complete, and that you will run into delays you can’t control. You just need to be patient and ride these moments out. And be good knowing that no one will be as passionate about your project as you are. This will be frustrating sometimes because you will be excited about your creativity and want people to share in that feeling and for them it is just another project.
Norm: What are the three
biggest mistakes indie film Producers & Directors make when
making a film?
Bruce: In my limited experience. The first mistake is not understanding how important it is to capture good sound on set. You can compensate for a lot but if you have bad production sound, you will have big problems in post. It take a lot of work to fix issues that are fairly easy to get right on set. If you don’t get your sound right people will react poorly to your finished work, bad sound = crappy film.
Second, don’t be afraid to end relationships if you need to. Early on, I made the mistake of asking a beloved teacher to direct for me because I thought he could elevate my comedy and bring that same easy feel of his class to my set. Instead we had a contentious relationship and that ended up hindering everything. I knew we were heading in this direction weeks before we actually began shooting but I did not heed the warning signs and kept telling myself everything would be fine. It wasn’t and over a few weeks this situation ended up costing me a lot of time and money because I ended up needing to do a re-shoot. In retrospect, I should have parted ways and found someone I could collaborate with in a more productive manner.
Third, don’t be so in love with the ideas in your head that you don’t clearly see what is going on in front of you. Some things work, others don’t and it is your job to realize this while it is happening. Be flexible, adapt. If you cast a pair of lovers and they have all the chemistry of a wood block sitting next to a lead weight, recognize that and recast the roles. If your dialog feels like it is rambling, then it probably is and you need to fix it. If you’ve put together a 3 hour rough cut of your film, it’s probably very ponderous and you really need to cut it down. Never forget that while you are making your films, your goal is to have somebody enjoy it so keep them in mind somewhere. Separate yourself and ask yourself if you would watch what you are doing if you weren’t actively involved with it. Have passion but have taste as well.
Norm: Have you submitted any of your films to film festivals and if so, what methods should you be focusing on to help your submission chances?
Bruce: I just released Dark Specter last week. I have submitted to about 11 film festivals and so far I’ve been accepted into The Online Film Festival. I’ve been focused on submitting to comic and sci/fi based festivals but we are just at the starting gate. I think the biggest thing I am doing right now to get my name out is I hired a publicist to help me get the wheels turning. I am not a natural promoter. I have a lot of faith and belief in my project but left to my own devices I’d manage to drum up a few views and then be left wondering why no one is seeing my work. I don’t have those skills so I’m bringing in someone who does.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your projects?
Bruce: You can find me at my WEBSITE
Please everyone, check out my stuff and subscribe to me, this is just the beginning.
Norm: What is next for Bruce Nachsin?
Bruce: Right now, I am expanding Dark Specter into a 5 episode series which I plan to use as a basis of a series pitch. I am also working with my comedy team Bizarre Love Triangle to produce content as well as regularly performing live around Los Angeles
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Bruce: That is an interesting question of a question. Bruce, what has been the costs of trying to live a creative life?
That is a good question Bruce, thank you for asking it. Emotionally, because of the amount of time, effort and stress that can occur while trying to make one of these projects work, friend and family relationships can, and have suffered. It can create distance between me and others because I am so focused on all the little things that need to come together. Under the Dog House was a contributing factor to the end of a very long term relationship, although it was not the direct cause. From a financial standpoint, I am investing in my art as opposed to my financial future and that isn’t something anyone would call wise, I’m in a good place in my life to take this risk right now but it still is a risk and often there is not a clear means of return on the money I spend on my projects. Having said that, when they come together they are very rewarding to me.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future projects.