Midwest Filmmaker Profile: Dan Steadman
by Scott Michael Dunn @scottmdunn
Dan Steadman: shaking up the community with his focus to develop, drive, and promote talent in the Midwest. Hollywood certainly gets most of the credit when it comes to filmmaking, with New York following close behind and Atlanta determined to catch up. But Steadman fully believes that the St. Louis metropolitan area is a perfect location for sitcoms, movies, and live theater. Not only is he talking this talk, but there is no doubt that Dan Steadman has dedicated his talent, passion, and career to walking the Midwest walk. After moving here from LA, he developed a substantial following and became determined to give back to this community by providing opportunities for actors to fulfill their dreams. For example, his movies, Belleville and Proximity, saw the casts walking a red carpet for their respective premiers and being interviewed by local radio and TV stations. Fortunately, for the multitudes of acting talent in this area, this will happen again! Steadman has developed workshops that will provide not only in-depth guidance in the acting craft, but also opportunities for future roles.
Steadman founded Circa87, and actors can enroll in talent workshops available every Saturday for the next few months, and gather more information about additional opportunities at www.circa87.com. Steadman shared his personal story with us:
How long have you been in the industry? What kept you pushing forward and did you have immediate success?
I’ve been in the industry since 1987 – just about 30 years, which seems like a long time for someone who’s only in his early 40s. But I started as a teenager, producing TV in Michigan. Originally I was in front of the camera, as a clown. The next series I did, I started to hide behind puppets. By my third project, I quickly learned that storytelling was my drive. I quickly lost the performance bug and started to fall in love with discovering talent and putting it on screen. Writing and directing became my passion, and still is, nearly 30 years later.
How do you support your projects financially when it seems the toughest battle in this industry is funding?
That is the toughest battle. I think the secret is to devote far more time marketing than doing the “fun” stuff. I hate marketing, but part of being a professional is to do the things you hate doing. This year, the acting classes I’m teaching for six months will help fund the sitcom and the movie I’m shooting this year in the Midwest.
How do you feel about the talent available locally?
I moved here from Los Angeles due to the high quality of talent here. My first film, “Belleville,” starred St. Louis actress Cooper Show. I hired her off of her fantastic demo reel, even without an audition. She killed the part of the antagonist in that film, and was rewarded in Beverly Hills with a Best Supporting Actress win at the American Movie Awards for her role in our film. Another actor in “Belleville” is Antonio St. James. He was a new actor with a magnetic talent. He came in and auditioned for me at a banjo shop in New Athens, IL (no joke – I didn’t have an office for casting, so the fine folks at the Bluegrass Shack) let me use their space. Antonio was immediately written into my film and he has since gone on to book speaking roles in the film “Gone Girl” and on top notch TV shows “Empire,” “Chicago PD” and “Shameless.” That’s the kind of talent we have here. It was enough to make me move.
What’s the newest project and do you have a teaser for us to promote it?
The latest project is “Proximity,” which is continuing to roll out in theaters across the Midwest. It’s a romantic comedy we shot in St. Louis, Belleville, and Centralia, IL. I’m very proud of it. It was a stage play I wrote in Los Angeles about eight years ago with my writing partner Rajeev Sigamoney. I’m so glad we’ve finally gotten the chance to turn it into a movie.
What role did you play in Belleville, Proximity, and now the newest project in motion?
I wrote and directed “Belleville.” I directed and co-wrote “Proximity” with Rajeev Sigamoney and will be writing this Fall’s movie with him, as well. I’m flying out to California in May to finish it with him. Then I’ll be directing that film in September, with actors from my 2016 Actor’s Workshop.
How are you recruiting talent for these projects
We’ve auditioned 1300 people in the Midwest and over 400 of them have landed roles. Now it’s time to focus on those who are the most serious. That’s, in part, why I started the acting workshop. I want to devote my time and attention to actors who really want to make a go of this profession. If they are willing to come to a weekly class on Saturday for six months, I want to invest in them and make sure everyone gets some kind of speaking role in the Fall movie.
Most importantly, how did you get Adam W. to play a role in Proximity – baseball to the movies isn’t unheard of but I bet that played a role in increasing your audience?
Our producer Kathy Kaiser knew his family, and that’s how we approached the Wainwrights. The whole family was part of it — his daughters, his wife, and even his then-unborn daughter (if you squint really hard). Yes, getting a celebrity on board always helps, of course. That’s how our culture is rigged. I used to make TV pilots and films with famous folks (Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Sean Hayes, etc) and that excites audiences. But really, a good performance is a good performance – whether it comes from a famous person or an unknown. Just look at Antonio and Cooper! (previous answer)
How does it feel to have your projects play with all the lights and red carpet. I’ve seen some of the pics of wide grinned, local talent but it must feel like an accomplishment to have a full house and a big screen presentation?
A full house is certainly an accomplishment, of course. The marketing of all that is challenging for me — exhausting, even. But for me, the red carpet premiere events are thrilling for two reasons. I get to tell a story to a willing audience. That’s a near-impossible feat in this day and age, with the fractured audience consuming media, with everyone on their cell phones, and with attention spans at an all-time low. The second great joy of a screening is watching all these deserving Midwesterners walk a red carpet, all glammed up, and get their much-deserving moment in the spotlight. Watching people have so much fun and feeling special makes all the behind-the-scenes effort, worth it.
For more info check out Circa87
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