Sunday, May 23, 2010

Q & A: Colin Michael Day Discusses Acting, Travel and "The Loneliest Road in America"

Q & A: Colin Michael Day

1) Congratulations on the completion of The Loneliest Road in America. From a viewer standpoint, it really felt like we traveled on an authentic road trip across the southwest along with the cast of characters. How long did it take to shoot the film and what was the process like? Did you all embark on a journey together and where did you guys shoot?

It took about 1 month to shoot the entire film. We started in Denver and pretty much shot in sequence in Denver, Utah, Nevada and LA. In Denver, it was just me; Chris Hayes, the actor who plays Matt; Mardana Mayginnes, the director; and Tony McGrath, the cinematographer; and then we met the rest of the crew in Nevada.

The process of filming the movie was a blast, but it was hard. We had to be detailed and thorough about the shots we wanted. We only had so much light during the day so we had to be quick and precise. We didn’t do more than 3 takes for any scene throughout the entire movie. And since all the actors were very prepared, it made it easy for the crew to do their job. Plus Mardana and Tony had been working for a long time preparing shot lists.

Since we went in so ready with the shots we wanted to do and the actors feeling confident with their lines, we avoided a lot of problems. Of course, there were some problems, because it’s bound to happen, but we didn’t have as many as expected. Basically, we were like a family while shooting; everyone got along really well. There were some disagreements and arguments, but that’s normal. Overall, we had great chemistry on location and it was a great experience.

2) I found it interesting that your director Mardana Mayginnes initially wanted you to play the role of Matt -- the wisecracking and blunt sidekick. To me, Matt and the more contemplative character you played – Jamie -- seemed like night and day. What drew you to the role of Jamie and why do you think Mardana originally saw you as Matt?

Mardana saw me as Matt because we’ve been on road trips together, and we’re partiers much like Matt’s character. I make a lot of jokes and tend to be the funny one, even though I don’t have the exact personality of Matt. But Mardana thinks I’m funny, and I’m flattered by that. And since I’m not really a depressed person or anything like that, because that’s not my personality, Mardana thought the Matt character was more me and that I would have fun playing him. At first I did think it would be a lot of fun, and Matt’s a big character in the film, he’s on screen a lot, so it would have been a good role for me.

As time went on, however, and the more I read the script, the Jamie character seemed to be more of a challenge for an actor, and I felt I could pull it off. There was more emotion, more back story. Plus, he is the main lead, you follow him throughout the whole movie and I thought that would be challenging, that was something I could do. And I thought for this movie to be a big success, I felt I could pull it off better than someone else auditioning.

3) It seems appropriate that the trip just seems to continue in the movie as it ends. Where do you think Jamie is now?

To be honest, we’ve joked about this and we think Jamie went to South America. That seems like a place he would go, to get out of the U.S. and get away. It seems like a fun place and he could meet people and hit on women. He could get away from everybody and continue his life. That’s the great thing about the ending of the film, people can guess where he went, and they can imagine where life took him. He could go anywhere, really, like Alaska or Japan. Hell, he could be hipping out in a nude colony somewhere. It’s your own opinion really as to where he ends up, but I think he went to South America.

4) Throughout the film, you guys made excellent use of music. Personally, do you have any particular favorite songs to add to your iPod or mixes when you travel?

The music credit is given to Mardana, completely. I was there through the process, but he knew what he wanted. He had a complete idea; I think he hit on the mood everywhere through the movie. I kept commenting and saying this song or that song was good, but he saw it, he heard it.

When it comes to creating music lists, to be honest I create mixes from my friends’ suggestions, because I don’t go out and find stuff on my own usually. I mean, Mardana got me into Cat Powers and Kascade. But I’m really open to all types of music, I don’t keep to a certain genre. Like right now, I’m listening to the new Kascade CD that’s just come out but I don’t limit myself to just techno; I love rock n’ roll and oldies like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam. The list goes on. I even like opera.

5) Your biography reveals quite an extensive background exploring the world. Out of all of the various getaway locales, what’s one memorable experience and place that sticks out?

I have to pick just one place? I could pick many, I could go on forever, because there are so many unique places I’ve seen. But if I have to pick, one of my greatest moments was when I was living in Sydney during a semester studying abroad. I have a lot of family that lives there, and as a favor to my aunt, I started coaching my cousins’ girls’ basketball team. They were horrendous, I mean, they were getting creamed by everyone they played.

My friend Jason and I decided to be their coach, and it was just such an interesting experience. While I was having a great time living there and acting, I just loved going and coaching. It was another challenge, and it was a blast to teach them basic skills and plays. We actually started winning and other teams were trying to copy our defensive and offensive strategies. To be able to do that in another country, especially one where basketball isn’t very big, it was truly unique.

I guess the reason I enjoyed it so much is because, when I travel, I love meeting people. I can go on adventures climbing mountains and hiking through towns and seeing great landscapes, but I can never get away from interacting with other people, other cultures, experiencing different personalities. I got to be part of a community outside my country, and the parents respected me for teaching their kids. That meant a lot to me because it was coming from people I never expected to get it from. It was a great feeling and an amazing experience.

6) As an actor and producer, what do you think your background as a business major and tennis player at the University of Denver has taught you to use in your field?

My business major helped me with creating the movie, or at least the business plan but it’s a different beast creating a movie over a business plan for a class. We have our own production company, so my business background helped with that but in all honesty, business didn’t help much with my acting. Tennis helped a lot, because of the competitive nature and the work ethic tennis required throughout my life. And that’s why I wanted the Jamie character, it was a challenge, and in tennis you’re challenged. You always want to compete against better players so you can improve.

Acting is hard, even though I was told I was a natural, but that doesn’t mean I was a great actor. Same as tennis, I was told I was really athletic, but that doesn’t mean I was going be a great tennis player. I had to work at tennis; I had to learn the strokes, the techniques, all the little details. The more I practiced the better I got.

There are a lot of details you have to work at in acting, too, like scripts and lines, your reactions to situations, the way you listen to other actors. The more you do it, the better you get, it’s like muscle memory. You stop thinking about it, you just do it naturally and you’re in the moment. It’s all about working at it. I keep growing, I’m always growing, and you’re always learning new things. If there is one thing I could say to actors out there, continue to act. If you love it, keep doing it.

7) I read that you’re continuing your acting studies with Elizabeth Metznick who specializes in the Meisner Technique. I’m unfamiliar with that approach. In a nutshell, what is the Meisner Technique?

It’s pretty simple when you’re doing it, but it’s complicated to explain. Basically, Meisner believed in being as natural as possible while acting. It’s an acting technique that emphasizes reacting off another person or an environment. But also as you start the process, you start learning about your emotional self. Meisner strips you of a lot of your defensive shields and opens up these emotions like sadness, anger, happiness, and makes them truthful, not fake. This is all in the first year of the process, and the second year you do all the character work, the character building. You’re adding point of view, roles, and there is a lot of improve and reaction involved.

The reason I like studying with Elizabeth is because I feel like I take one step forward, two steps back. I know that sounds weird, but it helps. Elizabeth is great, and I chose her because she calls you out on things. She wants you to see what you’re doing. She can see what you can’t, and you can’t hide from that.

Many people will get frustrated and blame their teachers, but I never get upset at the teacher. I never got mad at Elizabeth, because I always felt her comments were helpful and she guided me through this technique. Once you break through that wall, take that step, you feel great. It’s just helping me learn, because I’m always growing.

8) Since you have such a versatile resume in theatre and film as well as roles both in front of and behind the camera, professionally what do you have lined up next?

Well, I just finished another short film where I played a math genius that kind of goes crazy because he’s trying to find an equation to create a portal to an alternate universe. I’m the only actor in the film and it was a great character role. I had a blast, and I think it has a lot of potential to go somewhere.

There are a few plays coming up at Elephant Theater Company that I’ll hopefully get involved with. I’ve been talking to people about doing some web series, and it’s been exciting talking about doing those projects. Within our crew, we have about 3 scripts that we’re hoping to start pre-production on in the fall. But I’m not doing anything anytime soon, because I’ll be going to South Africa for the World Cup. All I’ve been doing recently is a lot of publicity for Loneliest Road, just trying to promote the movie.

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