BWW Interviews: Film, Stage and TV Actor Sebastian La Cause
There is something truly amazing when an actor can take control of their own fate by using their energy to produce something that not only catches the attention of others, but can feed their creative soul as well. Broadway, film and television actor Sebastian La Cause has done just that when he created his own web series HUSTLING - a sexy and thought-provoking look at an aging hustler in search of the 'next thing' in life. The series has been winning awards and numerous fans. Broadway World set down with this actor to discuss this series.
BWW: Thanks for joining us, Sebastian. With such an amazing career on stage (from Rocky Horror to Chicago to A Chorus Line), film (Keep The Lights On, Bear City, Ghost Town, Chicago to name a few) and television (Homeland, Gossip Girl, SVU, Days of Our Lives, and the upcoming Orange Is The New Black for Netflix) - what made you decide to create your own web series?
Sebastian La Cause: I wanted to take more control of my own artistry and development as a creative person. Like many actors, I felt my destiny was held in the hands of others and I wanted to do something about that. I had returned from a six month auditioning stint in Los Angeles and was so energized by the TV and film world that when I returned to New York, with the encouragement of my friend Todd Riegler, I started exploring the world of web series and was completely inspired by the work I saw and instantly knew this was a space I wanted to try to work in.
BWW: How did you choose the subject matter in the series?
La Cause: I created my Production Company Actorman Entertainment, LLC and started brainstorming ideas. I knew that I didn't want to make the show about a struggling actor or auditioning life in New York City so I created a show about a struggling hustler who wanted to change his life...which is somewhat a metaphor for being an actor ha!
BWW: So true! Running your own company and directing, starring, producing the show - wow! That is so much work. What has been the biggest challenge for you in doing all of that in an episodic series?
La Cause: In many ways they each have their own set of challenges and obstacles. Directing is the most fun. Starring brings with it the pressure of, well, starring in your own show and not sucking but I think producing holds the most challenges. If you can't produce the show it doesn't get made. Producing is putting out the fires, solving problems and dealing with the actual 'how'; how the hell am I going to manifest this nothing into something without a studio, production house or network backing me? All three have pushed me in ways I never expected. It has opened me up artistically in ways I had no idea I was capable of. I have been fortunate to have done some very cool things in my career so far. However, I feel like I'm just now reaching and understanding my full potential as a creative being. It's been liberating.
BWW: One awesome thing about a web series is longevity as it can live forever (or as long as it is posted). You started in 2011 so what has it been like for you to gain new followers (and awards) on this journey?
La Cause: I also do all the marketing and PR myself through social media. It's a lot of work and I don't have the media reach a publicist would have so every new subscriber, like, follower and view is an absolute gift. About two weeks before I launched season one I started to have a mini-meltdown. I was coming out of my creative bubble that washed over me like warm bath water and it suddenly dawned on me that once I launched the pilot, it was going to be 'out there' for the world to see and criticize. I suddenly got very scared and had to talk myself down from the ledge. What if it was awful and no one watched. That was the risk. I hadn't really seen any shows like Hustling before with a sexually ambiguous main character that has sex with men for money.
BWW: Having written a controversial book myself, I know that subject matter can always make it difficult to know how people will respond.
La Cause: Before the series went live online I screened the teaser, the trailer and the first three episodes at a private screening at Tribeca Cinemas to generate some buzz and to photograph it. I had to keep reminding myself that once you set your mind to achieve something the universe will conspire to help you get there. As many bumps as there were along the way in season one, things still kept falling into place. I had been able to solve the problems. So, I knew in my gut that I was on the right path and that I had to put the fear behind me and move forward. I kept following my instincts and did what I thought was authentic and funny and told the story that I wanted to tell. The screening was magical. I could not have imagined a better response to the work. And as season one continued, the viewer's responses followed suit.
BWW: It's really wonderful you were able to elicit the response you have (and I for one am slightly addicted to the show myself).
La Cause: Somehow I was able to tap into that truth of survival and the pursuit of deeper meaning in one's life set on a backdrop of sex and food. People were really responding to that. Then with the success of the Kickstarter for season two followed by the accumulation of seven Indie Soap Award nominations and two wins, being selected as a 2013 Webby Honoree in the Drama category, more incredible comments from fans, more subscribers and more view counts I'm still blown away and humbled at how strongly people have connected to Ryan's story of self-discovery and his search for purpose. People are hooked and pinning now for a third season. (Which I'm currently writing and hope to fund on Kickstarter in June.)
BWW: I really love the cast, music, camera angles and editing (I could Go On and on) in your series. Can you share a little about your cast and crew?
La Cause: One of the greatest rewards of creating Hustling has been the opportunity to work with such incredible actors and collaborators, most of which have been my friends and people I've worked with and admired over the years. Andreas Anastasis, a talented, aspiring film maker, who shot the season one teaser helped me get Hustling off and running. Season two brought me the gift of cinematographer Nathaniel Kramer who helped elevate the production value of the show immensely. The series would not be same without the music of independent artists SIRPAUL and That Rogue Romeo. And I cannot say enough about my incredibly talented and diverse cast of actors like Wilson Cruz, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Stephen Guarino. I'd list them all if I could. They all trusted in me so much as a director. We collectively created this show and I am forever grateful to them all.
BWW: What are your personal views on how quickly technology is changing that allows so many people to enter this medium?
La Cause: This is a very exciting time for the web series genre. We can create our own networks, our own channels. It's exciting to be at the forefront of this for sure and I'm thankful for those who came before me because I learned and am still learning a lot from them. I think anything that gives people opportunity to create and expand their lives is an awesome thing.
BWW: Amen to that! How do you feel it will play out in the future?
La Cause: I believe we are just at the beginning of something that will change television and how people view their content for a long time to come. It's somewhat like the independent film movement. This is what we content creators are doing; independently producing scripted, serialized content. I've even heard of it referred to as long-form web series. If you can create a compelling story, people will sit for longer than three minutes to watch your show. It's a totally different animal than a viral video with shirtless guys, or an incredible vocalist doing an Adele cover. We have to hold your interest and keep you watching for ten or fifteen minutes. What I'm hoping for the future is a way for independent producers to actually make a living to do it. Unless Intel, or AMC is funding your project, or Tom Hanks is producing it, it's tough. The truth is we do it for the love of creating and with the hopes that it will be a calling card to take you to the next level so you can make a living doing what you love, creating.
BWW: Thanks so much, Sebastian, for taking the time to share all of this with us. Please check out the series at: www.hustlingthewebseries.com.
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