INTERVIEW: Sean A Kaufman
Earlier this year we were given the exciting opportunity to review R&F Entertainment’s latest short film, Maturing Youth. The film will be premiering on October 21st at The Cutting Room International Short Film Festival, so we chatted with the film’s lead, Sean A Kaufman, to learn more about him and his time on the set of the film!
Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers…
Sure would! Hey everyone! Sean A. Kaufman here, but you can call me Seanzie – I play Roger in R&F Entertainment’s upcoming short film Maturing Youth. I’m a born and raised New Yorker (you get extra points if you’ve heard of Staten Island, and you win if you’ve ever been there!), a graduate of Dartmouth College and then The Maggie Flanigan Studio where I trained as an actor, and a lover of dogs of all breeds and sizes.
Maturing Youth is your first role in a short film – What was it like stepping onto the set on day one?
It was! And because of that, and this is probably going to sound so trite, but oh well, it was an experience I’ll always cherish very dearly. I drove out to location in Hempstead, Long Island in my 2005 Honda CR-V (more on that later, I promise), wheeled my suitcase up to the house full of excitement, and finally laid eyes on the halls I’d imagined walking for so long already. The first moments on a stage, once it’s fully designed, or a set when your eyes either confirm or deny your assumptions about what you’ve read are always full of wonder. Realness meets your daydreams and suddenly you can see the scenes in your mind with vivid clarity – and that’s what it was like for me as I toured the home we filmed in. I relished having so much detail to take in, from cartoonish kiddie magnets on the refrigerator to charming fruit-themed wall decorations, and a very reflective wall unit that I immediately (and unnecessarily) began to worry about, with respect to filming. The few hours leading up to filming were filled with an electric excitement for me, meeting all the crew members, going over safety and ground rules. I couldn’t wait to don my costume and makeup, get mic’d up, and start rolling. And yes, that was certainly make-up. I should hope I don’t normally look so druggy.
Did you have any previous acting experience before landing the role of Roger Maturing Youth?
Yes, I’ve been acting for years, in a sense, but this was a new sort of professional milestone for me. I started when I was a first year in high school, bitten by the theatre bug, doing two musicals each year, and in college I learned long-form improv comedy from my troupe The Dog Day Players. My senior year, I also did two plays, and they were really what launched me into life as actor. Soon after I graduated, I had an absolute blast doing summer stock theatre in New London, New Hampshire and that fall I did regional theatre in neighboring Vermont. The next year I spent my time back home auditioning as much possible and doing small plays. During this period I realized I’d need to start training seriously, which was how I ended up under the watchful eyes of Charlie Sandlan, Karen Chamberlain, and others at The Maggie Flanigan Studio for two years. Maturing Youth is not only my first film, it was also my first audition after graduating from that program.
Your character Roger is a care-free, weed smoking layabout. Are there any characters from film/TV that you used as inspiration for playing this role?
That he is, and yes, I had all sorts of inspiration. First and foremost, our writer/director Divoni Simon asked me to study The Big Lebowski for inspiration and character development. Fun and helpful as that was, I also turned to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) from Breaking Bad. I found him to be particularly useful, albeit much more… entrepreneurial than Roger. I made it a point not to copy anyone; anyway, I’m of the belief that try as one might, it’s almost impossible to copy others’ acting since any actions you execute must play through you and your acting instrument, making it your own. As flattering as it has been to hear myself or my Roger compared to a well-known actor in a well-known comedy, I still take pride in the uniqueness of the Roger I’ve created. He’s definitely a far cry from Sean as the actor, yet hopefully believable enough for the audience to buy him as a real person.
What did you find most enjoyable about filming Maturing Youth?
There are a few different kinds of things I enjoyed – and I don’t want to cop out and just say “everything!” When it came to filming the scenes, our Director of Photography, Zach [Mayor], was really collaborative with my cast mates and me. Most of our ideas worked well together, and he always found great ways to motivate camera movement and action. I learned a lot from working with him. I also really enjoyed working with the crew. In less than three days we shot a whole film, so we became close. I was well prepared for most of my filming and wasn’t too worried about losing focus, so I enjoyed chatting with everyone during our breaks, and hopefully making them feel appreciated (because if anyone works hard, it’s a film crew). Lastly, and this was something that only occurred to me once we had finished filming, but the effect that this story has on the audience from the themes floating to the surface in Maturing Youth make me so proud to have been part of it. One crew member privately revealed to me how watching the scenes unfold as we filmed had such a visceral effect on him due to the nature of his relationship with his own son. Learning that this was more than just a role for me to play and feel and stick on a resume made it take on an entirely new meaning and sense of accomplished art. Maturing Youth is a funky story with lots of hidden depth just waiting to be experienced. The same way Roger is surprised by his status as a father, I felt I had just been granted responsibility for delivering the message this wonderful story holds.
Do you feel like you learned a lot during this shoot?
Let’s put it this way: for the three days we filmed, there was rarely a moment I wasn’t learning something. There are some things that seem to make sense that I learned on a film shoot, like what a focus puller does, or why a certain kind of makeup is applied, or that Craft Services is your best friend, lord, and savior. But then there are straight up life lessons you learn. Remember when I told you I’d have more to say about my car? Once we finished and I was packing up my car, I decided to drive it up the street to make it more convenient to load up in front of the house. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk! I thought, wow this street must be bumpy, but no! Apparently I had run over a huge nail when I parked three mornings earlier, and sure enough that tire was flatter than a pizza (more on that later, too!). Thankfully, those friends I made on the crew came to my aid. Apollo Figueras and Ray Adamavage taught me how to change a flat! Thanks again, guys. You are gentlemen and scholars. And in case anyone is wondering why, after filming a whole movie about fatherhood, my father hadn’t already taught me that important skill, don’t worry – he did; it had just been so long since I needed to do it that I forgot. Whoopsies!
Do you have any advice for anyone else who may be just starting out in the film industry?
More broadly than just for film, for any actor, I’d drill the point that it’s so important to get good acting training. Learn what it is that we are doing here. Learn that it’s hard work and soul searching and dedication to an art form thousands of years old. Learn that it’s so, so, so much more than learning lines and looking the part. Learn that it means a lifetime of learning!
And please, be considerate. Be nice. Actors get treated pretty well all the time, so the least you can do to give back is be kind to those also working on a project, in whatever capacity it may be. They’re people with feelings, hopes, and dreams just like you.
Do you have any future projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?
Yes! As of the time of this interview, I’m in rehearsals for the world premiere of the play Suddenly, produced by Live Source Theatre Company, based on the 1954 Frank Sinatra film of the same title. We run Oct. 5-20, 2018 at HERE Arts Center in NYC. I’m also starring in a feature length independent horror film still in production, and have assistant directed fellow Maturing Youth cast mate Terrence Keene in the feature film he co-wrote, Joaquin and Luke. Lots to be excited about at the moment!
What’s your dream role?
When they re-boot The Office and need someone out there to contend with Michael, Dwight, Jim, and the rest – that guy! I know I need to show the British version some love, too, and I promise I will! I just love the American version so much I’d sell my soul to be a part of it.
We like to end our interviews with the most important question of all – does pineapple belong on pizza?
Ah, back to pizza! Well, I’m a NYC boy and have already mentioned one preference, FLATNESS, none of that Chicago deepdish nonsense. Sorry Chi-town, I’m sure I’ll love it when I get there and try it. But I have tried pineapple on a pizza (Italian friends, it’s ok – I never had it again, I swear!). It’s like most things you try in college: done while sleep-deprived, probably harmless, but mostly for the story. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. When it comes to pizza, I’m somewhat of a purist, but you would be too if you were born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island. But I’ll tell you this: I love the idea of throwing pineapple on a pizza when it comes to acting. When you’re in rehearsal or filming and have an excess of time – try things! Make fun choices! Screw convention – you can discover something new and potentially unlock something great! If you’ve seen Maturing Youth already, the bag-diaper was my pineapple on a pizza! So I hope you enjoy!
Thanks Jumpcut Online for a great interview!
We’d like to thank Sean again for taking the time to chat with us and we’re excited for Maturing Youth‘s premiere at the end of the month! Keep your eyes peeled on our site and social feeds as we chat to more of the cast and crew of the film!