Pride On Film: GOING DOWN IN LA LA LAND by Casper Andreas

Reeling Part 4: An interview with Casper Andreas

Casper Andreas Photo by Stina Ostman

On-set Photos by David Fardmar

Writer, Director, Actor Casper Andreas has become a mainstay in gay film festivals everywhere. His works includes many award winning films such as THE BIG GAY MUSICAL (2009), BETWEEN LOVE & GOODBYE (2008),  A FOUR LETTER WORD (2007), and SLUTTY SUMMER (2004). Andreas, who grew up in Tibro, Sweden, currently resides in New York.  He’s a graduate of The Lee Strasberg Theater Institute in New York, and studied with Eric Morris and Margie Haber in Los Angeles.

According to its marketing materials GOING DOWN IN LA LA LAND,  is “a candid, sexy, and outrageously funny look at what an actor can – and will do – to survive in Hollywood.”  It is Andreas’ sixth feature film and will be screened at Reeling 30’s closing night, Saturday November 12, at the Portage Theater 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago at 9:30PM.  He talked to PrideIndex about his film adaptation of the Andy Zeffer novel, of the same name and how he managed to keep things in order while wearing many hats in front of and behind the camera.

PRIDEINDEX: GOING DOWN IN LA LA LAND tells the story of a young naive actor who comes to Hollywood to make it big but ends up making porn; how did you bring a fresh approach to this old tale?

CASPER ANDREAS: The film is based on the novel by the same name written by Andy Zeffer, who in turn based the story on his own experiences. I think Andy did a great job capturing the world of being a struggling Hollywood actor in his novel, which was part of the reason I wanted to turn it into a movie. I also thought it was interesting to explore why a young, bright, handsome actor would get involved with porn and prostitution. What choices would one make that would lead to that? Ultimately I think the film is very honest in its portrayal of Hollywood and the crazy fame-seeking culture we live in today.  I think it’s a bit of a cautionary tale at the same time as it’s a really fun, sexy, romp.  I guess I’m trying to have it both ways and I believe it works – hopefully audiences will agree.

PI: You’re the writer, director and producer; tell us about any notable challenges you faced while wearing different hats and what you did to keep things in order?

CA: Well as a director you want to have all the fancy shots, tons of extras, and amazing sets. As a producer I had to limit myself to the budget we had which was quite low. But I’ve been in that situation with all my films so I think I’m pretty good at finding that balance.

The hardest with acting and directing at the same time is that as a director all you want to do is sit back and watch the whole picture and make sure everything works. As an actor you have to forget about everything else and just try to be in the moment as the character. The part I chose to play, Nick, is an amazing character role and I knew I would get some flack for casting myself in the part, so of course I wanted to do a good job as an actor.  I think most actors are pretty self-conscious by default since you have to put yourself out there for everyone to see and judge, and I myself am much more self-conscious about acting than directing. Since I also wrote, directed and produced, I don’t have anyone else to blame for my performance. So when people tell me this is my best film to date I get super pleased. But when they tell me that I did a great job acting in it — well that really makes my day.

PI: Did your film adaptation stay true to Zeffer’s novel?

CA: The film is no doubt based on Andy’s novel. If you read the book you will definitely recognize it. But I didn’t feel I had to tell the story exactly the same way. The novel is already out there. It exists for anyone who wants to read it. The story of the film is slightly different but hopefully equally enjoyable. When I wrote the screenplay I choose the things I personally felt was most important, fun or interesting. Granted my first obligation was to tell a coherent story with a beginning, middle and an end. In some cases I added some plot points not in the book to heighten the drama, at other times I simplified the plot in the novel. Some of the stuff in the book wasn’t needed so I cut it. Other stuff also wasn’t needed but I loved it (Candy’s slave storyline!) so I kept it anyway. In addition I added some dialogue or events from my own experiences of the time I lived in LA being a struggling actor.

PI: Does Zeffer make an appearance in the film?

CA: He was supposed to! He wanted to have a cameo and was supposed to play a snotty waiter in the beginning of the film but then was unable to come out to LA during the shoot so it didn’t happen.

PI: Why did you become a filmmaker?

CA: I guess I was always into storytelling. As a kid I was always making up stories in my head, on paper, with my Lego figures, my dolls, or in the sandbox. I always knew I wanted to write one day but then I fell in love with acting in my later teens and decided to pursuit a life on the stageJ. So I went to acting school in New York. After many years as a struggling actor I wrote my first screenplay and while doing that I realized I just had to direct it and so I jumped into film directing, which really is the most creative job imaginable!

PI: Where did you study filmmaking?

CA: I never went to film school though I took some directing classes while at The Lee Strasberg Film & Theater Institute. While on set as an actor I studied other directors, watched many films, and listened to DVD director’s commentaries, plus I read a lot of books on the subject and then learned by doing it.  For each film I make I try to grow as a filmmaker.

PI: Name at least 3 people who have the most influenced your artistic style.

CA: I honestly don’t know! There are many directors whose work I admire; the same thing with many actors. But I don’t know if any particular person has influenced my artistic style.

PI: What do like to do when you’re not making movies?

CA: I love to read, write, travel, dance, exercise, have dinner and good conversation with friends and of course watch movies.

PI: If you were to wear only one hat in your next film which one would you prefer?

CA: I’m actually trying to move away from producing. Producing never interested me – it was just a means to an end – getting to direct. So I’m actively looking to get hired to direct and not worry about the producing end of things at all.

PI: What advice would you offer to an aspiring filmmaker?

CA: Make sure you enjoy the process and are not in it just because of some lofty goal of being rich and famous. Then get to work. Work on your craft – take classes, read books, watch movies, read scripts. But don’t stop there. I know so many people who dream about making a film. Anyone can make a film these days so if you are serious about it then just do it, and don’t waste time talking about doing it. Oh, and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t. So many people don’t follow their own dreams and therefore don’t want anyone else to go after theirs. Avoid those people.

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