I recently got the chance to talk to David A. Lockhart about his leading role in ‘The Dead And The Damned’. Here, David talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and about how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey David. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘The Dead And The Damned’ – also known as ‘Cowboys & Zombies’.
Thanks for having me Matt.
What’s the general plot line surrounding the film?
A kick ass bounty hunter named Mortimer is trying to save up enough cash to redeem himself to save the family ranch and to redeem himself in the eyes of his family. During his journey, he meets up with an Apache warrior, a hot blond, and a horde of zombie mutants that want to eat him. (That’s the abridged version.)
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
A few years back I acted in one of Rene’s projects, a GI Joe film. Ever since then, we wanted to work together again but it never worked out until this movie. Right as I heard the plot, I cleared my schedule and headed out to Jamestown. I knew it would be a hit.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play Mortimer, the protagonist. He is a dedicated and tortured soul, hard-working, committed. Deeply in love with his wife, who he left back at the ranch.. and he is an amazing shot with the Colt 45. Rene and I wanted to make Mortimer very human and relatable. He’s not John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. He’s more David Lockhart in the Wild West, with a burning desire that keeps him going.
How has the reception been to the film so far?
Pretty damn good. At one point we were under 500 on the IMDB Pro meter, which is pretty amazing for a film of our budget. Most of the reviews I read were pretty positive, although there were a couple of stinkers in there. But there always will be a little ying with your yang.
The film stars your good self, Camille Montgomery, Rick Mora and Robert Amstler – with Rene Perez on board as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew?
They were simply amazing. Super talented and hardworking. I’m not sure if Rene and Mattia ever slept during the month shoot. Rene is also a great story-teller and has the ability to come up with plot points that keep the audience riveted. Camille is super sweet and talented, same with Rick Mora (although not quite as sweet). We’ve become great friends since the project. Robert was only on set for a couple of days, but he was always super nice. Paul Nordine is a great DP. It is always an honor to work with him. I’ve worked with him numerous times. We did the Sugar Cube Tube comedy show together. When I heard Paul was on board, I was super excited because I knew it was going to look fantastic. The crew was also amazing. George Anderson, Randy Dillion..the townsfolk of Jamestown. Couldn’t of happened without everyone coming together. Let’s not forget Ed Martinez and his great special effects. He not only made some terrifying zombies, but he also made same pretty realistic gaping bloody holes in my neck and Rick Mora’s heart.
Let’s talk a bit about you David. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
Sometimes I ask myself that same question. I enjoy it (and hate it) on many levels. But we’ll stick to the enjoyment aspect of acting. I think I first got into it because of my family. My Mom did children’s theatre and both my older brothers were into film-making and television. My brother Jacy works at KTVU Channel 2 in the Bay Area. Mostly I believe it is in my DNA. I had a HUGE imagination, when I was just two years old. I used to think I was Underdog in pre-school. In elementary school, I knew I wasn’t Luke Skywalker but I would try everyday to use the Force and move my lunchbox across the room. As I got older I loved the aspect of really getting inside of a character: Really figuring out the psyche of a character and why this person would react in a certain situation. As an actor you really have to understand people and really have empathy for everyone and be able to become that person. You have to be able to relate to every single type of person.
I am also a performer, and love to get in front of an audience as both an actor and lead singer. Feeding off the crowd of an energy is a super high, better than any drug. You give to the audience and they give back. It’s very circular and when it happens I feel completely alive. I feel in tune with myself and feeling like I was born to be doing exactly that at that moment and nothing else. My skin actually starts to tingle when this happens. Even if it’s just me alone with the camera operator or in front of a thousand people.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in acting?
Don’t do it.
Just kidding. If you feel like you were born to do it, then go for it. You have to want to do it for the right reasons. If you want to do it because you want to be a celebrity it most likely won’t happen. If you really have a true love of it, and you love it as much as breathing and you have no other choice, then go for it with everything you have. It takes an insane amount of work. You have to be prepared for it. You have to be sort of insane to even want to do it. (FYI – I am insane. I ask myself at least once a month why the hell do I torture myself like this.) If you don’t have that burning desire, most likely you won’t have the energy to continue. There is so much rejection, that you have to be able to have a tough skin to keep on going.
I have recently started a non-profit to help actors, musicians, filmmakers, and other artists called Artistspalooza. Our mission is to empower artists to empower the world. You can find out more about us at: www.artistspalooza.org.
Another piece of practical advice I can give is to take classes, network and go to functions, go see other people’s plays, buy a camera and shoot some of your own projects. But most importantly HAVE FUN with it. Another practical note: you are probably going to need a side job that you really enjoy, and that’s flexible so you can go on auditions. Be okay with this job. Most likely being a waiter is a perfect job. Don’t have an ego that you are too good to be a waiter. I went down that route as a young man, and ended up with all my savings depleted and being completely stressed out. If you have a steady form of income coming in, it helps you relax and puts you in a place where you can be creative. You need stability to be able to be in the zone. There is that rumor that to be an artists you need to be hungry and suffering. But let me dispel that rumor right here. If you are couch surfing, or living in your car, you will not be in the right frame of mind to be your creative genius, or your own true self. Also take care of yourself. Your body is your acting instrument. Eat right, get rest, don’t party into the wee hours of the night. Go to plenty of networking opportunities but drink Roy Rogers, not booze.
Who has been your favorite actor to work with so far and who has given the best advice to you?
Wow. I’ve worked with so many people, and each time is a valuable learning experience. Couple people right off the bat I can think of. Robert Weinapple, who taught me the trigger technique in acting. This is a great method not only to keep you in the moment, but a great way to memorize those long monologues. Another person that comes up in my mind is Javier Galito Cava. He taught me some great ways to break down the lines of a script to read in a more natural, realistic way. Most recently, native Rick Mora gave me a great lesson on how to promote yourself. Really think of yourself as a product. He is amazing at that. Better than anyone I’ve met.
You’ve been in a number of shorts and indie projects – how important do you think the indie industry is right now?
In my opinion the people in the indie industry are the only ones making films that are worthwhile to watch. The studio system is playing it really safe, only making things that they know they can recoup their money on. It’s so expensive to make one of these films, e.g. 50 to 100 million – that all they are effectively doing is either making sequels of films or adaptations of comic books, then covering up their lack of creativity with a ton of CGI. The result is lots of crapola with no character development. This is not good news for an actor. Now don’t get me wrong. I like a good rock em, sock em, mindless summer blockbuster every now and again. But it’s like junk food. It tastes really good while you are watching it, but afterwards leaves you feeling crappy. Sort of like empty calories. To be a true artist you need to be willing to challenge yourself and push the envelope. Indie films can do that, but they’re too risky for the studios to take on.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
Film related? I’ve been following the debate on whether to give tax breaks to film producers in California. I think this is super important. We are losing so much business to the other states and countries right now because they are giving a tax break. Up to 40% of your film budget. But California won’t vote Yes on it. If we don’t do the tax break, pretty soon Hollywood will be gone and all the jobs along with it, including marketing, advertising, crew actors and locations.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
Currently, I’m working on a film called ‘Pure’ (working title) which is aimed at ending the human trafficking of children. You can get more information at www.thepurefilm.com. All proceeds from the film are going to help build safe homes in Thailand. We shot a bunch of it in Thailand this year. Very powerful. The children we met are so amazing. So full of life, and this woman Lana who saves the children blew my mind. I can’t wait to help them.
Thanks for the interview!