Today, I get the immense pleasure of interviewing one of today’s most versatile actors on the independent film scene, Mike Lane. Currently, Mike is receiving critical acclaim for his portrayal of Hubcap Bullion in the unabashedly brilliant film, The Blood Shed. An actor whose subtleties speak volumes, he has the uncanny ability to steal any scene that he’s a part of, even if he’s slightly off center (screen, that is). I’m thrilled to give you 10 Questions for…Mike Lane!
1.) Dave: What was your first role and how did you land the part?
Mike: I played an up and coming mobster in an independent movie shot on Long Island. I think the original actor had bailed and I was called and given the part really close to the shooting day. It might have been the night before.
I was really sick that day and my face looked was really pale. More pale than usual. I had no lines but I got to beat up the lead character. Alas, I was then killed by a baseball bat.
I never received a copy of the movie and don’t even know if it was finished.
That was eight years ago.
Another one of my early gigs was an extra in a Verizon commercial. Times Square in New York City was closed off overnight and I along with hundreds of actors stood in the middle of the street making “V” signs with our hands. I don’t do extra work anymore.
2.) Dave: When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
Mike: I had always enjoyed acting as kid and I used to make movies at home and school with friends.
What triggered my desire to pursue acting as a career was when I saw Star Wars Episode I :The Phantom Menace. I looked at Anakin at the end and thought “Wow he looked like me when I was his age. Wouldn’t it be cool if I had a part in a Star Wars movie?” After that thought, I had an epiphany that I wanted to be an actor. How’s that for a thought process?
I’m sure something else would have triggered this urge to act but it just happened to be Star Wars. I wrote about this experience in detail at: http://www.lightanddark.net/MikeLaneCommentary.htm#Star_Wars_and_Me
3.) Dave: What does your family think about your career choice and the films you’ve been in?
Mike: They are extremely supportive regarding my career. They were naturally worried at first due to the competitive nature of the business but they knew that I knew the risks involved.
My dad has watched everything I’ve done. My mom can’t watch me in any of my horror movies though since they’re not her thing.
I do feel very awkward when they watch a scene I’m in that has any kind of sexual content. It’s weird that I can watch movies I’m in with my Dad where I’m hacking people to pieces or getting killed, but if a naked woman is next to me in a scene I feel strange. What a society we live in.
4.) Dave: How do you prepare for a role?
Mike: It all starts with the text. I take the lines off the page and respond instinctually to each line at the moment. I follow a lot of the guidelines in How to Stop Acting by Harold Guskin which is the best acting book I’ve read. Starting with the text is one of them.
I’ve recently read the book so I look forward to putting Guskin’s approach into action. I had a much different approach in the past.
I also do some research on the characters I play but I don’t go too crazy with it. For example in my next movie, Scott Perry’s Insatiable, I play a wannabe vampire who is a serial killer. I have read a bunch articles about why real wannabe vampire serial killers do what they do just to get into their head. My research does sometimes creep in the scene at the moment. It’s all about the moment and I don’t want to force anything while acting. I sound, like, so Zen, man.
Guskin’s technique stresses that the actor still explore the possibilities of the character even during the performance. This makes the acting spontaneous, unpredictable and exciting. I strive for those qualities in any performance I give.
5.) Dave: Who or what inspires you creatively?
Mike: I am inspired by failure. When I hear of a person who had success and then lost it or never had success but tried, I feel better. This inspires me since there is someone worse off or in the same boat as me. This makes me feel better about myself, more comfortable and inspires me to work in a creative capacity. Misery certainly loves company.
I hate hearing success stories because they present a false sense of reality. Not everyone who tries to succeed will succeed. It’s a fact of life. A lot of shows and products try to convince you that anything is possible and this is not always the case. Plus I get jealous and envious of really successful people flaunting their wares around.
I certainly hope for the best but expect the worst.
On a more positive note, almost anything and everything is inspiring to me. Music, books, movies, talk radio, great debates, looking outside my window, people watching etc. Sometimes the simplest things get my creative juices flowing.
Some of my favorite movies deal with an underdogs fight against the establishment. Movies like Dead Poets Society, Glory and the original Star Wars trilogy come to mind and that is very inspiring.
6.) Dave: Did you have any input into your character in The Blood Shed, Hubcap Bullion, and whose idea was it for you to wear the hair clips (genius, by the way)?
Mike: Yes I had input on Hubcap. What’s great about Alan Rowe Kelly is that he is so receptive when it comes to creative input from anyone involved in his movie.
The character description for Hubcap was that he is “a lazy eyed sloth.” I immediately thought of the trick I can do with my eye which is usually the face I make when I’m just waking up.
When I read “sloth” I thought of slow and lazy so I started speaking Hubcap’s lines really slow. During the first table read, my lines were spoken even slower than they are in the movie. After discussing Hubcap with Alan we tweaked the character and decided to speed up my delivery.
The character of Hubcap also evolved during the shoot and I threw in some improvised rambling and other actions during some scenes.
The Blood Shed was a truly collaborative effort with Alan having the final say. Most of the time, however, he just let the actors do what we wanted but was always there if we had a question. This is one of the reasons why the movie was incredibly fun to shoot, why it turned out as great as it did and why Alan is one of my favorite directors to work with.
The hair clips as well as Hubcap’s wardrobe and look were all from the beautifully demented mind of Alan Rowe Kelly. Let’s not forget my tattered fishing vest and arm full of watches.
7.) Dave: What do you like to do when you’re not acting?
Mike: I’ve been getting into eating a raw vegan diet. I’ve been a vegan for over seven years but I’m slowly trying to transition to eating more of a raw diet since it’s one of the healthiest ways to eat. It’s a pain in the ass since to prepare some of the food because it’s a complete lifestyle change but I am enjoying the health benefits.
I also like going to raw vegan restaurants, hanging with friends at bars that play great music, reading, going to movies, spending time with family and friends, playing guitar and listening to Howard Stern, music and other kinds of talk radio while I work. Sirius satellite radio rules!
There must be a balance between my professional and personal life. If there is not, I will go insane. I recently figured this out. It took me long enough.
8.) Dave: What are the best and worst things about being an actor in independent films?
Mike: Let’s save the worst for last.
One of the best parts is that a lot of the work is edgier since there is rarely any compromise. I’m attracted to that kind of work regardless of the genre. Taking that kind of risk is exciting.
The camaraderie is great in indie film. The actors and crew are all together since there is usually no budget for separating everybody into trailers so a family atmosphere is created. The Blood Shed was one of the best sets ever because of this camaraderie.
The money is not good for anybody. Everybody is roughing it from the actors to the crew.
Since the money is not good there are sometimes not the most professional people involved. I’ve seen and experienced loads of incompetence. Some examples are::
-Actors and/or crew being late or not showing up
-Not receiving a finished movie after working incredibly hard on it
-Movies not being completed and not receiving a copy after working incredibly hard on them.
-Not being paid when promised I would.
I can go on and on. If I did this only for the money I would have quit a long time ago.
9.) Dave: Your talent has been widely recognized in films like The Tenement and The Blood Shed. Have you ever considered making the leap to Hollywood?
Mike: No. I’m a New Yorker. I have friends and family here. I would go to Hollywood if the work was available though. I would go anywhere to work but I would not like looking for a job in an unfamiliar place.
I would like to have Hollywood come to me instead of the other way around. With the advent of digital filmmaking and the internet making the world smaller, it’s not a necessity to go there. I know most film and TV work is found in Hollywood but if I’m going to “make it” it will be on my terms.
10.) Dave: What will we be seeing you in next?
Mike: Bill Zebub’s The Worst Horror Movie Ever Made will be premiering February 21st at The Clash Bar in Clifton NJ at 9pm. I play the Muslim Bartender and Gay Witness which are both principal roles. The movie will most likely be distributed since all of Bill’s movies land some kind of distribution. It’s a wildly offensive comedy that, believe it or not, does contain a positive message.
I recently had my whole face and body cast for an exhibit at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha Wisconsin. My likeness will be used to portray a hungry soldier.
I can also be seen as the focal point of a print ad for Dentek.
I’m currently the lead role Scott Perry’s Insatiable and a supporting player in the audio drama The Age of the Swords from Lion’s Mouth Entertainment. I also have a role in Alan’s The Hollows shooting in March.
I have other projects lined up but I won’t announce them until they are definite. Fortunately I’ve been keeping busy.
Without a doubt, Mike Lane is one of the most talented and versatile character actors of our time and with his incredible ability, he’s sure to get the notoriety he deserves. I want to thank Mike for taking a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. For more information about Mike, visit his website at http://www.lightanddark.net/MikeLane.htm, and then check out the website for his most recent film, The Blood Shed at http://www.thebloodshed.net/.