Cackalack.com sits down with film producer, actor and writer Darren Conrad.
C: How is it going Darren?
I am doing great my friend! Still burning the candle at both ends with a full time career in State Law Enforcement, Writing, Producing, and still booking roles here and there. My series, “Partners”, is pretty much getting 100% of my film side attention these days. We are finishing up shooting Episode 4 before Christmas, and then will complete Season 1 by shooting Episode 5 in the Spring.
C: Could you tell us about yourself?
Sure. I was born and raised in Gastonia, N.C. and lived there until my father passed away in early 1989. I started acting on stage at the young age of 5. Children’s Theater, Talent Shows, Chorus and Church Choir. This lead me up through high school and college drama; majoring in Theater from Mars Hill College. My mother was very artistic in her youth; so I feel that rubbed off on me from the start. I was still very athletic as a child; playing football and baseball all the way through college. That side was obviously from my father. When my father passed away in 1989, my life changed a great deal. My dreams of becoming a stage actor were put on the back burner and something told me law enforcement was a career choice. I began my career in Winston-Salem, N.C., and eventually it brought me back home in 1998. I have been assigned to Charlotte ever since. As I stand now, I am in the last decade of my career before a full pension.
C: OK, so you have a background in acting?
Yes, and what brought me back in the present day was definitely a journey. I had mentioned one time in another interview that during my youth, television and film acting seemed like a million miles away. In an era of no social media, computers, internet, etc, everything involving film acting was either in LA or NY. Stage acting really gives you so much training in the history of theater and how to “perform big” for an audience. You’re not worried about a camera on stage; and depending on the nature of the scene; you tend to want to be larger than life. One of my dearest friends and acting mentors, Dan Biggers, who passed away in December 2011, encouraged me to not give up on my dream of acting. The hardest part for me was learning to make the huge transition from stage to film. It literally took me years to tone it down and be more real and organic. Being 6″02 and 250 lbs, I had to learn how to produce internal energy instead of too much external energy. Sometimes it still works; depending on how large the character is. The character of Officer John Walker in Partners has really been amazing as it has allowed me to keep it real and not try so hard to “perform”. On the writer and producer aspect, I knew in my heart all along I wanted write stories from the heart and learn everything I could about production. I absolutely love producing and casting. Writing I feel is truly a God Gifted talent I possess because I write about “what I know”, and not “what I don’t know”.
C: Give us a glimpse of a typical day on set of one of your productions.
Absolutely. My productions are all SAG-AFTRA Signatory. Don’t get me wrong; I have helped produce some amazing Non-Union Projects; but those were generally as an “Executive Producer”; which other than helping with the financing, I was not involved in any other of the production aspects. On one of my actual productions, such as “Partners” and “The Kill Switch”, I do wear a lot of hats because I want my director and his crew to be able to 100% focus on their job description. A typical day on set will be to ensure cast and crew are reporting as scheduled, getting releases signed, SAG-AFTRA Time Reports completed and signed, Taft Hartley Reports completed on Non-SAG-AFRA E Talent, ensuring breaks and meals are within SAG Rules. Safety. and if I am not shooting as an actor on a particular day, I am acting as a Line Producer and any other position I can help the director with. The one with me is, my director is the head cheese. What he says goes. I trust my crew and allow them to do their job with no interference or interruption from me.
C: So which do you prefer more acting or producing?
With me realizing I still have to give 40-50 hours a week to my career with the State of North Carolina, it does make it very hard to audition a lot as I realize if I was to book something other than maybe one or two days tops, it would be impossible for me to commit. Do I love acting? Oh yes! But it is such a rush to learn the production side of this business. I am truly in awe of the skills and talent it takes to be a director, a cinematographer, a sound mixer, lighting director, etc. I am so loving the business side of being a producer. SAG-AFTRA Signatories, budgets, contracts, deal memos, location scouting and managing, wardrobe, props, production design and managing. Writing and producing my own work right now in my career has truly been a God Sent as I can work it around my busy life and schedule. I work myself to exhaustion sometimes, but I never give up on anything I do and strive everyday to learn and do it better the next time out of the gate.
C: Cool, So what projects are you currently working on?
Right now, as of October 2014, I am currently in full blown production on my SAG-AFTRA New Media Series, “Partners”. Season 1 will be 5 Episodes once totally completed in the Spring of 2015. The first 2 episodes are currently released for paid, new media viewing on “IndieReign”. Episode 3 is complete, but my editor is doing a new cut and also some ADR and Looping. Episode 4 and 5 will be 48-50 minute episodes (minus commercials) We begin shooting Day 3 & 4 of 6 on November 1 & 2. Day 5 & 6 will be completed before the end of 2014. Episode 5 will begin principal photography in the Spring of 2015. The other SAG-AFTRA New Media Film I helped produce and also played one of the leads in, “The Kill Switch”, is now released and getting ready for the 2015 National Festival Circuit. A SAG-AFTRA Short Film produced by 25 year veteran, Barbara Lee, and myself, is now complete and has already been making rounds in the 2014-2015 National Festival Circuit. As for after “Partners”, I will start writing my very first, full length SAG-AFTRA Feature Film, “Just North”; which if everything goes as planned, will begin production in 2016.
C: Looks like you have the business side of things covered. So what would be your dream role to play or dream film to make?
I tell you, I absolutely love episodic work! Growing up, I was such a huge fan of television shows like “Dallas”, “The Waltons”. “In the Heat of the Night”; and even the old shows like “Dragnet” and “Adam 12”. Honestly, my dream roll would be a recurring character on a long running television show. As an actor, I am very honest with myself now on what I feel with my look and size I am right for portraying. You can be the best actor in the world, but if you are not believable to the audience in any way, you have lost it. I love casting. This is why I place the absolute right talent in the roles they are portraying. So, my dream role would be anything I am right and believable in on a recurring series. As a writer, I really do love writing true to heart drama. I am not a horror or a comedy writer at all. I really feel “Just North” is my dream film to make for my first feature. It is not a police story. I want to touch the audience’s life and feel like they can relate to the characters and situations I create. The world needs more inspiration. I want to contribute to that.
C: A television series would be a nice role. But I know you have a passion for movies as well. So name your favorite three movies of all time?
“Stealing Home”, “St. Elmo’s Fire”, and “The Natural”.
C: That’s a good list, so where do you see yourself in five years from now?
I can retire in 2023 with a full pension. Unless the money was more than I could ever dream of or imagine in my life, I can not see walking away from my career. The film business is such a risk. As an artist, I really do respect and admire people who have sacrificed and given up everything to get where they are today. I have to look at the fact I am almost 47 years old with a wife, a life, and a family near me. I know God has me exactly where I am suppose to be. He has allowed me to have the best of both worlds even on the level I am at in my career. Now, when I retire, oh yes, I will defiantly be giving 100% to auditioning, writing, producing, everything. My desire is that “Just North”, being my first stab at a real feature film, will go as planned and be successful enough to continue writing and producing leading up to retirement. I feel in my heart one can do anything they set their mind to if they want it bad enough. I know that the work I am doing is honest and pure; and I feel God has truly blessed me.
C: Well we’re defiantly wishing you the best with those plans. We’re can people go to get updates on you and your projects?
www.partnerstheseries.com is the Official Website of “Partners”. Please give it a look and sign our guestbook. I am a huge believer in IMDb as both actor, writer, and producer. Casting and Industry Professionals really consider this site the bible of credited and validated work. My IMDb profile is http://www.imdb.me/Darren-w-Conrad. “Partners”, “The Kill Switch”, and “Blind Date” have Facebook Pages. I am also on Twitter as @PartnersSeries.
I am a full Member of Screen Actors Guild since December 2010, and will be joining both the Writers Guild and Producers Guild in 2015.