Advice from prolific actor: 'Perfect is Boring'
BY MICHELLE MIRON Editor, The Lowdown
MINNEAPOLIS — Professional actor Paul Cram recently added another credit to his resume by appearing as a warmongers henchman in the indie film “Dust of War.” Shot in South Dakota, the post-apocalyptic action film was shown as part of the Le Marché du Film series in Cannes earlier this month. The Wyoming native has had a number of roles in independently produced movies, especially horror flicks (since many were never re-leased, hes lost track of the number). Another recent gig has been playing the Scream Collector Intern in televised commercials for Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America. The single guy who lists his age as “cast from my mid-20s up to 30s” also teaches work-shops about the film industry at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Cram said hes proud to have established a viable acting career without having to move to the east or west coasts, primarily so he can live near family. The Lowdown asked him what else is up via email last week.
A: From a young age I participated in church drama and skits at Maranatha in Forest Lake, then Assembly of God in Chisago [and] at the Maplewood Community Center. My training ground for
film acting really was in college films and local indie projects. I worked for free a ton and built up my resume until I was able to start getting paid work locally, then nationally.
Q: Were friends and family skeptical of your career choice?
A: Some friends laughed at me, mocked me even, when they saw me trying to be an actor. Now those same friends send me pictures of their televisions with my commercial playing, and tell everyone they know on social media I grew up with them. My family was always supportive.
Q: Do you have a day job, and how do you juggle that?
A: Thus far my list of additional obs besides acting includes hot-tar roofer, florist at farmers markets, oil painter, food photographer, Web designer, graphic designer and customer service at a photo supply shop. I've always been blessed to have flexible work readily available when not acting. I do have an agent, two at the moment. I live in Minneapolis and travel often for auditions and work around the country by bus, train and plane.
Q: Would the average Joe around here have seen any of your films?
A: "Contract Killers" was on Netflix for a while and plays on the Starz cable network.
Q: Want to drop names about famous co-workers?
A: Cillian Murphy ("Tron" and "The Dark Knight Rises") and Edward Furlong ("Terminator 2" and "American History X").
|Left: Paul Cram on the set of "Going to Seed", Right: Crist Ballas applies fake blood on the set of "Eden"|
A: Not stepping on rattlesnakes [while] filming in the plains of South Dakota. A snake wrangler on set went around with burlap bags collecting the rattlesnakes. My underdog-type character of Gelman has some very intense scenes and having that additional layer of fear of snakes to pull into my performance made it very authentic.
Q: Do locals recognize you from your Scream Collector gig?
A: I was in a local thrift store and a woman started jumping up and down in the clothing aisle pointing at me while shouting and screaming, "I seen you on TV!" I can only imagine how crazy it must get for actual celebrities when they go out into public spaces.
Q: Next on your acting agenda?
A: I am working on a sci-fi film. It seems every film I am starting to do now has me signing non-disclosure agreements ... which is so frustrating because I love to talk about what I am doing.
Q: Your dream job as an actor?
A: Filming in a location like New Zealand in an epic fantasy film where I may or may not be a bad guy chasing a character named Frodo. A few items on my career bucket list: being in a movie that receives worldwide theatrical release; working in a foreign film; and working on stage as a lead actor at the Jungle Theater and The Guthrie Theater here in Minneapolis.
Q: Advice for would-be actors?
- A: Perfect is boring. Agents in Minneapolis and Hollywood didn't at first know what to do with me and tried to fit me into a mold of what they thought would be marketable. Over and over I heard things like "You need to put on more weight. Or maybe more muscle. You look like Gollum." Once I got my footing ... I was able to stop listening to what I didn't have, and started looking at what I did have to offer, such as a bit of an underdog-type body and face, and I can act.
- You won't know everything when you first start out, so acknowledge this and ask smart questions. You can learn how [the industry] works, and when you do, see where you fit into the bigger picture.
- Do extra work, work for free a while, get experience. Not only are college students the big-time directors of tomorrow, they also are the ones willing to take risks, be it casting you or working with new technology.
- This industry really has the ability to chew you up and spit you out without anything to show for it. Be willing to say no to work, be willing to stand up for yourself.