In Session: Chris Gaunt
QUEENSBURY – Some people devote their entire life to a career, while others find their true calling later on down the road. The latter is certainly true for actor Chris Gaunt, who thirty years into his career in the business industry, decided it’s time to take the helm as a creative in the film industry. Never slowing down – one may wonder when he has time to breathe – Gaunt, through his work as an actor, producer, writer, and director, has racked up forty-two credits on IMDb in a relatively short amount of time.
With many of his works being featured in the domestic and international film festival circuits, it was my pleasure to get a chance to sit down with Gaunt this week. What follows is our conversation, which covered a myriad of topics on film, how he got started, and what’s on the horizon.
Lucas Garrett: Chris, I want to thank you for taking the time this morning to talk. I hear you have a lot of stuff going on! How’re you doing?
Chris Gaunt: Thank you for this opportunity Lucas. I’m doing great. And, yes, Luke, I have so much going on. I made the proactive decision about five years ago to exit a more traditional business-work life to focus exclusively on acting, screenwriting, producing, and directing. In a relatively short amount of time, I’ve been able to do all of those things with reckless abandon – in a good way. I really love to write, act, direct, and produce, and I’m doing that with the support of my partner and wife Kathie , as well as my two kids Tori and Colin. It’s been a wonderful opportunity and gift to have a “second act” in life.
LG: That’s great to hear. I know in the music world that I’m a part of, it seems that more and more these days that everyone isn’t just wearing “one hat,” so-to-speak. You just mentioned a ton of different things you’re doing. I believe as creatives that we don’t live in a world anymore where we can just do one thing. You know what I mean?
CG: I totally agree. Why limit yourself to just one thing? For me, it was having a genuine interest, love, desire, enthusiasm, and passion for doing all of those things, as opposed to focusing on one segment of the entertainment industry.
CG: I started acting, and as a result of my former business background, I was asked to help executive produce and produce a number of film projects. Behind the scenes of doing that, I love to screen-write, so I was writing four or five screenplays. I was given the opportunity to direct several projects within the last year or so – I love directing. Acting was first and foremost and really drove the passion in the industry. I’ve found myself doing all other aspects.
The other thing, Luke, is that I think for creators like myself and others… it gives you some sense of control. If you really want to see something brought to life on film, in this case, if you can manage to do all four of those aspects: act, produce, write, and direct; it gives you creative input and control over the destiny of the project, rather than constantly auditioning, which is more of a “needle in a haystack” approach. It gives me more control on projects that I want to see come to life on film.
LG: Nice. So, really quickly, what did you do before this?
CG: As a precursor, I’ve always had a love and passion for many things in life, but I loved the arts. From the time I was a little boy, I was really intensely interested in film and television, as well as sports. I still have those same passions. What I did before is, I put myself through college… my father died very young, and I’m the oldest of four children. Put myself through college with the goal of coming out debt-free. Had no money, so I decided to pursue business and did that for over thirty years before I was able to depart that world – which was very good to me, candidly – and focus twenty-four-seven on acting, directing, writing, and producing.
LG: That’s a pretty big career change.
CG: I think it’s somewhat unique. Many creatives I’ve met have been so since an earlier age. For me, it was more of a circuitous path to get there. I didn’t want to create part-time, I wanted to be in a position where I could do all these full-time and give one-hundred percent of my energy to it each day.
LG: In my opinion, if you’re in a position to do that – any creative outlet – that’s really the way you should do it.
CG: I agree. I’ve always been one to dive into the deep end of the pool right away and either sink or swim. I took it upon myself, in a very humble way, to learn, ask questions, and attempt to get better with each opportunity I was given. To me, Lucas, each opportunity is a gift; there are no guarantees in this business. For example, you can work very hard and not get the role. For me, just the audition opportunity is a win. If you’re chosen, great, and if not, you move on. No matter what you’re doing, ask a lot of questions, stay humble. Learn, learn, learn. Be nice and respectful of others and hope they’ll want to work with you. When making a film, it should be a collaborative event where everyone feels valued and respected. If that’s not the case, I move on.
LG: Exactly. I know someone that just quit their job, and moved to New York City to be a full-time musician. It’s terrifying, but it’s never too late to try new things! Alan Rickman wasn’t famous until he was in his fifties.
CG: Yes! His is one of the stories that I often refer to. There’s no expiration date on when you can be creative. I’m in my fifties, and I plan on doing this until I’m no longer on this Earth. With pleasure and a smile on my face.
LG: It can be very hard. Any creative industry out there, in my opinion, will beat you to your knees if you let it. You know?
CG: Yes, but don’t let it! I try my best to enjoy every second of the journey.
LG: What’re you working on right now?
CG: We just wrapped the first phase of a very complex film project called The Fledgling. That’s written by the fantastic creative writer and director, Joe Gietl. I met Joe ten months ago and we worked ten months to get the project to where it is now. We were able to shoot it over the course of three days this past weekend. We shot in Averill Park and the Albany Academy. This is an episodic project; there are seven episodes that have already been written. We did a short version to serve as a sizzle reel. It’ll be about eight minutes long and will go into editing very soon. That’ll be followed up by the pilot and then the remaining six episodes. We’re incredibly excited about this film project.
The real exciting part is that we were able to attach two unbelievably strong actors to this project. One of the female leads has been known in the industry for years and years. Her name is Juliet Landau. She’s most known for her role as Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her parents are the well known actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Juliet couldn’t have been more generous and gracious with her time. Juliet sparked to the strong writing and story. And, she absolutely brought it, in this case, as Bianca, who’s a vampire character that’s about 300 years old. She did a great job bringing her character to life. Her husband, Dev Weekes was on set the entire time providing amazing behind-the-scenes pictures. Dev is an incredible photographer. It was great having both on set. They are a powerhouse creative team and, two of the nicest people I have ever met.
We also have Anastasia Veronica Lee. She’s only twelve years old and plays a lead character named Charlie. She’s recently worked with Dustin Hoffman and Candice Bergen and just auditioned for a very large film that she’ll be shooting in October through November if she secures that part. She is an amazing young actor who just pops on the screen. Those two will be our two stars going into the pilot, and going into the episodes.
Lynda Suarez was cast as Nurse Hadley. Lynda is a fantastic actor who lights up the room with her incredibly positive attitude. She is so talented and a blast to work with on set.
Casting Director Heidi Eklund of Hudson Valley Casting did a wonderful job helping us attach Juliet and Lynda to The Fledgling. We have assembled such a dedicated and talented cast and crew. I’m an executive producer, producer, and actor on that project.
LG: That sounds involved!
CG: A few other film projects. Follow Her, is a ninety-minute, psychological thriller that’s been shown domestically and internationally. We’re written up as one of the “Twelve Must-See Films” at the Woodstock Film Festival. The film is a fantastic female-helmed psychological thriller written by Dani Barker. She’s also the lead. Sylvia Caminer directed the film and, it was shot by Luke Geissbuhler: Oscar-nominated director of photography, best known for his shooting of both Borat films. Caminer has been nominated for about ten Emmy’s and has won two.
We shot that film and, it was in the can right before COVID and has now made its way through production. It’s doing incredibly well in domestic and international film festivals.
Another project is Laurina. That’s based on a true-story of a young girl who is impregnated by her stepfather in the early 1920’s. She takes her stepfather to court and wins a landmark court case. A hundred years ago! That was shot nearly a year ago in November in the Amsterdam, Ballston Spa, and Albany area. Laurina just got selected to the Orlando film festival, as well as the Fort Lauderdale film festival. Laurina is a short film that we’d love to see become a full-length feature film.
Last October, I shot a wonderful and very inclusive film called A Lasting First Impression. We’ll be premiering that at the Adirondack Film Festival. It’s won many awards both at the domestic and international level. I directed, executive produced, produced, cast and acted in the film. It was a fantastic, inclusive film project! Another film being shown at the Adirondack Film Festival, as well as in Lake Placid, is a beautiful short film by Katie Lynn Johnson, If I Could Tell You. Katie wrote it, and I acted in it, as well as helped produce that film.
The final recent project I’ll mention is Against the Ropes. I directed eight episodes, and acted in it. This series, created by Shane Alden of New Light Media Films, is available to stream now on Roku, SVTV Network, Amazon Fire TV, Reveel, Oneplay Media and Lesflix.
LG: Sounds like you have a lot on the horizon! Chris, I first heard of you through Tara Rule, whom I’ve worked with briefly, and we’ll be collaborating in the near future. Then, I’m doing another interview with Spencer Sherry, and he mentions you, too! I’ve noticed that music and film are very similar this way; everyone seems to either know one another, or work with one another at some point in time.
CG: Yes! I love working and supporting projects in the local 518 and general area; north and south, east and west of the 518! I love working with and supporting talented film creators like Tara, Spencer, Joe Gietl, and many others. I’m constantly working with creatives in and around the 518 area, but also, as an actor, I’m a gun for hire: I act in New York, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between. I can act wherever I’m hired, and I’m sincerely grateful for any and all acting opportunities. Any time I’m given the opportunity to audition, that’s a true gift. Then, when you’re attached to a project, that’s the cherry on top of the sundae; an even better experience!
LG: We’ve had a great conversation today! Before we go, what is one bit of advice – especially from someone that had a career, and one day said, “No, I want to do this instead” – that you’d have for someone that wants to go into film?
CG: For me, it’s “Do what you think you can’t do.” It may sound a bit cliché, but when you give yourself the freedom to stretch and not stay safe in a contained box that maybe has been created for you or you’ve created for yourself, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. “Do what you think you can’t do;” it’s amazing what can and will get done.
I’ve also lived by personal mottos of “refuse to be outworked”. Be kind. Be grateful. Be supportive. And, perhaps people will want to work with you. And, if that’s not reciprocated then quickly move on. This is a tough industry, and we all work hard. Be gracious and thankful for any and all opportunities you get. This has all given me tremendous freedom to go beyond and stretch. Don’t put limitations on yourself! Say YES! Then, figure out how to get it done.
I’ll close with this: with every project I do – acting, writing, producing, or directing – the objective is to get just a bit better each time. One small step up the mountain each time, can lead to bountiful growth.
LG: There’s a lot of great advice there. It was very nice to talk with you today.
CG: Thank you, Lucas! You’re amazing, and thank you so much for reaching out! I really appreciate this opportunity to speak with you. Keep creating!
LG: You too, man! I’ll talk to you soon.
CG: Creators supporting creators! I love it. Talk to you soon.