Seth Chatfield [Interview]

Welcome to Day 12 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 5 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

Hello Folks! We have another very exciting interview to share with you all today. Try to remember back to a while ago (Tuesday) when we mentioned how damn excited we were about a brilliant horror comedy film entitled Clickbait, when we talked with the film’s co-writer Jeremy Long? Well, it only felt like the right thing to do was to tease you all just a bit more with another wonderful collection of words from another major player in the film. It’s Seth Chatfield, Everyone!

Seth is an absolutely brilliant actor who portrays the delightful oaf of a policeman, Detective Frank Dobson, in the film you will all soon know and love known as Clickbait. He is also a brilliant mind in the world of sketch comedy, dramatic acting, and will even be getting into the director’s chair for his first short film very soon. He tells us all about his time working with our dear friends Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein on their amazing new film, how he got into his line of work, and some of the awesome stuff he has coming your way soon. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

What inspired you to get into the world of acting? Was it an early aspiration to do so, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

A lot of different threads led me into it. My first inspiration came from 70’s British television actors. I had a difficult time as a young person socially, like many creative people. We didn’t have a lot of money, so entertainment was limited – but we had PBS (public television). Which was great in the early 80’s. I spent many of my early days watching rebroadcast British television from the 70’s. Fawlty Towers, Masterpiece Theatre, the classic Doctor Who, and Sherlock Holmes. I really lost myself in those worlds – I was fascinated by the physicality and character work of John Cleese, and particularly enthralled with Tom Baker’s very Shakespearian-infouenced Doctor Who incarnation, and Jeremy Brett’s manic and brilliant Sherlock Holmes (still the best Holmes ever). I really escaped into those worlds and lost myself in those characters. I wanted to inhabit them, to see through the eyes of different characters. That idea always excited me. I was extremely fortunate to spend several years in a pretty prestigious children’s theatre here in NH called Andy’s Summer Playhouse. We had some very legendary NYC theatre people teaching us – it was and is a unique and amazing program for kids.  I kept at it by making my own no-budget horror films on a borrowed camcorder and embedding myself in drama club. In and after high school, I worked at a video store and had access to thousands of classic, foreign and cult films. I think that sealed the deal – so much daily inspiration just tipped the scales. I fell deeper in love with the medium. I just dove in, giving myself a film education, and would bring home like five films a night and just watch them all in one night. It’s been a lifelong obsession.

You have worked extensively with a couple of our dearest friends here at TWS. That would be the wonderful Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein. I am curious to know how you managed to team up with the team Sophia & MJE, even becoming an associate producer on their latest two full length feature films? And what is something unique and/or special about working on one of their sets?

I first met Mike and Sophia when we all appeared together on an episode of a fantastic Boston (and now LA)-based “reality sitcom” called Quiet Desperation, and kept seeing them everywhere at shows and on trivia nights at the old Johnny D’s (RIP) in Cambridge. Their bands, which at the time were Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling and The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, were two of the best on the scene as well, at a time when I was playing protest prog-folk in the Boston area too. We just kept orbiting in the same circles. Somehow I wound up being a part of this web show they were making called Special Friends where I wrote and played a Han Solo-themed hip-hop/folk song for a “Star Wars Open Mic” segment. Then later they tapped me to do some VO for their first feature, Ten. And of course, things all came together when I was cast as “Grando” in Blood of the Tribades not long after Sophia and Mike saw me playing a pretty intensely bad character in another independent film. I guess they saw my villain potential, and cast me as the sadistic leader of the fascist, patriarchal vampire cult. It was the most fun I had working on a film up to that point.

When they moved to LA, I was a little heartbroken at first because we had developed such a great working relationship. But by a mixture of insanely perfect timing and serendipity, I was able to fly out to LA last winter to work on Clickbait. Something that’s unique about working on their sets is everything. Their intensity and focus is second to none. It’s thrilling to me to be in that environment where people are so creatively driven. It’s inspiring. It’s alive and moving, moving, moving at all times. They both have such a well-developed, fully fleshed-out vision and yet are willing to take chances and always find these crazy little opportunities to exploit and develop into something new. It’s a do-or-die, teamwork -based atmosphere and I can’t get enough of it. It’s hard to find anyone on earth who works harder on their art than those two. I know I’ll keep working in independent film because I’m so addicted now that I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. But I would be pretty psyched to have more of that work involve projects by Micheal and Sophia.

One of your latest projects with the aforementioned team is the absolutely brilliant film, Clickbait. It’s such a delightfully zany bit of social commentary that I have watched several times just over the last week. So how was it working on this specific project? And what would you want our readers to know about this film?

Working on Clickbait was really something different. I was about as embedded as you can get as an actor, sleeping at the rented house we used as the set. Which I loved. I love being around all the parts of filmmaking and learning as much as I can, and it helps to be the kind of actor who has done some things on the other side of the camera as well and be willing to lend a hand with non-actorly things when not on screen. I absolutely enjoyed digging into the character of Frank. He’s such an interesting and different character, and I’m so excited for people to see that and see his oddball incompetence and his trajectory. It was such a thrill to work with these incredibly talented younger actors as well – I was inspired by them on a regular basis throughout in so many ways. I feel like we all learned from each other, which is a really exciting and magical thing. Everyone was great, and fully on board, which made it a lot of fun even when things were really challenging. I think what I want people to know about this film is that it transcends what you expect from it, whatever that is. You will not see another film like Clickbait. I can very earnestly say that this film is totally unique, quirky and funny and intensely dark in all the right ways. The collective voice of these filmmakers is so special, and so different than anything you’ve seen, and I really feel like with this film  they have dug deep into the primal essence of their specific brand of cinematic insanity to the benefit of all. And there are so, so many other things I want to say and talk about, but I can’t. You’ll just have to watch the film to see.

One project you worked on that I unfortunately have not seen, but am very intrigued by is 2013’s Only Daughter. Can you tell us a bit about this project? How did you become involved with it?

Only Daughter was the second independent feature from an independent director who I got to know through playing music at a venue he used to co-own with one of the producers of the film. I appeared first in a short he did for the 48 Hour Film project, Unwound, in a tiny role as a Carmen Miranda-style drag queen, and I worked in the art department as I had on some previous stuff. I got to know this sort of ensemble of folks he was working with. About a year later, after some workshop sessions, I was cast as Billy, a bitterness and anger-driven blue collar libertarian-type stepfather stuck in a strange situation involving the girl’s quest for her real dad. The film was conceptually a sort of homage to the French Dardenne Brothers minimalist style of filmmaking, using only practical lighting with heavy realism.

Billy was a really really interesting character. I had to mine my own childhood trauma and sort of inhabit the headspace of some of my former bullies. It was pretty wild, and so “method” that I almost lost myself. We workshopped the characters for like six months, with the actual script developing out of those workshop sessions. It was a very cool process. Unfortunately, after a short festival run, the director chose to refocus his efforts on the inception of a new film festival in NH, and essentially the film was abandoned and never saw a wider release. It is a complex and at times potentially problematic film, but there are some really great and true performances in it. But this happens more often than not with independent film. Not everything works, and even things that do very often don’t go on to be seen by a larger audience.

While the world of horror is not the only one you work in, it is our Month of Horror Showcase after all, so I am inclined to ask you how you enjoy working in this genre? What sets it apart from other genres?

It’s easily the most raw fun you can have as an actor. The element of play really feels present on a horror set even more than on a comedy set, for example, because when you are on the inside of it, everyone knows and can see the things about it that are inherently ridiculous. But then when it’s complete, those moments can be some of the darkest. Which is not to say that it isn’t serious work. There’s just something for me, especially like in Blood of the Tribades, where I’m playing the villain, that is just so fun about exploring that dark side. Behind the camera, these crazy, gory things contain an element of goofiness in their execution in even the most dire situation – but if you do your job correctly, the audience will never see that. It’s really wonderful to feel that transformative moment just before the camera rolls when your mind as an actor suddenly sees this world, this script and these characters as real. When it all turns from fun unto the actual emotion and situation you are portraying. It crystallizes and becomes authentic to the childlike part of your brain that still allows imagination to thrive. I hope I get to do some work in Sci-Fi some day as well for those exact reasons, but horror is a lot of fun. And working on it is also a great way to dispel some of one’s own discomfort with fear, and the darker side of existence.

What is your favorite scary movie?

I have to cheat here: it’s a tie between Nightbreed and John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness. With Nightbreed, they turned everything on its head and made the humans the monsters and monsters misunderstood. When you are a weird kid who doesn’t fit in, the idea of finding a tribal family of fellow weirdos with whom you must defend against the hordes of normalcy can’t be beat. Also those costumes and that production design was really next level for what they had to work with at the time. 

In The Mouth because it’s the best interpretation of the Lovecraft feel that I’ve ever seen, and because it has that delightfully insane, somewhat campy and often darkly funny Carpenter vibe in full swing. Honestly, watch that film and tell me you can think of something that looks like it was more fun to shoot (as an actor, at least). Sam Neill is hamming it up so hard and it’s just amazing. It really brings together everything I love about “cult” cinema and the conventions I really vibe with in horror – that sense that everything is out of our control, that dread that even transcends the known, and our universe. The sense of larger, darker, massive things just beyond the veil. That play with the very fabric of reality and the theme of perception forming so much of that reality that it might just be flexible. Thee definitely aren’t the scariest, but they are my favorite frights.

What are you plans for the upcoming Halloween? Any kind of traditions you try to uphold each year?

Every year my wife and I open these vast Halloween storage tubs, and completely deck out the yard, front porch and exterior of the house with moving stuff and screaming stuff and massive spiderwebs and themed skeleton displays for the local kids who trick-or-treat in my neighborhood. We live right in the highest traffic zone for Halloween, and we take the responsibility seriously! Halloween is still my favorite holiday. Any excuse to create a costume and a look and go really crazy with effectsy-makeup. I try to push the envelope with liquid latex. One year I fabricated a very realistic zombie thing where the top of my head was missing. But really, I just love seeing all the creativity in the costumes and seeing what’s inspiring the next generation. It’s a lot of fun.

 

Seth Chatfield in Awesome Fitness Couple, comedy sketch for ToniBolgna.com

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I live in New Hampshire and travel for a lot of film work, but one of my favorite things in life is this sketch comedy series I’ve been participating in, created by stand-up comic, blogger, writer, director and actor Toni Nagy (she’s one to watch in the comedy world – take note, if that’s your thing) which she puts out through social media, youtube and her production company site, cavelightproductions.com. They get a lot of attention there and it’s an amazing outlet to tackle politics (we are rabid liberals in the age of Trump, so our work is cut out for us) and some of the crazier aspects of modern life and relations between men and women. A lot of gender subversion and patriarchy-expose stuff. It’s incredibly fun, and we have been keeping ourselves very busy with it in between our own various film projects. And I’m very excited to say that Toni will be jumping to the other side of the camera as I direct my own short film this fall, an existentialist dark comedy called Winkville, based on a script by Troy Minkowsky. It’s about a series of strange events set off by a chance encounter. It’s also about communication, and significance and where we see ourselves in our own stories. I’m very excited about it. I’ve had little tastes of directing, but this will be my first self-funded, self-produced short. I’m thrilled to be able to explore film from the other side of the camera. It’s also really exciting to get to utilize some wonderful actors and connect people I have met over the last few years working in film. I can’t wait to shoot this thing! Meanwhile I’m excitedly watching festival news for Clickbait and simultaneously trying to wrangle myself into the next acting gig.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Getting my Nuclear Celery Toot Strudels t-shirt in the mail today. Toot Strudels are the fictional product that inhabit the world of Clickbait, and as someone who loves easter eggs in production design, they are one of the things that really delights me about the weird, all-too-familiar world of the film. It cracks me up on a lot of levels.

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

One Response to Seth Chatfield [Interview]

  1. Pingback: Sunday Bloody Sunday: Clickbait [Interview] | TRAINWRECK'D SOCIETY

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