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The pandemic has caused a lot of changes within the entertainment industry worldwide, however, it has also brought forth some incredible projects and creative ideas too.
Upcoming comedy film series, Aspire, is one of those projects, which stars actor Liam Sullivan as the lead role, which follows odd, yet highly ambitious people pursuing their career dreams in the real world in unconventional ways.
We spoke more with Liam (who splits his time between both Canada and the United States) about his new role, past roles and thoughts on Hollywood overall as the COVID-19 pandemic continues forward.
What changes in the entertainment industry have you seen since the pandemic started? What trends going forward do you predict?
I know we were already headed in a virtual direction, but now more than ever, mostly everything is casted virtually. Didn’t think I’d say this but I miss the audition room, being face to face with casting directors, project creators, I took that for granted.
There are smaller crews on set, plenty of safety protocols but once past all those hurdles, the magic & creativity can resume ‘almost’ as normal.
I feel like over the pandemic, there have been many discussions on whether or not everything surrounding the ‘covid-19 pandemic’ will be featured in film & television content set in the modern day/ 2020 era. If a movie is set in 2020, will all the characters be wearing masks for historical accuracy? I suppose the question is: will it be a trend for stories to be set during a pandemic or will we avoid it at all costs? My guess is that the world is so tired of living the reality of the pandemic that any new work will stray as far away from it as possible. There has been the odd exception of that but for the most part, I believe people will want to escape.
Let's rewind a bit: How did getting your start in comedy first doing stand-up help your career today as an actor?
I was acting before I did stand-up. Prior to moving to LA, I was working in Theatre, Film & Television. I did stand-up officially for the first time a year into moving to Los Angeles. I was always curious about it but hadn’t ever tried it until my roommate and I convinced each other to go. It started with open mics around the city- doing stand-up in LA opened doors into a whole other world. Stand-up is a one-man show, all the control is in your hands and you get instant feedback as to whether or not you’re doing well - laughter or no laughter. This forces you to become very analytical about your performance, subtly tweaking things until the material is as sharp as it can be. Since doing it, I’ve been applying the same analysis to my acting work- it’s all about specificity as an actor, being clear with what you are communicating to read to an audience.
Stand-up is also a real personal craft- crafting your own thoughts and perspectives on things and finding the universality in them to render as funny to an audience. The writing aspect of the craft prompted me to begin writing my own film projects as well, and it’s helped me realize how practicing one aspect of production, in this case writing, is helpful to the craft of another (acting)- when writing, you’re still performing, just in another way. When filling dialogue for a character, you need to be thinking as they are. That’s the same as when you are performing the dialogue as an actor. Sure it may be interpreted differently but you are immersed in your take on the character just as much as the writer has to be.
Stand-up in LA has introduced me to a community of so many great, like-minded creative people. People that I can see myself creating things with for years to come.
You have worked throughout your career alongside others like Amy Seimetz, Aya Cash, Sara Waisglass, Molly McGlynn, Eric Canuel, Jordan Tannahill, and Michael D Cohen. Any fun stories from your work with any of them that you can share?
Eric Canuel -Transplant Season Finale Director.
We had been doing heavily emotional scenes all day and there was a scene where my character had to stay hooked up to a hospital bed while being told by his doctor in front of his parents that it might be too late to undergo a lung transplant suffering cystic fibrosis. Between takes I had to stay strapped to the bed as the rest of the cast dispersed as the crew switched positions. It was a really intense scene, a lot of tears and after one of the takes, as the crew was rushing around, Eric Canuel emerged from the chaos in tears as he walked over to my hospital bed. He shook my hand without saying a word, just tears running down his face and went back behind the camera. That was the best compliment I could’ve received.
I was on a trip with friends in Berlin, Germany when I received the self-tape audition for Molly McGlynn’s TIFF feature ‘Mary Goes Round’. I planned to tape it back at our hostel eventually but then one day my friends and I were walking down this graffiti covered street and the character was supposed to be rough, sketchy-looking guy so I had an idea. I got my friend to hold my phone and filmed my scenes in the dingy street. Something felt right about that and I immediately sent it off. At the airport I was emailed that I got the part and then I met director/writer Molly McGlynn back in Toronto a few days later and the first thing she said to me was something like “that was the sketchiest tape we received”. Working on that film was great.
You split your time now between Toronto and Los Angeles. Is that difficult with the pandemic going on?
The main change has been how often I’d go back and forth. It’s definitely not as much these days but when I do get to go to Toronto, like for Christmas, it’s now more of a big deal. Seeing family and friends for the first time in a while is always wonderful.
Your upcoming project ‘ASPIRE’ is a three-part comedy movie series formatted as a mock-documentary. Tell us more!
Each part of the series focuses on a different character as they pursue their career dreams in the real world. I play each of the characters across the three parts. ’Aspire’ is the name of the ‘documentary’ team that follows these characters who are at the beginning of their career yet are highly dedicated to aspiring to their full potential in their professional field. At the beginning, they each state their ambitious goals and we watch their journey getting there. Although seeming collected at first, through a series of turbulent events, things start to derail for all of them, but nonetheless they carry on to the end. Each of the characters are dangerously unique, causing them to approach their careers in rather unconventional ways.
In a way, each of their stories are an infiltration into their respective industries (fashion, entrepreneurial, modern art). The stories we see are of desperate outsiders pushing to break into where they want to be. The common thread through the three characters is they have this aggressive ‘by any means necessary’, fake-it-till-you-make-it approach to getting what they want. It’s a lot like how I see myself accomplishing things sometimes. It sort of plays into how many of us may view ourselves when embarking on a new adventure-whether that be career related, travel, new experience. Some challenges are harder than others but nonetheless, we feel like outsiders seeking our way in and this is exactly what we watch unfold with ‘Aspire’. I find it could be relatable to many in this sense: When you are about to enter something completely new and you have this thought ‘I have no idea what I’m doing but here we go’ - the stories shown in Aspire are embellished visual metaphors of that.
The first part follows a Ukrainian clothing designer whom moved to America to officially launch his clothing brand ‘Borscht’ by conducting a flash-mob-style runway show in a well known department store using models he hired off craigslist. The brand ‘Borscht’ is inspired by the feeling of enjoying a homemade Eastern European meal with the people you love.
The second part follows a young entrepreneur from Riverside California as he sets out to pitch his new company to large investors. His company ‘The Red Carpet’ is a street parking assistant that’s essentially a red cover that you hug over the curb of a street Parking spot to reserve your spot.
The third part follows a contemporary sculpture artist that attempts to break through into the high end art world by convincing Beverly Hills real estate agents that his sculptures are the gold standard of interior design.
When can audiences see this?
You can expect to see it in the 2022 fall/winter film festival circuit. More info tba.
What are your goals for the rest of 2021?
My goals are to continue being a part of great and important work. I want to continue to learn in this field. For the rest of the year, I’d love to be able to further build a team of creative people. It’d be great to create more original work with other like-minded individuals. Everything is teamwork and collaboration in this industry and I want to be all over it!