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The Seed&Spark Blog

What Turns an Actor Into a Filmmaker?

February 18, 2016

• Adam Stephenson

I became an actor by accident and a filmmaker by necessity.

Originally, I set out to follow in my family's footsteps and become a high school English teacher. Unfortunately, in 2008 amidst economic changes the job market even for educators was weak. Fresh out of college with zero experience, I became a substitute teacher, and on days that I wasn't subbing, accepted opportunities to work on films. That's where I got bit with the "I could do this, and get paid to do so" bug. Soon I started studying at Second City Conservatory and began the typical ‘get trained, get an agent, get auditions, eventually get booked' to being a professional actor.

Thanks to my Sketch Comedy and Improv roots, I found myself collaborating with filmmakers as a content creator. I attempted to crowdfund and shoot a pilot in 2012 to enter into the Chicago Comedy Pilot Competition. The funding process went poorly, and the production was filled with strife. My biggest concern: people thinking, "Well, guess Adam's not good at follow-through." It certainly made me hesitant to jump back into the filmmaking waters.

That same sense of fear used to hold me back from engaging with social situations. I have let others fight the battles. I've sat by claiming neutrality while watching protests, rallies, and movements for change such as #BlackLivesMatter, #NoStigmas, #MarriageEquality, and on and on. As I became more unsettled by these things, it refined my sense of what film could be, and the need to stand up and speak out pushed me back toward production.

I want to make films that do two things: entertain and challenge. If it merely entertains, that's great and fun, but also too easily replaced by the next shiny thing. If it challenges but isn't entertaining or engaging, people tend to tune it out. As an actor, I found myself stuck on sets of entertaining films; as a filmmaker, I will strive to combine entertainment and meaning.

I've started building my audience and film funds for "Huevos Rancheros" on Seed&Spark, because the platform encapsulates that need to challenge ones self in order to grow as individuals and challenge the industry. The S&S team helped me refine my idea and pitch to all of my backers as clearly as possible, and it paid off: we reached 106% of our budget in less than a week. Now, in the finals days of our campaign, we're focused on audience building. When we hit 500 followers, we're eligible for Seed&Spark's Filmmakers Gift Box, and every bit of help counts.

As a filmmaker, I've embraced the qualities that Second City instilled in me as a performer. I'm bold. I take chances. And, when life throws me a curveball, I improvise.

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Adam Stephenson

Adam is an "accidental actor," who earned a B.S. in Secondary Education from LSU before he was bitten by the acting bug. In Chicago, he trained in improv and sketch Comedy, and he's a graduate of Second City Conservatory. He also studied the Meisner technique at Black Box Acting Studio. Adam is currently in pre-production for his second film, Huevos Rancheros, which he's crowdfunding on Seed&Spark.

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