by Derek May:
We’d like to introduce you to one of our newest contributors, Mr. Eric Schumacher. Eric has a broad range of industry talents as actor, director, and producer, winning several awards and accolades for his work in film, television, and multimedia platforms. He also works as president of Seelie Studios, LLC, a ground-breaking multimedia production group. With Eric beginning his partnership with Flapper Press to offer his wealth of insight and experience to careers in and out of Hollywood, we want to take some time to get to know him a little better.
DM: Welcome to the Flapper Press family, Eric! We’re so excited to have you on board. Let’s start at the beginning and talk about your acting career. What initially sparked your interest in performing?
ES: I’m so excited to BE aboard! My parents are both extraordinary actors who had studied with truly great teachers and performed to rave reviews on stage in San Francisco and later in film and TV in Los Angeles. They shared their deep passion for the art with me and I fell madly in love with acting and I begged them to teach me.
DM: You mention in your bio that you are one of only a handful of actors to have ever played both Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in a nationally publicized production. Sounds like there’s an interesting story there. How did that come about?
ES: Since the real men were so very different physically and in personality, it’s rare for one actor to be cast in both roles. I consider myself a character actor at heart, and I like to disappear into a character, change my appearance, and become someone else on screen. I played Wyatt for a TV series called Legends and Lies, the Real West for Fox TV about three years ago and was very surprised to be asked to audition for Doc for the legendary Alex Cox’s feature film Tombstone Rashomon. Once cast, I had to lose a ton of weight to play Doc, and it was a particularly challenging role, physically and emotionally. What I didn’t realize was how very close in appearance I would be to the real Doc once I went scrawny and grew the mustache. I should add that before playing Wyatt, I had befriended and helped to run an event to honor the now late Bob Shelton, founder of Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona, where about 200 major westerns were shot, and both projects were partially filmed there. I went from admiring the work of legendary western actors to performing on the same hallowed ground they had performed on. How cool is that.
DM: Though you still perform regularly, you’ve branched out behind the scenes as well. What brought you behind the camera, and do you find the same level of satisfaction as with acting?
ES: Originally, I started studying the rest of the filmmaking process so I could up my game as a film actor. I had learned film acting technique, but I felt that something was missing. However, as I went through school in both drama and video production, I realized that I had an aptitude for both and that I could be hired for gigs as either or, in some cases, both. My first love will always be acting, there’s no contest, but I love the ability to craft a story from the ground up and guide and empower a team to a successful production that I think will have some socially redeeming value.
DM: You also mention being a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Obviously we have a strong and direct connection here with the Highlander franchise and Elizabeth Gracen’s iconic performance as “Amanda.” What movies or series have you followed over the years, and what is it about the genre that entices you as either a viewer or a creator?
ES: I remember the first time I saw Elizabeth on screen in that role. She was riveting, brilliant. I really love the work of Jim Byrnes too, who’s a fellow columnist here and MAN what an amazing musician.
So Sci Fi and Fantasy. One of my mentors, Paul Mantee, starred in a cult classic sci fi film Robinson Crusoe on Mars, which I saw on TV as a kid (I had not yet been born when it came out), and that left a huge impression on me. I saw Star Wars as a very little kid and, being in a house full of creativity, I really appreciated what I was seeing. I started to embrace the nerd side. I became a voracious reader of sci fi and fantasy books and went full dungeons and dragons. I loved sci fi classics like Silent Running (which I had the opportunity to chat with Bruce Dern about at an event we both attended a while back), The Prisoner, Blake's 7 Battlestar Galactica (both versions now). What really locked it in on the creative side was when I went to a fan convention (as a fan) when I was about 12 years old, and Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek series) was a guest. What a poised and elegant and eloquent woman! What presence! She told a story about a time when she was considering quitting Star Trek and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. personally called her and convinced her not to quit the show because of the impact it was making in showing people of all ethnicities working together and, in particular how her role as an equivalent of an officer on a U.S. Naval vessel (released in the 1960s when such a thing was unheard of on national television in America) was changing perceptions. She stayed on the show. BAM!! That was the moment when I decided I wanted to make a lot of sci fi and fantasy shows. I think I knew at that point that eventually I’d produce and direct too. I wanted to have that kind of impact to deliver thoughts and concepts that might inspire positive social change. Only something fantastical can take us far enough outside of ourselves with a sense of wonder that we might consider new possibilities without bias. Of course I love a lot of modern sci fi and fantasy now too. The list is too long to really address (Firefly, Blade Runner 2049, Luke Cage, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Highlander, of course, and on and on and on). Of course I’m biased towards the project I’m involved in. Some cool stuff coming up.
DM: Your Seelie Studios seems to provide an array of services. Tell us a little about the company and your involvement.
ES: I originally joined the company to work with my dear friend and multi-award-winning director/producer Don Dehm. Don had a very successful career as a podcaster in the table-top gaming world and leveraged that into some truly extraordinary multimedia work, such as the nearly 200-episode, 13-season branded web series The Bob and Angus Show for Mayfair Games. Due to some very serious health issues, Don has asked me to take over as president of the organization. While we still do client work, we are expanding toward a model of narrative fiction and informational shows for primarily sci-fi and fantasy and fan culture markets and some other niches. We are in post, or production, or scripting, or early development on quite a few feature films and multimedia shows. We work really hard to create great collaborative relationships with other film organizations and artists of all kinds.
DM: Branching out again, let’s talk martial arts! Elizabeth learned and has taught her Tai Chi Flying Rainbow Single Fan class at a few conventions, and I’ve been teaching and practicing martial arts as well for over 30 years now. So we’re excited for you to tell us more about what you’ve trained in, and how the martial arts has impacted your life and career.
ES: What?? I didn’t know about her Flying Rainbow Single Fan class. I need to take that class. . . . OK fan boy moment over. Back to the question. I had always wanted to study martial arts. I wanted to be a Jedi, frankly. I searched for quite a few years for a school that felt right to me and eventually gave up. Right about then I met my Kung Fu Master and one of my greatest mentors, Robert Firestine. Of course, I met him through acting. “When the student is ready, the master appears” is one of our sayings.
Over about 11 years of dedicated study and, later, teaching in Shaolin Kung Fu, I learned a lot of physical, mental, and spiritual tools and, I believe, became a much better and more capable person than ever before. I still practice, of course, but for the moment I am not teaching or studying at the school formally. That training taught me what hard work really was and how to own it. It taught me to look deeply at myself and see myself for what I am, to accept it and improve upon it. It taught me to blow the limits off and to use good strategy in doing it. My wife (also a martial artist) and I followed my teacher from California to Tucson, Arizona, our current headquarters, to help him start a branch of the school which is still benefiting a lot of terrific students with some really innovative programs.
DM: Your first article, “Of Wizards, Witches, and Muggles,” is up now and provides some wonderful advice for artists struggling to find acceptance and understanding from family and friends. What other sorts of advice and knowledge do you plan to share in future installments for the site?
ES: My focus here is about surviving and thriving and understanding your path as an artist or an entrepreneur (kind of the same thing in my mind). Some other topics coming up soon will relate to: surviving financially while pursuing an artistic career and how artists really make money; turning rejection and failure into success; how to tell if you’re on the road to success or just spinning your wheels; when to quit and when to change paths; dealing with temptation and jealousy in the entertainment industry, in particular; the #MeToo movement and the push for diversity and fairness; the real purpose of the arts and of entrepreneurs; crowdfunding; what success really is and what it isn’t, and some other stuff I’d rather not preface here but that I hope artists and entrepreneurs and those who are curious about those strange creatures will really enjoy and feel are valuable.
Thank so much for you time, Eric! We look forward to your next article and appreciate you sharing your experiences with the Flapper Press audience!
More about Eric can be found here:
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eschumacherfilm/
Actor Show Reel: https://youtu.be/KkP9UehRZWo
Voice Over Demo Reel: https://soundcloud.com/user-962440222/erric-vo-demo-2017-dr-4