Monday, April 18, 2011

Matt Stasi and the American Dream

As a kid, most of us have dreamed of growing up and moving to California and becoming rich and famous. Usually, by the time we reach the age of that being a possibility, other facets of life dictate that we make other choices instead, and we get sucked into the mainstream of real life... And suddenly our dreams either diminish completely, or they get put on the back burner. Soon we are older and locked into our families and jobs, and that dream has disappeared completely.

Of course there are exceptions. Matt Stasi grew up in Eastern Iowa in a town called Oelwien. The town itself produced it's share of characters. If you don't believe me just hit one of the local pubs that line South Frederick Avenue on a Saturday night. I've had that experience numerous times... And without fail, I was left with a lasting impression. It seems ironic to me that somebody who has spent his life surrounded by these characters would give up everything that he owns and take a chance in Los Angeles with an acting career.


Matt Stasi
Matt had a career if he wanted it... His father is the proprietor of an Italian Restaurant called Luigi's Restaurant and Lounge that bases it's menu from of the Longobucco region of Italy. It's a nice slice of southern Italy in an otherwise non-diverse Midwestern town. Knowing that he had a career waiting for him at the restaurant if he chose to take it didn't deter Matt from chasing his dream. In 1998 at the age of 24 he said goodbye to his Iowa residency, and set out to Los Angeles to seek an improbable acting career... And hasn't looked back since.

It was his father who told him upon his leaving that he needed to incorporate a Plan B. Understanding that the path to fame and fortune usually leads down a dead end road, his father thought that it would be wise for Matt to specialize in another trade that he could use to make up for the inevitable down time that an up and coming acting career guarantees. It took awhile for this concept to kick in for Matt, but eventually he realized that his father was correct, and Matt decided to put some time and effort into his other love, which is photography.

Not that his acting career was all that bad, generally speaking. If you ever saw the Beverly Hills 90120 episode where a thug spiked the prom punch bowl with LSD, that thug was played by Matt. He had a role in CSI Miami, where he did a scene with David Caruso... And he was cast as James Bishop, the lead role in the cult classic horror film, Asylum of the Damned. Most recently he co-starred in a new film that is getting rave reviews called The Waterhole.

But as expected and predicted by his father, work in Hollywood isn't always easy to come by. As Matt took more and more photographs, he started to get better and better at it, and eventually it became clear to him that headshot photography would be a good way to supplement his income. He started his own photography business (appropriately called Stasi Photography Website) and it has proven to be a successful venture.

In LA there's an actor's resource magazine called Back Stage West that has a 'best of' poll every year. Its a sort of competition where people can vote for their favorite photographer, acting school, etc. The winners are listed in the June issue of Back Stage West. Matt has already been nominated for best photographer, and I thought it would be nice to drum up some more support for my friend. I am urging you, the readers of the Bigfoot Diaries to please go to the BSW Website and vote. It's a pretty simple procedure and only takes a few seconds to do. Just click on the link above. On the middle of the page that comes up you'll find the LOS ANGELES SURVEY. Click on that and it'll lead you to the survey. If you would, please vote for Stasi Photography under the 'Photographers under $400' section. It's that easy, and you will be doing my friend a huge favor. Do it in the spirit of chasing the American Dream!

Now, let's get to know a little bit about Matt Stasi...

Have you abandoned acting as a career and gone exclusively to Photography?

Right now I'm putting acting on the back burner for a minute. I've been out here in LA for something like 14 years. Been a hell of a ride. Lots of fun. Lots of not-so-fun. When I first moved out here I made sure I didn't give myself an "out". Didn't take my dad's advice to learn a trade of some kind. Kind of fucked myself on that. Now I'm working my ass off and burning the end on both ends of the stick. Photography is a way to get back to where I want to be. I fucking hate having to punch the clock in day after day for some one else. That played a big part of me becoming interested in acting in the first place. Freedom. I'm hoping that photography will be something that I can control, and will sustain me while I pursue the field that I really fucking love. Acting. Don't get me wrong, photography is baddass. When you get a shot of someone right at the peak of their emotion, it's a cool feeling. You can freeze frame a moment for posterity. I love truth in my shots. Same as acting. Emotional truth. I love the subtleties. And contradictions. I want to explore more of that with my photography. As well as acting when I am able to get back to it.

What are some of your acting "greatest hits?"

Some of my most favorite roles, you won't have ever seen. Cuz they were on stage. Doing theater. I did a play out here called "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea." By John Patrick Shanley. (same guy who wrote the movie Moonstruck) That was probably my most favorite part to date. It's about two violent misfits who fall in love. I dig that shit. Contradictions, and pleasant surprises. You expect these two people to be the biggest fuck up loser assholes in the beginning, and by the end, you're weeping in tears cuz of the desperation of these two characters to simply be loved. It's a beautiful thing.
I also did a play for a looong time called "Welcome Home, Soldier." It's a tribute to Viet Nam vets. Very poignant play. I got a real respect for anyone who can put a uniform on and fight for his/ her country. This play honors those people. Shared the stage with James Franco, Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Being Human), Jim Parrack (True Blood), and Scottie Caan in that run.

Asylum of the Damned was a pretty cool thing. Movie turned out to be a clunker, but I learned alot. I originally was cast in a small part in the movie. But 6 days before filming the director called me in and offered me the lead. Told me that he had been watching my audition tape over and over, and he felt that I was his lead. He cast me over Casper Van Dien in that part. Kind of a cool feeling, being that I was a complete newcomer to film. The movie was supposed to be distributed by Dimension Films. Unfortunately, within a couple of months after filming the director passed away from Crohn's Disease. (God rest his soul...really took a chance on me. Never forget him.) That took away the deal with Dimension, and the integrity of the film suffered greatly in my opinion. He wasn't around to edit a frame and it was a lot less of a movie than what had been presented to me in the first place.

Since then it's been a real roller coaster. You name it, it's happened. I've been cast as leads in decent budget movies, only to have the budget fall out before filming. I've been cast as leads in TV pilots (some of the shows you see on tv today), only to have the roll go to a celebrity. Or in one case, the producers had given me the part, then substantially 'rethought' the part and wanted to make the role Asian! Roller coaster, dude!

The Cult Classic
There's no such thing as an over night success. It's a tough damn road. Just like AC/DC says, "It's a long way to the top, if you wanna rock n roll." Very true with the entertainment industry. CSI: Miami was cool. Working with David Caruso was a trip. Everybody thinks he's kind of a douchebag, but he was real nice to me on the set. Very complimentary.

I've done a slew of short films, and indie films that I'm real proud of. Most High was an indie film that my buddy did. I had a small part in it. GREAT, poignant film about speed addiction. It's won a great deal of awards in the festival circuit... One of them being The Hampton's Film Festival -- second biggest in America to Sundance.

Do ya want to give yourself a plug for The Waterhole?

Sure... Nathan Cole is the writer and producer. There's a FB page for the movie, if you want to check it out. "The Waterhole." It placed both in the Newport Beach Film Festival, as well as the Hollywood Film Festival. (Both are pretty big accomplishments, if I do say so myself.) Reviews have been solid down the line. Basically, if you've ever drank a beer, had questions about what the hell you want to do with your future, or had a strange fascination with Reno, NV, you're gonna like this movie. It has some real laugh out loud moments. But in the end, it pulls a bit on your heart strings. Well written, flawed, but totally relate-able characters. Total ensemble film. A dude that starred in it with me, Patrick Adams, will be a lead on a cable show called Legal Minds. Definitely worth the price of admission.

Awesome... What type of camera do you use in your photography?

Right now I'm using a Canon 5D. With all Canon Prime L (professional) series lenses. It's like butta. Seriously. Hard to take a bad picture with it. My main portrait lens I use is the Canon 135mm f/2.0 L. That thing is a work horse. It does an amazing job of blowing the backgrounds out (creating bokeh), and the angles it gives you are extremely flattering to your subject. Sometimes I pull out my 50mm as well when I want to frame my subject a little wider. Highly recommend Canon products. Easy to use, and SUPERB picture quality!

Have you photographed anybody who is famous?

I'm still waiting to shoot my first celebrity. I'd love to shoot someone like Jack Nicholson. That'd be a trip. Definitely grab a beer with him afterward. I met him one time. Only time I've really ever been star struck meeting a celebrity. I complimented his work. He just shook my hand, and with his big toothy "jack" grin, he said, "thank, you. Thank you very much." If you ever wanted to see me acting like a complete little school girl, that would've been the moment. I'd also like to shoot MMA fighters. I love grittiness in my photos. Coming from Iowa, I'm very blue collar in spirit. I think my photos probably reflect that. Mickey Rourke would be my dream shoot/ scene partner though!

Anything else you wanna share, go ahead...

My clients, although not yet celebrities, have however been in many shows and movies. I'm happy to say that many of my clients start booking right away after shooting with me. I've got one client that's doing a thing on Days of Our Lives. One that was cast on Chuck (got the meeting from my pic:-D), and one that was recently cast on Melissa and Joey TV series (from my pics). I have also received numerous texts thanking me that they signed with agencies & managers from my pics. So...my shots seem to be working well for people in these early stages. I'm very honest with myself..if my pictures suck, I'll stop doing it. I also have a great girlfriend who isn't scared to tell me the truth about my work. She's had years of experience in front of the camera, acting (that's how we met) and modeling for all of the major designers around the world. Plus 2 good dogs (and 1 pit bull up in heaven) looking out for me. So, I'm really blessed that way. I got a good support system in my corner.

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