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David Lautman Opens Up About His Craft

David Lautman can pinpoint the exact moment he was bitten by the acting bug. “My earliest acting memory was in my middle school English teacher Steve Haberman’s class. He was most known for writing ‘Dracula: Dead and Loving It’ (1995) with legendary comedy icon Mel Brooks, which I thought was massively impressive as my friends and I were huge fans of Mel’s films. My favorites at the time were ‘Young Frankenstein’, ‘SpaceBalls’, ‘History of the World Part I’ and ‘Robin Hood: Men In Tights’. I must have seen those movies countless times, especially ‘Young Frankenstein’ which is one of my Dad’s all-time favorites. But it was Steve’s class where I got the chance to act in my very first play, William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. I was cast as the drunken porter and to this day, I can still vividly remember performing his comedic monologue to an audience filled with fellow students, parents and teachers, and I remember experiencing what can only be described as a pure feeling of euphoria as the entire room burst into laughter, eating up every second of that performance. I don’t know if I’ll ever top it! (laughs) I think it was at that moment, I realized that making people laugh and being entertained was something I wanted to do. But I also credit my father for inspiring me to become an Actor as well. To this day he’s still acting. He recently booked a commercial for Google Pixel and a co-star on FX ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’ Back then my dad’s big break was starring in the original Broadway production of HAIR (1970-1974), Growing up we’d go to reunion shows and events and I got to see my Dad perform on stage.”

This love only intensified as he was exposed to a wider world of performance opportunities. “I was raised with a traditional Jewish education which meant an all-boys elementary & high school that didn’t offer any sort of performing arts classes or have a theater, music or arts department of any kind. So when I finally got to college and saw a bustling theater program I was ALL IN! Pretty quickly I started taking all the classes being offered, from scene study, stagecraft to theater history, and simultaneously started auditioning to be in as many plays as would have me. A pivotal moment in my college theater career was in my professor Cathy Susan Pyles’ productions of David Lindsay-Abaire’s ‘Rabbit Hole’. There I became friends with Dan White a very talented actor and CalArts grad with a padded resume including series regular network credits. Not only did Dan give me incredible encouragement and advice, but he was pivotal in getting me into a show that really took me to the next level. Up until then I was really just acting in school plays which was great, and a huge learning experience, but now I was starting to do shows in theaters all over Los Angeles.”

 

David struck gold with one of his first major roles. “One such show was Jordan Monsell’s ‘PULP Shakespeare’; a reimagining of Quentin Tarantino’s cult-classic film ‘PULP Fiction’ as if told by William Shakespeare. We opened at the Actor’s Circle Theatre in Hollywood, CA on June 11th, 2011 and almost immediately began to sell-out. What that first run showed us was, we truly had something special, lightning in a bottle and audiences were enthralled. For the next few years, the show continued to play, and had extended run after extended run. We were playing in multiple theaters across LA before picking up and moving the entire production to New York City where we were blessed with amazing runs at iconic venues like the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village to the beautiful SoHo Playhouse in Hudson Square. For a guy who had only recently taken acting seriously, I was getting one heck of an education in front of hundreds of people, doing sold-out shows and I couldn’t get enough. I’ve always been the type of guy who’d rather get my hands dirty and figure things out rather than sit in a classroom reading a manual and this was exactly that. It was an opportunity to learn, explore, and grow as both a person, and as an actor every night in front of a new live audience.”

David gravitates towards playing characters on the fringe, recognizing himself in them. “I’ve always loved playing the underdog, outsider, nerdy or quirky characters, and I suppose it’s in part because that’s how I felt growing up. I didn’t always have the biggest group of friends, and certainly wasn’t the most popular kid either, so these archetypal characters have always been the most relatable to me. Speaking of… when I do get the opportunity to play these characters I feel like it’s my chance as an artist and storyteller to connect and communicate with parts of the audience who may feel alienated or disenfranchised, and give them a sense of hope that things can turn around, no matter how bad or hard life gets, always hold on to hope.”

If he’s seeking inspiration, he looks no further than the sheer magic of the movie going experience. “So my talent manager and another friend of ours go to the movies pretty much every week and typically watch three movies back to back. Honestly that’s a big part of how I stay inspired, by watching new releases from today’s top filmmakers and viewing it the way it was intended to be viewed, on the big screen in a big dark theater. Now with that said, off the top of my head, I’d say some of my favorite filmmakers are; Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro, Mel Brooks, Wes Anderson, Harold Ramis… I could go on and on but I don’t want to bore your readers with a never-ending list of filmmakers whose work I enjoy and admire (laughs).”

 

 

There’s no instant formula to success and David has discovered overtime that true professional contentment lies in embracing what is, rather than lusting over what could be. “There’s so much great advice I’ve picked up over the years. Everyone’s always asking ‘What’s the secret?’ and the truth is there isn’t any one specific thing, any one secret that’s going to change your life overnight and book you a ton of work. The truth is, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to have the luxury of consistent work in this industry. Now with that said, I do believe there are certain things we can do, or life-hacks ‘so to speak’ that can perhaps speed up that journey. Sometimes the advice can be hard to hear, but one of my favorites has to do with simply overcoming neediness. A lot of actors auditioning for roles are not even aware that they are bringing a ton of emotional baggage with them into each and every audition. If you’re a human Actor, it’s not uncommon to have thoughts like; ‘WOW look at this job it’s going to air everywhere – that’ll really put my name on the map!’ or ‘WOW look who’s directing this job – that would be really great for my resume!’ or ‘WOW, this job could pay my rent for a whole year!’. Now the truth is if you’re thinking these thoughts you’ve probably already lost, these thoughts degrade your work in ways most are not even aware of. And it makes your audition and your interaction with casting and production come across as needy. Don’t come across needy, it repels instead of attracts. It’s counterintuitive but you need to find a way to be happy and accepting of where you’re at currently in your life, and then set goals and aspirations as high as you can.”

In that spirit, it’s important not to pin all your hopes on landing one big role. “I want to reframe this concept of a ‘big break’ because it’s kind of misleading for aspiring actors and filmmakers, as it implies that just one singular role or project is going to put somebody on the map, when it’s generally ten to fifteen years of hard-work, training, dedication, sacrifice and leveling up in one’s career and skill set. Every job builds upon the other to get you to where you want to be and each one of them is essential in your development. They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And while luck is definitely a huge part of it, we can’t undervalue the importance of every single audition, callback, class, scene study or booking that comes our way no matter how big or small, how notable or not – they’re all part of our learning journey. With every step in that right direction, guided by long-term goals, a positive mindset and worthwhile aspirations we are building momentum in our career and lives and people will begin to take notice. I know that’s not necessarily the answer you expected, (laughs) but if you were curious perhaps to what’s the first acting role I started to get recognized for? It would be the Ring video doorbell commercial. It was a National commercial in a campaign called ‘Tough On Crime’ that used to air all the time. In it, I played what was originally named in the audition process, ‘Puny Homeowner’ (laughs), a nerdy guy defending his home while working out at the gym using the ring video doorbell app on his phone. I remember thinking during the audition process that if I booked the role, while it would be cool, it would also be slightly embarrassing and perhaps a subtle suggestion to start hitting the gym for real. Interestingly enough, not too long after it began airing, comedian Bill Burr who saw it made a rant video for his podcast about it in which he roasted me, and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever had happen to me.”

“But you know one of my goals that I’m still working towards is becoming a series regular on a major network or streaming show. And while sometimes this sort of thing can just ‘happen’ for people seemingly overnight, creating ‘breakout stars’. I’ve always been of the mentality and mindset to not just sit around and wait. That’s why over the years I’ve stretched and grown my skill-set in not just acting but writing, directing, producing and editing. Heck I’ve even run camera, while simultaneously boom operating and directing, if there’s a job on set – I’ve probably done it (laughs). Years ago I met writer/director Charles Dewandler at Monkey Butler Comedy in Los Angeles and joined his then brand new sketch comedy team ‘Spoof Troupe’ where ultimately I became one of the main writer/performers and helped him grow the channel to over 64K subscribers and 41 Million channel views. Around the same time I formed a production company with my brother ‘5516 Productions’ where we got the opportunity to create commercial content for big brands like; Nestle, Mattel, IAMS, BetterHelp, Rit Dye, even Universal Pictures and many more. But what I’ve noticed time and time again on set, is that the Actors with a soup to nuts understanding of the entire filmmaking process are so much more fun to work with and easier to collaborate with as they intimately know what’s going on and what’s needed. Personally I think they make more well-rounded actors and just more grateful humans as they know first-hand just how much hard work, planning and energy into making every production a reality. So I’d say my advice to aspiring actors with similar goals is not to sit around and wait for the phone to ring, but call up your most talented friends, writers, directors and fellow actors and start creating content. There’s no excuse nowadays, we all have access to amazing storytelling tools that you’re probably holding in your hands right now. These smartphones are capable of shooting very impressive video, so go out and make a web-series or shoot a sketch comedy video, just do something, you’ll thank me later! (laughs)”

 

His upcoming role in ‘Hunters’ holds deep personal meaning for him. “I’m incredibly honored to have been part of ‘Hunters’ season 2. Which by the way, is Al Pacino’s first-ever leading role in a TV series, that guy’s got a very bright future ahead of him! (laughs) I spent approximately two weeks filming spread out through September and October of 2021; and it was honestly one of the most meaningful experiences of my acting career thus far. Without giving too much away since Season 2 hasn’t yet been released; my character ‘Abraham’ is a jew in hiding during the Holocaust who’s focused on keeping the rest of his Jewish brethren alive. Personally, I grew up in an Orthodox jewish home to a first generation holocaust survivor and all my life I’ve heard countless, miraculous stories of how our family survived, hand-in-hand with tragic one’s about how not all of us made it and were murdered by the Nazis. I always wished there was something I could have done to help fight, rise against or have stopped it altogether. I’ve entertained the idea of jumping into a time-machine and daydreamed about what I’d do or say to stop it. Everything from killing a young Adolf to bringing modern warfare technology to the prisoners. Watching documentaries, films, reading accounts from survivors and visiting Holocaust museums is important for the world to never forget. But I had a rare opportunity to slip into 1940’s Nazi Germany through movie magic, an impeccably detailed world filled with authentic costumes, set design, props, wardrobe and extras. And I gotta be honest, there were quite a few moments for me that were absolutely terrifying because of how real they seemed. It didn’t take much imagination from the Actor’s perspective to make the world feel genuine and alive, that work was done for us – and in spades. Ultimately, what my character does in the show and the choices he makes made me proud to be a Jew and left me feeling as if I really had been sent back in a time-machine to Nazi Germany with the opportunity to do something about it; to fight and I did.”

Currently, he is soaking up every second of playing a wily troublemaker on ‘General Hospital.’ “I’ve been having an absolute blast playing Grant Smoltz – right now I’m about 9 episodes deep into filming and I couldn’t be having more fun. It’s my first soap opera and my character gets to bounce around causing mischief and mayhem with a whole slew of characters. So it’s been super awesome getting to work with so many amazing characters and sweet, welcoming performers on the show. Right from the beginning, I’ve felt very welcomed and that starts at the top down thanks to Executive Producer: Frank Valentini. The majority of my scenes so far have been opposite Nancy Lee Grahn who plays Alexis Davis, Editor-in Chief of ‘The Invader’ a magazine my character freelances for. Nancy has been nothing short of amazing to work with, since my first day she was nothing but welcoming, warm and the consummate professional. Same thing for Chad Duell (Michael Corinthos), except for when he punched me in the face and gave me a black eye! But to be fair it was all in the script, and to be fair the staged punch never actually came close to hitting me and to be fair the black eye was all from makeup artist extraordinaire Victoria Vesy! (laughs). But yeah Chad’s a great dude! Another incredibly talented Actor that I’ve been having an absolute blast working with. If I was a doctor in real life – I’d say probably a Doctor/PhD of Marine Biology, I know not the answer you were expecting but I think fairly accurate. Growing up in Los Angeles, I developed a strong passion for the ocean, surf culture and water sports. As a kid, I spent many summers doing nothing but surfing in Malibu and enjoying the beach life. So in High School and College it was of no surprise that when faced with the opportunity to take classes combining two big passions of mine science and the ocean, I leaped at the chance. That same passion by the way also partly inspired the amazing photo shoot accompanying this interview. Shoutout ShimmyPhotography.com one of the most talented photographers in the LA area! And hey, I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother, he’s actually a renowned photographer in his own right.”

 

If you’re contemplating a move to LA hoping to make it big, David advises patience. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon! So many people come out here and say ‘Yeah, I’ll give myself three to six months in LA and if I don’t become successful I’ll move back.’ This is a pet peeve of mine, because I hear it all the time and it’s absolutely flawed thinking. If this is your approach, please save your money and do something else that brings you joy, because it takes years just to build relationships and trust with casting, let alone production and filmmakers. After that, it’s get great training, prioritize auditioning over everything, find a survival job that enables you to do this career, treat everyone you interact with on and off-set with respect and take the majority of opportunities that are offered to you. I’m telling you, the production assistant you’re working with on a student film today could be directing a major feature film tomorrow. That’s the pace of how quickly this industry moves!”

His own career is filled with exhilarating moving parts. “Well, I recently shot a commercial directed by Academy Award Winner: Tom Hooper, which should be coming out soon. There’s also more episodes of General Hospital on their way and a whole slew of Commercials, TV Shows and Feature Films in the pipeline. Gotta admit though, for a minute there we didn’t think the Tom Hooper job would happen due to a scheduling conflict with General Hospital but ultimately it worked out; and both my team and I couldn’t have been happier. I really learnt a lot working with Tom, one of the things that impressed me so much besides him literally moving our marks. Which for those that don’t understand what this means. One of the responsibilities of the camera department is to place focus marks on the floor, usually tape in the shape of the letter ‘T’ so actors know exactly where to stand to be in perfect focus, framing and lighting. These marks change frequently and normally it’s the job of the 2nd AC to move them around. But in this situation time was tight, so instead of waiting around – Academy Award winner Tom Hooper ran over, kneeled down on the floor and adjusted our marks like a pro to help save time and keep us on track. But, I think what impressed me most was how steadfast Tom was about maintaining the sanctity of the film set as a creative, open space where Actors felt welcome to contribute and create. It was a sense of pure collaboration that stemmed from this calm, highly intelligent, talented and peaceful man. My favorite memory from the day was watching Tom’s face light up while sharing a big belly-laugh after we improvised a surprising alternate ending to the scene. That day was an all-around good time and one I’ll always remember!”

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David Lautman Opens Up About His Craft. Photo Credit: Shimmy Photography.

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