FEATURED MEMBER – Sam Cohan

Posted on February 9, 2011

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Sam Cohan is a professional actor and writer born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Since 2005 he has worked internationally, sharing time between Rome, Italy, Boston and Los Angeles.   His most recent film “At the End of the Day” (War Games) will be premiering this summer, and he has a number of other projects in the pipeline.

    

Q.  What inspired you to become an actor?
A.  I had always been interested in pursuing a career in the arts and especially in entertainment.  As a child I was always loud and distractible.  I found my place in theater class where those qualities were considered assets.  It wasn’t until I was 17, however, that I actually considered a professional career as an actor and it wasn’t until being cast in the film “Oliviero Rising” that I actually thought this sort of career would be possible.

Q.  Do you have a favourite modern performer?
A.  There are a lot of performers I admire and quite a range in what they do.  Peter Sarsgaard has long been one of my favorite working actors as well as Sam Rockwell.  They are doing films that make me jealous.

Q.  What does acting/ performing mean to you?
A.  I’m kind of an intellectual in my thoughts on this and a purist, but I think that performing is about reflection.  We go to films and to the theater, I believe, to learn something.  Performing is about being part of the apparatus, which inspire the reflections we make.

Q.  Which actors inspire you and why?
A.  I sometimes feel I am more inspired by the past than I am by current professionals in the industry.  The theater artist Augusto Boal has always been an inspiration to me; and of course, Artaud.  But neither of those guys are actors in the way we think of them now.   I am actually incredibly inspired by Ben Stiller.  Stiller has been able to balance a very commercially successful career with inspiring artistic enterprises like Greenburg and The Royal Tenenbaums.  He has been given the power of choice and I am incredibly inspired by that.  His writing partner, Justin Theroux is also incredibly cool.   Theroux has gotten to wear a lot of hats: writing, acting, producing and I think that sort of intelligence and malleability is very inspiring.

Q.  Can you explain your career path and how you went from a child born and raised in Boston to an international actor living in Rome?
A.  My path has been a very lucky one.  I was attending Bowdoin College in Maine, studying theater and literature, when I was approached by a classmate of mine whose father was casting a film in Italy called “Oliviero Rising.”  What happened next was pure luck.  I was in Rome filming and met a woman at a party named Romana Meggiolaro, who desperately wanted me to meet her friend Cosimo Alema.   Cosimo at the time was preparing the film Delirium Cordia, which would later be called At the End of the Day and much more recently, War Games (the international title).  Cosimo cast me in the film and I returned to Rome expecting to be there on holiday for a month before filming started.  That was not the case however once we learned that there were some financing problems with the film.  Cosimo implored me to stay in the country and I lived there for three and a half years working with him on music videos and with other directors who I met during my time there.

Q. What was it like living in Rome? Would you ever go back there to live, or is America the place to be whilst you are young and always on the look out for new projects?
A.  I think my experience in Rome was unique to me and the circumstances that I fell into. I was lucky to be brought to Italy and I was lucky to meet the people I met.  But it is not an open market for foreign actors and it is difficult to impossible to create a sustainable career abroad.  I certainly would live there again, but I’m not planning on leaving Los Angeles just yet.

Q.  Fluent Italian is an impressive skill to have- did this come in handy for your role (set in Rome) in ‘At the End of the Day’, or was this in fact a result of living in Italy for several years?
A.  At the End of the Day was actually filmed in English.  I learned Italian simply as a life skill for survival living in Rome.

Q.  What were the main challenges, if any, that you faced in establishing your career to date?
A.  When I was choosing to remain in Rome, I was met with a lot of opposition to the idea…not from my family but from Industry people.  They all said that making films in Europe wouldn’t do anything for my career in America.  And to be honest, it really hasn’t…the American film industry is a bit myopic that way.  Then again, that was never really the point.  I went to Europe following a strong tradition of artists going abroad to develop and flourish.  I went to Europe to learn about myself so that I could then use those lessons to help build a character that is not myself but has some distinct elements of who I am.  But I guess the biggest challenge any artist faces is self-doubt.

Q. Has living in Rome changed the focus of your acting roles? Do you prefer internationally recognized titles now?
A.  I think living in Rome opened my eyes more so to different cultural approaches not just to acting, but also to life.  Living abroad though truly opened my eyes to the disparity between what American films make it abroad and what films truly remain domestic gems.  The titles that jump the ocean, they’re much bigger films.  I hope one day to take part in them as they tend to be gigantic in scale…the size of the story tends to match the size of the budget.

Q.  You have quite a diverse range of acting jobs, from theatre and television, to film and music videos. How do you decide which roles to take and do you have a preference?
A.  I wish I actually had more choice over the roles that I take, but truly at the beginning of ones career (which is where I’m at) you don’t get much of one.  I audition like everyone else and hope that I simply just get to work.  It’s actually nice, auditioning, because you have to go out for every job and you have to trick yourself into believing that you might be right for every part you read for.  You can’t question or limit yourself.  It really is endless potential but it is also a lot of failure.  But the main thing is not to be afraid of failure…that’s the best way to learn.

Q.  You have appeared in music videos with Zero Assoluto and Nelly Furtado; can you describe this experience? If given the opportunity again, is there a particular artist you would like to appear with?
A.  I was incredibly lucky to work with the boys from Zero.  It was an incredible experience.  The video with Nelly is actually the second incarnation of the same video.  We first filmed the video “Appena Prima di Partire” in Barcelona.  That was an incredible experience and was where Cosimo and I really became close in our friendship and working relationship as Director and Actor.  We have a bond that is hard to describe and can communicate wordlessly with each other.  It wasn’t until about 7 months after filming that first video that we found out that Nelly had signed on.  Then we flew to Porto, Portugal to meet up with Nelly (she was on tour).  We filmed that section of the video in one day.

I don’t know whose video I would want to be in.  For me it’s more about who is directing the video. 

Q.  You are frequently in collaboration with Cosimo Alema. What is he like to work with? Are you a particular fan of his work?
A.  Cosimo is the first director to truly believe and trust in me and because of that I have a certain freedom in my work with him that I truly value.  What I love about working with him is that he shoots his own stuff, so you really trust that he is there with you.  We met before I spoke any Italian and before he spoke much English (his English has improved incredibly) so for a while it was simply us looking at each other and reading each other’s cues.  Often times I will get direction from him without talking…he’ll look at me and I’ll know what he wants. Co
simo trusts my instincts and I trust his.

Q.  In ‘A Short Film About Kissing’ you play Ian Marcus, an up and coming underwear model, a far cry from your role as Alex in ‘War Games’? Do you enjoy playing a wide variety of characters rather than being stuck with a specific role?
A.  I like variety.   They were very different films but the characters had some similarities.  Both are headstrong guys.  What was nice about each film was that were shot in very “real for reel” situations.  ‘Kissing’ takes place at the Sundance Film Festival and we actually filmed there. For that film I was followed by a camera crew in public so I simply remained in character the whole time…actually convincing people that I had a film at the festival…it was a total lie and was a lot of fun.

Q. You appeared in Brotherhood, in 2010. What was it like to film a television series?
A.  Very quick.  I was on set for a day.  It was an interesting experience…it felt like visiting someone else’s office for a day.  I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t really there long enough to have made any lasting connections.

Q.  You seem a very creative individual, and also have professional writer on your resume. Do you have a specific focus, or do you split your time evenly between these two creative outlets?
A.  I’ve always been 50% writer 50% actor.  I like creating and frankly I get bored sitting around hoping that I might have an audition on a given day.  I find writing to be incredibly fulfilling in that I get to create a world from the ground up.  I find the process of disappearing into my head (whereas when I act I am disappearing into my body) to be quite rewarding.

Q.  Would you ever consider taking time out of filming to write?
A.  Right now I have a balance in my life where I don’t need to make that decision.  But the nice aspect of writing is that it is something I can do in-between and during projects.

Q.  Do you have a favorite Project among your works? Can you explain why?
A.  I think the first version of “Appena Prima di Partire” is still my favorite.  Cosimo and ZA had written the video for me and it was really a gift.  We spent a week filming in Barcelona and it was the first time I felt included in every aspect of a production…something I’ve since learned is very rare. It was on that shoot that we all became family.

Q.  Do you have any interests that inspire you in other aspects of life?
A.  When I write as well as act, I use a lot of art.  But mainly I am always shooting videos of things around me.  I travel a lot and use those videos to inspire whatever I’m working on.

Q.  Are you working on new projects currently?
A.  I am in the middle of a few writing projects.

Q.  What are your professional ambitions and your projects for 2011?
A.  I hope this year to find some exciting new acting projects both independent and at the studio level.

Q.  How do you hope Pelime can help with this?
A.  I hope that Pelime continues to connect artists with each other.  I think it’s important not to sit at home and hope opportunities fall into your lap.  You have to go out and make them happen for yourself…at least that’s what I think.

   

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