The role of the actor is to be a professional auditioner. Once you get the job, it’s time to play.
I first met Rowan through Nancy Hayes Casting in San Francisco, where he works in casting as well as teaches classes in commercial auditioning. Any actor who’s worked with Rowan will tell you he’s an eminently likeable guy, with a gift for putting nervous actors at ease. He’s also an amazing performer.
British-born, Rowan is classically trained in Shakespearean theatre from one of the most renowned acting schools in England, The Oxford School of Drama. He’s the real deal and does it all: stage, commercial work, indie films, as well as working behind the scenes with his production company Lucky Dragon. We recently caught up to discuss acting tips, the state of the industry, as well as his current projects, most notably, For Spacious Sky, his breakthrough film that is an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival.
CP: As a foreign actor in Japan, I know there are challenges to working in a country other than your homeland. Tell me about your experience of coming to America from the UK to act.
RB: Actually American acting culture really embraced me—there are a lot of opportunities for English actors here. One of the biggest challenges was giving myself permission to lose my accent and perform in an American dialect. That was tough at first.
CP: Yeah there’s definitely a balance between keeping your foreign identity and being able to assimilate somewhat to your adopted country. You’ve been working as an actor and in casting in San Francisco for years, and also have your own production company. Can you talk about how Lucky Dragon came to be?
RB: An actor guarantees his own work by creating it. I started Lucky Dragon in 2008 and began producing a series of short films based on Shakespearean sonnets. We’ve done six so far. The first three were just an actor, a director, and a camera. The second three we had a full crew.
CP: Why Shakespearean sonnets?
RB: I love Shakespeare. And the poems, though 400 years old, are still absolutely about what we’re dealing with today: love loss, sexism, jealousy. Creating a work based on three quatrains and a couplet results in a very direct, clear film— very modern.
CP: Tell me about your latest work, For Spacious Sky.
RB: Inspired by actual events and set on Election Day, 2008, against the sweeping landscape of rural America, For Spacious Sky is the story of three lost brothers finding their way back to each other—one from incarceration, one from addiction, and one from discrimination.
CP: And it’s been incredibly well received!
RB: Yeah being invited to Tribeca was pretty exciting.
CP: Yeah it is! I can’t wait to see it. The trailer is so compelling.
RB: Thanks! I’ve been busy with acting too. Tinker is a romantic drama short I co-star in. It’s doing well at the festivals…
BEST SHORT FILM – AUDIENCE AWARD – Big Bear Lake International Film Festival (2013) BEST DRAMATIC SHORT – Manhattan Film Festival (2013) BEST OVERALL FILM – Myrtle Beach International Film Festival (2013)BEST SHORT FILM – Myrtle Beach International Film Festival (2013)
CP: Wow… you are having a year! Do you have any final acting tips for those just starting out?
RB: Create your own opportunities. I was a technophobe actor who became self-taught in full production: adobe creative cloud, sound, camera work. Take control of your career and make it happen.
Learn more about Rowan’s acting classes at Nancy Hayes here. (I recommend– practical lessons in commercial work).
And his filmmaking magic with Lucky Dragon here.