Interview with Daniel Van Thomas
As a full-time creative, Daniel
has gratefully participated in dozens of films, TV shows, theater, video games, audio books, commercials and more. Alongside a B.A. in acting and English from Murray State University, he often studies technique at Berg Studios under Yale acting instructor Gregory Berger-Sobeck, as well as Adrian LaTourelle and Desean Terry. Previous mentors include Jonathan Awori, Robert Valentine, Andrei Belgrader and others. Other words on his resume include handyman, producer, tutor, bartender, production designer, landscaper, music supervisor, fisherman, published poet, painter and ditch digger.
Hi Daniel! Could you please introduce your work as an actor and tell us a bit more about the main productions you've focused on in the past year?
Hey there, thanks for listening. My name is Daniel Van Thomas. I'm an actor, a writer and sometimes accidental indie film producer. I live in Los Angeles, but I was raised and educated in Kentucky. Been doing this full-time for, going on 10 years now. I'll do essentially any format that I am lucky enough to be a part of, whether it be a feature film on Amazon, or a video game voice over, an audio book, a commercial, a cable TV show, what have you. Recently, you can see me in the narrative film Murder Ballad, which just had its premiere at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. My film, Pop, will be screening in Berlin this summer. I just wrapped another narrative called Berserk which is about harm OCD and virtual reality therapy, with an extremely talented director named Mairin Hart and recorded quite a bit of live action footage and voiceover for the video game Wasteland 3, from Microsoft and inXile Entertainment.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions the general public has regarding the work of actors?
I'm sure there are tons of misconceptions, but the one that I maybe encounter the most is this inseparable association between acting and fame and fortune. You go back to your hometown and, bless their hearts, folks say, "Well, are you famous yet? When are you going to be famous?" And that's not really part of the plan. There are a lot of folks - they're are hard to find, because they're a little more quiet - but there are a lot of folks who are here to do a job. They're here because this is their career. There aren't necessarily any aspirations of fame or fortune. Paying the rent is really a priority and, at least for me, the idea of much more notoriety than I can handle is kind of frightening. I think one of the most important things I've ever been privy to, in terms of acting advice, was an old teacher of mine named Robert Valentine said, "Bring a lunch box," and I think that acting can be that.
What are some of the main hurdles you've faced during your acting studies and work?
This might be kind of a universal hurdle, but it it particularly applies to an industry that relies so much on this idea of connection, and knowing somebody in this sort of social ladder. So it's been difficult to come from a completely blue collar family - which I'm proud of - but a family that has no connection to the film industry or entertainment. I had to come from poverty. That, of course, is always gonna give you a little disadvantage in just about anything. Especially compared to peers who have more access but this idea of not having notoriety, and this expectation that you always have to network, network network. That was a word - 'network' - that was something that I was very allergic to and I still am. I'm just slowly, in my old age, learning how to wrangle that; learning from more experienced actors; and realizing that this idea of expanding your reach, it can be an honest and natural process. It's OK to see a film that I admire, and to get in touch with the creators of that film and say, "Hey, I admire what you did. This is me, I exist."
How has moving to LA impacted your work? How has it presented both new challenges and new opportunities?
I guess the answer to that question is that Los Angeles is the root of all my challenge and of all my opportunity, and that's for the same reason - which is saturation. I mean, as of now, L.A. is still the most saturated market for filmmaking; there's still the most opportunity per square foot and there's also this sort of increasing saturation rate in regards to competition. So cutting through that, for myself, for casting directors, for just a whole host of creatives, is tough. But media - whether it be film, or any other sort of creative format - is democratizing. And that certainly heightens the saturation issue, but it also means that this necessity of having a central hub city, this place where we go and have this kind of trial by fire, that necessity is declining. Which also levels the playing field in terms of opportunity, especially for underserved, for under-represented people, and that, I think, is helping to ensure that at least film doesn't become this playground only for privileged people, which is extremely crucial right now.
What's next for your work? What are the main productions, publications, and projects you'll be focusing on throughout the next year?
I've just become a partner at a small indie production company called Unmanned Media - we're developing a LGBTQ-themed postmodern slasher called Better Run, in which I'll be playing the postmodern slasher in question. And for the past few years, gosh, I've recorded, I think, five feature films as the English voice of Ultraman Zero in the Ultraman series from Tsuburaya Productions, which - they don't tell us anything -but they should be coming soon, so if you happen to catch me around I'd really appreciate it.