Local Stand-up Guy Uses Comedy to Fund Film Career
Stop him if you've heard this one -- local musician/performer turns to comedy to fund film career.
By Jeanne McCartin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 19, 2008
He's a gadfly this guy, but one with intent. Scott David Chase of Hampton describes himself as a "sort of a failed musician, (though working on it again)," a stage and indie film actor ("performer is a word I'm more comfortable with"), a budding photographer, movie script writer, director and a fledgling stand up comedian. Flit he may, but not without direction.
Chase has a plan: stand up as the means to a career in film.
Chase already makes money at comedy after barely a year at it; something none of his other creative endeavors offers. He recently landed a biweekly gig with The Page in Portsmouth.
Comedy wasn't his first intent -- maybe not even second. But the longtime storyteller decided to meet the challenge of a friend who suggested he take his antics to the stage. "I was doing some acting at that point.....; In between takes I was always telling stories. Whenever I have a group of people around I end up being the class clown. I have a whole bag of stories I pull from all the time."
He did drag his feet a while, even after deciding he needed to give it a try. As odd as it may seem the actor/class clown had a fear of speaking in front of people. It was different than acting or fooling around with friends privately. He occasionally spoke solo to groups for his day job and found it truly frightening. "I get in full-on panic mode," he says. "It's easier in the abstract to think "I bet it would be really funny; then to pony up and try it and fail. So for the longest time I was saying I'll think about it."
The final push came last February. Chase made a comedy recording for the RPM (Record Production Month) Challenge. He decided it was time to take the material live. Without much thought he booked an off night at the Players' Ring for his first stand-up event. "I work well creatively under pressure. I knew if I booked it, it would get me over my insecurities."
And it did -- eventually. First there was a serious panic attack, he adds laughing.
His first show was free. Sixty-five people showed; "60 I knew personally," he says. The material was made up of long-running tales. "I wasn't going into it blind. They were stories people had reacted to already."
By the end of his 70-minute show he realized a number of things. First he was pretty decent at gauging an audience, moving with its mood and reaction. "Admittedly it was a bit clumsy," he says. "I have gotten better at it." Second, he found he really liked it. "It was like 'Oh, it's really cool. It's me up here talking, getting positive responses from people. It was a rush I'd never had before as a performer."
He also learned stand-up suited him. "I'm a pretty lazy person, I think. This is the least legwork with the most immediate payback as far as an audience reaction. That's a big reason it appeals to me. I'm an instant gratification kind of guy," he says. "I can make things up on stage, which I've done. I don't have to spend weeks and months writing something to bounce it off of people; so, there's definitely an appeal."
"I had to terrorize myself by booking without knowing if I could do it or not. It was do or die. I found being on stage in theater, it's great. But this is 10 times more a rush, a high. And it's instant gratification. It was 'wow, I have to do that again. Soon.'"
Audience members thought so too and started asking when the next show would be. So, Chase moved it to the Press Room. To date he's pulled off a show every six weeks, never repeating material while in his own territory. The hometown crowd plays "guinea pig," for new work, he says. He's also performed on stage in Providence, R.I., and Burlington, Vt.
These days he's weaving the best material together for the new gig at the Page. He can do that, because it's a new audience. His first houses were generally made up of friends and 10 percent "strangers." Now it's more like 70 percent newcomer. "I'm digging on doing the comedy and I'd like to keep it up. But ultimately I'd like to do film full time."
He's advancing that career as well. Chase and a group of friends recently formed Towing Jehovah, an artist collective, which makes juggling more than one project possible. It's made up of actors, visual artists, techies, directors, writers "and more." Most have worked on one another's films for some time.
The group recently started a first major film project "Night Swim," a single film comprising three shorts, written and directed by different members of the collective.
"It's three short films interconnected with cast and characters; six, all in each of the three films. ...; The other writer/directors on the projects include Andy Fling, and Jackie Benson and Heather Bourbeau," he says.
He's currently in postproduction on his first film, "You Stole the Sun From My Eyes," which he also wrote and directed. After the trio-film is completed he'll get to work on a follow-up film to "Interference" a theater script written by Benson and Bourbeau and premiered this season at the Players' Ring. The piece is as yet untitled.
While he does perform both on stage and film, acting isn't his focus. "I don't really consider myself an actor. I'm a passable actor at best. I'm a much better writer and director," he says. "I really enjoy the process that goes into the writing ...; and after the story is written, the evolution of the character living in my head for years."
And of course there's more. Chase is working two music projects for RPM. The first is a country album. For this one he's formed For God and Country a collaboration band with Christine Benson. The duo will head to Jon Nolan's recording studio in Newmarket to lay down 14 songs; 10 cover tunes, four original.
"As a big music fan I listen to all sorts of music. I'm a fan of traditional (country) Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson — Johnny Cash, of course. I have relationships with a lot of musicians. I hear them discuss it. They hate country songs. ...; Love it or leave it, these are some of the great songs, and hopefully if people don't hate it they'll check it out."
His second RPM project is a spoken word recording, "Viking Funeral." "It's going to be a weird electronic spoken word thing, a solo endeavor," he says. "I had been writing little bits of poetry pieces on the side for some time. I've got a batch of them written about a specific group of friends of mine. I'd been trying to decide what if any form to release them in. ...; So this is it. ...; Clearly I can't get enough of my own voice," he adds laughing. "So I'm doing 21 pieces."
It's all part of a constant juggling act, flitting from project to project, helping and being helped by the others in Towing Jehovah. He'll work the crowds at the Page, to pay for the hours behind a camera, and with luck, make it in that arena with time. But, he adds, even if he does, he plans on continuing with comedy. "It's that immediate feedback thing."
[Photo by Heather Ann Boure]
[Photo by Heather Ann Boure]