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An Interview with an Actor: Vince Cusimano

Vince Cusimano starred in the film Britney Lost Her Phone, which played during The Western Film Festival on April 20, 2024. At the end of the night Cusimano took home the custom belt buckle award for the Best Feature Film, and afterwards Anna Berry Henderson was able to sit down with him and have a conversation. This article is written from those notes.

(Vince Cusimano at The Western Film Festival)


If anybody ever gets the chance to meet and talk to Vince, you should absolutely take it. Vince is a soft spoken and gentle human being but he has a massive presence both on screen and in person. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Vince went to a Catholic school. For some they are bit by the acting bug late in life but that is not the case for Cusimano. He originally caught acting fever when he was in kindergarten and his school put on a Christmas pageant.

“The classes were all divided up into ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall’ and the mouse that went up the clock and all those little nursery rhymes and we just happened to be the one that didn’t get a nursery rhyme,” said Cusimano.

Instead his class was able to put on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where he got his very first role as Dopey. During the performance, the boys playing the Seven Dwarfs came out singing the working song made famous by the film and then stopped at center stage to introduce their selves. Being so young Vince didn’t understand that his character was practically deaf but his teachers coached him on how to say his line and when his time came he said it almost identical to how they told him. In what he descried a weird voice he said loud and proud, “Hi, I’m Dopey! And everybody in the audience laughed… and I get a jolt like… oh, this is awesome.” It was that moment in a young actor’s life that his passion was born and he was put on the path that he today walks.

Fast forward 18 years and Vince was enrolled in college where even though he dropped out his senior year he likes to tell people he graduated, and why wouldn’t he? Though he may not have a paper degree he learned skills and lessons that he carried over into his adult life and has been able to make a living at it, which is what college is supposed to be about, right? He didn’t drop out and move back in with his parents instead he packed up his belongings and chased his dream. He moved from Birmingham, Alabama all the way to Los Angeles, California.

“I moved to LA and just started doing extra work and did some plays and then just kind of started grabbing a little indie film here and there.”

With his skills and work ethic Vince has been able to get plenty of work. Some of the credits to his name are Iago in Othello and Lucky and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, Jeff Grannon in one episode of Betrayed, and even had an uncredited roll in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Though every time Vince was asked about his favorite roll or his favorite gig he always mentioned his coworkers, he was never selfish or talked about how great he was, he always made sure to reiterate that “it was a team effort.”

When asked about his most recent film Britany Lost Her Phone that’s exactly how he put it too. “This was a really, really fun shoot. Out of all the shoots I’ve done… this was easily one of the two or three best,” and when asked why he said, “because it was a limited budget, there was no drama… everybody had a positive attitude… there was no ego… it was a fun script.” Before production everyone was practically strangers but during filming everyone became friends and in the end made something that they all were proud of.

For anyone that was not able to see the film it is a very interesting concept. Set in 1802 it delves into what would happen if a family found a working iPhone. According to director, Vito Trabucco, “Britney Lost Her Phone is our meditation on the relationship between technology and religion, as well as the various ways that both have been destructive and constructive in our collective lives.” While there may be a scene or two that could make a person squirm in their seats, I believe that’s exactly what the intention was as it perfectly addresses the good side and the bad side of technology.

 

Whenever doing any kind of project there will always be issues and the making of Britany Lost Her Phone is no different and when you know what they went through it makes the film that more impressive. Other than being a small budget film the crew faced the difficulty of losing one of their main actors, who due to personal reasons, dropped out of the film, but as fate would have it a week before shooting another actor would come in to replace him by the name of Benjamin Kauffman. According to Cusimano, “he came aboard and me and him clicked,” and for anyone who has seen the film know exactly what he means as the two of them worked well together.

Another challenge was during a two day shoot when they were filming wagon scenes near Van Nuys airport.

“It was a Saturday and Sunday that we shot and it was nonstop planes taking off and landing, taking off and landing.”

Watching the film you would never know that was the case, “the fact that you can’t hear one plane, I mean it almost seems like it’s just the regular audio… we didn’t go back in and rerecord our voices or anything.” Filming next to an airport with planes coming in and out you would expect there to be some noises but according to Vince the reason you don’t know it is because, “the sound guy was that good.”

Another difficulty that every independent film maker knows all too well was the problem of wardrobe and for Britany Lost Her Phone that problem was abundant as well. Sometime as a film maker you will luck out and have the right clothing or only need one or two pieces and for Vince he said his biggest difficulty with wardrobe was the pants. “The pants that they had made originally were real tight… the ones I had on (in the film) were pretty tight, but the original ones were like, “How am I going to get into the wagon?” Like this” and then proceeded to demonstrate the difficulty he would have trying to climb into the wagon. Vince being considerate as always made sure to reiterate that it wasn’t the wardrobe departments fault. As most film makers know when searching for wardrobe you’re going to thrift stores and garage sales trying to find the perfect outfit and at the end of the day sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got.  And just like Vince said, “that stuff is to be expected.”

(CHAPS Board Member Dewayne Berry and Vince Cusimano)


 

It’s not ever easy to make a film, let alone, a quality film. With that being said it’s also not easy to be a film maker. During the 30 minute interview Anna and Vince covered a lot of topics the making of the film, the issues that come with it, Vince’s background, favorite plays, actors, etc., but one topic stood out most to me and for that one I am going to write that part of the interview verbatim.


A: You are tasked with giving a young actor advice, somebody in college or even younger, what would be your advice looking back?


V: Stay dedicated and every chance you can get take that acting chance. Every opportunity you can get as a young actor, take it no matter what it is, whether its comedy or drama or horror or bad movie or good movie, take it. Get that experience of working in all the different levels of budget when you work because when you work on a real low budget, you’re going to have to learn to work fast, and that’s going to benefit you. So, when you get on set on a big thing because, I mean, nine times out of ten, well more than that, the chances of you going straight to movie star status is so slim, it’s astronomically high. So, when you get on that first network TV show you’re going to be getting on as a guest or co-star like you’re going to be getting like an under five, which is under five lines, or just a one or two day thing. And you’re the low man or woman on the totem pole. They’re not really… it’s not really that they’re going to treat you like shit, but your perk is that you get a trip. You’re not going to get the attention that the other ones are and it doesn’t mean that they’re just going to crap all over you during your scene, but you’re just, you need to be able to work fast and if you’ve had the experience of working real fast, fast and loose on these indie films, it’s really going to benefit you there, but back to the advice. Stay dedicated. If you get a job, go to your job and be thinking about your lines. If you’ve made plans to go out with friends… if it’s a concert, you promised somebody, you’re gonna go to, go to it. Don’t break those promises, but think about your lines the whole time. You know, when you’re in your car, say your lines and think about your character about the audition because maybe you only got a couple of days to prep for but everything you do just put everything you’ve got into that and the fun will come.


A: What about rejection and what would be your advice?


V: It’s so hard. It’s nonstop rejection. Look my life is rejection, you know, it really is. I mean the little success are when I get booked in something and they are few and far between. It’s always rejection and it always seemed, and I’m just telling you my perspective, but it always seems like everybody else is working and you’re not. That’s the thing you have got to remember is that that’s not real. It’s just your mind plays with you like that, but it’ll looks like everybody else is getting booked, I see all these people and I’m the only one not working and it’s not true. It’s just your mind is making up these stories, but rejection is just how it is. And it’s a cliché you got to have thick skin… I have the thinnest skin. I am a ball of emotion. I don’t like my feelings hurt. I don’t like to be told that I’m not good. I want people to like me so I feel good about myself and valid, but you know that’s just part of it. So, like if you’re an actor, you’re just connected to your emotions so you’re gonna feel it all. So, the tough skin, the thick skin part is like yeah, you have to have it. You know, it’s like if you have a scab and it grows back and it gets tougher and the you scrape it off again and it bleeds and then it becomes a scab again and it gets tougher. That’s all it is. You just kind of keep getting hurt. You keep getting your heart broken.


A: That sounds awful.


V: If it’s something you really want, you just learn how to move on because you know, there’ll be another audition like you start realizing like yeah, there’s gonna be another audition tomorrow or whatever.


A: You must just love the craft.


V: I do… I just can’t imagine doing anything else.

(Joe Vannatta (The Satchel), Abby Booker (Craft Addicts), Vince Cusimano)


 

                Acting is tough. Film making is tough. Chasing your dreams is tough, but if you’ve learned anything from this interview I hope it was that even though it may be tough, if you are truly passionate about something, if you have a deep burning desire to do something, you can accomplish it by not giving up and by putting in the work. Not all dreams come in the dead of night some come during the day after years of hard work and dedication.  

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