… I’m already headed in the direction of Lupus Advocacy. My mother has been battling the disease for about 40 years now. For those that don’t know, Lupus is an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s immune system attacks healthy organs and tissues. The symptoms vary, but it they can be mild to fatal. I wrote “Standing Eight” an award winning short film about a boxer who is forced to retire after being diagnosed with systemic lupus. I just wanted to make the film to raise awareness and that’s exactly what it is doing. I’m looking forward to continuing work with the Lupus Foundation of America for the film’s release and beyond.
I had the pleasure to interview Rising star Kazy Tauginas. Kazy is a former restaurateur and Golden Gloves boxer turned actor. Growing up just outside of Chicago, Tauginas played many different sports, settling on figure skating before he discovered a natural talent for boxing after college. His grace on the ice helped him in the ring, where he fought in 13 amateur bouts. After trying his hand in the restaurant business, Tauginas turned to acting and writing, a passion that led him to the New York Film Academy, where he graduated from their Conservatory Acting for Film. Tauginas has appeared in numerous theatre, film and television roles. His television credits include “Person of Interest,” “Blindspot,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” “Blue Bloods” and “Sneaky Pete.” Tauginas’ film work includes “John Wick,” “The Broken Tower,” “Terminal Legacy,” “Eleanor,” “Sollers Point,” “Life Is Too Short,” “Empire Gypsy,” “Recruiter” and “Sheer.” Most recently, he was seen as Ari in “The Equalizer 2,” starring Denzel Washington.
After writing several short films (and starring in over 20 of them), Tauginas drew inspiration from his mother who’d been diagnosed with Lupus, and his own boxing experience, and decided to write “Standing Eight,” a short about a boxer who is forced to retire and contend with life outside of the ring after being diagnosed with systemic lupus. Since its completion, “Standing Eight” has won eleven festival awards including Trinity International Film Festival’s Best Short Film. He hopes to release the film later this year on Amazon, with proceeds going to Lupus charities.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up I always loved films. Some of my fondest childhood memories were of going to the movies. I never really thought of it as a potential career path until later in my life. Before I became an actor, I owned a 24-hr diner. I think it must have been 2007, when I had a couple of customers ask to use the diner to shoot a couple of spec spots for the Heinz Ketchup Commercial Contest. On the day they were supposed to shoot, an actor didn’t show. They asked if I would fill in. I obliged. When we wrapped for the day, one of them mentioned to me that I should be an actor. That idea stayed with me. Destiny I suppose. Long story short, the New York Film Academy caught my eye and after attending one of their open houses, I was sold. My run in the restaurant business came to an unfortunate financial end, but I had already made my mind that I was ready for a career change. The diner closed Nov 1st 2008 and Jan 3rd, 2009 I was back in school in NYC.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
This entire adventure has been interesting. There have been so many twists and turns. Huge disappointments and surprise successes — sometimes only days apart. I would say my most interesting anecdote came from my casting in The Equalizer 2. It’s funny how sometimes things happen when you need them to. I felt that prior to getting that phone call that I booked, I was at a personal low. I had reached my peak level of frustration. I remember asking myself earlier that week, “What am I doing wrong?” “Why aren’t things coming together for me?” Later, hours after saying a prayer to get out of my day job (I was waiting tables at the time) my manager called and said “Looks like you’re going to be in a movie with Denzel Washington.” It’s funny how life works.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I can’t really think of any early mistake that was particularly funny. I can say I learned something important early on… that was to let auditions go after you’ve laid them down. After I give 100% of myself for an audition, I walk out of that room and drop my expectations into the garbage receptacle along with the script sides. As my career progressed, I learned that there is so much more that goes into casting than just your performance. There are numerous factors that go into the casting process — acting ability just being one slice of the pie. So I learned to just do my best, be cordial and expect nothing. As an actor, its your job to present yourself as best as you can. From there, it’s in God’s hands.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m heading to Vietnam in December to work on a film called “Invisible Love”. It’s a period piece that takes place in the 30’s. Really looking forward to that. Also, my own award winning short film “Standing Eight” is going to be released on Amazon in early 2019.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I would say working with Antoine Fuqua was one of the most exciting experiences for me thus far. Being able to work with a director whose films I’ve watched multiple times, where I would often find myself thinking… “Damn, I wish I was in the movie” and finally being able to step on set with him… dream come true. In Equalizer 2 the climax of the film takes place in a hurricane. There were wind machines going, fake waves slamming into us. It was the real deal. In the scene, our team was hunting McCall (Denzel’s character). My character lands on a fence and a while we were shooting the first take, I ad-libbed a bunch of lines. After we cut… Antoine jumped out of the van and ran over to me. He grabbed me by the tactical vest and started shaking me. He was excited and loved what I did! It was such a great moment to have my work acknowledged by someone I had looked up to for so long. Working with him was so fulfilling because he always wants to see what you bring to your character and gives you the freedom to do so.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not burn out?
Attitude is everything. It’s hard to stay positive when your entire career is based on someone else’s opinions of your performance, how you physically look, your energy. The only way to counter all the pressure of the unknown is finding a way to continue to satisfy your creative appetite. It becomes very easy to fall into the doldrums when you aren’t booking work. At my best, I may actually book 1 out of 30 auditions. Those odds are TRASH. Early on, I realized I needed to develop my own content. My good producer friend, Antoine Allen always says “validate yourself”. When you write your own screenplay, you write it terms of what you want to see yourself doing on screen. No one can write for you the way you can write for yourself. If you feel you can’t do certain things… learn or find someone who does know. If you can’t write, find a writer. If you can’t direct, find a director. Building a network is critical. Why wait to be discovered when you can just create your own project?
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think I’m already headed in the direction of Lupus Advocacy. My mother has been battling the disease for about 40 years now. For those that don’t know, Lupus is an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s immune system attacks healthy organs and tissues. The symptoms vary, but it they can be mild to fatal. I wrote “Standing Eight” an award winning short film about a boxer who is forced to retire after being diagnosed with systemic lupus. I just wanted to make the film to raise awareness and that’s exactly what it is doing. I’m looking forward to continuing work with the Lupus Foundation of America for the film’s release and beyond.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
To be honest, when I first started I knew pieces of these things, but as you gain experience you realize their importance.
1. Learn how to audition
Acting is one thing. Auditioning is an entirely different skill set. A lot of things you learn in scene study, when applied to an audition setting don’t work. If you want to work as an actor, you have to learn how to master the audition.
There is no timeline other than the ones you set for yourself. Things never unfold how you expect them to, they unfold as they are meant to. So the best thing you can do is be patient.
3. Slow progress is still progress.
This really falls in line with patience, so I have to remind myself from time to time. As long as you’re growing and doing better than the previous year, you’re the right path.
4. You’re going to be judged by the industry on your physical appearance more than anything else.
This is one that a lot of my actor friends have issues with. Appearance is a HUGE part of the casting process. So you have to just be the best you can be and accept that your physicality is what gets you in the door. If you’re getting called into an audition it’s because they looked at your headshot and thought “he looks like he can play this part”.
5. Find someone to guide you — a mentor.
When I first got out of school, I was lost. I knew that meeting casting directors was important and I had a general landscape of the industry or so I thought. Unfortunately all the meetings I had with agents didn’t go anywhere post graduation. A few years after NYFA I somehow stumbled across Gwyn Gilliss with the Actors Market. I hired her as my career coach and she helped me really get everything together — from setting up an updated specific to type headshot shoot, launching my website, formatting my resume. A little guidance can go a long way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” — Muhammad Ali
I’ve realized that we have the power to choose our destiny. We have our own set of instincts. I don’t feel I need to impress anyone. I’m just myself. If you present yourself accurately, you don’t have to be fake.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Truth be told, my parents are my support system. They’ve been there for me through everything.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Martin Scorsese. Every one of his projects, a work of art. I would just love to have a chat with a living legend. What would we talk about? Truth be told, anything. I would just listen. There is so much to be learned from someone like him.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My IG handle is @kazytauginas
My Facebook fan page is @officialkazytauginas
Originally published at medium.com