I am helping to create a voice for all-inclusive theater and film in the U.S. Especially in our current time — utmost importance should be placed on awareness and empathy. My travels, experiences and interactions have shown me that mainstream American media and art are just not illustrating the true human social condition and political climate we are facing.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Franklin Livingston of LPI Films®, Bambi Films Inc., and Listening Eyes Theater Company. His productions typically showcase people of color as the classic heroic roles and all the stories developed are based on true events. Mr. Livingston believes in empowering the characters generally known as ethnic minorities because they are the backbone to the functionality of the U.S. as a community. However, standard theater and film still continues to portray Caucasian men and women in the dominant roles. The concept of beauty, success and attraction must be open to all human beings, regardless of their cultural appearances or affiliations. Franklin along with his passionate and devoted network of professionals aims to accomplish this change through entertaining and intellectual art. Franklin Livingston is a New York based actor, director and producer. He enjoys acting on stage and film. He has had the pleasure of working in English, Urdu. Hindi and Punjabi languages.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Living in the Midwest of the United States for nearly a decade made me feel that I was expected to spend my life in a specific stereotypical way. It began with my job at the local Christian church that helped me get settled in the U.S. I was astonished when my supervisor asked me why I needed to go out and have a nice dinner, once in a while, when I had tin can soups at the place I was living at. The senior pastor of the same church explained to me that people from my background should NOT even consider dating or having a family life because we don’t understand relationships and people from the Middle East could die at any given moment. In my opinion, they were basically stating that my life and people like me should not expect to progress any further than just being sacrificial lambs. We are not entitled to normal lives and should never experience it. We are less than the standard and lucky to participate at all.
I began to wonder how many people like me might have thought they were unable to live outside of a box that was defined for them by others. My stories show ethnic minorities and their contributions in making the U.S. the greatest nation in the world by discovering connections in our separations. I’ve always felt the most powerful way to reach people is through the audience of a performance, art and film.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I hired an acting coach presuming that he was impressive because he was heavily connected with the local television industry in New York. However, he would continually squander time talking trash, discussing my fees and reminding me that because of my looks that I couldn’t possibly be the kind of actor I desired to be. One day he referred to an ethnic actor and said since he is ugly and a bit fat — that is why he got hired. He cautioned me that if I wanted to be fit and charming I still will not be hired because I could never live up to the American standards of good looks to be cast in any worthwhile projects. He told me light skin and light eyes are mandatory for popular lead roles and I had neither.
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 was in a meeting with my first TV commercial agents. They asked me if I was working on getting rid of my accent. They said that getting work without having a native sounding American vernacular is impossible. I laughed to myself and replied bluntly that I don’t believe I could ever eliminate my accent and that local people tend to search for a foreign accent when they need a medical specialist or a cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills. I think it’s only the Media, the formula, and the system that believes that actors shouldn’t have their native accents if they wanted to play leads in the local projects. Upon seeing their facial expressions, I realized my honesty was a mistake.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have so many projects in the works right now, but my current favorite in post-production is “Down-Range” in which I played a U.S. Army major. There are a lot of officers in the U.S. military of Middle Eastern descent. However, in Hollywood movies and American TV shows all war heroes tend to be portrayed as Caucasian and the villains are people of color. I am shocked that even in our current time, TV has kept this tradition by producing a popular series “Jack Ryan” in which this outdated stigma is perpetuated.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
The most interesting people I have ever met are through random encounters. It was awkward in the beginning because I knew I did not have much time to talk to them in the subway, at a coffee shop or at an intersection. I have made several friends worldwide through these kinds of chance meetings. Once I was paying for my sandwich at a deli near my acting school in NYC and I noticed that the cashier was wearing a fancy watch. I couldn’t help but comment on it, and she responded by telling me her story. It turns out that she was an engineer from Venezuela, but her education was not recognized in the U.S., so she was forced to work service and retail jobs instead of in her field. We became friends on social media and after a few years we are still are very close friends.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
This is a difficult field. You will deal with rejection 99% of the time on a daily basis. You must have thick skin and be persistent. And, if you are a person of color, especially a male with an accent, your chances of work decrease automatically. It’s better to have a support group who really appreciates your strength, sees your beauty, acknowledges your talent and attests to your art. Importantly, create your audience who values your craft and enjoys your work.
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 have already begun a movement by bringing awareness and empathy though my work. My collaborators have mentioned that they have learned many things they did not know regarding the politics, sociology and anthropology of America and the world. I am helping create a voice for all-inclusive theater and film in the U.S.
Especially in our current time — I believe that the utmost importance should be placed on awareness and empathy. My travels, experiences and interactions have shown me that mainstream American Media and Art are just not illustrating the true human social condition and political climate we have been facing. The teams working with my companies are producing relentlessly to eliminate that void and fill it with compassion, enlightenment, and masterful storytelling.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Visualizing. Actualizing. There is beauty and power in these practices. However, I feel that learning to live, breathe and exist in the moment without stressing about the future and focusing on your thoughts and feelings right now — is vital and the most valuable lesson you could ever complete. Often on set, myself or my assistants might worry about staying on schedule or getting behind, but there is no resolution without conflict, and we always claim victory when we work hard and never surrender.
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?
Al Qually has been a tremendous help on my journey in New York. When I first arrived in the Big Apple, I was angry and depressed because I had so many negative experiences. I believe that it was my growing and learning phase, but I met Al in 2016 who collaborated with me on numerous projects. He always went out of his way to help me with scripts, filmmaking and much more without any expectations or hidden agendas. We have shot several short films in and outside of his apartment in Queens (including “Down-Range”) where he would be making coffee and running around trying to make sure all actors and crew were taken care of. Since our initial encounter and through Al’s network, I have met many great professionals who have helped me become a better human being and a compelling storyteller.
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. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and/or George Clooney. I admire their struggles coming from grass roots acting careers and then taking over the industry as actors and producers.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!