Interview: Director Jordan Rubin on ‘Zombeavers’ and Why “There’s No Excuse For Not Acting”

"Create your content, put it online and show us what you can do. There's no excuse for not acting. Dare to fail. Dare to suck." - Director Jordan Rubin

Jordan Rubin

Bite-Size 6 with Jordan Rubin
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Jordan Rubin, the multi-talented comedian and writer for the The Man Show and Last Call with Carson Daly, makes his directorial debut with Zombeavers. Jordan talks making the transition from writing to directing, being comfortable in your own skin and radiating that energy that makes everybody want to work with you.

Jordan gives us the bite on your 6 hot questions.

You have a wealth of experience as a Comedian, Writer and now Director. What inspires your projects and made you make the transition from writing  to directing? 

Jordan Rubin: I think it depends on the project. It usually comes from something that makes me laugh inherently. And that I know I’ll have fun and enjoy doing. Most of the things I work on, whether they are played straight or not, are comedic. So that’s a big part of it. I did standup comedy for about 15 years. And then I wrote for 10 of those years on shows. It was always important to have fun and enjoy the work.

I think I’ve always wanted to be a director. In high school, I was the video nerd. I would do a lot of those short films and I got good at editing. I would do short sketches and started writing for shows where essentially I would be writing and de facto-directing these sketches. I think I just got side tracked into stand up because it came naturally and writing too but I think they are all derivatives. They all organically come from the same place. With stand-up you are your own writer, actor and director. So it’s been a long route to get back to doing what I always wanted to do when I was 14 yrs old.

Can you talk us through your process of selecting an actor for a role?

Jordan Rubin: Whoever is available. No I’m just kidding. Zombeavers is my first bigger movie where we had a big lengthy audition process. I think there’s benefits and drawbacks to creating the script yourself. You have such a distinct vision and you can be so stubborn. In this movie that I wrote with my writing partners, we knew what we were looking for. Sometimes if you come into a project just as a director for hire, you have your own vision attached but you are probably a little bit more bendable. Personally, knowing my propensity for comedy, I lean towards people who can do the material but can also improvise. I had all of the actors on this film do the lines then I said lets improvise, just to know that I could throw anything at them. I look for actors who have the ability to just go with the flow and change it up based on the circumstances, because when you’re in production, there could be all sorts of things that come up. You could be limited by the logistics of the location, or weather.

I come from the school of rewriting on the spot. If someone has a better joke idea, be it the actor, me or the crew, then let’s try it. I’m always trying to top what was already there.

Do you feel it is important to cast new unknown talent?

Jordan Rubin: I think it really depends on the projects. I am all for breaking new talent and often it’s a benefit having someone that people don’t recognize from other projects or other roles. Unfortunately, the reality of the business is you have to attach names to get foreign sales, pre-sale money or get investors or producers. They often want big names on a project, so that closes in on the people you can select. But even in those situations, there is a bunch of periphery roles where you can really break talent. For instance, in Zombeavers, I had the luxury of producers not forcing me to cast any particular names. It’s partly because of the nature of the project. This is a ‘cabin in the woods’ type horror movie where it works.

Can you describe the ‘X Factor’ quality that you are looking for in an actor who comes in to audition? 

Jordan Rubin: I think a lot of it has to do with not being self conscious. That goes a long way. Obviously it would be great to have the most talented people but just being comfortable in your own skin. Since you mention X Factor do you remember the lady Susan Boyle, she had a great voice but she also had complete confidence and felt comfortable in her own skin. She came out and they were all laughing at her and she was like ‘Uh huh and now let’s get to work’. That type of ease wins people over. So to add to that talent you have a perfectly rounded performer. When you are so comfortable in your own skin you radiate this energy that makes people wanna work with you.

So if you feel an actor is right for the part but the producer disagrees? How do you resolve this? 

Jordan Rubin: It depends on the situation. To me the goal is to always loose the battle if it means winning the war. It’s a case by case basis. Some actors I’m like ‘No, I’m sticking to this actor’. Then it turns into a give and take when they say  ‘Then put that actor into that role’. I’m like ‘Ughh they are my second choice’ but then I’ll do it because it’s so important to have the first actor. And vice versa. Where there’s an actor that they are trying to push down my throat and I decide whether I can live with it to be able to do other things.  But yes if they meant something and I couldn’t see the movie being made without them, I would make a good case and present the reasons why.

If an actor found a clever way of contacting you to self promote (so no emails, no calling or creepy stuff). Would you welcome it? 

Jordan Rubin: Yeah I always welcome it. I’m pretty involved in social media and I always think of this stuff like grass roots: everyone is helping everyone else. I am definitely open to helping people, whenever anyone needs advice.  What I do find though is for whatever reason, people will reach out to people without a sense of how the business actually works. So I’ve just finished directing this movie, I’ve been on this project for two years. A year ago I ran into this actor and camera man in a bar, who might be a friend of a friend and they asked me what I was working on. They would then ask me if I could consider them for anything. To me it’s such a bizarre thing because I’m in the middle of this movie which will be done in a year. Then we go to festivals, then I hope to get my next project. Nobody even knows what that project would be.

I understand the desperation because I’ve been there.  Where you just think ‘Oh my god, I saw Steven Spielberg at a restaurant. Maybe if I just hand him my card, he’ll put me in the movie.’  But you don’t know that he’s casting Lincoln and you’re a 23 yr old actress. It doesn’t make sense. He’s thinking about who’s gonna play Lincoln. There’s this disconnect where people think ‘I’ll just get to him and that’s how dreams happen’.

The best thing to do is to have a body of work, or if you don’t, luckily we live in an age where you could be making a bunch of vines. Maybe you don’t have too many followers yet or short films. So shoot stuff on your iPhone if your broke or your flip phone if you’re really broke. But basically you can have stuff to show. And so if I meet someone and they are like ‘Hey, will you take a look at this, it’s only 3minutes’. I’d be more inclined to take a look and then get a sense of you, verses you saying  ‘Hey, I’m an actor if anything comes up…’.

I would just say create your content, put it online and show us what you can do. There’s no excuse for not acting. Dare to fail. Dare to suck.

Zombeavers is in theaters and on iTunes Now.  

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