News Column

For his first movie, B-N native Andy Steadman returns to his roots

May 23, 2013

YellowBrix

May 23--Madrigal singer.

Thespian.

Wrestler.

Garage rocker.

Improv comedian.

Universal Studios tour guide (VIP).

TV Guide Network art department worker.

Kids' birthday party entertainer.

And now, movie writer... movie director ... movie star.

Never let it be said that Andy Steadman marches to the beat of any drummer other than his own.

"Quirky" is a word that crops up more than once or twice in a conversation with the Twin Cities native, just weeks ahead of cameras rolling on his first feature-length film, in which he is the writer, director and co-star.

"We Had this Band," it's called.

And we'll have a film company in town the last two weeks of June through the first week of July.

Low-budget, yes. Indie, for sure. DIY, it goes without saying.

But from the way Steadman tells it, packing enough youthful enterprise and enthusiasm to program an entire film fest.

The premise, culled from Steadman's own life experiences in the music world (plus some of the other planets cited above), posits a bittersweet reunion of a hometown rock band 10 years after its heyday.

"It's an original story about a guy coming back to his hometown, getting back in touch with old friends, and trying to reunite his old band" goes Steadman's pitch via the Kickstarter campaign being used to partially fund the film's estimated $200,000 cost (the rest is through private investment, he says).

To get us in the proper frame of mind, he offers up an amalgam of movie titles that he might have seen growing up in the Twin Cities back in the '90s day ... "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" and "Gross Pointe Blank" for their "you-can't-go-home-again" reunion themes; "High Fidelity" and "Almost Famous," for their keen insights into both music and romance, often in the same moment.

"I've always been interested in doing something quirky," says Steadman, who trod a familiar Twin City path of learning cir-ca Normal in the '80s/'90s: Glenn Elementary, Chiddix Junior High, University High (class of '97), ISU.

The son of Dan and Kathy Steadman trod a familiar path in progression only.

Along the way, he was setting his own beats, performing in local theater ... singing with ISU's Madrigal Singers (whose director, Jim Major, gets big mentor props from Andy) ... forming "my own kinda silly" rock bands, including the late, lamented Hiccup ("I think people saw our custom-made T-shirts more than the band") ... and joining the Federation of United Wrestlers, a league comprised of members interested in both wrestling and live theater and willing to perform anywhere, from backyards to basements.

A quick pass through The Pantagraph's archives shows young Andy was a prolific Letters to the Editor scribe, taking passionate stands on everything from gun control to gay rights to Marilyn Manson's legendary 1997 ISU concert ("I know what is right and wrong for me, defined by me, not some unverifiable source 2,000 years ago. I am going to this concert.")

In between wrestling and madrigal singing, "I took film theory and film criticism classes at ISU," which he describes as "the eating-your-vegetables part of the film school world."

"Los Angeles was always on my radar," he says of life after all that collegiate quirkiness. He had visited the City of Angels at age 19, and loved it. Plus, there was some extended family living there as added bait.

Before he bit, though, he spent a sojourn in Chicago, enrolling at Second City, but not especially loving it, then doing summer stock hitch in Rhode Island, which included a "living history" mansion tour that impacted his future.

"I, and some of my cast-mates, headed to L.A.," he says of the east-to-west exodus that occurred in 2005.

For the next eight years, he was a guide on the Universal Studios Tour, where he led extended V.I.P. tours lasting several hours and exploring all the fabled studio's nooks and crannies.

If the ISU film theory classes were like eating his vegetables, rooting around the Universal lot was "the paint-by-numbers" approach to learning the film business, he says.

And it has paid off.

Other gigs included performing in assorted L.A. improv clubs, taking those skills on the kiddie birthday party circuit, acting on various L.A. stages and landing a gig in the art department of the TV Guide Network, dressing sets and aiding in coverage of A-list award shows like the Oscars and Golden Globes.

A pivotal crossing of paths occurred three years ago in an improv comedy class when a meeting of like-minded Andys occurred: Steadman and Wagner.

Steadman, we know; Wagner is an actor best known for his work on soaps like "All My Children," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless."

The two Andys became part of their own improv group, "which was a really interesting experience -- it had a similar energy to being in a rock band, but with the big difference that there was no gear to lug around."

Steadman first tested the filmmaking water around four years ago by writing-directing a short film, somewhat dubiously titled "The Great Date Rape Escape" and, in a harbinger of things to come, shot in Normal.

"Date Rape" or no, "it was a comedy about a bunch of people at a party, and I was a guy locked in a closet with a girl ... it had that kind of improv comedy energy, and people responded to it right away."

All of which brings us to the present, as Steadman stands on the verge of shooting his first full-blown feature.

Wagner is serving as his executive producer and also co-starring.

The script's two female leads have been cast with actresses culled from the two Andys' L.A. circle: Jane Noseworthy and Julie Carlson.

Chief among the lures of filming in his hometown, says Steadman, are his close ties to the local music community, a resource he expects to tap heavily during filming.

Though the bulk of the filming will take place inside on interior locations, the company occasionally will be out and about, too, including via an open concert July 7 in the Castle Theatre (see accompanying story).

"What we're doing is not unique," Steadman notes of shooting a low-budget movie, something made increasingly possible via the cost-effective digital camera revolution.

"Lots of people go out and make a movie and throw something together."

The challenge facing the makers of "We Had This Band," he admits, is to prove that they have this movie -- one deserving to be seen.

"I'm very excited," says Steadman, standing on the brink of his life's quirkiest endeavor to date. "It's like getting ready for summer camp ... with that same sense of growing anticipation. I can hardly wait."

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Players' club

In addition to Andy Steadman, the B-N native writing, directing and co-starring in "We Had This Band," the film's other key players are:

Andy Wagner: Also executive-producing the film, Wagner plays Rick Cherry, the former member of the band Burn Daylight who reunited the group 10 years after their high school heyday. His prior acting credits include a recurring role on "All My Children," through its 2011 series finale; the second season of HBO's "The Newsroom"; and ABC's current "Castle," opposite Jeff Daniels and Marcia Gay Harden.

Jane Noseworthy: Noseworthy plays Burn Daylight's female member, Sarah Howard. The Cornell University alum was in the world premiere of "Lend Me a Tenor: The Musical" and performed with Christopher Lloyd and John Goodman in a production of "A Christmas Carol."

Julie Carlson: Carlson plays Grace, younger sister of Burn Daylight's deceased original drummer. The Chicago native has a number of indie film credits, including "Cryptic," for which she won Best Actor awards at the Sacramento Horror Festival and Sydney Fantastic Planet International Sci-Fi & Fantasy Film Festival.

Omar Najam: Rounding out the cast, as college radio DJ Darshan, is Najam, an actor-writer-comedian who performs improv at L.A.'s Uptight Citizens Brigade and iO West Theatre.

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(c)2013 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

Visit The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) at www.pantagraph.com

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