Recently, Thomas J. O’Brien reached out to me through my Support Our #creatives Facebook page and asked if I do interviews. I responded with an enthusiastic YES! Every creative has a different story, a different path to success. That’s why I do these interviews. Enjoy this read.
Meet actor Thomas J. O’Brien.
1. Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how you got your start in the entertainment industry.
Thomas J. O’Brien: Hello, my name is Thomas J. O’Brien. I’m an actor based in Rockland County, NY. I got started in the entertainment industry from an interest in acting, which stemmed back from taking numerous T.V. Production courses in high school and college. I always had the interest to pursue acting, as I always had respect for “the arts.” I took up my interest to pursue acting. Subsequently, I landed some roles in a few new media productions (student films, a couple of short films, music videos). I was sought out and offered an opportunity to work on a low budget independent film entitled “A Dangerous Place” directed by David Schoner. I had a brief role in the feature on the set over in Jersey City, New Jersey. Even though my appearance in the scene was very brief, I found the whole experience, being on set, filming that day, acting to be “inspiring and encouraging.” I was encouraged to continue my ventures, pursuit into acting, to work harder, to progress as a talent/actor. I took steps to do just that. I attended numerous actor workshops for training in NYC in Manhattan. I truly began to hone my craft as an actor when I attended an acting class at a studio at The Barrow Group in midtown Manhattan. After working on numerous film productions throughout NYC, in 2014 I had a principal role in the “retro action/thriller” entitled “Vicious Thunder.” I have been cast in various film productions, some that have achieved distribution being available on Amazon, and have gained some critical acclaim and reviews from various media outlets as well. My breakout role came to be as the lead in a short film, the horror/thriller entitled “The Confined.” I have achieved winning numerous awards and received several nominations from some of the top independent film festivals for my work on film productions such as “The Confined,” “Redemption On Gun Hill Road,” and “Wonderland,” a sci fi/horror/thriller genre web series pilot/episode.
2. You act as well as work behind the camera. Describe the benefits you derive from each.
I think you’re able to learn a lot behind the camera — a closer insight, glimpse, better view on the film production, the whole creative direction, detailed insight on the whole filmmaking process.
3. What “type” of character do you prefer to play?
I think I can give a personality, give creative direction to, that’s genuinely my own created character.
4. Let’s discuss the upcoming film “Mixxer.”
- What genre is this film? Tell us a brief synopsis or plot summary.
It’s a psychological thriller/crime drama feature.
Synopsis: Accused of a crime, one man finds assistance in unexpected places to clear his name.Provided by Thomas J. O’Brien
- How did you become a part of this film?
When I had this idea/concept story pitch I had written for a potential feature film, I reached out to filmmaker/screenwriter Caster Fagan. After I saw a clip of his work, a film entitled “Subject A Male,” I reached out to him to discuss this pitched story. Subsequently, I had set up a meeting in NYC, Manhattan, regarding the potential collaboration on developing a screenplay for a feature film. “It was a good meeting, I pitched my ideas, he pitched his own ideas.” Upon showing interest in the concept/theme of the story, Caster became interested in collaborating in writing and developing a story/screenplay for it. For the rest of 2018, we both became “writing machines.” I was pitching my ideas, concepts, characters and sent them over to Caster; he matched them, brought his ideas, and came up with his own characters, writing and the story itself took shape. Throughout the entire holiday season that year, we just kept writing. By the beginning of 2019, the 1st draft of “Mixxer” was completed. It wasn’t long after that when the screenplay of “Mixxer” was completed. The story became this psychological thriller/crime drama story that has some elements of a horror story movie theme.
- Tell us about the character you portray and the impact he has on the story.
I can’t really reveal too much info on that. I’ll just say I’m one of the principal role characters.
- Discuss being both a writer and actor in this project. You are a collaborating with another writer, Caster Fagan. Describe the collaboration process.
It was very good, the collaboration process wasn’t difficult. I think it’s because we’re fans of the same movies, so we had many similar influences, so I think that played a part in making the writing collaboration process effective. I think both of us understood each other’s ideas, concepts, styles for the story and they flowed well together. I think the only process that was tricky was writing a proper, fitting ending to the story/screenplay.
- Where in the filmmaking process/timeline is “Mixxer” right now? How has COVID-19 impacted the schedule?
We are ready for principal photography when restrictions ease because we have crowd scenes at bar/set location etc. that we can’t cut corners on.Caster Fagan (filmmaker/director/screenwriter of “Mixxer.”)
5. Let’s discuss the 2017 short film “The Confined.”
- This is a film in the horror genre. What story elements and character traits define that genre?
Well, it’s more in the thriller genre than horror, so it’s kinda a blend of both horror and thriller genres. I think it’s how the story picks up real quick in a manner where I don’t think you’d suspect it would if you watch it for the first time, so I think that’s the film’s charm along with the pulse pounding suspense. As for my character (Landry, the lead) I embodied this little bit of a transformation into looking like a “hipster.” My character’s personality is this kinda “dull, boring, square” guy who works as an architect with his colleagues.
- I have seen this short film, which packs so much story into a small package, and it has a powerful cliffhanger. Are there any plans for a continuation of the story?
I was told by the screenwriter Darren Wallach there was a plan to develop it into a full length feature film, so if it happens, it happens.
- What are the challenges of storytelling when you have a very short period of time to tell it?
I think it’s getting the scene done the way you want it to be and not feel rushed. I believe it’s best to not think about the time restriction and just focus on the scene itself. Plus I believe it also has a lot to do with a very experienced director such as Christopher Picone (“Leo The Shark”) who knew exactly how he wanted to shoot the short film “The Confined.” In addition to exceeding the screenwriter Darren Wallach’s expectations, it did justice for the screenplay by knowing how to direct the cast in portraying their characters to match script/story to be on film.
6. Tell us some of the awards you have won.
All these awards were for my lead role performance in “The Confined” short film:
- Best Actor Award – New York 2020 Film Festival in New York City, which I won in the category of “Best Actor In A Thriller”
- Los Angeles Motion Picture Festival 2020 in Malibu, California, in which I won in 2 categories: Short Film: Best Actor Bronze Award and for Best Actor Grand Jury Silver Award
- New York Film Festival Awards 2020 for Best Actor In An Indie Film
- Actors Awards In Los Angeles 2020 in multiple categories
7. Are there any other project(s) you want to mention?
- There is an upcoming horror/thriller entitled “The Deadass Files: Curse of the Djinn” by Phill Katz (screenwriter/executive producer) and Sayef Zaman (director/co-screenwriter) I landed a role in, which I’ll be looking forward to working on in the new year of 2021. I can’t give too much info on it, but I can tell you, it’s got an “old school, horror-comic book vibe to it.” It has a lot of good potential with numerous talents also involved in it, including actor Paul Mormando (“Bound By Debt”) and myself Thomas J. O’Brien (“The Confined”) to name a few. Check out the trailer (below) of some of the cast! Stay tuned! And here is the Facebook fan page.
- I had a supporting role in an upcoming dramedy genre feature film entitled “King Lahiri,” screenplay by Saima Huq. The role I had was a nice supporting role in a scene, my character is an atypical fashion model. The director/editor Christopher Picone told me “I want you to draw attention in an entertaining manner to add a little bit more of a kick in the scene.” I understood that, so I just naturally channeled that, adding improv to the dialogue and I just released this comical energy that flowed wonderfully with the other talented actors in the scene. The feature will be coming soon! Check out the trailer (below).
8. What do you want to tell our readers that will inspire them?
Hard Work and effort is a process, don’t give up, believe in yourself, I know it sounds so cliché but it does work. Pay no attention to the naysayers, doubters, just remain focused on your aspirations, goals that you aim to accomplish.Thomas J. O’Brien
9. How can we get in touch with you?
We have learned about Thomas J. O’Brien and his impressive catalog of work. I am looking forward to seeing his upcoming projects and working with him in the future. We have seen how he has experienced a “slow and steady” methodology in building his career, taking advantage of opportunities, educating himself, taking guidance from other creatives, and even initiating contacts with ideas for projects.
Creatives out there, if you want me to interview you, please contact me. This will give you exposure to an audience in my “circle,” that you may not have reached before.
To my readers, please provide feedback or questions in the Comments. I would really enjoy hearing from you. And let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover.
Disclosure: The author has been financially compensated for conducting this interview.
The interview was edited for readability and formating.
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Originally published January 23, 2021. Updated August 28, 2021 to reflect the new link to Thomas J. O’Brien’s website.