The steampunk/dieselpunk tale The Wars of Other Men comes out on DVD this month. We talked with Scott Norman, who plays the film’s nameless main character, about the life of an actor, being a black geek/nerd and “steaselpunk” (TM Scott Norman).
How did you get into acting?
Scott: In general, I always liked acting out stories, since I was small. I used to do puppet shows for my younger siblings, and at school. Plays at school and skits at my church’s youth group. I danced professionally for a while in my mid-teens (Modern dance), then sort of dropped performing completely when I left home for college.
I didn’t think much about it again until I was teaching in Japan after college. My students loved my hammy lessons, and always told me I should be on TV. When I came back home to the states, I was a little lost about what to do next, so I took a personality quiz that said I should be a teacher or an actor. I had just finished the teaching thing and wanted to try something new, so I started taking acting classes.
Then I reconnected with a girl from my past who lived in Michigan, and after several months of courting, she convinced me to come to Detroit by telling me there was plenty of theatre here. It was probably the best move I could have made for my acting career because there was a lot fewer people to compete with for roles than there were at home in New York City, so I was able to get on stage a lot sooner than I would have at home.
Tell me about The Wars of Other Men.
Scott: TWOOM (as we like to call it affectionately) is a short independent film created by my friend, Mike Zawacki. Mike and I had worked together on another independent film project called In Zer0 a few years earlier and always wanted to work with each other again. TWOOM is a war drama about a lieutenant who takes his small squad of men on a very difficult mission and has an even more difficult decision to make. It takes place during a made up war in a made up time and has some nice steampunk/dieselpunk aspects to it.
Were you already into steampunk/dieselpunk before TWOOM?
Scott: I’m embarrassed to say that I had no idea what the heck Mike was talking about when he told me he wanted to take the film around to the “steampunk and dieselpunk communities.” I had to look those words up, but once I did, they were very familiar to me. I’ve always liked the aesthetics and genres, but never knew they had cool punk-y names.
If you weren’t into steampunk/dieselpunk before filming, what was your understanding of it and how has that changed after making the film?
Scott: Once we started taking the film around to the various cons in the Midwest, I got a much better sense of what it was, and a sincere interest in it. I just wish I had the talent to make my own costume! I feel quite welcome in the community, but a little intimidated to experiment. I’ve got ideas and a few friends who promise to help me. 🙂
Do you consider TWOOM steampunk or dieselpunk?
Scott: Ahh… The perennial question! The answer is: YES! Everyone describes this film using the forward slash, as “steampunk/dieselpunk,” and I think that’s accurate. TWOOM probably takes place during a time between the two technologies — at the end of the steampunk era, where diesel technology has begun to take hold in society. Maybe we should call it “steaselpunk”? (If that term is a first, can I get credit if it takes off?)
TWOOM was shot in Detroit. Why there? Was there something about the city that was aesthetically pleasing (or, well, unpleasant) for the film’s backdrop?
Scott: Well, for one, Detroit is where we’re at. The filmmakers here were looking for a way to take Detroit’s diverse and historical yet dilapidated landscape and use it for a good story (one that didn’t include a zombie apocalypse for a change.) Mike’s an avid war history buff, so the cityscape reminded him of war. Combine that with his interest in “steaselpunk” (there’s that term again! ;-}) and, voila! You’ve got a story about a war-torn city. There is a nice little “Making of TWOOM” video on the DVD in which Mike tells more about Detroit’s role in the film.
You’ve been to many steampunk conventions in the last couple of years promoting TWOOM. What’re your thoughts on the scene?
Scott: I went from feeling very awkward and naked walking around in street clothes without a costume to feeling very much a part of the community. I have friends that I very much look forward to seeing at each one. My experience is that it’s a scene where creatives can feel safe and secure in their creativity. It’s a community of support and love; a level playing field where every single mofo in the house is cool as hell! And STYLIN’!
Describe your geekiest/nerdiest moment.
Scott: Aside from coming to a steampunk convention in jeans? Let’s see… It’s hard to remember any particular moment when I was MOST nerdy/geeky. Growing up in a non-white community, there’s probably a little more pressure than elsewhere to hide or overcome your nerd/geekiness. I’ve always used the term “ghetto geek” to refer to myself and others who had to try to put on a “cooler” front in public for basic social survival, and got especially geeky more privately. I was also fortunate enough to go to a technical high school in Brooklyn with a lot of other “nerds and geeks,” so geeking out over computers and D&D and the like was easy and relaxed and never really stood out. So, I think my “geekiest/nerdiest moment” is likely a private one, and you’ll probably have to get that out of me while sitting down over a caffeinated or alcoholic beverage of your choice.
When you aren’t acting, promoting TWOOM or serving as managing director at Plowshares Theatre Company, what are you doing? What does downtime look like for you?
Scott: Downtime? Wow, haven’t had that in a long time! The past year has been all about working full-time in retail, so not much lately, but I’ve just taken some of that time back, so I plan to return to the things I love: Spending time with my wife, going to the movies and talking a lot; dancing at the clubs (I LOVE shaking my tail to a good beat.); and getting back to NYC to see my family.
What new projects are you working on this year?
Scott: This year’s project is going to be expanding upon TWOOM. There is a small group of us working on developing it into a series.