Lauren Singerman may seem like your typical New York actor, but she's not. She's an amazing tutor, a dialect coach who has worked with Salma Hayek and most recently a producer on her web series Precious Cargo. New to the web series world, we had the opportunity to chat with the Lauren on her producing debut and lead role as Lisa who takes on the elite tutoring world of Manhattan with her sister Sandy. Check out our exclusive interview below!
netTVnow: Lauren, what can you tell me about your background in the industry and how Precious Cargo came to be?
Lauren Singerman: I’m primarily an actor. Dano (Madden) and I are married, we met in grad school. We both got MFAs, mine’s in acting and his is in playwriting. I’ve been an actor for a lot of years and during that time I thought I should be creating my own work because as an actor, there can be a lot of waiting around and it gets frustrating waiting for someone else to hire me.
My day job since I’ve graduated grad school, has been tutoring. I’ve amassed so much material from that job and so for a while I was thinking that I needed to create something with it and I didn’t know if it was going to be a play or a web series.
At a certain point, Sasha (Kaye) who plays Sandy and I, we both went to the same grad school just at different times, we met at an alumni networking event and were kind of comparing stories because she was also a tutor, in the end I ended up helping her get a job at my tutoring company. So we talked about our experiences a lot and got to the point where we’re like, "well we have to do something." So this series is loosely based on our experiences and we opted to turn it into a video format versus a play because of the freedom it gave us in terms of locations and the amount of characters we wanted.
It was my first time doing anything like this, I had never produced a web series before, I’ve never really produced before [laughs] it was a huge undertaking for me.
netTVnow: What was it like working with the kids on set?
LS: It was a pleasure working with the kids that we cast. We really lucked out because it could have easily gone in the other direction. The biggest issue I think we had was the kid who plays Anton in the second episode, he’s the son of one of our good friends and he was not happy about his wardrobe [laughs]. He was not happy to be wearing a tie and a sweater and we even had to argue with our wardrobe person about that [laughs] but in the end it ended up being fine! Everyone was really well behaved and really gave what our Director, Ben (Simington) asked from them.
netTVnow: Being new to web series, what was the process for you getting the series off the ground and into production?
LS: It started with Sasha and I meeting for awhile then bringing Dano in, followed by Dano and I bringing Ben on board. Pre-production took us about a year of just weekly meetings and I kind of led the charge in terms of managing a calendar and making goals. All of us also took on different roles. Ben found our Director of Photography, Alex Peterson, Sasha dealt with insurance, I ended up bringing in my mom to deal with the SAG-ACTRA contracts, we really divided and conquered and pooled all our resources together in regards to our filming locations.
The weekly meetings and the constantly looking ahead to what we had to accomplish next and trying to get everything done as far in advance as possible, really was huge for us, especially considering the fact that stuff ended up going wrong right before we went into production. We lost one of our locations and we lost a couple of our actors but we were prepared and organized enough that we were able to fix it pretty quickly.
In terms of funding, we had two Indiegogo campaigns, originally we hoped to only have to do one; we reached our goal in the first one which covered production costs but not post-production so we had to do a second one for that. That was definitely another thing we had to figure out along the way and learn how to market your fundraising campaign in a way that people will want to help you but we were able to raise the money, it was still low budget but we got what we needed.
netTVnow: It doesn’t look low budget to me!
LS: [laughs] Yeah it doesn’t! That was all our DP. He raised the level of production to a level that we didn’t quite expect it to be at. He’s just so talented and had such great ideas but when I started looking at the dailies, I was pleasantly surprised at how great it looked, he really did a lot with what we gave him. He also brought in his own crew who were fantastic.
netTVnow: Lauren, you mentioned that some things ended up changing last minute, what did that entail?
LS: In the first episode where Lisa is auditioning, we had to rent a rehearsal studio to shoot, but that was the day we were shooting in three different locations, with that being the second one. We were also running a bit behind that day and moving from location to location is never easy but when you’re in New York City driving around looking for parking in Midtown, it’s just terrifying for everyone [laughs].
As we were shooting that scene, we were running out of time and there were people waiting to use it after us, so we basically had to rent a second studio on the same floor, move all of our equipment into that studio and make it look exactly like the first one as far as the layout of the room and the lighting. But we got through it and that was the only day, for me at least, that I almost had a nervous breakdown. It could have been a lot worse!
Another funny thing that came up was while we were shooting in an apartment of a woman who fostered abandoned cats. So one of the days we were shooting in this apartment, the woman had just brought in a full litter of kittens and at some point while we were shooting, the kittens escaped [laughs], nobody could find them and the woman wasn’t home. That was panic inducing but we did find them!
netTVnow: Where do you think the web series community is headed in the next few years?
LS: I’m super new to the community but I’ve been really inspired by stories of shows like Broad City and High Maintenance. Particularly Broad City, because these were two girls whose story I could very much relate to in that they were comedians who felt like they were stuck in their careers and decided to make their own work and were able to then achieve some really great success with it.
I think it’s so important as an actor or any kind of artist to take ownership of your career in a way that I think a lot of people are intimidated by or scared to do, it involves really putting yourself out there. I feel like a lot of artists are scared of the whole business side of their respective industries so I’m really inspired by people who really take charge of their own work, because the fear is what really intimidated me for a long time.
What’s so great about this web series world is that people have the freedom to basically create whatever material they want to and have it be seen. I’m interested now in watching more web series and tracking the journey of other series because of the newfound respect I have for how much work it takes and how much passion and commitment it takes to create your own work. It really breaks down a lot of the barriers that I’ve felt, as an actor, as well. To have the ability to create something that can be seen by people anywhere and that’s really cool. I feel like up until recently, the idea to create your own work to be seen, wasn’t something an actor thought they had the power to do before the web started exploding with all this content. It felt very limiting and now it’s like this whole new world which is so exciting for me to be a part of and learn more about.
netTVnow: What sort of advice can you give for people who would like to pursue acting?
LS: From a practical standpoint I think training is really important, taking classes and having tool in your pocket is good to call on as far as whatever project or character gets thrown at you. I think having solid technique is important.
As far as the lifestyle of an actor, it’s really important to acknowledge that it is a business. In addition to it being creative and a way of expressing yourself, if you want to actually work and making things happen, that’s a completely different side of the lifestyle that you have to completely embrace. It’s not something I was comfortable with for a long time but I came around to it.
Then being open to creating your own work is really important and I think people tend to get stuck in this pattern of waiting for jobs to come to them or waiting for people to realize how talented they are and that can sort of start this cycle of bitterness which isn’t really conducive to getting hired or being a happy person [laughs] so it’s really important to take ownership of your career by going out there and making your own work in whatever format that might be. Do I sound smart [laughs]?
netTVnow: Very smart! Do you have any upcoming projects we can share?
LS: I’m co-producing a new web series that Dano is a part of and I was just cast in a short film that I’m shooting in July where I play a sort of trashy woman who lives in a hotel [laughs] so that’s going to be different for me! It’s called Second Province and it’s directed by Zorinah Juan who I met working on another project. Other than being an actor and a tutor, I’m also a speech and dialect coach for actors and in January and February of this year I worked on a film called Drunk Parents where I worked with Salma Hayek!