When it comes to the film industry, you can have many different abilities. One thing the film industry looks for in any field of their work is versatility. Sometimes an actor who has made their own short films is a good example of someone who can work both on and off camera. One of these people is none other than the talented Sheldon Landry, who is not just a filmmaker and actor, but also a father who balances his schedule accordingly to spend time with his loved ones, and work on set. Many of his amazing roles were secured courtesy of his incredible agent Claire Myers of Trisko Talent. I spoke to Sheldon over the phone and he told me all about his past and his present experience which will most likely lead to an amazing future, even amidst all these crazy happenings.
HNMAG: So, how did you get into acting?
Sheldon: I would say I took it up in college. I needed a couple extra electives, so I saw that Theatre and Improv were still available so I ended up enrolling for a couple semesters. I really got hooked on it at that point. Living in BC back in the 90’s I found out the film industry was really booming here. Someone had suggested to me “Maybe you should try getting into some extra work”. I had no idea what it involved so I figured I’d give it a try. I did extra work for about a year just to get a feel for what the whole industry was about. It was at this point I said “This is kind of neat, but now how do I get on the other side of the camera?” I then started taking some Acting classes where I began to refine my craft more. At the time, I had my Green Card through my father, so I made the jump down to LA so I could get a better understanding of how the industry worked on a bigger scale. I learned the terminology and was able to work my way around sets to get better familiar with the environment. When I came back, I enrolled in the Vancouver Film School’s 1st AD program. I wanted to learn the technical aspect of the industry so I could be competent both in front and behind the camera.
HNMAG: To get a little more into your acting background, what other kind of courses did you study?
Sheldon: When I came back from LA I began to study at the William Davis Centre for Actors. This was when I made the commitment to take things more seriously and realized Acting was becoming a passion. I also took Voice and Movement classes as well as various Casting Director workshops which I still continue to do today. If you are going to get into the “industry” as an Actor, you need to go “all in”. You can only “fake it until you make it” so long before it catches up to you. People will then begin to assume you know what you are doing so you better be prepared. Over the last 12-13 years, acting in short films was kind of my graduation from doing extra work, like a lot of new thespians. I also found live theatre to be very gratifying as it was a great workout for acting without a net. When I began acting in short films, I was cast in a lot of “heavy” type characters but on the “lighter” side I was also being cast as the Dad or Family Man. Recently, I have been playing Businessmen, Lawyers, Doctors and Detective type roles which are pretty common in the 40-50 range.I still do short films if there’s really good writing. I think it really helps out the up and coming filmmakers, directors, because at one time the big guys were once in the same shoes. It’s a small industry so you need to be respectful as I could be auditioning for them one day.
HNMAG: How do you prepare for a character?
Sheldon: I’ve studied mostly using Uta Hagen’s technique as well as Sanford Meisner from my Theatre days. I guess I’m a “realist” and believe in natural behaviour and personal experiences I can bring to a role. Real life experiences are great as tools but if the script calls for something “new” then I have to create and adapt based on what I think could be real if I were to experience similar situations or find parallels in order to create a backstory, the Psychology of Acting is fascinating. I’ll look at a script, then break it down and segment it into beats where the emotions occur. I get pretty anal with it, I like to create the situations in my mind in order to answer the who, what,when, where, and why. When it comes to auditions, you still need to keep it simple…make a choice and go with your gut instinct. If your wrong, you will always be directed to try something different, this is where I have found Improv comes in handy.
HNMAG: What would be your most favourite role?
Sheldon: I did an episode of “Timeless” when it was being filmed here and I was cast to play the role of President Nixon in a scene. It was the Watergate scandal, and the scene was me in the Oval office talking with my aid about how we couldn’t let the press get a hold of any information not realizing the office was bugged. It was a really exciting role, because I got to step out of character for that one and be a historical figure. I was able to use his accent a bit and his mannerisms. A lot of the heavier stuff I like where a split personality is involved, a dad by day and a psycho by night (laughs). People say I’ve got a really intense look and that goes with the heavier personalities for sure. It is what it is, if your agent’s good and they know your look and range they’re going to be submitting for roles you easily adapt to.
HNMAG: How do you find time to balance work and family as a father?
Sheldon: Good question. I have three kids, one is 17, another’s 11 and my eldest is 20 who just graduated Vancouver Film School with his game programming certificate. I work pretty much full-time in the Financial Services sector as a Client Relationship Manager. The position allows me the flexibility I need when it comes to auditions and scheduling. I work from home most of the time and can go into the office when I need to. When Claire sends me an audition, I’ll just go downstairs to my little studio, set up all the stuff and submit a self-tape to her that night or the next day and it’s in the mix. With family, my kids are really independent. They do their thing, playing games or talking to their friends online or whatever. My wife’s now working from home as well, so it makes it easier having us all connected together as a family unit. We don’t have to be in each other’s faces but we’re all in the same space and can sense it on an emotional level I think. You kind of get that comfort feeling from being in the same space. We’ll get together for dinner and chill sometimes or go for walks. We all share a similar background. My daughters are very artistic, one is in the Vancouver Children’s Choir, and my son of course is a Gamer. In her past, my wife was into stage management for Theatre. Certain days we can all feel like we are in Will Ferrel’s “glass box of emotion”……but we manage.
HNMAG: Do you feel acting and filmmaking has helped you to become a better parent?
Sheldon: I think it’s helped me in being able to teach my kids to build their confidence. For example, if my youngest has a presentation in class and she’s nervous, I’ll talk to her and say “Hey, I’ve gone through this to, it’s the same thing when I go through an audition, I’m going into a room with a bunch of people I don’t know either but I’m also being asked to be someone that I’m not. At least you can still be who you are so it’s not so bad.” I think she finds it more calming that way, she doesn’t feel as anxious afterwards.
HNMAG: Have you ever considered making a film with the family as a project or activity?
Sheldon: To be honest, I’ve actually done it in commercials, where I’m cast as a dad in a family unit. I haven’t done anything on my own, I just don’t think they’re into it, they’re not into the acting side, they’re more on the technical side, the writing side, that kind of thing. I’ve tried that with my youngest and she’s not quite ready…..not yet…lol.
HNMAG: Besides the self-tapes, how else has COVID affected you as an actor and a filmmaker?
Sheldon: It’s really become the new normal, and even through my regular work we’ve had to adapt quite a bit. When you are used to having a physical workspace in an office it’s quite a change. My office’s location will be closed until at least January 1st and then if you want to go in you have to schedule a day for that. In terms of my clients, they’ve had to do the same. From an Acting point of view, I’ll be asked to come into the Casting office once in a while but the safety protocols are pretty strict and with my seasonal Asthma I’m a walking target right now, I’m all for “safety first”. I think the film industry has adapted pretty well, right now with the border being shut down, I think it’s a good time for local talent to be showcased. When things start opening up again, there’s a vaccine and the borders are open, then we’ll see it go back to the original state of being, but that’s going to be a while. Now’s the time for us to sharpen up our skills, if you’re an upcoming actor, now’s the time to take the courses and the online workshops when they used to be at a facility. I definitely feel September and October and going into the Fall will definitely pick up audition wise. For me, Claire has been sending me auditions each week for self-tapes (which I really appreciate…insert Agent plug here). As long as people are adhering to the rules and protocols, then I think there can be some order amongst the chaos.
HNMAG: Are there any projects you’re doing right now?
Sheldon: I was cast in an independent film that was scheduled for last fall, but they had to shut everything down because of COVID. I think that the director said he was planning on starting up again in the Fall. I was recently cast in another TV role but can’t say much more until after it airs due to privacy. It’s busy, definitely a juggling act, but it’s a passion as well. Life is life, how we manage it is the trick. Being an Actor and a Father is something I love and if I can make them both work then I’m enjoying the best of both roles right now. Everyone’s situation is going to be different. I made the effort when I joined the industry to get my education done first so I went to college and got my Certificate in Business Admin so that I would have a fallback (being a realist again). This way in case I decided to pull the plug, I wouldn’t be stuck waiting tables again. So right now, I’m just enjoying the best of both worlds I guess (laughs).