Today I thought I’d introduce you guys to my director, Cameron McCasland.
Cameron is an independent filmmaker and writer hailing originally from the small town of Edgewood, Texas. He now lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and kids. I first met Cameron through my TV show in the early 2000s when it was on cable access. We quickly hit it off and became fast friends. A few years back I asked him to help out on my show and he jumped in feet first without hesitation. Cameron is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and one of the most interesting, too, so without further adieu…
So Cameron… Let’s start out with the Masters of the Universe contest you won as a kid. I think that is so cool – tell us a bit more about that.
My first obsession as a child was He-Man and The Masters Of The Universe. My parents more than indulged me one Christmas and I received more action figures than any kid truly needs. At some point in the mid eighties Mattel held a contest for kids to submit drawings of characters they would like to see on the show. I did some drawings, and mailed them in and months later received a letter saying that I was a finalist, and was awarded a Fright Zone playset for my efforts. The two characters I remember were a Scorpion Woman, and a Medusa type character. I have no clue where either of those ideas came from, but I can only assume that I had watched Clash Of The Titans at around that time. A little later similars characters showed up in She-Ra Princess of Power. Only recently have I rewatched any Masters Of The Universe, and I have little recollection of the show. I do however remember countless hours of me playing with that Fright Zone playset, which had a locking dungeon door, and a rubber puppet monster that came through a hole to eat He-Man and his band of heroes. My mom recently found the letter which reads like a form letter. I also have the Polaroids my mom took of me wearing a He-Man shirt with the Fright Zone that appeared in a local newspaper.
I understand you met William Shatner when you were young under less than ideal circumstances…
I actually didn't meet Shatner, but I did get interviewed by a producer for the tv show Rescue 911 after I was stung by bumble bees in the seventh grade. I was at a church picnic and was watching some friends play volleyball when the ball went over a fence. I hopped over to retrive it, when I was swarmed by Bumble Bees. I ran for what seemed like ages, and it was the first time in my life where I really knew what the fear of death was. When I replay it in my mind, its seems a bit more comical, as I imagine all the bees forming a large arrow pointing at me like you used to see in cartoons. I didn't think I was going to make it, as I passed out due to the multiple stings and exhaustion from running. Ultimately a group of high school guys picked me up and carried me to a nearby fishing pond to get the swarm off of me. My grandmother counted the stings later with a felt tip marker and it was over 150 stings, luckily I wasn't allergic. I was given and adrenaline shot, and was out of school for around a week. I spent a good deal of that week off reading the loads of Comic Books that people were dropping off at my house along with baked goods. I think most people who still live in my hometown think about me as the kid who survived the bee attack. Since that happened, I have not been stung by any flying insect. Rescue 911 got canceled before they did my story, which really bummed me out as I was a Star Trek fan and wanted to meet Shatner. Though watching re-runs it seems he just did the opening bits and wrap arounds walking in front of ambulances so I probably wouldn't have been able to speak with him anyways.
Your mom is an actress - Tell us a bit about her and what she’s appeared in.
I'm extremely proud of my mother Teresa McCasland. She did a few episodes of Walker Texas Ranger during the first season, playing a waitress but passed on a long term contract as no one could have imagined that the show would run for ten years. Its pretty funny now, as Chuck Norris has found new notireity through the Conan O' Brien Clips, and Chuck Norris Facts craze. When I tell people my mom work on Walker they get real excited about it (including my wife Jessica is a big fan of Walker). Mom also did a few pilots for shows including one called Dangerous Curves, and some bumpers for HBO (which I have never seen and would love to find a copy of). However she seems to have a greater affinity towards the stage and has appeared in dozens of productions. She actually has moved into teaching, allowing her to produce and direct at a state of the art facility at Terrell High School (which is about 30 miles from my hometown). She just recently was named Texas Teacher of The Year and we couldn't be more proud.
Did her being an actress make things weird for you growing up?
She definitely tried to steer myself as well as all of my sibling towards the arts, but during my childhood I didn't want much to do with it (at least professionally) and she respected that. We did all have to learn two instruments. I spent a lot of evenings sitting in the backs of playhouses while she rehearsed, and I gotta think that some of that stuck with me. The weirdest things were when she would come home and I'd here stories about people she had met. She was once in Los Angeles, and Woody Harrelson hit on her in a restraunt. He had just started on Cheers, and she had no clue who he was, not that it would have mattered as my parents have been married now for over thirty years now.
As an adult thats a strange thought for me though, as I really like Woody Harrelson (who was amazing in Zombieland last year) , but I have this weird feeling that If I met him I'd want to be like "hey man, don't be hitting on my mom". I don't know that I'd really call my childhood weird though. We did a lot of traveling in the summers, and visited museams and things like that, which was a very different lifestyle from a lot of kids I grew up with in East Texas. But we always lived in the same home in Edgewood, and my parents still live in the same house I grew up in. My parents wanted us to have small town values, without closing us out from all the great things that happen around the world. A great deal of my love of movies came from the fact that we always had Turner Classic Movies on in the house.
I understand you’ve done a little acting yourself. Can’t we see you in a country music video?
Yah, a few years ago I was doing anything and everything I could just to get on movie sets. I did a video for a band called The Roys for a song called Working Girl Blues. It was kind of a spoof on the Office, and I played a tech guy (because tech guys have large beards). One of the producers who liked my beard called me up to work on the video for Good Time by Alan Jackson. It was an amazing experience, as they sent us to a few days of Dance classes and then shot all over town. It was a huge production, and I had a blast doing it. I think we shot 3-4 days and Alan Jackson was a super nice guy. I'm only briefly in the video doing a spin, and they didn't show my feet as I don't think the dance classes payed off. Other than that, I've been in a few shorts and done some extra work. I'm always up for acting, I just don't seek it out too often anymore. I'm the guy though, if you have a script that calls for a guy with a large red beard.
Speaking of which, you’ve directed an award winning music video yourself, I believe. Tell us about that.
Fashionabel from Quiet Company was my first real directing job. Taylor Muse who fronts the band is a dear friend. We were room mates for a while when he lived in Nashville, before settling in down in Austin TX. They needed a video, and I wanted to direct something, as up to that point I had been doing grunt work on anything. Quiet Company was on Tour and stopped off in Nashville for a few days to shoot the video. We had no budget, and built the centerpiece piano of the video out of cardboard. It looked fantastic! We sent it out to festivals and it won awards at Crossroads, Worldfest, and Fearless while playing at a few others. MTV Canada picked it up and I was on my way. Crossroads was a really great experience for me, but a bit panicking as my wife was 8 months 20-something days pregnant with Roxie (my second child). I did make it back in time, and Taylor was given the godfather moniker for Roxie.
Gotta ask – You have a magnificent beard! Tell me about it.
The beard has become a bit of a trademark for me in the past few years. I'm not exactly sure the last time I didn't wear it. Its been around 5 years though with minimal trimming. My grandfather (who is 90) has worn a similar beard for the better part of twenty years now, though recently he has trimmed it back. He would frequently be asked if he was Santa Claus. My father also wore a beard during most winters. He is an avid Hunter and went by the old standard that you couldn't shave your beard until after you had killed your first deer for the season. It took me a while before this MANBEARD would grown in full, and now that I have it I don't ever want to lose it. It makes me easy to identify in a crowd for sure. I think more guys should wear beards.
You’ve been nominated for a couple of Emmys, correct?
For the past few years I've picked up writing nominations for our "Go Green With Dr. Gangrene" series of Public Service Announcements. I am very proud of that body of work, and believe that my blood loving Mad Scientist actor did very well by me to deliever those lines. The Emmys have been a cool experience, as it seems so defining. I've had people introduce me as "Emmy Nominated Filmmaker Cameron McCasland", and most things that get written about me mention it in one way or another. I'ts like this small moment in time that you get to carry with you, and for me thats a good memory of the times and people who worked with me for that moment. The experience of being there at the actual ceremony is a bit surreal, as I was surrounded by family and all these beutifal people who work on televsion, all who are wishing you well. Its hard to explain the emotion of it all really. I'm just really happy that were able to do the work, much less have people recognize it. Though I think if I ever get nominated again, I'm going to wear a grey suit, as the black tux has been unlucky.
What’s next on the agenda? Dream projects?
I'm currently developing a feature length movie to direct myself, which I'm hoping to get started over the summer. I have two stories, one a good old fashioned Cabin In The Woods horror movie, and the other a comedy about relationships. I love doing shorts and music videos and plan to do a lot of both this year. And I'll be spending plenty of time on Shackle Island kicking out some ideas with Dr. Gangrene. As far as Dream projects go, I'd love to make some westerns. I'd also like to do that Dr. Gangrene road movie we've talked about.
Well thanks for all your help on my programs – I couldn’t have kept things going the past few years without you. Here’s a link to Cameron’s blog.