Hey random stranger, you are so great. –Yuval David, Actor and Director
One actor, filmmaker and advocate that has arguably made the most meaningful and enjoyable addition to what might be called the “person-on-the-street” film genre is award-winning content creator, Yuval David, in his novel series “One Actor Short.” The joy of this series is not only its exploration of the unexpected, but also David’s invigorating, positive and uplifting character that truly make the shorts a must-watch.
The concept of “One Actor Short” is simple. And although the execution can be tough at times, it is mostly invigorating. Basically, David wakes up in the morning, checks his weather app, picks a location and heads off to scout neighborhoods in NYC to find “regular” people to take part in entirely improvised short films.
Beginning the day with only a conceptual but not a thematic framework, and being inclusive of “non-actors” of resplendent diversity, “One Actor Short “is the quintessence of improvisational filmmaking.
New Yorkers on the street are a tough crowd — Billy Eichner even had trouble finding participants when offering them an entire dollar to partake — so when asked, David did admit that he faced a lot of rejection in approaching strangers to take part in his improvisational shorts.
That being said, those that did take the leap would, according to David, leave the experience feeling happy, empowered and important and that is a key impetus behind the uplifting artistic project, “It’s very important to me to make everybody feel special; to make everybody—of all ethnicities, genders, shapes and religions—feel special and worthy enough to have cameras pointed in their direction.”
I asked David if, being an extremely talented actor and director himself, elevates the show to a level in which it is viable. He explained that although, of course, he brings a repertoire of acting and directing experience to the process, he “acts alongside them [the non-actors] the way [he] would anyone else.” Reciprocity is something he values most in acting: the mentality that you want your screen partner to shine just as much as you do, and it is though this kind of artistic collaboration that great theater is born.
Now, what is almost culture shifting and truly inspiring about David’s work is the philosophy behind it, and the direction and atmosphere he creates for his non-thespian participants. A feeling of reluctance and trepidation felt by a non-actor all of a sudden asked to be part of an immediately transpiring cinematic creation is not in any way surprising. David says people feel awkward, they worry they’ll make a fool of and embarrasses themselves.
David counters this with his notion of creating what he calls—perhaps completely originally—a “brave space.” A “safe space,” as we all know, is a space where the marginalized can be themselves and thrive. A brave space is “where you can be brave enough and bold enough to make bold choices and do whatever it is you wanna’ do. Let’s be silly and be ourselves and real and it’s okay. I’m here to support you.” David finds that emphasizing this truly compassionate message helps overcome some of the anxiety people may initially feel.
When amNewYork Metro asked David about how important ticking off lists of genres were to him—he has threes shorts available so far covering crime, romantic comedy sports and, has a fitting fourth titled the “End of the World”—on the way, the creator said it was not something that generally concerns him, as his art is about reaction and listening.
As a viewer, one of the things I found compelling about “One Actor Short” is David’s use of sound effects, and particularly the music chosen to accompany and enhance the scenes. David replied that throughout his career he has continue to recognize to ever-increasing degrees how important music is in content creation. It’s even something he explores specifically in workshop teaching sessions. One principle he abides by is that, “ears don’t blink”—an especially important philosophy to creating compelling content within the strict times boundaries of shorts.
“End of the World,” David’s fourth installment of the series—a release date is on the way—finds him wandering the streets of DUMBO in what can only be described as a masterful parody of the apocalypse genre.
“After my episodes the kinds of comments I tend to get from people are, “Oh my God, that was so fun. That was so weird and random… I’ve had people who weren’t smiling when I approached them who were now exuding positivity,” David remarked.
So if you’re walking down the street in NYC anytime soon and a stranger asks “for a moment of your time,” double-check they aren’t trying to get you to adopt a cat or take part in a quiz, You might just end up with something more valuable than an Eichner dollar bill, but happiness and a sense of empowerment and fulfillment—all of which are truly priceless.
For more on Yuval David, visit https://yuvaldavid.com, and to few his current “One Actor Short” productions follow these two links: