INTERVIEW: Steven Caple Jr. reveals how he stays grounded being in the "industry" [Part 1 of 3]

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I had a vision to interview Ohio creatives with various skill sets to show exactly what we are capable of, in hopes they not only provide insight but inspire and/or motivate other Ohioans.  Steven Caple Jr. was one of the first people that I reached out to and he didn't hesitate whatsoever to agree to support myself as well as my vision and I thank him for that. I had the pleasure of interviewing him via phone and having a full in-depth conversation from one Clevelander to another. 


From the OH: Is it harder to get started or to keep going?  What particular thing did you have to conquer to do either?

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Steven Caple Jr: Ok, that's a great question already off of the bat so you've already got questions I’ve never been asked before.  To be honest, I'm going to have to go with "to keep it going" and I say that in a sense of we think it's harder to get started but with this particular industry; it thrives on freshness and new voices, it thrives on trying to find new talent all of the time.  Whether it be trying to get an agent, whether it be trying to get a manager, whether it be trying to get content like an actual script.  So, I would have to say that with the people seeking that work it's just a matter of you being in the right place, I would say for someone like us, being back at home in Cleveland, Ohio it would have definitely been harder just in the sense of getting started rather than keep going only because there is no one out there that's seeking to put money and bread behind it.  The industry isn't out there, we'll just put it that way. It's growing, I'm not saying that its not there.. it's definitely growing but its limited and to come out to LA where its over saturated you just really have to be at the right place at the right time, study your craft and really put your best foot forward. I think if you take the Cleveland mentality of just making something out of nothing and bringing it here to L.A. you'd thrive... you'd truly thrive. I met so many people from Cleveland who owned businesses and doing great things out here.  My landlord is from Cleveland, my neighbor is from Cleveland like.. they went to Shaw and it's just insane.  They are very successful with what they do, one is basically in charge of a radio station and the others in real estate and owns madd property. They just came out here and just did it.  I say that to say; just making that first move, the initial step those are the harder processes. It's more of an internal thing I guess with like you and who you are as a person.  Once you make those steps and get on the right path they will come but now when the doors open, like I'm in the industry now its hard to stay in... well I don't wanna say its hard to stay in because I'm still fresh at the same time.  It's hard to now navigate because that's when it's like alright, now you're in the loop and I've never been there before.  I've been on the other side where I'm knocking on every door getting rejected, that's hard but now we're in a room.  I've never dealt with these kind of producers or had an agent or a team.  How do I navigate this so called career?  How do I not put myself in a box? These are questions that I ask myself when I'm receiving scripts and receiving content/work that I kinda wanna make and create to make sure that I'm not placed somewhere that's not me but yet still try and find jobs, and still try and not lose myself in the mix which is, you know it can be complicated.  It's just different layers to it that you didn't expect.  I think a few years down the line as I'm working this game it won't be as hard.  My answer would probably be different, I'd probably say it's harder to get in then to stay in but now that I'm kinda in here like, "Okay, what's my next move?" My second film is important. For my first one people can be like, well he's still a film maker he's learning, he's doing this but now the second one and the third one all have pressure behind it.  It's cool, I like pressure but it just feels just a little more difficult I guess navigating it.

I think if you take the Cleveland mentality of just making something out of nothing and bringing it here to L.A. you’d thrive... you’d truly thrive.
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What particular thing did I have to conquer to do either? One big thing was developing my craft.  A lot of that was done back at home, I was making a lot of short films and I always had a camera with me. I played basketball a lot so I was recording games whether it be at Baldwin Wallace University (the college I went to) with the homies on the court or whether it be at high school just talking movies.  So the craft and the love for it developed at home in the ability to tell stories but it didn’t actually turn into something professional, I had to come out here to L.A.  They had a really great film school, USC (University of Southern California) which I ended up going to for my grad program so that was the first step in coming out here. Then everyone is like, ‘Aye, you know that fun and games you was playing back at home with a camera now you can actually get paid for this, let’s turn it up a notch and let’s try and help you build a career.” So that added a whole other spin to it and again coming up, it was just one of those things where I had to be you know, on my game, on my P's and Q's and at the same time I had to show face.  It’s one of those things now where I don’t feel like I can go home right now and still maintain an L.A. life or a career and be at home in Cleveland just yet.  I feel like it’s one of those, out of sight out of mind situations where I gotta be here working and letting people know I’m hungry and then at a certain point in my career I can like get a crib out by Lake Erie. *laughs*  So as far as maintaining it, it’s having that next project, a project that you still feel like comes from you and speaks from you but yet still can appeal to the masses and commercially in these big studios.  You know, that’s why I’m working on the Emmett Till project right now.  You know, another script I’m working on is Wendell Scott, the first black NASCAR Racer.  Both of these films, touch me at heart.  Reading about these significant individuals but yet at the same time I feel like the world wouldn’t mind seeing something that big and placed on a big screen or as a mini-series. So yeah, it’s just balancing that can I make a dollar and make a good movie and sell to the people but yet still have something that has value behind it. That’s just me, that’s just that little midwest boy *laughs* trying to find meaning in every step that I do rather than just be out here.

From the OH: You’re in California now, how does where you live influence how and what you make?  How does California currently affect your work/progress?

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Steven Caple Jr: It’s tough like for example, I made a feature called The Land which is back at home in Cleveland Ohio but initially it was inspired by living out here in L.A.  I came out here and I saw all of these skateboarders riding their skateboards and I actually ran into 2 kids while I was mentoring and these 2 dudes were like, “Yeah you know.. we grind on the street and blah blah blah.” To make a dollar and then we use that dollar to go pay for a camcorder to record our moves and try to make a tape to place on Youtube to get sponsorship.  So it’s a process and I thought it was very interesting and I had never knew anything about it.  I had the idea boiling and then when I came home I met this guy Espy Kurt, I met with a few people at home who were in the skate world that were black, latino and mixed and I was like, "yo this is crazy" and they were like, "yeah man we skate all of the time but it’s harder for us because we’re in Cleveland and we don’t get to skate 24/7" and that was like an eye opener.  That made me tell the story.  So I found a way to kind of bring in something that inspired me in L.A. but bring it back home. So creatively, if I can find ways like that to balance it then yes that’s perfect but sometimes I’m so detached from L.A. because I’m not here, I’m in this thing called the “industry” and so the “industry” is kind of like ..  everyone thinks they know what the world wants but no one is actually living it anymore.  It’s like they’re in their own little bubble and so I do things here like my mentorship program, I do things here like when people want to go to parties I try and hang with cats who are like actually from L.A..  That keeps you grounded in the place of reality and what people are doing. And then always being around the youth let’s me relate to what’s hot, what’s fresh so you’re never missing a beat or if you’re too far behind.  Then just being out here also in this bubble to separate me from the thing called Hollywood I’ve just been doing a lot of reading. That kind of like broadens everything a bit since I’m not at home because at home inspired a whole different level of creativity.  I know so many people back at home so you always felt in tuned, you always felt like you’re with a group, you know what Cleveland wants and you know what the people want. So you just try not to lose that, if that makes sense.  I think a lot of people lose that when they’re out here. A lot. I’ve seen many friends kind of just get caught up in the lifestyle of California and kind of lose sight of the goal at hand.  They want it but it’s not in their tunnel as far as tunnel vision goes and what they're focused on because they get caught up in L.A., "La La Land".

They get caught up in “La La Land”.

Stay tuned for part 2 ...