"The lead role of Craig (Hastings) for Dog Days more or less fell in my lap. A fellow actor who I had worked with on my first-ever acting gig, Eric Wolfgang Nelson, was originally slated for the role. Due to union obligations, he had to back out and thought of me as an adequate replacement. Not only because we had worked together before, but because I actually drove the same kind of race car in real life that Craig would drive in the film. It seemed to be fate that this role ended up being offered to me in the 11th hour of the casting process (by Casting Director, Scott Michael Dunn).
I had performed lead roles in a couple of commercials and several short films prior to Dog Days in the Heartland, but a lead role in a feature was something I’d never been offered. Acting was more of a bucket-list endeavor for me after a decade of regret following a missed opportunity when I was 20. Since filmmaking is a hobby for me, my approach has always been, ‘as long as it fits around my work schedule, I’m all-in.’ I realized early on that there is some great cinematic talent in the St. Louis area, and as a lifelong musician and performance artist, I’ve continued to be curious how deep this particular rabbit hole went. Dog Days was the deeper dive I had been looking for.
Making Dog Days was a wild (and wonderfully organic) ride; from doing my own stunt work alongside Super Late Model driver Gordy Gundaker, to driving a tractor on my family’s property, to hanging out with my fictional teammates in my real-life race garage, to waking up in my own bed during the opening scene of the film, Dog Days was as true-to-life and untainted as a movie gets. Every location was a found environment, full of actors and extras doing what they would normally do in their day-to-day, paying further homage to the story and docudrama essence of the film. Essentially, the actors were all playing extensions of themselves in one aspect or another, and in that regard, I look at the performance of those in the film, not as “acting”, but as “being.”
From meeting Writer/Director Chad Carpenter at 4am to drive an hour out of the city so we could get sunrise shots on-location, to making friends with countless members of the cast and crew, watching their dedication as they hustled in support of one another, consulting Chad for direction as I patiently awaited my chance to deliver my brief lines or actions ... the immersive nature of making a feature film left me enamored and starry-eyed. I was humbled by the process and by the dedication of everyone involved. It sparked a new interest in me; an interest in moving to the other side of the camera and learning the technical aspects of making a film.
Aside from a Sapporo commercial I was contracted for last fall, I’ve spent much of my time over the past year working on a feature film of my own, “1111”. Two friends and I have launched our own production company called Dark Village Films, and are midway through principal photography, planning to show the film publicly in November of 2018. We started with a scriptwriting exercise, which quickly escalated into casting, scheduling, and now shooting. We are handling all of the directing, filming, most of the audio and original scoring, post-production, and editing ourselves, and it has proven an incredible challenge! Scott Dunn has
remained a close friend, working together on many projects since Dog Days, and starring in “1111”, and Chad Carpenter has become one of my dearest friends, recently bringing me on board to assist with Middle West Movies’ marketing efforts for Dog Days (he will also be assisting with audio on the “1111” project). All of the other cast and crew I worked with on Dog Days have become close friends as well, even to the extent that my fictional father still calls me “son” and I still refer to him as “Pop”. Dog Days in the Heartland has left a lasting impression on me, and I’m forever grateful for the experience and all it has led to."