Louis Cancelmi

and-it-was-good Sesto-and-Lilah-Hilltop

by Joanna Orland

Graham Chychele Waterston’s latest film And It Was Good is a family affair.  We’ve interviewed the Waterston talent behind this wonderful film, including Graham with his sister Katherine, patriarch Sam Waterston, and now the director’s brother-in-law and star of And It Was Good, Louis Cancelmi:


Can you talk a bit about how you got involved in And It Was Good?

I got involved with the director’s sister.


What was it like working with your in-laws?

Like swimming. It’s a natural extension of what we’re all doing, to do it together.


What are some of the challenges of working with family on a creative project?

There are plenty of good reasons to keep one’s professional life separate from one’s personal life, but part of an actor’s job is to know when and how to put good reasons aside.


What are some of the challenges of telling a story and developing a character in short film vs feature length?

I don’t think the length of the film has anything to do with it. I’d say it’s more a matter of the process—what the director is going for, how much time I have with the script, how much input I have in terms of developing the character. In the case of Sesto, Graham and I worked together very closely to create him—there’s a lot of both of us in there.


With And It Was Good being absurdist and non-literal in its story, as an actor, how do you approach such a performance?

I think performance style (classical, absurdist, realistic) is a bit of a myth. The actor is always pursuing the truth of his or her character’s situation—whatever it is—but it’s the writing, mise-en-scene, editing, art direction, soundscape, etc., that ultimately give form to that pursuit.


And It Was Good was funded successfully through Kickstarter, and these days a lot more Hollywood stars are turning to independent cinema for work. What does indie film offer an actor that Hollywood doesn’t?

I don’t know. [Cynical thoughts.] But are Hollywood stars really turning to independent cinema for work? Kickstarter notwithstanding, I would have said it was the other way around.


At the moment, indie film in general is giving Hollywood blockbusters a run for their money. What is it about NOW that is making indie film more accessible and appreciated?

The mass-marketeers are subtle, no doubt, and they have reach—there are certain things you can do with a few hundred million dollars that you can’t with a few thousand. That said, movie watchers have become wise to the fact that new distribution methods are providing an infinitely broader variety of viewing options. At the same time, it’s easier than ever now, as the conventional wisdom never tires of repeating (so I’ll repeat it, too), to pick up a camera and a few fellow travelers and go make a movie. There’s a lot of crossover between the people who produce indie movies and the people who watch them, but there is also a larger number of people willing to try new things on new formats (via the web or one or more of the various streaming services), and so a lot of material that can’t find broad theatrical distribution is at least able to fight for attention on one of the new platforms. The above notwithstanding, I’m not sure how great it is for indie cinema to own the “quality” category while Hollywood keeps all the money. In the (still brief) history of film, some of the greatest art has come out of a combination of national, popular, artistic and commercial interests. The dominating power of the studios may have kept a few rough diamonds in the shadows, but it also created towering monuments. Now it creates towering monuments of cash (mostly by way of action heroes of one kind or another), and the rough diamonds of independent cinema are still, I would say, mostly in the shadows.


What’s up next for you?

Digging holes and planting seeds.


If there were only one word to summarize Louis Cancelmi, what would that one word be?




Leave a Reply