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Meet Thandi Tolmay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Thandi Tolmay.

Thandi, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
After living in LA for about 10 years my good friend, Ben Baur and I decided we wanted to tell stories and create roles that we want to play for ourselves. So often in this industry, you’re just met with excuses; “I’d love to sign you but you’re not union.” “You don’t have enough footage on your reel.” “You don’t have any real credits.” It really can feel like a constant cycle of Catch 22’s. So we decided to take matters into our own hands. We approached our friend TJ Marchbank that we met at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, to direct. We initially set about to create two episodes that were funded pretty much out of our sheer determination.

With the help from some crew members that were very generous with their time. Luckily, people seemed to like what we did! So we were able to crowdfund 4 more episodes and complete the first season. Since then we’ve been honored to be accepted into several festivals and even had some award recognition for our work, myself included. I received “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy” at LA WebFest 2017.

Has it been a smooth road?
Aside from the obvious “OMG how are we going to find the money to do this??”

Becoming a Producer was a steep learning curve. Luckily, we had an amazing professional crew that are all so good at what they do, but on the production side of things, we were all wearing so many hats. One day I was writing and then the next day I was pouring over spreadsheets and legal documents.

There were definitely days where I felt overwhelmed and like I had no clue what I was doing. Those were usually paperwork days! Then of course when it would be my time to shoot, I’d have to shut off my business brain and just fully invest myself in a scene and be an actor. Learning time management and how to juggle different jobs was definitely important.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
So many actors are taking on creating their own content these days. It’s almost become a requirement if you even want a shot at getting yourself seen. So if you want to set yourself apart from others my advice is to be thorough and detail oriented. Don’t fudge things if you can help it. Sometimes this can be hard when you’re doing something creative with friends, and it may feel like you’re creating extra work for yourself, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Treat it like a major studio has hired you. If you say “call time is at 8 am” then be there at 8 am ready to work. Or if you set a goal to have an episode done in 4 weeks then meet that deadline no matter what. I feel very proud that our team created what felt like a very professional production environment.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
LA and the entertainment business has always been a tough place to find your footing in. But now with people creating their own content and the accessibility of technology, it seems even more saturated than ever. There are also regulations in place that union actors have to abide by if they want to create their own work opportunities. You have wanted it badly enough to push through all the no’s and red tape. There’s the old idea of once you find success send the ladder back down for the next person.

However, a lot of times in this industry no one is going to send a ladder down for you. So grab some motivated, like-minded friends and build your own. Then when you’re in the middle of the sleep deprivation and hustle be sure to take a moment to find the joy and remember why you’re doing this. I loved those moments on set when I got to be on the monitor and watch everyone work. I would just sit back and think: “Holy crap we’re actually doing this!”

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