Damon Cardasis is the director of the new independent film, Saturday Church, which was released on January 12th. The feature centers around a 14 year-old-boy, who is struggling with gender identity and religion, and begins to use fantasy to escape his life in the inner city. He finds his passion in the process.
Here, he looks back at his own unique career path.
“The side roads are often the most scenic.” Advice from my mother, who may have gotten it from someone else. Looking back, nothing in my career made sense, until it did. In high school I was a dancer, then a “singer” and after, worked my way through NYU, where I was an acting student. I worked the following jobs in college: Pepsi Twist dancer, motivational dancer for bar mitzvahs and sweet sixteens, a waiter, a gym front desk guy, a cocktail waiter, a babysitter, a house sitter, an RA, and many more. After school I was an assistant at a talent agency, an assistant to a producer, an assistant to a director, a post coordinator of a movie, went back to being a waiter, was a ping pong party planner, performed in a storefront as a flaming man married to a deluded social climbing wife, started a film festival, created a Web series (about the flaming man and his deluded wife), started a production company, produced a feature film, produced a documentary, and most recently wrote, directed, produced and co-wrote the lyrics for a feature film (a musical) about gender identity, religion and community called Saturday Church (pictured).
This is the reason I am writing this article. None of this was predictable nor planned. Writing it down makes me realize how insane it all was.
I remember my first day at NYU, where everyone seemed to know what the next 50 years of their life looked like; all at the wise age of 18. And why wouldn’t they? Everyone had an impressive resume thus far: one had returned from a national tour of some show I’d never heard of (but the title was said with such vigor that I knew I was an idiot for not knowing it), another had conquered Broadway at the age of seven, while another was the national forensics champion of New Jersey (I still have no idea what that is). One confident girl liked to quote “The Bard” and talked extensively about “The Forest of Arden."
I sat there, having played the waiter in my high school production of She Loves Me (a single role that was divided between three of us), confident about one thing: I must be the least talented person in the room, the most out of my element and the most unsure of how to get from point A to B. My “path” has been anything but direct. It is an extremely bizarre, somewhat funny, totally unpredictable, winding journey that is completely my own and has ultimately led me to direct a musical with first-time actors about a world in which I initially knew very little. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I've gained the confidence to say “Why not?” Nothing has been completely traditional so far so, “Why not?” When many people warned me that it was “too ambitious for a first film,” or that the film was “too small to finance,” I answered them with “Why not?” This bizarre, bumpy path has taught me not to listen to the naysayers, nor the people who were too scared to veer off the traditional path, and instead focus on my own. I’ve learned to embrace the unpredictable, to become OK with constantly being out of my element and, in the process, try to have fun with it.
Fearing “the unknown” and running towards the safety and security of a path that resembles more of a freeway might make the most sense logically, but in my experience and humble opinion, taking the side road has indeed been the most scenic, enriching and exciting path of all.