We had the good fortune of connecting with multi award-winning actor Benjamin Schnau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Benjamin, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk taking for me is a fundamental aspect in achieving your goals and living your dream. It is not easy to do but can be learned. I remember that I was never really a risk taker as it made me feel uncomfortable stepping out of my comfort zone but in order to grow and going the next step in your career you have to do it as you otherwise stop evolving. There are different levels of risk though and I believe it is important to analyze and understand what it means to your life in particular to take certain actions. In my career as an actor I knew that if I stay in the area I grew up in, I’ll never get the opportunities as someone living in a place where movies are being made. In order for me to establish myself as an actor it was and is therefore necessary to take a certain amount of risk. But what do I mean by that? Every time I take risk I try to see the benefits of what it can do for me personally and my career but then also what I might risk losing. In my experience taking risk is very subjective as everyone feels different about it and how it could affect them. I think a big part of it is also having the right mindset of knowing what you are capable of and reflect yourself within the circumstances you live in as it puts risk in perspective for your personal life situation. Anyone can do anything with their life if they are open to take as I call it calculated risk to navigate their life into the right direction. It might be struggling at the beginning as you are facing challenges, something unknown you can’t 100% prepare for. Risk for me is a feeling that arises when we face the unknown, something we can’t control yet and don’t know how it turns out, but my philosophy was and always is that if I did the maximum of preparation I can do for myself and my circumstances I can lower the risk as much as possible of things that I think might going to happen. It is therefore easier for me to handle for example financials, film business or personal life related things as I’m always making sure that I wouldn’t completely risk my existence if for some reason my actions I was taking wouldn’t have the positive outcome I was expecting. Furthermore it is quite surprising very often that taking risk turns out to generate a much more positive outcome, something a lot of people don’t expect at the beginning as they fear the risk of facing the unknown so much which is usually associated with negativity. Therefore, clear your mind and see what actually would be possible then one thing is definitely for certain; if you don’t do anything nothing will ever happen.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My name is Benjamin Schnau and I’m an actor living in Los Angeles. When people ask me why I’m doing acting, there is always just one answer: It’s my passion. I learned over the years that life is precious so you better should do what you love and are passionate about as you will regret the things you haven’t done later on. For me coming from a more academic family it wasn’t always easy to convince people that I’m serious about it as being creative was more seen as a hobby where I’m from. Therefore I first studied economics as you obviously want to make your family proud by doing what they think is right for you. Now thinking back about the time I feel that it might all happened for a reason for me to understand what I really want in life. Sometimes we have to face the uncomfortable situations in life to really know who we are and what we should do with our life’s. Acting and being creative started for me already back in high school as I was always active in theater and did several plays. My first experience ever was playing in ‘Macbeth’ which gave me the first taste of what acting can do to people watching you. The reaction of the audience blew me away as everyone seemed to have different feelings about your performance which I believe what acting and film making is all about. It creates all kinds of dynamics within people and let them escape for a certain amount of time in a world that just they see. That’s why I feel film making is almost like magic as you create something in front of people’s eyes with everyone having their own subjective feeling to it. After finishing my studies in economics I clearly knew that’s not it but I needed to find a way to make it all work. One thing you learn very quick in the film industry especially as an actor is that you need to hustle. It’s up to you to make yourself the one you want to become and how you want people to see you in the industry. I believe you therefore first need to understand how the industry works, then one thing is for certain it is also a business you need to learn how to fit into. There are external challenges for sure but the biggest challenge is clearly to keep up with yourself as you need to see where you stand and what your next steps are on the way up. Being patient and persistent are key factors beside talent and meeting the right people in order to have a career as an actor. Your expectations as an actor are high which is great but I learned for myself that you need to enjoy the journey towards hitting those expectations then nothing is usually happening over night. In LA they say preparation meets opportunity which I truly believe is a fact. You as an actor can’t afford to have an opportunity coming your way and then your are not ready for it. If that happens then it’s your own fault for maybe missing out on your big break. It was and is therefore important for me to keep myself mentally and also physically in shape beside the things the industry is expecting from you like head shots, profiles on several casting websites and getting a good agent/manager you trust and create something big together. Having the mental strength to stick out for probably a long time to get your big break is one of the things I see people are struggling with. Yes it can be tiring sometimes when you think nothing is coming in for weeks but what helps me is the positive thought the next day could be it so you better be ready. This motivation of knowing that anything is possible at any time in this town keeps me moving. On the other hand you need to reflect yourself and see what you can bring to the table. Me as being international plays in my favor as I speak more than one language and have multiple cultural influences as someone from Europe. It is therefore important that you have to make sure that people in the industry also know about that, then the more diverse you are as an actor the better it is and the higher the chances are that you book a role. Especially because of that I was able to play certain characters like lead role like Jupp Klein in the National Geographic production ‘Nazi Megastructures’ which is available on Netflix, my critical role Lehmann in the Academy Award qualified movie ‘Kommando 1944’ which won over 175 awards or Guenther Wolfgang in ‘The little picture’ for which I also received the award for ‘Best supporting actor’ at the Top Shorts Film Festival in Los Angeles. On top of that I was able to win the award for ‘Best Actor’ portraying the role of Leon in ‘Against all odds’ at Orinos Film Awards and New York International Film Awards. All these experiences and past developments of my craft gave me the opportunity to work on even bigger projects like the upcoming Netflix production ‘Mank’ starring Gary Oldman directed by David Fincher of ‘The current war’ a fascinating portrait of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse’s inventions directed by Alfonzo Gomez-Rejon. Therefore the key to all is is truly to keep thriving, developing yourself and taking on opportunities which can lead you to even higher value production as every time you portray a character on set is another step towards your establishment in the film industry.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of the most calming and beautiful places I would say in Los Angeles is definitely Santa Monica and Venice beach. The beach and ocean balances out a stressful week in town and let’s you recharge your batteries.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I definitely want to dedicate this to my mother as without her I wouldn’t be the person I am today doing what I’m doing.