We had the good fortune of connecting with Todd Felderstein and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Todd, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
As a screen and stage director, every time you approach a new project is the same as creating a new business: What is your product (story)? Who does it serve (audience)? How do you reach your audience (distribution)? What has a great deal of my attention these days is a platform I formed only days after the pandemic shuttered live theatres across the country. SMARTPHONE THEATRE is a virtual live-streaming digital theatre that launched on March 27th with a short play written by Gena Acosta. From that moment on we have been massaging this platform with short and full-length productions that have since included casts from multiple countries reaching audiences all over the world via the web. The impetus was the simple fact that as a creative professional with a personal and business community in the arts, I knew instinctively that there was now an imminent need for creatives to remain connected to their craft and to audiences. I also envisioned SMARTPHONE THEATRE as a potential income stream for all involved since theatrical opportunities had come to a screeching halt. I think our mounting success is based on the fact that we quickly filled a void and that we were built to serve artists and audiences, both who continue to return each Friday at 5p.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There have been lots of film festivals, screenings and handshaking but honestly, my happy place is on stage, no matter if it is a proscenium or a set surrounded by cameras. Today I am a directing member of The Actors Studio which thrills me beyond explanation. My ascent as a stage and screen director is sprinkled with making a living as a writer in television and film, producing a lot of commercial and independent short and long-form projects all the while directing at every opportunity imaginable. That is a strong reason that I am able to transition from one medium to the next, I said and say “yes” often. As I have always loved theatre and am especially fond of actors, I am naturally drawn to strong character pieces, even when it comes to working with superheroes.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The beauty of living in a city long enough is that you gain knowledge of the nooks and crannies that give a city its flavor and for Los Angeles, each community has its own charm and character. As someone who has spent a lot of time on the Westside, If you are entrusting me to show you the city know that it will be a little physical, will probably involve a bicycle which may take you either up the coast to Pacific Palisades or down the coast to Playa Del Rey. There are great little breakfast spots that are unique to locals which are musts. Visiting the Getty Center, not only for its art but also for its campus is definitely on the list. Music venues across town are also on the list – there’s so much talent in this town, it’s hard to wrong on the venue. Of course live theatre plays a part in this grand tour and whether it is small theatre in one of LA.’s many venues or something downtown or at the Wallis or the Geffen, that is also a must. To get a priceless view of the city there are spots atop Mullholland that, as long as you keep from disturbing the neighbors, you can see for miles .
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Without a doubt my success and the growing popularity of SMARTPHONE THEATRE is a direct result of the playwrights, casts and directors that bring these shows to life each week. First on this growing list is Gena Acosta who, along with being a very prolific playwright, has also acted in one of our full length productions. Included in this list is Eugene Butler, Peter Flood, Jennifer Lassalette, Tom Alper, Lisa Richards and Jonathan Levit. But the truth is there are dozens of brilliant artists who continue to heed the call, each week, to bring live theatre to audiences all over the world. As I mentioned community, I am extremely fortunate to be a directing member of The Actors Studio here on the west coast which is the real cornerstone of my theatrical community and to whom I am beyond grateful.
Featured in images: Joanna Merlin, Kelsey Griswold, Devon O’Brien, Martha Gehman, Lisa Robins, Yaz Canli, Kimberly Green, Marty Ryan, Dey Young, David Field, Moe Irvin, Jonathan Arkin