‘One Actor Short’ with Yuval David
Yuval David’s inherent gift for bringing extraordinary characters and complex narratives to life does not reside exclusively as an actor or host in front of the camera. As an acclaimed filmmaker, Yuval produces, directs, and writes films, episodic-series, and documentaries. He lives by his filmmaking mantra to consistently create compelling content.
From the first page of the script to the final post-production edit, Yuval is a masterful storyteller. He entrances audiences with his inimitable ability to entertain, uplift, and inspire across myriad fronts.
Throughout his process, he treats filmmaking as an intriguing experimentation in creatively sharing a story and a message. With his passionate fervor and imaginative style, he graciously collaborates with all of his casts and crews.
Yuval has a unique, inventive, and creative approach to filmmaking. As an actor, TV host, producer, and director, Yuval’s work on both sides of the camera and in different elements of production have all colored his approach to filmmaking.
His bold and inventive work has delighted audiences and gained industry recognition. He has earned a plethora of awards and critical praise, including Audience Awards, and awards for Best Director, Best Special FX, and Best Sound Design.
His mountain of original content, including web series, short films, and documentaries continues to equally entertain, uplift, and inspire others.
This is seen across his original content, whether it’s One Actor Short, which invites those who have never acted to be the stars of a short film; his Better World series, which queries people on the street, asking them to share what they are doing to help improve the world around them; or Pranks of Kindness, flipping the paradigm of performing pranks at someone else’s expense on its head by surprising people with feel-good pranks.
His award winning short films include The BetaLoop and House of Fury, among others. Yuval also creates content about environmental and societal issues, creatively exploring the documentary format and how to have social impact through an artistic film format.
After much fanfare and excitement over his pilot episode, acclaimed actor, host, and filmmaker Yuval David has now released the highly anticipated second episode of his groundbreaking new digital episodic series, One Actor Short, in which he explores what happens when he invites random people on the streets of New York to play a role in his film, which Yuval directs and produces himself.
In the series, Yuval and his film crew step into public areas of New York City to carry out his unique new approach to filmmaking. During the process, Yuval pulls together a cast of random individuals, who really are in fact complete strangers to Yuval. He then directs them through improvised scenes and develops the plot of the film based on each new cast member and the progression of each scene.
As the title One Actor Short conveys, Yuval’s concept begins with being short one more actor. So, he finds people to play roles in the film. At the start of the filming day, Yuval and his crew have no idea what kind of film they will make and what might transpire. Through the improvisational style, Yuval creates a film featuring his new cast, completely on the spot.
Through his bold conceptualization and creation of One Actor Short, Yuval David has masterfully pioneered a new genre of storytelling, directing and producing, as he fearlessly directs and acts within a radically innovative, fresh new format.
Yuval’s directorial style makes his actors feel completely welcome in a safe space he creates, where his actors are invited to be authentically playful. Through his direction, he is able to pull surprisingly good performances from his new cast.
Yuval’s initial pilot episode of One Actor Short is a spin on the crime procedural drama typical to New York City crime shows. It is packed with all of the excitement and high stakes energy of TV series most viewers know, like Law & Order, Blue Bloods, and NCIS, with compelling, mysterious characters, all brought to life through Yuval’s direction of people who did not expect to be acting in a movie only moments before.
The beginning of the second episode starts with Yuval attempting to get a number of strangers to participate in the concept, comically poking fun at the constant cold shoulders and rejections from hardened New Yorkers accustomed to brushing off requests by beggars and buskers on the street. Eventually a solid cast is formed of those who agree to join in and off they go.
Following the same format for this newest episode, once again selecting at random individuals from the street, and directed guided-improvisational scenes, the narrative of Episode Two organically developed into a romantic comedy. It focuses on a group of friends and strangers helping Yuval’s character Sam to meet someone romantically. Sam is guided by his friends and advisors to find a significant other by living his truth.
Tell us about your history as a filmmaker. How did you start your journey?
My history as a filmmaker . . . that question serves as good preparation for an eventual lifetime achievement award . . . but, I have so many more achievements yet to come.
My history as a filmmaker emerged fundamentally from my being a storyteller and exploring the different ways to tell a story. Intrinsically, I need to create and share art as an exploration of life. Through a creative artistic expression, I define the narratives and themes that life presents.
My journey as a filmmaker began through my journey as an actor. As my acting career flourished, I would create more of my own original content.
My acting career began in theatre, performing in the DC area, national tours, regional theaters and in NYC. During that time, I developed my own solo performances and would create original productions. I would also perform improv, sketch comedy, and performance art.
My training and experience in theatre and acting were in highly comprehensive programs from classical to all of the modern and contemporary styles that exist. That developed a further understanding and versatility in ways I can convey a message and create a theatrical experience for audiences.
Throughout my experiences and education, Guerrilla Theatre intrigued me. Guerrilla Theatre is theatre for an audience that does not expect to be an audience. Regularly creating Guerrilla Theatre experiences in various settings and stages led me to explore how to follow the same genre in film.
And, as my acting career became more immersed within the worlds of film and television, my own productions had more of a focus on filmed content.
My filmmaking encompasses producing, directing, and writing narrative films, series, and documentaries.
As an actor, I focus on character, and as a filmmaker, I enjoy focusing on character-driven narratives. My filmmaking process parallels the theatre-making process. In film, just as in theatre, sharing a story is a collaborative effort — even the audience is a vital character in the way we tell a story — we must know our audience, right?
My filmmaking journey is an artistic and creative one that allows for experimentation, for improvisation, for allowing the magic to happen organically.
I explore this in my productions, especially in One Actor Short, which was a film manifestation of my explorations of Guerrilla Theatre. In One Actor Short, I create films with people who did not expect to act in a film.
Who are your current influences?
I will answer this as “what are my current influences.”
As we see in world news, our world is sodden and saturated with negativity. In response, I add extra dedication to following my mantra to “Entertain, Uplift, and Inspire.” This mantra is applied to much of my life and of course to my filmmaking.
Through the creative concept, the subject matter, the narrative, and the characters, I aim to take the audience on a journey, sharing elements that resonate with them, and ultimately leaving them entertained, uplifted, and inspired.
Yet, this mantra is also just as important in response to other positivity and kindness. It enhances and supports more of the same – “light begets light.”
I have been immersed in absorbing and creating documentaries. Bringing genuine reality to the screen, with a commitment to the characters, the people telling the story, is a passion of mine. In all of my films, documentaries and narratives, I aim to express and share a genuine reality, a sincere truth, and to share real life with my artistic twist.
What five TV shows do you think everyone should watch this year?
Five? Just five?! There is some great content out there.
These (and so much more) can be seen by subscribing to the YouTube channel everyone should watch.
Other shows that everyone should watch are Ozark, Dark, Fauda, Big Mouth, Schitt’s Creek, The Characters, Veep, Barry, Explained, and endless documentaries on Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon, and HBO.
Cat or dog?
Both! I have an immediate and strong connection to animals. I always have.
I do not have a pet now, but I hope to have some pets soon.
What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into film?
One, just one?!
I have reactions like this to movies all the time — an entire film or elements within it that inspire and impress me and make me thrilled to be part of the filmmaking community.
Some of the films that have most excited me have been created by the storytelling talents of Steven Spielberg, Joel and Ethan Coen, Pedro Almodovar, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Guillermo del Toro, Jordan Peele, Sophia Coppola, Julie Taymor, Lars von Trier, Ron Howard, Steve McQueen, Steven Soderbergh, Julie Getzinger, Jill Soloway . . . my list goes on.
Obviously, I am not good with picking one favorite.
How was working on One Actor Short? What did you learn from the experience?
Creating, directing, producing, and acting in One Actor Short has been a fantastic experience.
It blends many of my passions and interests into one production: acting, hosting, directing, producing, content creation, improv, comedy, documentary filmmaking, Guerrilla Theatre, experimental film, interviewing, empowering others, inclusively collaborating, making people laugh, getting people to share a genuine truth, and embracing challenge.
This exciting experimental film process tests every production element and keeps me and my crew on our toes during filming. We must be ready at any moment to spontaneously capture what could potentially be a great moment.
As the director, I have to be very clear with my director of photography, camera operators, and audio mixers. And, all while doing that, I also ask random people to play a role in a film, interview them, and then direct them in a scene while I act alongside them.
And, since it is based in improv, we cannot story-board and plan for much in advance, which also tests the post-production editing process. It is a concept that is exciting and ultimately improves my work as a filmmaker, actor, director, and producer.
I must think outside the box and make the most of what I have. The entire filming process is guided improv. And, as we continue with the day, the structure of the narrative takes shape.
The editing process is where the most important magic happens. Anyone who is involved with post-production knows this is true.
Tell us about your career before you found film.
My career began as an actor and performer.
As a young child, I knew I would become an actor. I enjoyed performing and being in the world of the performing arts. As a child, I performed in school and local theatre. And, I would even gather my brother and cousins, and produced, directed, wrote, and starred in my own productions for relatives.
My career as a professional actor began while I was a teenager, performing in theatre in the DC area. Eventually, that led me to act in theatre in New York City, Los Angeles, and around the country.
Throughout it all, I would perform improv and sketch comedy, experimental theatre, and would write and perform my own one-person shows, poetry, and monologues. And, as my acting career flourished, I began acting in film and television, and doing voice overs.
My experience as an actor completely colored my work as a filmmaker. As a filmmaker, I focus on the characters — character-driven narratives are most exciting for me.
Tell us about your experience as an actor and a presenter, how do those roles differ and how do you apply the skills you learned to the rest of your career?
Both as an actor and host/presenter, I relay a message and a narrative to an audience. I welcome them into a journey, and give them an inside perspective to the narrative.
My work as a host/presenter is completely colored by my being an actor. How I share the information, how I interview people, how I impart the narrative…it is a performance that requires genuine sincerity, authentic honesty — and that is the same for both.
As the host, I am a tour-guide, and just like an actor working on a character arc, I have a narrative arc as a host, as well.
Both require the comfort in being boldly confident and sensitively vulnerable — together these gain the audience’s trust, increasing their interest, and when interviewing someone, it puts them at ease.
Both require commitment and focus to the scene and to what is happening in the moment. Also, both have room to play with improv. There is only so much that can be planned for.
After all the rehearsing and preparation, we must be in the moment. That is when some of the most beautiful and compelling moments happen. The art of improv is in the listening and reacting to what is happening, and also to what might not go as planned. That is magic.
Where being an actor and presenter usually differ is in the engagement with the audience. As a presenter, I am completely aware and engage with the audience and interviewees. As an actor, I completely focus on the materials, the scene, the other actors…and usually do not engage with the audience. Yet, sometimes depending on the content, even these are not hard-fast rules.
Where did the concept come from for One Actor Short?
First of all, I aim to consistently create collaborative compelling content. (That is one of my artistic mantras…and I like the alteration.) I create multiple webseries, films, documentaries, and on-the-street interview content. In many of my productions I use public spaces, and in some of the content I engage with people in these spaces.
Making people feel special and good about themselves is important to me. My mantra “to entertain, uplift, and inspire” focuses on just that and is explored throughout my work.
The concept of One Actor Short was birthed from all of that together!
I like putting the spotlight on other people and making them shine. I also like improvisation and the free play within the creative process. I also welcome challenges and being out of a comfort zone.
I came up with this unique concept of incorporating all of that, and surprising random strangers by giving them a chance to star in a film! I hoped this would resonate with audiences, as well, getting them to think about what they would do in that situation.
Every person who engages in the process is admirable, no matter how “good” their acting is, because they are brave, confident, and playful enough to just do it. Some people give surprisingly good performances.
I do not aim to create moments where the audience can laugh at someone, even in the moments when someone delivers an unpolished performance. Oftentimes, it is those performances that are so much more enjoyable to watch!
Also, since I like improv, it tests my improv skills to act with a scene partner who is not an actor. I have no clue what they will do. That is exciting for me as an actor.
How do you find getting performances out of normal people? Where did you learn that skill?
My goal with One Actor Short is to engage with non-actors. I find that non-actors and highly-experienced actors often give the best performances. The actors who are between that on the spectrum are often the most challenging to direct, as they get too self-conscious and might struggle with authenticity. (But, that is a completely different subject regarding my thoughts on “acting vs. schmacting.”)
When I get random strangers to play a role in One Actor Short, I must establish and maintain a safe space for these people to be playful and expressive.
I do not want to make them look bad. In fact, many audiences discuss if they themselves would be bold enough to randomly and spontaneously agree to be in a film. And, that makes these “cast-members” praiseworthy, as they embody a playful spirit. Even those who might give the least “well-acted” performance provide great moments within One Actor Short. It is a concept that allows and must have something unpolished and not perfect about it.
Since I only have a very brief amount of time with these spontaneously random cast members, I need to obtain usable performances. I encourage them to be playful, for them to know that whatever they do is fine, and because of that they must commit to their acting choices. This is a crash-course in acting. And, often, I get them to forget about the cameras and crew, and to just focus on the scene we create.
The skill to make people comfortable and invite them to play is something I do in much of my life. I believe that everyone is special and important. Free play is where so much creativity comes from.
We all have it within us, the difference among us is how we engage in free play. (There are too many people who do not allow themselves to be silly and playful — that is sad.) So, I appreciate the elements of surprise, playfulness, spontaneity, and openness. If I can create and share these with someone, I myself feel great. Keeping all of that in mind is what allows me to direct within this experimental and unique concept.
So, where did I learn to do this? My experience in directing actors in theatre and film, interviewing people in documentaries, and motivating crowds as an MC or host all enhance my ability to direct people quickly in this format. Also, in my day-to-day interactions, I genuinely like to make people feel better about themselves.
What music inspires you to create?
Orchestras playing epic music is absolutely transporting. So are the singer-songwriters who tell a story with their original music and songs. And, the solo-musicians who have such incredible skill to pour soulfulness into their music is awesome.
These are the same elements that I admire in all artists, and what I appreciate within my own creative process. Being a team-player and collaborating, creating my own original content, consistently improving my craft and diving deeply into the soulful artistry of it all.
Talk us through your creative process.
My creative process is composed with listening and being playful. As a content creator, I use limitations as guidelines, but then really enjoy playing outside the box, not just within it.
Play is a big concept. Playfulness makes life better. And, playfulness is imperative in creativity. Being very prepared, training, studying, and improving myself and my craft is perpetually part of my journey. “Yes, and,” being in the moment, and letting all that preparedness go makes it even more adventurous.
Training, experience, and rehearsal is imperative, as it enhances and feeds creativity. The basic “yes, and” improvisational philosophy is what makes it better, going with the flow and being in the moment, by listening, receiving, and reacting. That is stimulating.
This applies to my work as an actor, host, presenter, director, and writer. Know your stuff, be prepared, and then just dive in and go for it.
When I lead workshops and teach master classes, I speak about all of that. Those aforementioned elements are integral in my creative process. I am excited by it. It is treating my art as an adventure. The process is the best part. The finished product, well is there really ever a finished product? The most exciting content lives on!
As an artist and a content creator, my creative process begins in multiple different ways. Sometimes, I think of a character and develop a narrative based on that character.
Sometimes, I think of a scenario or a narrative and develop the rest from there. And, sometimes a concept begins with understanding what schedule availability I have to film, what the weather will be like, which locations are available, and from there I develop the rest.
The same is applied to my work as an actor. When I am on set or on stage. Usually so much is rehearsed and planned, and I use all of that to feed my character. But, I must be genuine and authentic in the moment. And, regardless of all the work done before, ultimately it is me who creates that character. What do I bring to it? I bring myself and all I have to offer. I dive deeply into my characters and allow myself to play.
And, as a host, presenter, and MC, I apply the same principles. Within my experience in these positions in events or productions, I am often collaborating on writing the scripts, if there is one. Even if it is scripted, I still must play and allow room for the same listening and reacting to the audience, interviewees, and momentary situation.
What tips do you have for new filmmakers?
Embrace my mantra to “consistently create collaborative compelling content.” Not only do I like the alteration in that, but it is a great path to be on.
There is an over-saturation of content out there. But, I do believe that the best of the content will rise to the top! So, my advice is for people to create content, keep refining their skills and talents, and to collaborate with people who are like minded! Just make stuff! The more you do it, the better at it you become. And, keep share it!
What part of filmmaking do you geek out about the most?
Without any hesitation, I most geek out about captivating acting and directing. When I get to truly and genuinely be my character on set or on stage, and dive deeply into the character’s truth. And when I direct people into that type of acting? Wow – it’s magic.
I love it, am moved by it, am excited by it, and am addicted to it. Great acting and great directing — I geek out about that the most when I am involved in it and when I am an audience member.
You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
Yes, yes, I am very hands on. It comes with the territory in independent filmmaking, especially when I am actor-director-writer-producer or host-director-writer-producer…. I tend to wear two to four hats in my productions.
It can be challenging to wear many hats. Yet, I also like doing it! It is easiest to wear many hats when collaborating with talented, skilled, and passionate people. And, when that is happening, I often get to wear less hats!
I have been fortunate to have some great crew members on my projects. Having a solid team makes all the difference. With this type of team, I can be hands-on, but with a macro-managing approach. It is important to trust my team and let them do what they do. They are my collaborators.
When creating and collaborating with a great team, we work together and support each other in each being our best, and thus together being our best. It is so exciting when someone takes my ideas further, or when someone allows me to take my ideas further.
Those I enjoy working with the most are those who embrace their role in telling a story, have bright ideas, a creative and unique perspective, and who can implement their ideas in an efficient and skilled manner. Those are the people who are best to work with and direct, and to be directed by! That takes my productions to the place of being our productions.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I was recently chosen to join the Creative Council for the Shoah Foundation, headed by Steven Spielberg and Stephen Smith.
The Shoah Foundation has filmed the testimonies of Holocaust survivors who spoke about their lives before, during, and after the Holocaust. These people represent where my family comes from. My grandparents are well-known survivors who heroically saved others as they themselves faced horrific tragedies. And, my grandparents also gave their testimonies long ago to the Shoah Foundation.
So, while it might not be a movie, it is the testimonies of my grandparents and other survivors that must be watched. The Shoah Foundation uses these testimonies to preserve history, to document how the Jewish People survived one of the worst atrocities in history, and to support others who are marginalized and victimized.
That is something I connect to, not only because the Holocaust is part of my family history, but because I learned from my grandparents how precious life is. No matter what happens, I must not live as a victim. I must be strong, brave, and heroic in helping myself and others.
And, I understand how important it is to make this world a better place. I do so as an actor, host, filmmaker, activist and advocate. And, I do so through being a content creator, illuminating and sharing good and positive energy with others. Through my interactions with others and through my art, I aim to “entertain, uplift, and inspire.”
Regarding the Holocaust, people often say “Never Forget,” but, we must also add “Always Remember,” as that is more active. I was given the gift of life because my grandparents were brave, strong, and lucky enough to survive unspeakable horrors.
Watching the testimonies, inspires me to keep going, keep creating…to live my best life because I can, on behalf of those who were not able to, and to live my best life in honor of my family who gifted me with life.
What’s your next project?
I am currently working on the next episodes of my One Actor Short series. And, following my mantra “consistently create compelling content,” I am currently creating and producing about a dozen web-series, narrative films, and documentaries.
While doing that, I just wrapped leading roles in a few features, am gearing up to play the lead in two films soon. You can also regularly find me in the recording studio doing voice overs for documentaries, commercials, and animation.
Also, teaching workshops, master classes, speaking at events, and being part of panel discussions is something that I do regularly — giving back to others is so important. My being able to do what I do is a passion and a gift. I must share it with others to help them pursue their passions.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
Yes, I have been lucky to work with some great mentors.
I studied and trained with some great coaches and instructors who also have great careers within the arts, entertainment, and media. And, I have been lucky to be cast in many of their productions or work alongside them collaborating together.
Also, I research people who work and create in a way that resonates with me. I then reach out to them directly or through my representation, and offer to create together or assist them with their own work.
When skilled and talented people are creating something inspiring, I want to assist them and be part of it. The main question is not “can you do this for me,” but it is “what can I do for you?”
I am continuously learning and improving my craft, creativity, and career. (Yes, I like the alteration.) The mentors are those who are doing something in a similar approach to the creative process.
What has been your biggest failure?
With the risk of sounding too philosophical, I must admit that I do not focus on the failures. I focus on the process and learning lessons. I appreciate my process, and I respect it, myself, and those I collaborate with it. Along my career, I am constantly learning, improving my process, and refining my craft.
So, looking at things as failures is defeatist. Instead, I find the places where there is “room for improvement,” taking direction and correction towards being the best version of myself possible.
Great effort got me to where I am today, and even greater effort will get me where I wish to go. So, referring to anything in this process as a failure is antithetical to the championed approach of self-improvement. My career is an adventure, just as my life is an adventure. As long as I continue moving forward, I have not failed.
How was that for a pep-talk? You know, “you have to play to win, and if you are playing you already win!” (Yes, “you have to play to win” is the brand tagline for Lotto. I should go buy a lottery ticket now. What will I do with the money, you ask? Fund my next films, of course!)
What’s your filmmaking mission?
My content creation mission statement is “to entertain, uplift, and inspire.” My mission is to “consistently create compelling content.” Now that I used my mantras again, I can answer more specifically.
My filmmaking mission is to create feature films, short, films, episodic series, and documentaries. I want to continue to do everything I am doing, but I want to do it better, on a grander scale, with a better reach and impact.
Collaborating and being featured on platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+, Scripps Networks, Discovery, Viacom. These would be a great home for much of the content I create.
Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.
I want my viewers to get drawn into the narrative, to be captivated by the characters and stories I share. I want the people and the themes expressed to resonate with the audience and move them.
This is the case for all of my content, no matter the genre. I wish for there to be an authentic and genuine expression of life. That is what my creative and artistic work is about – the process of processing life and relaying it back to the audience.
I want to be a leader who inspires others to lead. I like to make people shine and be their best. That goes for every member of the cast and crew, and also for the audience. By watching my films, I want my audience to be “entertained, uplifted, and inspired.”
What has been your biggest success?
My biggest success is my approach to the art and business of my career with enchantment, enthusiasm, savvy, agility, dedication, drive, resilience, fortitude, affection, kindness, and appreciation. I emit a lot of energy and share it with the world through what I do.
Which leads me to the truly biggest success in life, which is having truly special and loving family and friends. The people closest to me make life meaningful. They empower and re energize me.
Can we expect to see any episodic television or full-length movies from you anytime soon?
Yes, as I “consistently create compelling content” (one of my mantras), I also aim to create content that “has legs.” By that I mean that my content can be plug-and-play within a greater platform, network, or production.
And, yes, there are some very exciting things happening now with my current productions and those in development. I am truly enthusiastic and elated about what is soon to come.
What’s your five-year plan?
My plan is to have my content developed into a network or studio production. I aim to create features, shorts, and episodic series on a greater platform, doing it better, and with higher budgets!
What indie filmmakers should be on our radar?
Did I mention you must check out one particular filmmaker at www.YouTube.com/YuvalDavid? Is this an ok place to self-promote? I mean, why not right?
What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?
Favorite…just one?! I cannot choose just one. So, here are some.
Young Frankenstein for its commitment to characters even in extreme situations. Schindler’s List for proving how a powerful film became greater than itself and empowered others to share their own testimonies. Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the complete embracing of silliness for the sake of doing it. Jaws for using limitations and guidelines to become an even better film than originally planned.
Who would compose the soundtrack of your life?
I would want people from around the world to collaborate, playing music from wherever they are in the world, filming and recording those sessions, and combining it in harmony as a world-wide jam session. That would be amazing. That is an expression of the universality of art and creativity.