Douglas Olsson is an actor, writer and producer known for playing powerful and dangerous men on both sides of the law. He has developed a strong comedic timing and dry wit across a number of film and TV appearances, and has an excellent ability to improvise in different roles. His most notable performances are when playing corrupt, unscrupulous and hard-line characters. He wrote, produced and stars in his latest film A Close Encounter.
Where did you grow up, and was filmmaking something you were always interested in?
I grew up in Marin County and was a Firefighter/Paramedic there for 22 years. Retired, took an Improv class and a few years later, went to LA to try my hand at TV and Film.
Which performances, and actors, made you want to become an actor yourself?
Some of my favorite actors are Robert DeNiro and Gary Oldham. Gary Oldham plays such a wide range of characters as most actors play the same character over and over. He played a White Rastafarian in True Romance!
Have you had any formal acting training, if not how did you get into acting?
Yes, I’ve studied for years with Richard Seyd, then Wendy Davis and most recently Graham Shiels.
How did you develop your comedic wit and timing? Was it something that came naturally to you?
I’ve always seen “the joke” before others and would have a witty comeback even before they finished their sentence. I have had some Stand Up training as well, that helps with comedy writing.
How did you form the idea for A Close Encounter? What was the writing process like?
I have a feature script I’ve written called Target Six where I cross paths with my unknown son. That script is a drama and would be a big project, especially since I want to play the lead and getting funding for an unknown to play the lead is difficult. See: ROCKY. So I wanted to make something in the interim and came up with A Close Encounter. I wrote it in about 2 hours.
You are a multi-talented creative, being able to act, write and produce. Is there an aspect of the filmmaking process that you most prefer?
I like everything about creating a film. I was surprised by how specific I wanted an actors performance, or where I wanted the music to come in, or even the poster design. Unfortunately, I think if might have affected my performance as I was worrying about so many things.
You filmed A Close Encounter across two locations in just one day. How did you achieve this, and what were some of the major challenges?
The director and crew thought I was crazy to shoot 15 pages in two locations in one day. But we did it. I didn’t realize how much time the crew needed to unpack, setup and repack and then repeat at the new location.
You filmed on an airplane and a beautiful mansion – how easy were these locations to secure – and how did the film’s budget come into play?
Air Hollywood was pretty easy to work with and had all the props we needed, but it was quite hot in the plane for the guy in the suit. The home was easy. It’s my house. Write a script where getting the locations are easy or free.
In A Close Encounter, what emotions did you want to communicate through the character of Thomas? How did you prepare for the role?
I should have done more prep to be honest. Thomas goes from straight-laced businessman to horn dog, to confused dad, to loving father in a very short time. Since I don’t have children I imagined what it would be like to discover you had a daughter.
What was it like acting alongside Rachael Alig? How did you develop chemistry from page to screen?
Rachael Alig was an EASY choice in casting. After watching her tape I thought: “She’s the one”. I rehearsed all the actors the week before, for both chemistry and to speed the production on shoot day. Rachael and I had great chemistry. It was great working with her!
How do you hope people will respond to A Close Encounter?
I hope they laugh! We had to be careful with the subject and didn’t want to go too far or we would lose the audience. I never showed them kissing on the lips but just that things were, “heating up” between them.
What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker, particularly one looking to find their feet in the comedy genre?
Just start making stuff, even it’s crappy and you don’t have gear. Shoot with your iPhone. And be ruthless in your editing! We cut some of my favorite lines from the film because they dragged the film’s energy.
What is next for you, both as an actor and as a writer?
I do have to tape an audition for a feature that shoots in Hawaii this week, and I’ll be promoting and submitting A Close Encounter to film festivals in the coming weeks.
If you want to see more of my sketch comedy you can see it on YouTube under Douglas Olsson, Vimeo, or I have shorter sketches on IG and TT.