Minnesota born Miles Tagtmeyer is still pinching himself in the wake of a Primetime Emmy nomination for his role of Liam, a man suffering from schizophrenia and the tragedy that ensues as a result of that illness. Entertainment Scoop spoke with the talented actor and filmmaker about how talent, hard work and determination can take an unknown and turn him into a nominee for television’s highest honor.
ES: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination for Broken, a project that you also executive produced. How did this series come about?
MT: Thank you! This was the first time I tackled executive producing at this level. I’ve done projects here and there, either on my own or with some friends, but nothing at the scale of Broken. And we walked away with not one but two Primetime Emmy Nominations! Broken received nominations for Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series (myself) and Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series (Lee Garlington). Broken is the only Short Form Series this year to have nominations in both the Actor and Actress categories! But the success of Broken didn’t just ‘happen’. I approached two of my friends in May of 2017 with the idea of creating our own content. Shortly after that initial meeting Kylie Milusnic (my Co-Executive Producer and Director) was brought on board. The four of us wanted to create meaningful content that held a place in the current issues of the day. We set ourselves on mental illness after we learned that the vast majority of people don’t understand the difference between ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental health’. The stigma surrounding mental illness is the driving force in Broken. Those afflicted with mental illnesses should not be ashamed or mistreated for what they have no control over; yet they often are. Not only was it important for us to feature a topic we all felt strongly about, we also wanted to open the dialogue with viewers. I believe that Broken has accomplished what we first set out to do over a year ago.
ES: You have no studio or network backing on this series. What was your budget and how did you manage to put it all together?
MT: When we set out to create Broken we never had the intention of being backed by a studio or network. That option is just not available for young unknown independent filmmakers like us. Yet I believe we were the epitome of indie filmmaking. I invested my own money into Broken and called upon every contact in my network I could think of from my time of eight years in Los Angeles. I also went through family, friends and even friends of the family. Not everyone was on board and some didn’t understand what we were trying to do. Yet we managed to raise a total of $75k. Broken did not have a studio- budget but we treated it like it did. We shot over 90% of Broken in Kylie’s dad’s house in Norco, CA. In his house we built Liam’s entire apartment, Chloe’s studio apartment, and Darlene’s therapist office. This not only saved on the location fees but it allowed us to allocate more money into equipment, crew and post-production. We shot on two RED cameras, used a Steadicam and dolly, hired both professional lighting and post production teams and had a crew of over twenty five people on any given day. It was important to us that we compensated every crew member since all of them were doing us a favor by being involved. Besides unpaid volunteer PA’s, I was the only person on set who did not receive compensation- this was my passion project! Depending on how you look at it, here’s either the crazy or ambitious aspect of the making of Broken. We shot ten to twelve pages a day for a total of eight days from January 24th to February 1st, 2018 with one day off in the middle. Broken was immediately in post production the following day February 2nd, 2018. We continued to work on Broken in post all the way up to just minutes before we released it online Friday, April 13th, 2018 at 6pm PT.
ES: Your character, Liam is a very tragic man who suffers from schizophrenia. How did this subject matter come about and did you have any personal experience with this subject matter in order to play such a convincing role?
MT: The topic of mental illness is something I’m passionate about. I don’t have any personal experience with schizophrenia specifically but I do have family members suffering from mental illnesses. As an actor, my biggest concern was accurately portraying someone suffering from schizophrenia. There are many varying degrees of schizophrenia and I didn’t want to offend anyone. In order to prepare taking on the role of Liam, I watched a lot of visual schizophrenia hallucination simulations online to understand the hallucination process. I also listened to countless auditory hallucination schizophrenia simulations. I found the auditory simulations were most helpful because it allowed me to experience first hand what Liam would hear in Broken. While listening to auditory hallucination schizophrenia simulations, I would wear headphones and go about my day. The constant barrage of voices attacking me, demeaning me, or just speaking at me made me very uncomfortable and unable to focus on whatever I was doing. I also did a lot of research on schizophrenia, which included reading articles and watching videos and talks by people with schizophrenia.
ES: There are no doubt a ton of famous actors who would love to be nominated for an Emmy. You are not as well known as most people are when they are nominated for an Emmy. Do you find this to be almost surreal that you are in this position?
MT: It is absolutely surreal! I have always had such a strong passion for acting so to be recognized by peers and colleagues in my field is an extraordinary honor! I am extremely grateful to the members of The Television Academy for bestowing me with this Emmy nomination despite the fact that I’m not a ‘known name talent’. It’s still sinking in that for the rest of my life I will be referred to as Emmy Nominated Actor Miles Tagtmeyer which is a win in itself! I’m living out a childhood dream and I couldn’t be happier!
ES: You are from Minnesota where you attended a performing arts high school. What was that experience like for you and do you think it prepared you for this experience?
MT: My experience at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (SPCPA) was incredible and something I’ll never forget. I was in the theater track and our days were split between academics and arts classes. SPCPA definitely helped hone my acting abilities and understanding of the craft, but I believe I’ve been preparing for this moment my entire life. I started acting professionally when I was 8 years old. From the age of 8 to 17, I performed in almost every theater in the Twin Cities, independent features, short films, commercials, industrial videos and voice over work including audio narration and radio. The only reason I stopped working in Minnesota was because I moved to Los Angeles. I believe the combination of growing up in the Minnesota entertainment industry and my time at SPCPA prepared me for life as an actor living in Los Angeles!
ES: You have been in Los Angeles for few years now and you do not have a lot of professional credits but now you ironically have a nomination for television’s highest honor. What message would you like to give to agents, managers and casting directors who close their doors to new talent who may be the next Miles Tagtmeyer?
MS: Long story short, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. It’s unfortunate that at times these days raw talent is being overlooked by ‘follower count’. Many people, including myself, would never get the chance to be seen because their social media numbers aren’t ‘good enough’. Acting ability cannot and should not be based one’s online following. I’ve worked in casting myself and know that most casting directors truly love discovering talent and giving new actors a chance. My hope is that this mentality is adopted by the industry at large.
ES: With this Emmy nomination and potential Emmy win, what do you hope this experience brings to your career?
I have been enjoying every minute of this Emmy nomination experience! I have been able to do things that I could have only imagined about doing a month ago. I love the craft of acting so much and I know this Emmy nomination will only help me in my career. An Emmy win would be even more helpful! But again, just gaining the title of Emmy Nominated Actor Miles Tagtmeyer for life is a win in my book. Plus it’s so cool for me to say!
ES: You and your friends created this whole successful experience from scratch. What advice do you give to young actors and filmmakers who are just sitting around waiting for their agents to call?
MT: I am a huge proponent of being proactive with your own career. This is your career so why would you let someone else dictate what you’re going to do with it? I never sat around and waited for the phone to ring. I took my career into my own hands by constantly self-submitting to projects, attending classes, workshops, seminars, panels, screenings and networking at industry events. It’s a constant hustle that not everyone is willing to undertake. But if you do, it is the most fulfilling and rewarding experience. And if you believe the opportunities aren’t there for you, make them! Create your own opportunities that showcase you and your talents. I’m also a huge believer in being open and willing to learn. I learned so much throughout the entire process of Broken. Since this was my first time executive producing I surrounded myself with people who knew what they were doing and were good at it. I wanted to learn from every department so I sat in on every editing, audio, and color session during post. You can learn something from everyone! You just have to be willing to put in the time.
Follow Miles Tagtmeyer on Instagram & Twitter: @milestagtmeyer