Mike Stechyson: Performing for Glory
Ontario native Mike Stechyson is on his way up in the acting industry. Having started his career with background work (the series Guidance), he later found success on that same show with a small part. That’s when he knew this is something he wanted to devote his entire time towards. Stechyson has since worked in a variety of television shows and short films, as well as crew work. He is subsequently undergoing professional training under Lewis and Daniel Baumander at the LB Acting Studio. His personal website features all of his projects, and it states that he is wishing to create his own films as well. Stechyson has ambitions, and we were lucky that he allowed Films Fatale to discuss his hard work with us for you to see. His dedication has shown tremendous results in a short amount of time, but, if there is anything Stechyson wishes to emphasize, it hasn’t been easy (albeit rewarding).
Films Fatale: How can you describe the last four or five years of your acting career? What about the production assistant work you did?
Mike Stechyson: It has definitely been an interesting journey thus far. There have been a lot of ups and downs, auditioning a lot to not auditioning at all. Booking some jobs, and losing some jobs by a hair. But it has been so exciting, and so rewarding to have been given the opportunity to work with so many incredible individuals on such incredible projects. There are definitely highs and lows, but you’ve got to love what you do and be patient with it.
FF: What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
MS: Ever since I was a kid, I knew I was going to be in this industry. One way or another. The first movie I really remember watching was ET: The Extraterrestrial. I watched it with my mom, and that really got me into loving cinema and television. I let my parents introduce me to so many remarkable films they watched growing up, and going to the movies was always something I’ve loved to do. It was such an intriguing way to tell a story. Whether I was going to be a filmmaker or an actor, I knew I wanted to be part of a story.
FF: What kind of roles do you foresee yourself wanting to take in the future?
MS: Honestly, I’m an open book. I remember somebody telling me early on in my career that you have to keep an open mind as to what’s out there, and what stories are being told. Whether I play a good guy or bad guy, someone who is sane or an absolute lunatic, it is interesting to see the thought process behind these characters, and it’s even more interesting to see how we can associate ourselves to these individuals.
FF: Can you share with readers the road it took to get to this stage of acting? What about the next road you are going to take, in order to progress?
MS: It began with the strong desire of wanting to try it. You never really know what you’re good at or what you like until you try. For some people, they try and they realize that it’s not for them. For others, they try and realize that they would continue doing what they’re doing, and really invest themselves into every aspect of it. I started acting in student short films. It’s non-paid work, nonunion work, but it is the perfect place to start and meet new people. I then began taking acting classes in my home town, Ottawa. After a lot of consideration, I decided to live in Toronto and train relentlessly, and act in more independent projects and student films.
After doing this for almost 2 years, I began submitting to the best talent agents in the city, and was lucky to have one sign me to their roster. Not long after, I booked my first paying job, a Marks Work Warehouse commercial. Not long after that I started auditioning for docudrama shows for Discovery Channel. I booked two: a James Earl Ray/Martin Luther King film, and a show called Fear Thy Neighbor. My resume started to build up. The next step was to get into the union (ACTRA). That is no easy task, considering that an actor has to book 3 principal acting roles in order to get in. It is also very costly, and very competitive. However, I was lucky enough to pull it off within a year. My agents and I were thrilled.
After that, and I hope this answers the second part of the question, I continued on with my training, and continued on with auditions, and continued to work on unionized independent projects here and there. It depends on what you believe in, but I believe that luck and hard work play important roles in an actors career. If you work hard, and happen to be in the right place at the right time, you just may book a job that will change the game entirely.
FF: What can you tell us about the Canadian filmmaking/acting/television industries? What is something people should know about it? Are there any misconceptions you would wish to dispel?
MS: Know this: the film industry is extremely competitive. Especially in the major cities. Sometimes you have to swallow some hard truths, whether it is criticism or a harsh reality check that may hit you harder than others. It’s best not to take things too personally. Also, there is no room for ego in this business. Especially if you’re starting out. From an artist’s perspective, you have to love the work that you do. From a business perspective, keep your ego out of it. You have to do the work, time is money. If you do not know your lines, or worse, do not work well with others, you should probably step down from your pedestal, ask what you’re doing wrong, or check yourself.
I’ve also been seeing a lot of cocky “I win, you lose” attitudes among some young actors. I guess it’s become the norm among millennials and generation Z [members], considering public image is the most important thing now. My advice for an attitude like that in this business is this: it’s not about winning and losing, it’s about working hard and staying in it for as long as you can. This industry is not as glamorous as everyone thinks it is as soon as they start pursuing it. You’re not going to start acting today, and then walk down the red carpet in a fancy Ted Baker suit tomorrow. There’s so much hard work that you have to do, not just in acting classes, or in prepping for an audition, but on set as well. You have to do the work. And when you’re done a job, it’s a “rinse and repeat”. You continue work hard, with the hopes of booking the next audition and working on set for the next job.
FF: What has been your favourite on-set moment so far?
MS: This is a tough question to answer. Whenever I’m on set, I have the time of my life. But, I would have to say the first union job I booked, a CBS show called American Gothic. I played Frat Boy #3. But I remember getting my own little room in a trailer, having amazing craft services, getting driven to and from set, working with four really cool actors, and obtaining my first union credit (which was such a huge milestone for me). It gave me such an energy boost. I just wished I could work on set like that every single day!
FF: We like to send interviews off with the most basic question, based on why we are all cinephiles. What are your top five films of all time, and why?
MS: I thought question six was hard, these questions just keep getting harder. My five favourite films of all time. And you’re asking a huge movie lover! Okay, so I’ll start with number five and work my way up to number one.
5. Back to the Future
MS: A favourite of mine when I was a kid, I thought the humour was spot on. The story was cool. And it made me really hope that hoverboards would be here by 2015. I was kind of let down.
4. The Harry Potter Saga
MS: I am putting the whole saga in there. Because if I’m watching Harry Potter, let’s be real: I’m having a marathon. It counts as one whole movie. I still watch it religiously, I still read the books religiously. It’s just such a magical experience, no pun intended. It never gets old. There are still moments in those films that ignite this desire for adventure. These stories continue to teach me something new every day.
3. Fight Club
MS: Again, based on a book. This movie is so iconic, it still makes me laugh, and really does represent what us men would be without our IKEA and Sears catalogues. And it still represents what we are as human beings, being so comfortable with the material items that we’re so hung up on!
2. Pulp Fiction
MS: I love Tarantino‘s films. They are so freaking cool! [Pulp Fiction is] by far my favourite though. My mom introduced me to this film when I was a teenager and I think I watched it five times back to back. The stories are so witty, so original, and and have hands down, been immortalized as some of the most iconic scenes in cinema. I just think Uma Thurman is stunning in that movie. Samuel L. Jackson is just absolutely mind blowing and hysterical.
1. Apocalypse Now
MS: I believe that this film redefined what a war movie is. Not only that, it is also a psychological thriller that dives deep into the horrors that human beings lose themselves to. Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall still have me sitting at the edge of my couch whenever I watch their performances.
We thank Mike Stechyson for his time. Check out his official website, where you can find his filmography, resume, social media, and more.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.