“The Velocipastor” is a new movie starring the talented actor Greg Cohan. Widely regarded as one of the big independent film sensations of 2019, The Velocipastor is a wildly imaginative horror-comedy about a pastor that also happens to be – wait for it! – a dinosaur!
Greg Cohan, who plays the title role, explains how he came to be involved in the truly unique project and just what was entailed in playing a “Dino-priest”.
Meagan Meehan (MM): Tell us about your beginnings, Greg. What led you to acting?
Greg Cohan (GC): I grew up in Farmingdale NY, out on Long Island, and I always had a toe dipped in theater/performing arts in High School, but I was kind of insecure about it. I put all my attention on football and lacrosse instead. It wasn’t until college that a guy on my lacrosse team at Hartwick College was a director and theater major and insisted I come audition for his plays. I did, he cast me and I loved it. I did a few plays in college, but still didn’t think it was something I could do as a career. I got a full-time job out of college selling billboard advertising, but decided to start auditioning for plays and taking classes. I would rush off to class in a suit and tie in New York every night to do scene work, or rehearse a play I was in. Once I started booking TV and Commercial work, I decided to cash in my chips and go full time. The VelociPastor was my first feature film.
MM: Where did you grow up?
GC: Farmingdale NY, Long Island. Eastern and of Nassau County, about an hour from NYC.
MM: And did you have a supporting mom and pop? They right behind your decision to go into acting?
GC: They’ve certainly warmed up to it. They’ve always wanted me to make good decisions, and quitting a very well-paying job to pursue my dreams isn’t always what parents want to hear. But my folks always taught me if I’m gonna make my bed, I’ll have to lie in it. And they’ve seen what I can do and I think they’re pretty darn proud of me. I love them for that.
MM: I’d love to know what they think of you playing The Velocipastor!
GC: If only you could see my mother’s face when I told her about my first feature film. She raised us catholic, so she was a little skeptical. But after seeing it on the big-screen, and how fun it is, my parents couldn’t be more excited about it.
MM: When, where, how… tell us how this came about!?
GC: While pursuing acting in New York, I was working with Seed&Spark, the film-centric crowdfunding and SVOD platform, when our head of crowdfunding had announced that “a movie called The VelociPastor had just submitted for funding.” The room erupted with laughter, and we all huddled around to see if it was real. And it was. It turned out I had worked with one of the producers and asked if they were casting. They sent me the audition sides – which I absolutely loved – and I sent in a tape. I had a lot of fun taping that audition. Next thing I knew I was meeting Brendan Steere in Bryant Park to talk the arch of our vigilante Dino-Priest.
MM: What was the appeal for you?
GC: I was attracted to Brendan’s writing. I knew right away that he wasn’t just someone looking to milk a joke. I read the sides and then the script and I thought, “oh wait… this guy knows what he’s doing.” I knew we could have a lot of fun together. Plus, it’s kind of badass. Who doesn’t want to be in a movie where you A) turn into a Dinosaur or B) fight ninjas or C) BOTH!?
MM: It’s a low-budget production. I imagine you wore more hats on it than just actor?
GC: Not so much during filming. We had an incredible crew, and THEY definitely wore more hats than one. But because we were all having so much fun, we never really thought about pulling extra weight. I mean, even on my days off, or when I wasn’t shooting, I wanted to be behind the camera because I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. It wasn’t until after the film was completed that I helped with some festival entries and marketing. We’re really proud of this film, and from my time working with Seed&Spark I had a good understanding of how challenging it can be to get your film actually seen once it’s completed. So, I did what I could to help get it into the right hands. It was a collective effort for sure.
MM: Were you working with many special effects?
GC: A lot of makeup, which I love. Our make-up artist, Jennifer Suarez, is fantastic. She took amazing care of me and our other actors. And the makeup and effects for the scenes where I change into a dinosaur were so much fun. There was one scene where the first shot of the day I got covered in blood, and stayed like that all day. I was having a blast.
MM: How hard was it to keep a straight face at times?
GC: Not so much for me, but for the others on set, yes. Brendan doesn’t yell “CUT”…ever. So, we would just go until either he or someone else behind the camera started dying laughing. I loved that when we were shooting. Just stay in it until someone breaks.
MM: What is the secret ingredient to the film itself? What makes it work so well?
GC: Brendan. He had a vision. And he brought it to life. Me and the other actors were just lucky enough to be a part of it. His passion for movies and art is infectious, and it spread to the cast and crew on day one. Yeah, it was a low budget movie, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. We bonded as a cast and crew, and we’ll always have this thing. This thing called The VelociPastor.
MM: The film has been all over the internet the past couple of months. Any secrets for other filmmakers when it comes to promoting their movies?
GC: Start early. Promote what you’re making right away to build the audience early. I learned that at Seed&Spark. I won’t say I’m an expert in building an audience, not at all. There are many better than us. But if it’s your film, your baby, you have to promote the heck out of it yourself. You have to believe in it. You have to show up to film fests and connect with other creators and find and build your audience from the ground up. We did a lot from the ground up while at festivals or even when the festivals went quiet. You gotta find ways to keep the momentum going and we were very fortunate drive that momentum to our distributor and to be working with Wild Eye Releasing to get this film out to the masses.