“Don’t Have Horses On Set Without A Horse Wrangler”, 5 Directing Tips from Ross Gosla
“Crazy, crazy, no budget guerrilla shoot…long story short, a horse got loose somehow, went cray cray — and rightfully so — started trampling around camp, and sideswiped the writer/producer/star’s car and put a big dent in it…the horse was fine. But lesson learned, don’t have horses on set without a horse wrangler”
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ross Gosla, Award-Winning Actor/Writer and star of the Producers Encore Award-Winning, One-Man Show, Desert Warrior: A Benghazi Story. The show is about a young actor moving to Hollywood chasing STAR WARS, but when his first feature film becomes the catalyst for the September 11, 2012 Benghazi Embassy attack his dreams are crushed and he is forced into hiding because nobody wants to work with an actor with a religious hit on his head. Gosla lives and works as an actor and writer in Los Angeles and shares the good comes when you maintain a positive outlook.
What is your backstory?
Grew up a desert rat, born and raised in Tucson, Arizona…it’s a big, small town, my grandparents landed there after my grandfather got out of the Navy, all my aunts, my uncle and dad all went to the same high school as my sister and I. Family was a big part of my early life…Christmas time, all the relatives would come down to Tucson and stay at Pipi and Grandma Goose’s house (that’s what we called grandpa and grandpa)…it was just good ol’ fashion, wholesome family shenanigans, we’d play cards — ehukre was our game of choice. It was a simple, slice of middle America, that true suburban/Americana lifestyle…I did what kids do, I played baseball, basketball, taekwondo…went camping, hunting, fishing…but would still have to get up and help around the house on Saturday, weeding the yard, trimming the trees…going to Home Depot 3 times in a day because…well, that’s just how it was…
For my 6th birthday…there’s a picture of me holding above my head an unmastered theatrical release edition of Star Wars…I loved that, still love that…I went all in, read the books, played the video games, collected cards, the action figures, was a wookiepeida before there was a wookiepedia
That universe captivated me. I wanted to be a part of it but of course…its a movie…but there was a way to recreate that, and use that way, to tell other stories, that way is calling film-making and that mystery fascinated me, the story telling aspect of it…especially the actors, the ones living the story, I became obsessed and so, entering high school right after the summer Attack of the Clones was released, I got involved with high school beginner theatre…and fell in love with the stage. I had an inspiring drama teacher, Ms. Seidl, she saw something in me…and invited me to performance class, which normally didn’t allow sophomores. That is how I joined Canyon Players, and boy, that defined my high school experience…it gave me a social life, for starters…I was the only underclassmen surrounded by jocks, cheerleaders, anime enthusiasts and I was cast right away as Dennis O’Finn in Bull in a China Shop. My most pivotal role was when I played Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon my senior year…it’s the story of a mentally impaired man who undergoes a surgery and slowly he becomes hyper intelligent. Along the way, he falls in love with the woman who is teaching him, he realizes that his friends used to poke fun at his mental state, and he discovers that his emotional growth cannot keep up with his brain. He is haunted by his childhood where he was physically and emotionally abused — it was really charged stuff! He eventually unravels. The surgery backfires and he starts reverting back to his former state. It was an eye opening experience…first role I did research for…I went and observed a special needs class…I wanted to portray Charlie without stereotyping or caricature, to base the role in truth and reality, to give those beautiful people the respect, to have their story told. The performance was tremendous, it had a profound effect on the audience, crying, people — strangers — coming up to me to thank me for my performance…it was a bit overwhelming and thinking about it now…that ability to impact people. So right then and there I made the firm choice to study theatre in college…I ended up at Arizona State up in Tempe, but that’s a story for a different time.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I have a one man show that I wrote/performed, directed by my good friend David Beatty at the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival…It’s called Desert Warrior and is an autobiographical retelling of how I played a lead role in the film that got caught up in the attack on the 2012 Benghazi Embassy. The show returns to the Shepard Studio Theatre at the COMPLEX in Los Angeles, January 19-February 3, 2018
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This is a tricky question, because it all depends on how you define success…right now I am successful because I’m still acting after 15 years, I’m successful because I have a strong group of good people around me, many of those people are at Studio 24/7 where I train — my Coach, people I’ve met in the industry who like my work and keep bringing me on projects, some of those are at the theatre where I work my day job…I mean, I am humbled that I work in the field I got my degree in…I guess, I’m trying to say I bring goodness by leading by example, with experience…having an artistically invigorating approach to the work, the tenacity to dive in, the willingness to be vulnerable and open…having an attitude of simpatico…I guess creating amazing art is my cause…but with greater success comes a sort of greater need to get involved, and I would love to support theatre owners, arts education and programming, and I’d like to get involved with the armed services help out with Adam Driver’s Arts in the Armed Forces…in general, I like supporting small business and restaurants…I’ve worked in the wine industry before, so supporting a local winery would be kinda cool too.
Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I don’t know, I just think everything is connected…and attitude is everything…so I was working Atlas Bistro, this small, top tier, BYOB restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ before I moved out there, and the chef at the time knew a publicist/writer/director from his time in Houston, and she was now living in LA, so Chef put me in touch with her and we met when I got out here, she gives me work on a couple projects and I invite her to the first run of Desert Warrior, she sees it, casts me as the male lead in her play The Flame, and now we’re shooting the adapted feature this summer in Houston.
There’s some pieces missing and other factors involved, but you get this gist of what I’m saying, I hope…everything is connected…being a good person to others is important, help other and take help, ask for help, people like to help…and you’ll never know where you’ll land.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
a. Don’t have horses on set without a horse wrangler — crazy, crazy, no budget guerrilla shoot…long story short, a horse got loose somehow, went cray cray — and rightfully so — started trampling around camp, and sideswiped the writer/producer/star’s car and put a big dent in it…the horse was fine. But lesson learned, don’t have horses on set without a horse wrangler
b. Craft services are the most important thing on set — called in by a friend on a PA craft services gig…long story short, I get there with 8 days left of a 30+ day shoot, and it’s absolute insanity. I catch some flak from the Unit Production Manager about the crafty budget, but ended up getting permission from the producer to get whatever I wanted for the last 4 days — even convinced them to bring on a coffee truck for an early morning call, people loved it! Point is, film sets are a blast, but a lot of hard physical work, and if you fuel your crew correctly and they will bend over backwards for you. Lesson learned, craft services are the most important thing on set.
c. If you have a bad feeling about a contract, walk away — see my answer to question 2 above.
d. Always take care of your car — if you get a parking ticket, pay it immediately. Make sure your registration is current. I learned this the hard way by getting my car impounded. Lesson learned, always take care of your car.
e. It’s all about love — less of a “thing I wish I knew” and more of a “thing I always need reminding of”… love of the art, the craft, the work, the people — that you work with in front of and behind camera; your audience; the people who look up to you. Love the process…it’s a journey, a marathon…love every inch of it.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with?
So I prepared 3 answers: 1 legitimate, 1 political, and 1 for funsies:
Rian Johnson — I would love to have lunch with Rian Johnson. Of course, the purpose would be to pitch myself as the lead actor/collaborator on his new Star Wars trilogy. The job opening is there, I am more than qualified for the position….I would love to chat Last Jedi with him, his nods to the EU: Hans Dice, the lightwhip, the kid at the end…we could talk Looper, Breaking Bad…he’s a great filmmaker and storyteller
President Trump — Seriously, I would. I’m just a guy named Ross, from Tucson, Arizona…a simple kind of person….it’d have to be a private thing, no camera, no Twitter, no Donald Jr….Ivanka could come, if she wanted but…I’d like to look him in the eye and explain America to him, see how he would respond.
Emilia Clarke — she’s my date pick right now…the ol’ celeb crush…we’d do a hike in the morning, grab a late brunch, go jet-skiing or the shooting range during the day, drinks at happy hour in the afternoon, take in a show or grab a late dinner.