Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
My name is Cornelius Boeder and I’m originally from Frankfurt, Germany but now based in New York. Mostly I’m an actor and writer for theatre and film but I also produce music and I love composing for piano. At the end of the day which art form you choose is not the most important. I believe that we’re all trying to do the same thing –just expressed differently. Now I personally tend to gravitate towards the darkest of comedies and deeply raw and unfiltered material.
The question of why I do this is a great one and in and of itself the reason why I do it. I’m constantly looking for answers to why we do what we do, why people behave they way they do. And the beauty is that I have just created an endless journey for myself. It’s really about choosing a life in which you never have to stop learning and no matter what you do or who you encounter you’ll be able to incorporate it in your work. And if at the end of the day you can give someone else an impulse to a thought, a question or something like that: fantastic. Because I myself am indescribably grateful if someone else’s material does that for me.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
My attitude towards art, and the world as a whole to be honest, isn’t always the most positive. I’m too young to be as cynical as I am but I’ve investigated the reason for my grumpiness thoroughly and I’ve come to the conclusion that it comes from a hopeful place. I simply have high hopes and expectations and therefore I get disappointed when something doesn’t hold up to my delusions. So basically I set out to attempt to create material that doesn’t let people down who actually want to engage and I try to avoid standard story structure and basic messages like the plague. There is so much material out there these days that it is nearly impossible to convey something truly unique, I’m aware of that, but I will stop at nothing to make people walk away with at least a feeling or a thought they didn’t expect to have that day. And rather than shoving my opinions in peoples faces I attempt to ask them the questions that I cannot answer myself.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
I remember auditioning for an acting school in Cologne –just to try it out really. I had prepared a monologue in English which already wasn’t the smartest choice since it was a German school of course and I could’ve definitely utilized my native language. But that’s all well and good. First I did my piece and then I did a little scene with another actress that was auditioning. It all went fine I felt and then someone asked me to “get angry”. I was utterly confused about what that meant. Why am I angry? Who am I angry at? Am I trying to accomplish something by getting angry? Where does this all fit into the story?
I had all these questions and they didn’t want to give me answers and discouraged me from coming up with my own story to justify the emotion. All they wanted to see is me getting angry. Looking back, that in and of itself would’ve been enough justification for me to lose it, but I had no idea how this all worked so I just started yelling at a chair for about a minute and went on my way. Needless to say I didn’t get in and I didn’t want to. But it left me with questions. Is an actors job really to stand there and get angry on line 6 and then go home? Is there no creative process involved? That’s when I started investigating and found that that’s not the case, or it shouldn’t be. It’s a collaborative process, a back and forth. So I set out to make sure that I surrounded myself with people who think the same way and want to create things together that truly inspire and where everyone involved is contributing through their own experience, across all art forms.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
My biggest challenges have been with moving around as much as I have. I went from Frankfurt to Cologne, back to Frankfurt, to Vancouver, back to Frankfurt, and now to New York. Meaning I had to start my career from scratch a number of times and find likeminded people. It is truly difficult to establish oneself in any new environment, especially in the arts I would say. If you don’t know people you can’t get your material made and you won’t even hear about jobs that truly speak to you. The biggest problem with that is that I started to become someone I wasn’t in order to make connections or whatnot. To at least be doing something even though it wasn’t what I wanted to do whatsoever. That led me to a point of questioning why I was doing what I do in the first place, constantly. It takes a lot of patience and a bit of delusion to be working on projects that don’t speak to you for so long just hoping that it’ll eventually lead to you being able do something you truly believe in. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to stop taking every job out of fear there won’t be anything else and stay true to what you want to do. I’d rather work a job that has nothing to do with my artistic endeavors to put food on the table than make my art my career by any means possible. Of course the best case scenario would be to have my art be my career while staying true to myself. Let’s see when get there.
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
I’m going to have to start with Nicolas Cage just because I’m endlessly curious. I’m not even sure if he actually gets a bad rep anymore or if that’s in the past but I think he’s a widely misunderstood artist. Even though I gravitate towards a hyper realistic acting style and I know he sees himself as more of a surrealist, I think we would have a lot to talk about. In my mind he is the ultimate risk taker and I admire that greatly since I definitely have some barriers I would still like to break through.
The second would without a doubt be Martin McDonagh, my probably favorite playwright to date. I don’t like comparing my “style” or whatever to other people’s and I wouldn’t dare to do that with his writing but I feel like there are certain similarities in our thinking. I remember seeing an interview where he advises young writers to not read too many plays before they start writing one themselves. He believes in preserving that initial innocence when tackling a new art form without other references telling you how to do it which I found very interesting and do believe to be very helpful when finding one’s own voice. Also, I somehow have this feeling he would understand my material even though it can be kind of out there.
Lastly I would say Greta Gerwig. I have this whole thing about story telling that I believe it is not something we need to seek out to learn from scratch. We need to simply do it because we as humans have done it for thousands of years. Of course to some of us it comes more natural and to others not so much but I believe it is a talent that we have in us. I remember her talking about this and thinking to myself, “See. Other people think that too.” Not saying that we shouldn’t learn how to get better at telling stories but being mindful of not following the “instructions” too closely in danger of everything feeling the same. From what I’ve seen and heard I feel that her entire approach and way of thinking and working would suit me quite well and we’d get along.