Waco resident and actor Joel Taylor found one way to counter the effect of an adrenaline surge that threatened his pacing onstage was “thinking in redneck.”
Imagining a drawling character who was more slow than dense countered the acceleration of nerves and excitement.
“Thinking in redneck slowed me down,” he said.
Thinking in redneck also has given Taylor the inspiration for a project that is moving the actor and educator into new challenges of script writing, directing and producing: his low, low budget film “The Edger Project: Call Me GRRRR.”
Taylor is acting, too, as the film’s central character, the drawling, somewhat naive and simple Edger Rece Bureaux (points to Tarzan fans who get the reference), whose small-town expedition for supplies to go fishing on his birthday spirals into an event that draws the attention of national security agencies and the White House.
The 57-year-old Taylor, coordinator of dance and theater for the Fort Worth Independent School District, has lived in Waco with his family since 2000 and has spent plenty of time on stages in Waco and Fort Worth. He has also been in front of a camera for commercials, short films and even the occasional feature film.
“The Edger Project” evolved out of that love for acting — “Film or theater? Yes,” he quipped — and, if successful, might lead to something a cable network might be interested in, he said.
Taylor’s July weekends have been crammed with shooting his short film at locations in West and Gun Barrel City. He is trying to get as much shot as possible before he heads back to his administrative duties with Fort Worth ISD and hopes to have something finished in time for submission to the South By Southwest Film Festival and the smaller Deep in the Heart Film Festival in Waco and the Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth.
Edger grew out of a one-person show Taylor did for a Texas Educational Theatre Association workshop.
“I started writing it as a short film, and it started growing and growing,” he said.
Taylor added co-writer Darrell Durbin to flesh out his script.
“The Edger Project” follows what happens when Edger decides to go fishing, wearing a vest loaded with small charges of dynamite to toss into the lake and pantyhose pulled over his face for protection against mosquitoes. While his fellow River Crest residents shrug and go on with their lives, the sight of what looks like a terrorist soon pulls in government agencies, shadowy defenders from a secret organization and a president with hair issues.
The humor is wide-ranging. “Nobody’s safe,” Taylor said.
Comedy draws Taylor’s attention, as was on display in his direction of Waco Civic Theatre productions of “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” “A Christmas Story” and “The Foreigner,” or his performance as a senator in “Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.” Comedy is harder to pull off, though, he said. That’s why he’s playing his lead character: He knows the tone he wants to strike.
“I created him. I wrote him,” he said. “He’s me.”
If people find Taylor looks vaguely familiar, it might have to do with his commercials and short films. He has been in two Texas Lottery commercials and one for the Wyoming Lottery; appeared in the Lifetime film “Taken For Ransom;” was a featured extra in the Hallmark Hall of Fame series “Sarah Plain and Tall;” played a Republican senator in “Hillary’s America;” and is in a hospital scene in the current art film “A Ghost Story” starring Casey Affleck.
His short film credits include “The Stare,” “Popcorn and Peanuts,” “The Cure” and “Audition.”
Taylor also was the grandfather with the hip replacement in a Baylor Scott & White Health commercial that brought Taylor royalty checks for almost two years.
To pull off “The Edger Project” on a shoestring, or filament, budget of $5,000-$6,000, Taylor has called in friends and favors. The city of West allowed use of some facilities, and last weekend featured shooting in West businesses The Village Bakery and Milano’s Pizza. He has landed DFW actors and crew members Cassidy Kennedy, Freddie Streeter, Josephine Hah and Shade DuBois for his cast and pulled in fellow Waco soccer dad James Sill, who performed in the Waco Civic Theatre’s “A Christmas Story” as well.
“There are some incredible people working on this,” Taylor said.
With another weekend or so of filming left, the multitasking writer/actor/director/producer has no time for redneck thinking, off-camera at least.