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Interview with Noam Tomaschoff

Noam Tomaschoff created the web series Hostess, now featured on Funny or Die.

Actor, writer, director and graduate of NYU Strasberg Noam Tomaschoff is a multitalented, hardworking ball of artistic energy. Since graduation from the Practicum program in 2014, Noam has been consistently working. He’s acted in theater tours, worked on film projects and is constantly generating his own material through his production company The Focus Group, that him and his working partner, Chelsea Frei created and run together. Most recently they’ve created a web series called Hostess, which is now featured on Funny or Die through Cinematheque and WhoHaha –  scroll down to the bottom for links to watch!

To see more from The Focus Group, click here!


Q: Why did you start making your own work?

A: “I anticipated that after school I’d be working all the time but when their were lulls in working I would feel helpless because when I thought of myself as just an actor I didn’t realize that I had the ability to stay in practice while I wasn’t actually hired to do something. I felt like I was just a freelancer for hire and without a production around me I wasn’t able to do what I had gone to school for… And I was fed up with that mind set because it wasn’t healthy and I felt very idle. I felt like I wasn’t expressing myself because, as most actors know, most of the jobs you are getting are not going to be your magnum opus… they’re just going to be one or two lines …or a commercial maybe or something that’s just completely the mind child of someone else. So about two years ago I started my own production group called The Focus Group. It allows me to write, produced, direct, edit and release my own content.

Q: What kind of work do you make?

A: “It’s mostly comedy though we have done some dramatic stuff as well. Over the past couple years, we’ve been featured on a couple great platforms and we’ve gone to festivals and we have a nice following online…  It’s just a great place that I can always turn to with my ideas or if someone I know has an idea they want produced. What I learned from doing that is it’s so important not only to learn the theory and practice when you’re in school at a place like Strasberg but also to build your network so that you have a ready list of people who practice many different disciplines in multiple fields and you can pull together a team of people you trust and work well with to do projects from start to finish.”

Q: What skills did you acquire from Strasberg that have helped you in your career?

A: “I think what’s unique about the practicum program at Strasberg is that …you take classes with directors who are working in the industry. We had these very intensive small group sessions in which I learned about making an actor feel comfortable… I learned about getting the result you want without making an actor feel squashed or feel like they’re being manipulated to fit into a pre-set mold. This was a very helpful when I started doing my own projects…. I also learned through the process of working on an original play. The division of labor that I saw demonstrated in the creation of an original play was a huge skill I learned from doing Practicum”

Q: Do you have a specific memory from your time at Strasberg that stuck with you?

“Second semester we we’re working on play called Vampires directed by Johanna McKeon. It wasn’t a straight realism play, there were a lot of absurdist parts to it… it was a small cast and at some point we felt sort of at sea with the logic of it…. and at some point we just had to go from a place of feeling total mastery … to just trusting that someone else is responsible for the overarching vision of the piece and once we did that we were able to focus on ourselves rather than taking responsibility for the whole play… which is impossible for someone to do… and that’s what I learned from her. When I was directing Hostess I knew it was my job to marshall their individual talents into the story … because I didn’t want them to think about the story as a whole. That was my job. It wasn’t my job to do line reads but it was my job to track the story.”

Q: What else should we know about Hostess?

“Hostess is 6 part web series with short episodes. My writing and producing partner, Chelsea Frei, wrote it based on her real experience working at different hostessing jobs at New York restaurants. It’s about working a survival job and ideally it’s very cathartic for viewers because these characters, although specific, are archetypes of people you meet in the service industry or in the retail industry just trying to support their dreams. Over the course of four months we went from putting together the scripts to finalizing a team of people, finding a space, getting all the equipment, shooting over four days, editing for two months and completing Hostess… and through a concerted promotional / market effort we were able to get it on two different platforms. Funny or Die featured on their long form series page called Cinematheque and also WhoHaHa, a women’s comedy website.”

Here are all six episodes of Hostess via the Funny or Die website: