"Evasion" was the first film that was I able to be a part of. With no acting experience since the 5th grade play in my hometown of Broken Bow, NE, I had no idea what was going to happen once the cameras started rolling in the mojave desert with an eclectic crew of people I'd only met days prior. It turned out to be an incredible experience and I made friends from around the world that will last a lifetime. No matter if I make a return to acting and am able to be involved in big budget projects, the time spent in the desert making this film will always be held dear to my heart. It was in this film that a young Nebraska boy's dream came true. I wasn't chasing it...I was living it.
"Mayberry Avenue" was my biggest lesson towards understanding the difference between technology and talent. Jeff Reyes, a fellow Veteran, reached out to me after being referred through someone I worked with in "Evasion." This project was shot in a single day, with a Canon 7D, a budget of $200 which was mostly spent on food, and the final edit uploaded within a few days, and ended up winning awards in the short film circuit. I had been involved in a few projects in between this and Evasion that had a much larger budget, big crew, expensive locations, and cameras that cost more than my mom's house...these projects paled in comparison because they lacked the talent, the eye, perhaps simply the passion that Reyes possessed. It was this small film, that I not only learned that lesson, but made a friend that I would work for on any project because I know it will turn out in superior quality.
"What Lies Ahead" was a first of a series of spots for the VA's National Awareness Campaign. It was also the first "real world" audition that I had in Hollywood, as the films above I was simply referred to. This was on a much different level, as VA reps had flown in from D.C. to oversee the project, and when I started sharing stories about my personal life, they already knew a few because they'd researched my history to verify my service and found a few articles on the internet about the loss of my brother in Iraq. An interview with CBS followed, which turned out great and garnered more interviews in D.C.. Unfortunately, one of my biggest regrets in my "Hollywood Experience" is that I took a "Hollywood Approach" to the D.C. interviews and tried to promote myself as an up and coming actor. I had support from a few folks who said: "Throw that plug in there" but watching them in return it felt extremely disingenuous and I believe I could've been much more sincere and done more on my part to help Veterans across the country understand their benefits and truly take advantage of what they've earned. One of my biggest dislikes for the Hollywood scene was the shameless self promotion...I never really felt comfortable with it. However, I was young and new to the spotlight. Lessons have to be learned, and this was one that will last a lifetime. We move on, and we move up. I'll post the CBS interview below.
For any of my Marine colleagues, I'm sure the first thing you noticed was "Former 'Soldier' Lives out Dream." Yeah...I definitely gave them some guff about that, but as you can see the title remained the same. At the time of the interview I was in Improv Classes at the Groundling's Improv Theater and School, and I vividly remember one of my classmates saying: "Whoa, where's the jovial and happy spirited Robert that we see?" You'll notice that I completely stalled when he gave me the opportunity to break character and bring forth a little humor. That is something I've always seemed to struggle with on camera when I'm being "myself." Representing something as serious as the VA while donning the Eagle Globe and Anchor on my chest calls for "Staff Sergeant Kugler" to be at the forefront. This, is one of the biggest struggles of those who wear the uniform when they take it off....a sense of identity is lost. "Who am I now without that uniform and rank?" We are individuals, and the Military doesn't exactly support individuality. The process of finding ourselves after separation is a difficult task. I know I'm still finding mine.