Artists On Fire; Getting To Know John Ford-Dunker

Photo: Nick Wheelehon Photography

In this highlight we turn our attention to an exceptional, hard-working, consistent and passionate artist by the name of John Ford-Dunker. I asked John a series of questions, here are his responses:

Tell us a little about yourself, where your from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended, etc.

Hello there! My name is John Ford-Dunker. I’m an actor, musician, and entrepreneur living in Brooklyn, NY. I’m originally from Fargo, North Dakota. I went to college at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point, and was then a member of the Professional Training Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville during their 2014/2015 season. I moved to New York City in the summer of 2015 and have been here since.

Photo: Drew Swenson

What inspired you to be an artist? Early experiences worth sharing?

I grew up watching my mom sing in church and soon my brothers and I were participating as well. I also saw my older brother doing it and essentially just wanted in on the fun at first. But then doors kept opening and I just kept doing it. This led to community theatre, summer programs, a scholarship program during highschool and eventually the decision to pursue performing as a career.

Hartford Courant Photo: Lanny Nagler

Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.

Obviously, this career path has high highs and low lows. I remember 2016 being a pretty bad year. I’d had a good first year in NYC filled with some very privileged first year acting opportunities, but then the bottom fell out. I wasn’t booking. I ran out of money. Twice. I was getting really sick often because I wasn’t taking care of myself physically, or mentally. My relationships and finances were in shambles. I remember during that time eating beans and rice pretty much every day for the whole summer. I was working 3 jobs and going nowhere at warp speed. I remember crying on the train multiple times, not knowing where this was going to go or where my next paycheck was coming from. I was blessed to have good friends in my life to lean on who were also going through the same things, and eventually got things back on track working strange jobs (including spying on fake uber drivers at the airport) and freelancing with my first agent (who eventually closed her office because the other agent she worked with passed away). The winds changed and I ended up getting a better agent, booking a show, and getting connected with a coaching community where I met people who were willing to guide me in the areas of relationships and finances. I was really grateful for this, because our education does not teach us the truth about money at any step of the way.

King Charles III at Pioneer Theatre Company Photo: Salt Lake Tribune

What do you believe sets you apart from other artists/entertainers?

I think something that sets me apart from others is consistency. My batting average to get a job is between 30–50 auditions to every 1 job. I used to get overwhelmed emotionally by all the rejection, but a coach had me figure out this audition average and it was a big unlock for me. Why am I going to get upset about the one audition when I know that this is a numbers game? Sure there are other factors involved, but I think the long game is key. We live in this social media world where everyone throws a fit if they don’t get nominated for an oscar or go viral on TikTok their first year on the grind. Mark Ruffalo put 600 auditions behind him before he booked something even remotely noteworthy. We get it out of perspective. I also haven’t sold my soul to this industry, which is something I think a lot of folks think they have to do. So then when it lets them down, they’re totally gutted and taken out. I would encourage people to find something outside of this business to water and cultivate, because the industry is not the answer to fulfilment. Especially in a global pandemic, which a lot of folks had to learn the hard way unfortunately.

Geva Theatre Photo: Huth Photography

Do you have other interests or hobbies?

For me some of those things would be music, home audio production, entrepreneurship, writing, spirituality, reading, traveling, and connecting with people from different industries. A note on hobbies: make sure it’s a hobby. If it’s something you actually want to pursue, do it. But if you do, you have to stop treating it like a hobby. Hobbies that people try to turn into businesses most of the time end up just being really expensive hobbies. Know the difference.

Hartford Courant Photo: Lanny Nagler

Any projects you have out or or currently working on?

In terms of current projects, I had the privilege to work on a couple of things in 2020. I was in a music video for the band More Than Skies for their songs “What Keeps Me Up At Night” / “Tomorrow Won’t Bother.” I’ll also be appearing in an upcoming episode of City on a Hill Season 2 on Showtime.

Photo: Nick Fink

Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years I’ll be doing a mix of live theatre, TV/Film, producing, music production, as well as building out an artists ranch in the midwest dedicated to being a haven for artists, spiritual retreats, seminars, summits, and all other manner of events. You’ll also catch me traveling once the pandemic is over!

Photo: Collin Morris

What advice can you give to aspiring artists/entertainers?

In terms of advice the main thing I would say is don’t quit. I think more often than not people don’t see results in something right away and they feel like they’re in the wrong field or they should do something else, only to then go do something else and then quit that too. Of course, shifting gears is totally normal. But I would encourage folks to look at ways to level up what they’re already doing before they decide to call it quits for good. Maybe simply entertain the idea that there may be something you need to delete or add to what you’re already doing. I call it a career upgrade vs a career change. We get one life. Pick something, not 20 things.

Also, I would simplify it even more. Find someone who has the life and the time and the results that you want, and then ask them how they did it. Then go do those things. We as a culture undervalue asking for help. Trust me, copying off the smart kids is going to cut 10 years off your grind. Just a thought. :)

Photo: John Ford-Dunker

How can we follow along in your journey? How would one be able to reach you if they sought out a reading? YouTube? Social media? Sites?

You can find me on Instagram @johnforddunker or through my agent Wolf Talent Group.

My music is also on Spotify and Soundcloud under my name.

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Che Holloway

Che Holloway

SAG-AFTRA Actor/Writer Star of Dark Justice Show now streaming on Amazon Prime www.darkjusticeshow.com /FB: Che Holloway Follow me on IG: @che_holloway5