"When I Scared Myself, My Imagination Led Me To See Things And Believe Things That I Turned Into Short Stories" A Conversation With Andrew Duplessie
I had the pleasure to interview Andrew Duplessie. Andrew is an actor, writer, and founder, who has appeared in Broken and American Horror Story
What is your ‘backstory?’
Before the age of 11, I had already moved 10 times, bouncing around the New York tristate area. At the age of 15, I was kicked out of the school where I had been going for 9 years. My parents had a rough separation, then divorce, and this instability led to my time being spent wandering, wandering the woods, baseball dugouts, instead of sitting in a classroom. I had a hard time focusing on school and the time that I was in class, I mostly spent playing pranks and acting out. This is what eventually led to my expulsion and also to my mom asking me a question that would start my creative journey.
Get a therapist or go to acting/writing class.
I chose acting, and ended up at William Esper School (Kathy Bates, Amy Schumer, etc.) in NYC. I was selected to work with Esper directly, and he led me down the Method Acting path, sticking primarily to the Meisner technique. Acting was therapeutic for me, and I never really thought about pursuing it as a career. It was just a nice and much needed release to have in my life.
I went to Tulane University in New Orleans. I was a Finance Major, with a Specialization in Quantitative Energy Trading, and served as the Undergrad President of the Business School.
After two full years of building complex financial models in a heavily technical curriculum, I was beyond bored. I bounced back into acting my junior year of college to once again, find balance and a creative outlet. Thus, my junior year I bounced back into acting. I was casted in a couple tv shows, including American Horror Story , an HBO movie, and a few others.
I graduated with a nice amount of college debt, and therefore, I needed to get a job to find a way to pay it off.
I created Tipster with my best friend Daniel Taylor. It’s a style app that connects users with stylists. We primarily connect 12-16 year olds who need style advice before a dance or big event with famous Hollywood stylists that dress celebs! The early success of Tipster led me to the Stanford University Startx, where we created the Tipster Widget. A way for brands to integrate freelance stylists onto their website, where customers can easily chat, and ask questions about products with real, professional stylists. Instantly.
This new direction led Tipster down to Science-Inc in LA. Known for incubating Dollar Shave club very early, and guiding it to the companies 1 Billion Dollar exit to Unilever. My mentor, Mike Jones, CEO of Science, taught me how to be Data Driven, which led to my style of writing stories. They are all Data Driven.
When I start to write a story, I come up with an idea, A/B test it online via ads/blogs. Gather data on the response, then develop a full story based on the results. I leverage my financial background to build a complex statistical model, and my tech influence to track data start to finish.
In addition to being an actor and entrepreneur, you are also a writer. Tell us about the ‘Mystery Dog’ series you wrote. How did you come up with the idea and what has the reaction been?
I started writing horror stories at the age of 11 and wrote 15 short stories by the time I was 16, only one of which I have released (Mystery Dog). My passion for writing began right around the time that my parents were going through a tough separation. My amazing mom raised 4 kids crammed in a little house with one bathroom.
I spent a lot of time wandering, both with my mind and literally. I slept at friends’ houses, outside, in cars, kind of wherever I landed that night. A lot of my stories were born out of a place of fear. For example, one of my stories is about a little girl who goes to great lengths to get her parents to stop fighting. She hides in dangerous places and threatens her own life as an attempt to distract her parents by her perilous antics. This leads her to hide in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This idea was born from real experiences that I had as a child. My siblings and I would come up with ideas to get our parents to stop fighting, and the only tactic that eventually worked was leveraging our safety and wellbeing.
My inspiration for mystery dog primarily came from my time spent in Connecticut as a teenager on the loose, living a bit of a nomadic life. When I scared myself, my imagination led me to see things and believe things that I turned into short stories.
My best friend lived in the back country, so when I would crash at his house for the night, I had to take the path through the woods. The woods in Connecticut are filled with tall, thick trees that only allow a dim sliver of moonlight. A low thick fog hung to the ground on this particular night, which added to the mysticism of the animal sounds echoing across the wooded path. I was halfway through my walk when I noticed the fog swelling over a dead carcass. Still this day Im not sure what it was, it looked about dog sized, but I just remember the whites in its eyes. I sat down staring down the dimly lit path about 10 yards away from the mystery animal, and my mind ran. Thus creating Mystery Dog.
The reaction has been awesome. Mystery Dog has over 100 million views now as well as millions of comments of people sharing their experience with the story. It was especially funny for me to see so many young YouTube stars read the story aloud to their fans. It’s the new form of content, I love it!
I can’t wait to release the rest of my stories over the next year!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am in pre-production for Sci Fi short anthology series. It’s a speculative fiction series in the vein of black mirror and twilight zone, which explores fascinating big ideas - moral or existential - through an emotional dramatic journey in a sci fi world. Starts shooting in March.
Steve Isles, an Award Winning writer/director repped by UTA penned the stories, and I collaborated a bit on the creative side. The production team is mainly composed of American Horror Story alumni, led by Michael Goi, four time emmy nominated cinematographer, known for shooting American Horror Story, Glee, feud, and much more.
We have A/B tested each story online, and they have produced incredible results. Very low cost per click rates, very high share ability coefficients. Every story we create is Data Driven, with our key demographic in mind.
Also in pre-production is a horror feature, the plot is under wraps at the moment, but a terrifying story tapping into current societal concerns. A horror to make you think but also keep you up at night totally terrified! This shoots in this summer…..on a farm . We have some major producers that we are excited to announce soon.
We know you are involved in the fashion world as well. What was the inspiration behind the app you created, Tipster?
I have to give my younger sister, Juliet Duplessie, the credit here. As a child, I was incredibly quiet and reserved, which only got worse when I was 16 getting ready before a dance or a date, so I would get outfit advice from her. She was an expert stylist even at the age of 14, but most importantly, her approval gave me the confidence to go out and have an awesome night. My co-founder Daniel Taylor then integrated socially influential stylists. My experience on set made me realize that Hollywood Stylists are unable to monetize their free time between filming, which can be hours of waiting. So we added publicly known and influential stylists that provided people a secret friend or strategy before going out for the night. This built an ecosystem for anyone, anywhere, to get style advice instantly.
Tipster was born and is currently being integrated with brands as Conversion Rate Optimization Tool.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Dean Kamen, he’s best known for inventing the Segway. That being said, he created a program I am fond of.
FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a program for students to get people interested in science, technology, and engineering
Over 1 million students have taken part of his competitions.
He inspires me for two reasons
He takes massive risks
He gives back
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Over the years, I’ve served as a “big brother” through various programs. I didn’t grow up with a stable role model, as much of my childhood was spent sleeping at friend’s houses and couch surfing.
At Tulane, I founded a program that set up a mentorship program for kids that were like me, in need of a role model and academic help.
Currently I am working with my high school to set up a similar program, and local high schools in LA. We are calling it Eves Kids, named after my mom . It’s a versatile program that was created to help out both in school and out, with a primary focus on after school activities. We created a college ambassador program, where we selected students with unique backgrounds, that will serve as our mentors.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Even though I’ve worked with him before, I would have to say Ryan Murphy (creator of Glee, American horror story, etc).
I don’t think I ever told him this, but Ryan inspired me to write/release Mystery Dog, and a few of the other viral short horror’s I’ve written. Since the stories were so personal too me, this wasn’t easy. While on set of American Horror Story, I told him I was a finance major, and bored out of my mind. He gave me advice/told me a story, that eventually led to me now committing to a creative path of writing and acting.
So, shout out to Ryan Murphy. Your wise words, wisdom, and work have led me on my creative path.