FAYETTEVILLE — Fayetteville native Jason Cicci has never been one to sit back and wait for opportunities to come his way.
That being so, the wherewithal to share his artistry regardless of how many callbacks he receives has sent him down the independent route as an actor, writer and producer—a route that has yielded gratifying results.
Most recently, a pair of web shows created by Cicci together secured 16 nominations and six wins at the 12th Annual Indie Series Awards, a ceremony held this past month in Los Angeles to celebrate excellence in scripted internet entertainment.
That evening, his digital series “Cady Did” was nominated a dozen times, later taking home the awards for Best Comedy Series, Best Production Design for Scott Michael Salame, Best Lead Actress in a Comedy for its co-producer and star Cady Huffman, and best guest actor and actress roles for Scott Adsit and Joyce Van Patten respectively.
“We can’t believe how great the show turned out,” Cicci said. “It came together so beautifully, and we’re still sort of in awe of it even though we worked hard to make it.”
Conceived by Cicci as a fictionalized vehicle for Huffman’s humorous antics, “Cady Did” follows the titular character as she distances from the fallout of an on-camera outburst gone viral. She ends up running a public access channel after venturing back to her hometown of Hackettsville, a made-up place that resembles parts of Upstate New York.
“Even in the show, there are some jokes about how it’s always winter and how there never seems to be any sun,” Cicci said.
That series features not only Huffman, who appeared in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and the Broadway production of “The Producers,” but also the fellow Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehardt and the Emmy-nominated actress Veanne Cox.
It was also the project that inspired Cicci and his producing partner John Cramer to start Make Your Show, a production company that develops original, personalized showcases for its performers.
From that point, the idea arose for “Searching for Sylvie,” an 11-episode web series devised for Susan Jeffries that to her liking didn’t relegate her to the role of a grandmother in the background or a woman on her deathbed.
With separate nominations in this year’s Best Direction, Best Actress in a Comedy, and Best Comedy Series categories, “Searching for Sylvie” nabbed the Best Supporting Actor award for David Lavine’s portrayal of a “fastidious, by-the-books” administrator at a school where Sylvie gets a job.
“To be recognized for projects you initiate yourself is really something special,” Cicci said. “When you’re making these indie shows, you really count on the creative power of the actors and any collaborator to make the story that much more resonant with people.”
An actor since his childhood, Cicci took part in scholastic productions year to year as a student in the Fayetteville-Manlius School District, which he said accommodated a welcoming, close-knit arts community.
“I can’t say enough about growing up in Fayetteville,” Cicci said. “It’s such a beautiful place, and it was a great training ground for what I would end up doing with my life.”
Desiring an outlet for the summers, he and his friends started their own community production company as high school seniors for aspiring actors ages 12 to 20, aptly named At That Stage. Along the way, Cicci gained firsthand experience when it came to designing sets, finding costumes, and raising enough money before opening night.
He went on to participate in numerous productions during his time with the Syracuse University drama department, and once he graduated from the college in 1993, he felt as prepared as could be to dive into the business and lifestyle of acting, singing, dancing and movement.
In the ensuing years, while facing higher stakes and learning how to move on from rejection, he established another company called Monday Morning Productions, thus cementing a greater foothold in the industry alongside a group of former classmates.
With that company, Cicci gravitated toward on-camera storytelling as a lower-cost, better-documented alternative to theater productions, one that wouldn’t need to guarantee that the audience seats would be filled.
In his approach to crafting 22-minute episodic scripts, he drew influence from “true-to-life” sitcoms like “Cheers,” “All in the Family” and “Moonlighting” as well as the wordplay in the works of Neil Simon and Woody Allen.
Prototypical performances of his two-season comedy “He’s With Me” allowed him to test the rhythm of his writing in front of West Village crowds, and to challenge himself more, he thought it best to tighten up the plot lines and boil them down to around 10 minutes, a format he decided to stick with.
“He’s With Me” wound up being an award winner in its own right, not to mention his archway to meeting Huffman, Debra Jo Rupp of “That ‘70s Show” fame, and visual artist Bob Giraldi, with whom he has made several short films.
Now residing in Fairfield, Connecticut, Cicci has additionally taught workshops at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx that touch on such topics as crowdfunding, comfort with on-camera acting, and the audition process.
To learn more, visit jasoncicci.com or view his shows “Cady Did” and “Searching for Sylvie” on YouTube.