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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Eric Schumacher, Acclaimed Actor and Director Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

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Eric Schumacher is an acclaimed Actor and Director who is steadily amassing a list of successful film, local and national television, and multimedia projects under his belt. Raised by a family of actors, Eric’s training began early with exposure to classical theater technique. At 6 years old he could often be found in a park in Hollywood, playing scenes from Hamlet with his father while fencing with plastic swords. Eric’s mother, an actress and speech teacher is in part responsible for Eric’s ability with dialects. As a child, Eric’s parents lived in between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area as they pursued their acting careers, giving Eric the opportunity to work with many other teachers and an early exposure to many sides of the industry.

Later, in addition to acting, Eric studied film/video production and began working on both sides of the camera. Eric also studied and taught Chinese kung fu for eleven years. Believing strongly in ethical business practices and their application to the entertainment industry, Eric has received training in various business philosophies such as the Franklin Covey seven habits of highly effective people system as a personal favorite. 

Moving to Southern Arizona to assist his kung fu teacher with opening a new branch of the school, Eric quickly got involved in the southern Arizona entertainment industry. Determined to do his part to help bring the southern Arizona film industry back into its former glory, Eric began producing in the region, using innovative business models in multimedia. 

As a director, Eric has experience in many formats but has put most of his attention towards new media which excites him for the potential in new methods of storytelling and audience engagement, but also form a business perspective. Most recently, Eric has directed the first season of “My Stolen Time Machine” a soon to be released science fiction series from Seelie Studios and an innovative, long form post-apocalyptic music video for African Reggae/Afro-Pop Band “K-Bass and Farafina Musiki”. The music video is currently circulating around film festivals all over the globe, and multiple other productions are in development. Eric is also heading up a new, not yet announced initiative through Seelie Studios intended to create greater opportunity for independent filmmakers.

Eric is best known for his work as an actor however, playing roles in projects such as the ground breaking Web sitcom “Crewing Up” and Sci FI Dramedy “Zhon: The Alien Interviews” and most recently as legendary lawman Wyatt Earp in Fox Tv’s “Legends and Lies: the Real West”, as Doc Holiday in world renowned director Alex Cox’s (“Repo Man”, “Sid and Nancy”, “ Walker”) upcoming feature film “Tombstone Rashomon” and as uptight comic book store owner John Burns in an acclaimed micro budget geek culture film Wirting FrenZeee, soon to be a trilogy with the next film “Revenge of Zoe” currently in preproduction.

Eric has been a featured guest on various local and national talk shows, has been quoted in many prestigious publications regarding the film and multimedia industry and is an expert in entertainment marketing. He is frequently called upon to speak at Comicons, film festivals, science fiction festivals and other fan based events and does occasional business consulting and private actor coaching.  We are thrilled to present Eric Schumacher as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed Eric for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first acting memory? 
Eric Schumacher: By the age of 6, my dad and I used to go to Roxbury park in Los Angeles and swordfight with plastic rapiers while reciting scenes form Hamlet. I loved it. I used to make him take me to a restaurant in LA called the Hamburger Hamlet which had dioramas from the play lining the walls, where I would make him tell me the story of Hamlet over and over again as I ate hamburgers. Weird but true. 

Did your family want you to be in “the family business” or were you discouraged from it and decided to do it anyway? 
My parents never pressured me into anything nor did they discourage me from the path I chose. They shared their love of the art with me. I immediately fell completely, totally, and madly in love with acting and badgered them to teach me. They were happy to oblige. I think they would be just as supportive had I chosen anything that I was passionate about however.

Do you think your family has made your career path easier or more challenging for you and why? 
I guess I’d have to say easier. I may not have chosen it at all if it weren’t for them exposing me to the art. That being said, despite being respected in some small circles, (mostly among theater folks in the San Francisco area) they never really had a network that opened doors with industry folks. I was given no favoritism or even acknowledgement in advance because they really didn’t have those kinds of connections. The knowledge was given to me but I’ve had to learn how to apply it and to make opportunities. 

What should everyone know about contrasting acting techniques and which do you prefer and why? 
You know, no one’s ever asked me that in an interview before. That’s a really excellent question. I’m going to give you a rather strange answer however. In martial arts which I also studied for many years, we have a saying: “while in the front of the temple the students argue over which technique is best, in the back behind a closed door, the Masters sit and drink tea together and smile and nod”. There are a lot of acting techniques and I have been exposed to many of them. I have my preferences and I have studied hard. When I teach I pull from many techniques from many different schools depending upon what I feel the student needs. I often don’t remember from which philosophy it comes, nor do I care. What matters is what works. For beginning actors I would recommend that you research different schools and see what philosophy seems to sing to you, but most importantly find a teacher whom you feel comfortable with, and who really seems to know their art well. Learn as much as you can from whatever specific technique or school of thought they come from but don’t be afraid to learn from other schools of thought as well. Each student’s journey is going to be different.

What would surprise everyone about the differences in the entertainment industries in California and Arizona and what do you think is the cause of such differentiation? 
The short answer is money. Arizona is one of only a few states in the US that does not have a film tax incentive program, a significant factor in getting people to spend dollars in a state. Several years ago the governor in Arizona even discontinued the Arizona Film Commission, the official agency responsible for encouraging filmmakers to come and spend millions of dollars in the state. This put Arizona in an extremely difficult situation. Southern Arizona in particular, was once called the “Little Hollywood”. When the brilliant Bob Shelton (founder of Old Tucson Studios) and his team, brought tens of millions of dollars flowed into the state every year form the one location. It is exceedingly difficult to support yourself as an actor or a filmmaker at all. About 10 times more so in Arizona than in California. There’s just so little opportunity in Arizona in comparison. That being said, in Los Angeles in particular (currently still the epicenter of the film and television world in the United States) the competition is incredible. If you are a skilled actor with a marketable look you are joining a pool of a bazillion other skilled actors with a similar marketable look, a lot of whom may have relatives already in the business. The cost of living and of producing lower budget projects is also a lot higher. In Arizona for the most part, the cost of living is significantly lower, and while there is a lot less opportunity and most film projects are much less funded, and therefore pay a lot less, the lessor cost for everything and the willingness of people to work with you to make something happen can make it easier for the beginning filmmaker in some ways. I’m working on some unique business models in Arizona, but like everyone else in the state, I’m very open to work in other places and will produce elsewhere when needed. I ‘m doing my part to help create more opportunity in the state eventually as are a lot of others.

What is the difference between a successful actor and one who is not? 
I think, like any life goal, that has to be a subjective answer based on the individual actor’s values. I have very good friends who do small local theater and don’t want to do anything bigger. They tell me they’re very happy plying their art, but not having the pressures of trying to make a living at it. They are happy that they can focus more of their time on raising families while entertaining small audiences. Some of these folks are extraordinarily good actors. They have my respect. My desires are different. I’ve really never wanted any career goal except to be a working film/TV actor reaching the broadest audience possible to have the greatest influence I can with my art. I don’t have kids. My children are my films…and my two cats. When I was a kid, as part of my training, my dad would take me to a movie theater in Los Angeles that exclusively showed movies from the 1930s and 40s. I remember rushing out of the theater wanting to fence everyone like Errol Flynn in “Captain Blood” or trying to dance like Gene Kelly, believing that I could do anything or being motivated to be a better, stronger, more extraordinary person. I want to be that guy up on the screen that makes other people feel like that. I want people to be continued to be influenced by my work for generations to come.

What do you think of the historic differences in pay between men and women in Hollywood? 
 I don’t believe that anyone in any profession should be paid less because of their gender, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, etc. There are a lot of reasons in the entertainment world that one actor will be paid more or less then another, which mostly should come down to bankability (the audience draw an actor brings to the table) and the demands of the role. It is utterly unethical and, I think, foolish to base that pay on gender, Etc. I think that gap is going to close as more and more powerful women, in particular, gain positions of power in the entertainment world. I’m very happy to see that.

How do you define “new media”? 
New media, by its own definition is going to change over time, being “new”. At the moment however that equates to distribution methods for media which have been around for a shorter period of time and are less explored such as video distribution on the Internet and through mobile devices. As a producer, I believe it is wise to keep one’s finger on the pulse of how people are gaining access to entertainment and have a plan for taking advantage of that so that you can reach your audience effectively. I absolutely love Web series. So much potential in so many ways, artistically and as a business approach.

How does one become a highly successful person? 
Another excellent question. I believe that one becomes a highly successful person by first getting to know themselves well. Doing the difficult work of figuring out who they are, what they truly desire in life and what is really important to them. You need to clear out a lot of the desires and personality requirements imposed on you by society to find that core. That which makes you uniquely you. From there, go after what is important to you with everything you’ve got, no holds barred. I think it is important not to let other people’s definition of success define you either. If you are happy with your life and you are adding more good to the world than negative, you are successful. If you are not happy with your life and you are adding more negative to the world then positive you are not successful, yet. Remember, it isn’t over until you breathe your last breath and then perhaps it still isn’t over. Never give up.

What is the difference between a highly successful person and a highly successful actor/director? 
I think the answer is pretty much the same since one’s goals are one’s own and one’s truth and things that make one happy depend on who they are. A highly successful actor director is one whose career is where they personally wish it to be and whose work is having the effect on others that they personally wish it to have at a level of income that they are happy with. I must admit that I’m a highly ambitious person (I have been called the type A+ personality, not just type A but A+) so I will probably never be exactly happy with where my career is. There’s always another story I’d like to tell and more possibilities for career growth.

Have you pursued your profession in Europe and if not would you want to? 
While I have some wonderful friends who are filmmakers in Europe some of whom I am plotting with in fact, (such as my friends Italian director Marco Cabriolu and actor Emilio Puggioni) I have not seriously pursued my profession in Europe as of yet. I’ve had my hands full working on a variety of projects here in the United States. Would I like to work in Europe? Hell yes!! It mainly comes down to who I’m working with and what the project is, however. There are fantastic artists who I respect from all over the world. Some lesser-known and some better-known. What little time I have spent in Europe has been absolutely wonderful and there are so many amazing locations and brilliant artists and varying techniques of filmmaking that I would love to explore. That also goes for India, Japan, and a number of other countries in the world. To any European filmmakers out there who think I might be appropriate for role in a really well-written film or television project, I’m all ears!

What is the best way for non-Americans in the entertainment industry to secure a great agent? I’m not very familiar with the system in countries other than the United States but I would venture to say that regardless of where you are or where you come from it comes down to the following: 1. Train hard and know your stuff. Be absolutely exceptional and ready to audition at any moment. 2. Work. Show a history of projects at as professional a level as you are able to, to demonstrate that you have the skills, marketability, and understand how the industry operates and that you will not embarrass your agent when you get to a film audition or are on a set. 3. Market yourself. The bigger your fan base the greater your marketability. 4. Network. Get to know people. Personal references to an agent are incredibly important. If someone who knows what they are doing refers you to an agent they are putting their reputation on the line. All that being said, be careful when looking for an agent. There are a lot of scam artists out there. The better agents tend to be very discerning and very careful about who they represent. At the end of the day they are running a business and they want to make money. If you don’t have what it takes and don’t meet the criteria they have at the moment they won’t take you on. If its too easy, I’m always a little suspicious. If you’re in another country and you are trying to gain American representation it can be a lot harder. If you can’t fly out to an audition and meet people in person on a moment’s notice, (while video auditions are more and more possible these days), you are still at a great disadvantage. Also, why would somebody want to hire you for an American film if you don’t have an American fan base unless, that American film is being targeted to a country that’s familiar with you. Follow the principles above and you’ve got a shot.

Since you are a coach, what are the biggest mistakes actors make and how can they be corrected?
 In my opinion, the two biggest mistakes that actors tend to make come down to not digging deep enough for their performance, and not understanding set etiquette well enough. Acting is scary. It is important to dig really deep to bring a believable performance that feels true. This often means being as they say “emotionally naked” in front of an audience. I find that a lot of actors, like anyone else, try to stick with what is comfortable for them, not taking that one step further that gives them a performance that an audience feels is true. The correction often comes down to stopping and looking at yourself and asking the question “are you actually feeling anything right now”? If not you’re not there yet. There is of course, a balance between the internal and the external and it is important to find that as well. That’s a long subject. The other big mistake is the lack of understanding of set etiquette. A lot of newer actors spent a lot of time learning their technique well but they don’t understand the expectations when they get on a set. A ton of people work very, very hard to set up a shot. The better you can meet the expectations placed upon you and the more pleasant you are to work with, the more likely you are to be invited back on to another project, and the more likely it will be that others will have your back when you’re playing a difficult role. That correction is also simple. Get good training from someone who’s actually been there and, when you do get to a set, observe your environment and learn as quickly as possible how that particular set works. Be awake and alive and prepared.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
Every time I think back on all the people who have taught me things and spent a tremendous amount of time helping me to learn to be a better person, or a better actor, I am reminded that I don’t want to fail myself and I don’t want to fail them and I don’t want to fail my creator. It’s a huge list of people: fellow actors, martial arts teachers, directors, people in other parts of the business world, close friends… My relationship with God is very important to me as well. I won’t go into that here. It’s my personal path, but let’s just say it’s not all about me it’s about giving something for the greater good in service. It goes further than that however, I truly view my art as something that I am giving to an audience and experiencing with them. If I haven’t brought everything I have, I haven’t done my part. How can I expect you to support my work if I’m not giving you everything I have every time I am on screen or behind the camera? I’ve had the wonderful experience of getting direct feedback from fans here and there. Sometimes I have heard that my work has really influenced someone. Made them laugh or cry or believe in themselves. Occasionally someone has gotten really emotional about it. I am damn well not walking on a set and giving anything less than 5 million percent. 

What are you proudest of and why? 
I guess I would have to say that I'm proudest of the friendships I've built with people I respect. Both people in the industry and those not in the industry. Some of those are members of my own family, others might as well be.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
So many things!! I have a huge list of projects I’d like to make happen with a number of my friends in the industry. So many kinds of roles I’d like to play. So many people I’d like to work with. Some are in progress, like a sci fi web series we’re in post on now and a project my company is developing with my friend Action Scientist and TV star Geoffrey Notkin and his company Desert Owl Productions ( Geoff and I have publicly stated that someday we wish to make a feature film based on the work of Robert Heinlein. That’s a dream! Mainly however, I want to expand my influence to the point that it’s much easier to make some of the projects that are close to my heart and to get them out to a wide audience, and I want to create a lot more opportunity for others in the entertainment industry. I admit by the way that one of my dream roles is being played by someone else. I’ve always wanted to play Dr. Strange, the Marvel superhero, now being played by the admittedly wonderful Benedick Cumberbatch. Maybe someday… Oh and despite my great liking for sci fi and fantasy, I’ve never done a sword and sorcery film. I really want to do that. 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
 I’ve been involved in a few film and theater projects that have won awards but no personal awards or honors to speak of as of yet. I’ve had lots of good reviews. I would be very happy to win awards, don’t get me wrong. Everyone likes to be acknowledged with an award. Most important to me however, is the personal impact my work has on fans. I’ve had the blessing of hearing a lot of positive things from fans. If my work is making a positive impact on people and they love that work that’s really most important to me. Each thankful fan letter is like a little award.

What one word best describes you and why? 
So as not to get my ego involved, I deferred to my wife and her best friend. They said, “tenacious”. I guess I agree. Type A + personality. I give my work everything I have, no holds barred.

What do you take your sense of identity from? 
Peachy, your questions are really deep. I totally love it! There is an old saying in martial arts, “a person becomes a rice pounder, when pounding rice”. I am constantly realigning my sense of identity. I try to self-evaluate often. As an actor I am continuously learning who I am by contrasting my own personality traits against people I play and people I meet who I tend to evaluate as if I’m going to play them. I guess the most straightforward answer is that I take my sense of self identity from the impact I have as an artist and as a person. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
 I have not yet been to Manhattan but I’m looking forward to it. I’ll tell you where I’d LIKE to be in Manhattan, Broadway, and at the SNL Studios (Saturday Night Live). That’s a goal. 
And in California? 
 California, well I really love the San Francisco bay area. Particularly Marin County, California, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, where I spent a lot of time as a kid. Sooo green. Such a lovely culture in general. 
And in Arizona? 
OK I do love Tucson and Phoenix but my favorite place to get some down time is Bisbee, Arizona. It’s just so beautiful there and so laid back and artsy. I would move there if I didn’t have so much going on in other parts of Arizona. My wife and I have a couple of dear friends who run an insanely awesome Bed and Breakfast there, Schoolhouse Inn Bed and Breakfast ( At about 9pm you can hear a pin drop it’s so quiet. Awesome themed rooms. Amazing free breakfast. I once learned my entire part for a three hour play I was a lead in, in one of those rooms in only a week. Terrific for concentration. Great stores nearby… Oh man I need to plan a trip there now. 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
 I’ve never been to Manhattan again but I always wanted to go to FAO Schwartz. So sad that it closed. I’d really like to check out some of the thrift stores in Manhattan. My wife turned me on to that and we’ve found a lot of props and costume pieces at thrift stores. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt. 
And in California? 
Absolutely my favorite place to shop in California is China Town in San Francisco. So many cool things! 
And in Arizona? 
Back to Bisbee again. Just the coolest artsy shops. A metal working store, a couple of amazing antique and collectible stores and a world class men’s hat shop to name a few. (I dig hats, I wear a lot of them…)

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why? 
I would hire Stephen Spielberg or George Lucas or someone of their caliber to kick doors open for me and show me how they’ve built such amazing organizations.

What is your favorite drink? 
 V8 Juice with lots of ground pepper, warmed to about the temperature of a good tea. Healthy, a bit of a bite and very comforting.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
 Profound things have happened to me at cocktail parties but so far nothing funny. I’m not very much fun really. I tend to get into deep conversations with people at parties of any kind. Cocktail or otherwise.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
While I’ve never been to Manhattan I really want to try some of the Jewish delis. There was a wonderful Jewish deli in Los Angeles we used to go to and people have raved to me about the delis in New York. Bagels and lox, Kosher dills and Chicken Matzo ball soup! I love distinctive ethnic food and Jewish delis have been at it for a long time. 
And in California? 
Just before my last trip to California, my favorite restaurant in the state closed. Iroha in Japan town in San Francisco, just behind Soko Hardware. Very sad. Now the winner is Bay Thai, a tiny, tiny family owned Thai restaurant in San Rafael California. Some friends introduced me to a great hole in the wall Thai place in LA the last time I was there but I can’t remember the name of it. If I can get it from them I’ll let you know. 
And in Arizona?
 There are a lot of restaurants I love in Arizona but I’ve got to say the tiny but brilliant Dante’s Fire in Tucson is my favorite at the moment. You’d drive past it and never know it was there. They make some of the most innovative dishes I’ve had anywhere. 

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
 Like so many, “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger had a huge effect on me as a kid. 
And in California? 
Sam Spade, the Maltese Falcon. Later made into an amazing movie of course starring Humphrey Bogart. 
And in Arizona? 
Arizona, well he’s been a character in many books set in Tombstone, but he was also a real person. Doc. Holiday, whom I’m currently playing in a new Alex Cox film, Tombstone Rashomon. I mean how cool is that? He’s a completely fascinating character.

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 
 Perhaps a player in the globe theater during the time of Shakespeare. Just to feel what it was like to say those words for the first time. 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
 That’s really easy. A movie theater or an arts school.
 And in California? 
 And in Arizona?

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
I don’t have much interest in sports but I’d still like to see a Mets game. 
And in California? 
 A friend one got box seats to a giant vs dodgers double header. Great halftime show. The crowd was fascinating. I was most interested in the people watching I must admit. They almost rioted. And in Arizona? 
My friend Robert Linden is an actor, and a fight choreographer. He’s also in a Professional wrestling league. I really don’t have much interest in wrestling but I’ve gone to a few of his matches and I must admit, he’s an artist. He does amazing stuff.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
 When I eventually get to Manhattan I need to see a Broadway show, then the Metropolitan Museum. 
And in California? 
I just love going across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. 
And in Arizona? 
There’s nothing quite like an Arizona desert sunrise.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
I guess I’d say William Shakespeare. If you are one of the people who believes that he was actually a real person, and I do, then he was arguably one of the most brilliant writers and creators of theater ever to have lived, if not the most brilliant. What I could learn over dinner…

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
 None in Manhattan yet. So someone cast me in a movie in set in Manhattan already and give me a day off so I can see a concert in times square. Or better yet, put a concert in the movie. And in California? 
 Meatloaf gave an absolutely amazing concert in California quite some time ago and my wife and I were there. I had never cried at a rock concert before. I was so moved. Totally brilliant. And in Arizona?
 This will sound biased but it really isn’t. I’ve helped with management of an amazing band in Arizona for several years. I’ve been a fan of African pop style music for years. My dear friend K-Bass is utterly incredible. I have had many occasions where I’ve been able to watch him spellbind an audience.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 
I try to give where I can. I’m a member of a couple of volunteer boards, the forgotten children, a charity working to build a boarding school for some of the over 100,000 homeless children in Senegal Africa. ( The head of the organization Elhadj Ndoye is an amazing person. I also volunteer with a small science fiction convention in southern Arizona. ( I was invited to speak there several years ago and eventually started working with the folks on the board. Just lovely people who want to create a wonderful environment for fellow fans. I try to do that what that I can for folks I meet and take what time I can to support my fellow artists by giving advice or aid here and there and occasionally teaching or lecturing. My greatest focus is still my work in the film industry and I believe that work in the arts is extremely important to the consciousness of humanity. 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? 
 This I sadly cannot say, since I have yet to visit. 
And in California?
 Underrated, Pier 39 in San Francisco. It gets a bad rap as being too touristy but there are some awesome, quality stores there, great food and lots of really kooky shops on the way there. Worth a visit. Overrated. Hollywood Blvd. on the other hand, at least the last time I was there, was just too touristy for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is some cool stuff to see there but there’s also a lot of cut paste repeat and parking was confusing and expensive. 
And in Arizona? 
Underrated, overall the food. There are so many amazing restaurants in Arizona. It’s not really a place known for great restaurants but there’s awesome food from pretty much every ethnicity. That being said, in terms of overrated, You would expect every Mexican style restaurant in Arizona to be amazing since it’s so close to Mexico itself. Sadly that’s not the case. There are some totally off the charts unbelievably good ones, but there are also a lot of “Gringo Mexican” restaurants, where everything tastes the same that probably cater more to the tourist crowd. Read reviews. The really good ones are sooo good.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite WhomYouKnow

​.com​ column and what do you like about it? 
That’s a tough question. That’s kind of unfair since there are so many interesting articles. I’m tempted to say the Admirable Artists section, which I really have enjoyed, but it’s got some movers and shakers in it so I guess I’ll go with the Broadway alert, which is a great place to learn about the latest news on Broadway. Just great reviews with a lot of information that do make one really realize they are missing a lot when they miss these shows. 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
I really believe that artists should do what they can to support other artists and that artists have a responsibility to the world to do some good with our work. I get overwhelmed with messages sometimes but I do try to personally get back to everyone who reaches out with a legitimate question or comment eventually. I hope folks will forgive me if it takes a while sometimes. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 
 I’m on various social media sites but the easiest to access are Facebook: Twitter: @EricSchumacher and LinkedIn . You can also contact me through the contact page through my company Seelie studios I am often slow to respond as I am barraged with messages. I do try to respond to everyone personally however. I delete anything that looks like spam instantly, without reading it.

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