Fast Forward Friday with Perri Yaniv

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor Perri Yaniv. He is a native New Yorker who has performed in more than 30 theater productions locally, regionally and internationally. He has originated roles in new works by John Patrick Shanley, Erik Ehn, Candido Tirado, Jack Agueros, Maurice Decaul and Owen Panettieri, and has played title roles in revivals of George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell and S. Ansky’s The Dybbuk. He has also worked repeatedly with Obie-winning companies like Metropolitan Playhouse, Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble and Nicu’s Spoon. Film work includes Winter Has No Sun (Gradient Films), Al Qarem, The Wolf of Wall Street, The O.C. Club, Delivery Hour and the forthcoming feature ​The Restaurant. For more information, visit http://www.perribazyaniv.com/

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

Right now I have a few projects in the mix: one is a short film titled Purity by Avichai Assouline; there’s a new play by sci-fi author Ryan Sprague called East in Red, which will be inaugurating Dark House Theater, a company that specializes in horror theatre in October; and I’ve just been cast in Claire Beckman’s adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (entitled The Plantation), that her company Brave New World will be performing on Governor’s Island in September.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

I’m a very sociological actor. I’m obsessed with behavior and community, and I often choose projects that either involve psychological or social issues. Purity deals with the shame of sex addiction in a Hasidic community, East in Red examines the perceptions of prostitution and The Plantation sets Chekhov’s classic on a Virginian slave plantation shortly after the Civil War.

For every character I work on, a huge inspiration for me is childhood; there’s a heightened feeling that activates my imagination.  The characters in East in Red and Purity are very self-suppressed, so the echoes of events in their childhood feel like they’re right underneath the surface for me. The process then becomes about finding all the intricacies of how the suppression finds its way into behavior; what remains unseen versus what sneaks up to the surface.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who had an impact on you and your work?

First and foremost, I see art as work. A ton of time and sacrifice goes into earning the title of being an artist or being artistic, so I always consider artists workers, like servicemen and servicewomen. As for the workers I’ve found most intriguing, I’d have to say one of my biggest heroes is Anna Deavere Smith. She’s pioneered an entire genre and changed the landscape of documentary theatre in a way that’s connected to a specific process, and through that has presented an incredibly profound outlet that bridges artistic expression and tactile reality in a way that is undeniably brilliant and painful.

I consider myself lucky because art has had a huge impact on my life since I was a child; my father is a composer and a musician, my mother a trained as a dancer, so art itself is a hero to me. I advocate for experiencing the arts as prime education in DISCOVERING YOURSELF AS A PERSON.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

Since acting is a bit of an elusive art form; we are our instrument and our canvas and our paints, I’m grateful for my accountability partner and dear friend Jessica Levesque. We meet weekly and address the work for the upcoming week: anything that needs to be rehearsed, memorized or read gets done during our time together. If there aren’t any projects or auditions, we read a play. It gives me a much-needed structure and it creates consistency. I can’t over-stress the importance of consistency. Tennessee Williams wrote for 5-7 hours a day because that’s what it took for him to consider himself a writer.

I think it’s too easy to call yourself an actor and not be in constant practice, so that’s my battle: what is the work I have for today? Even if it’s reading a scene or running a monologue, something will always come out of it that I can appreciate.

The other way I stay motivated is that I approach my acting work with a wide net.  I hold a day job in a hospital doing asthma research in addition to my acting career.  I’m rooted in the belief that empathy is incredibly powerful, and within each of us is all of us.  I like to think that’s the New Yorker in me. Every person I meet or interact with is a gift; that’s my inspiration. Experiencing other art forms, seeing the work of colleagues and peers is always enticing, and learning from the living masters always leads to inspiration that then gets expressed as a poem or a moment on stage or in a film … it’s all cyclical.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I recently got to do a reading of a new piece by Erik Ehn for a downtown theater festival called Planet Connections Theatre Festivity  and that was a lot of fun. I find his work fascinating.  It’s a cross between poetry, chaos theory, song and simultaneity at the level of special relativity. I played Jesus in his most recent world premiere at LaMaMa, and there’s a sensibility to his work that is unlike anything I can even describe, and that’s part of the fun. Audiences usually have a variety of experiences when they encounter his work, and because it’s not a neat narrative, they often have to surrender the subconscious need to control their experience of what they think watching a play is supposed to be, and then they can feel the power of his work.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

This has got to be the best question for an artist ever, since there is a part of us (probably from childhood) that seeks validation for choosing this path in life, even if we’re convinced it chose us. For me, it’s collaboration. No matter how challenging and difficult or friendly and serene a process might be, the fact that I have been offered an opportunity to work, to express myself within this little gypsy family we call an ensemble, for a day or a week or a month or a year is always a huge reminder that this is the life I want to live. The “level” of that exercise is secondary to me. I’m happy performing on just about any scale.

I choose my projects based on the impact of the story. If the work is important to me it’s because I think it will be important to you.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Within the field of acting it would have to be working on major motion pictures, expanding and cultivating what I do on a larger commercial scale: A-list talent, intense and creative energies on set, polished and profound material. I got to spend some time on the set of Wizard of Lies and watching Barry Levinson work was like a master class in running a set. That was very educational for me.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

I would like to say that my biggest obstacle has been navigating this field without an MFA or some business connection to get me to the next level, but in all honesty I think my obstacle is a deep insecurity of what my true worth as an artist and a person is, and that creates situations where I end up stopping myself from achieving my full potential. I’m slowly getting through it and I have faith that I’ll come out on the other side of that, but it is definitely a process.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I found the easiest way to stay connected to my creative impulse is to always be in the midst of working on something. If I don’t have a project lined up, I’m in an acting class or I’m seeing friends’ shows or catching up on film and TV or networking. I don’t just watch TV or film for the sake of it, I’m learning. It’s actually why I chose acting over pursuing dance or music or writing; I discovered that my happiness came from the stimulation of absorbing new information; like a child’s. The experiences I had when I was acting educated me in a way I knew I wanted to pursue, so the trick for me is to always stay connected in some way, shape or form to that process.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

The poison of procrastination.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Painting: Aivazovsky’s The American Shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar
Poem:  Rilke’s Go to the Limits of your Longing
Song: Tracy Chapman’s If Not Now
Choreography: Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room
Film: The Russian Arc
Play: Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children
Quote: “Blessed Unrest” by Martha Graham

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

My mother and Viola Davis.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

If I have a legacy I would like it to be for helping children find the way into their personalities and interests, whatever leads them to embrace, cultivate and celebrate their true selves.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Enigmatic.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Ice cream and peanut butter straight from their containers with the same spoon.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Embrace the doubts.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

By the water.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Embodying joy, appreciating fulfillment, facing challenges, helping others.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Waking up with something to look forward to.

Q: Final Thoughts?

These days, in a world run by social media profiles and corporate outlets, it has become too easy to pretend you are engaging engaging socially by engaging anonymously. The pressure of accountability should be contended with, because without it, the truth becomes unclear and it becomes too easy to speak without knowing; too easy to identify oneself without personalized context, and that creates a false sense of connection and community. In this age of convenience, I hope the arts can remind us of the importance of personal identity, even if it’s the actor’s expressing themselves in the guise of an “other.” It is in this public engagement that we are reminded of what humanity really looks and sounds like, and more importantly, what it feels like, and what it is capable of in a collective environment.

Fast Forward Friday with Bronwyn Berry

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning producer Bronwyn Berry who relocated to New York from Johannesburg three years ago. She is currently working on the docu-reality series Durban Beach Rescue for the Travel Channel and the kids’ show Wonderama for national syndication. To learn more about Bronwyn go to http://rubyrocket.tv/

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

I’m in the final days of post production on season two of the docu-reality show Durban Beach Rescue for the Travel Channel International. This show is the real life Baywatch! It was shot in Durban, South Africa in December 2016 —  the show is located 100% on a beach — which means I get to spend five weeks in the African sunshine while NYC freezes over. But there’s a catch — we work 12 hour days, seven days a week over Christmas and New Year’s so there’s little time for family festivities and New Year’s celebrations. Season one just won the Simon Sabela Award for Best Documentary series — so grateful to the team who made this show as good as it is.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

Firstly, an emotional connection — My family is from Durban and I was born there.  And then, the story world, the phenomenon that
is Durban during the holiday season is what appealed to me. It’s a 
character-driven show following a team of elite lifeguards who deal with massive crowds, dramatic sea rescues, shark attacks, strange ocean rituals, missing people, lost children … Special mention in season two goes to lifeguards Sue and Tammy who had the challenging task of working in a “male-only” profession, going up against notions of what a female lifeguard should be and came out shining and smiling.
  

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Showrunners inspire me — Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black) created a self-generating story world that remains fresh every season. Hope there’s a big pay-off for the sacrifice of beloved Poussey in S4. Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner (Girls). Ann Biderman (Ray Donovan) and Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers).

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

Knowing people are watching my work — the main reason for going into television. I produced long running soaps in South Africa and was obsessed with daily audience ratings, tracking responses to storylines and characters. The quarterly audience focus groups were thrilling — I would avidly watch the audience through one-way glass as they passionately discussed the characters and storylines. These findings were analyzed in the writers room, and we generated storylines and character arcs from there. It made me realize the impact TV has on an audience, how it shapes people’s opinions and how they view their world. It’s a powerful medium, to be used responsibility.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I’m working with Lisa D’Apolito on the Gilda Radner documentary LOVE Gilda, a partnership which came about as a result of Joanne’s
career development workshop. Thanks, Joanne, for being instrumental in 
forging new and flourishing working relationships. I’m in production on the next season of
Wonderama, a reboot of the kids’ shows that many New Yorkers watched in​ the 1960’s & ’70s. I have several projects in development, difficult to talk about until green light, but hopefully will be working on a beach again soon.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

When I know people are watching my shows and discussing them on social media. 

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Producing my next drama series — there’s one in development, watch this space.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Though I have had 15 years in South Africa as a producer then executive producer-showrunner on scripted and unscripted shows, relocating to the U.S. was in some ways like starting over in terms of making contacts and building a new network. After three years I am now at a point where I’m making inroads into the industry, thanks in part to the support of the PGA (Producers Guild) and NYWIFT.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

Running. Long distance walking. Being in nature.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

My high heels!

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

The mesmerizing architecture of NYC.  Follow me on Instagram at rubyrocket100!

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Nelson Mandela. Leaders of today could learn a lot from him.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Making shows that inspire and entertain.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Sunny.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Trawling consignment stores.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Go live in New York today!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I love living in Brooklyn, even walking to the subway in the morning fills me with joy. However, I would like to live near the ocean someday.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Identifying and then accomplishing your dreams.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Being with the people I love.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Thank you to all the people I have met over the last three years who have supported and encouraged me on this journey in a new land. You are greatly valued and appreciated!
 

Fast Forward Friday with Jaclyn Bethany

Photo by lauren Maccabee

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-director-producer-actor Jaclyn Bethany. She has 19 film credits to her name, and with her company BKE has produced nine short films, including Olivia Martha Ilse starring James Frain and Emmy Award winner Tammy Blanchard; the award-winning Between Departures and its follow up In:Transit; Sunday Tide; and Schoolgirls, to name a few. Her work has screened at festivals and venues worldwide. As an actor she has appeared in the films Trumbo, I Saw The Light, Miles and several festival favorite short films.

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

As a filmmaker, I am working on my first feature Indigo Valley. I am currently fundraising for it and I am shooting a short promo version of it in July. It’s an amazing team made up of really amazing women in the principal roles. It is a psychological relationship drama following Isabella, a washed up actress and what happens when she unexpectedly joins her uptight sister Louise and her new husband John on their honeymoon in Iceland. That may sound comical, but it’s actually very dark.

Acting wise, I am in a film Miles, which was recently released in the States. I just wrapped a run of a play, A Bright Room Called Day written by Tony Kushner and directed by my friend, the talented C.C.Kellogg with American company Invulnerable Nothings.

As a writer/director, I’m working on two additional projects: my American Film Institute Thesis Film entitled The Delta Girl which is set in 1960s Mississippi and an experimental short called The Last Birthday inspired by the last day of the Romanov sisters.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

For Indigo Valley, I think it combines much of who I am and my trajectory as a filmmaker and storyteller. Which is interesting because I am not really anything like the protagonist, but I am drawn to complex characters and dark material, I suppose it let’s me explore a different side of things. The cast is small; there are three characters and with the two women, I really wanted to write two complicated women.

If anything, it’s inspired by classic theatre, actually: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams and Miss Julie by August Strindberg. It also touches on an illness I had a few years ago that one of the characters experiences and I wanted to explore that in film. The stakes are very high, and these three people have to deal with their problems head on, which in turn questions their own lives in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness. It’s an edgy, sexy psychological thriller, set in a beautiful landscape.

It is a modern story but it’s a bit of a timeless story as shown by the previous mentioned text. It also encompasses the work of a team of people I have admired and worked with over the past two years, and those collaborations mainly came out of my year at the London Film School. This is my first feature and it is the script that many of the people I trust have responded most enthusiastically to.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Cate Blanchett, Sofia Coppola and Jane Campion.

Cate Blanchett because she’s fearless and ran a theatre company. She is able to switch between Academy Award winning performances, experimental artistic roles and theatre seamlessly.

Sofia Coppola because I love her aesthetic. She pretty much does what she wants and has found a great group of collaborators who support that vision. It was so cool that she won Cannes this year! I can’t wait to see The Beguiled.

Jane Campion because a lot of people mentioned her work to me for a long time but I wasn’t as familiar with her. Then I watched Top of the Lake and The Piano and became obsessed. Top of The Lake is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life. So unexpectedly dark, such a brilliant female protagonist, and Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter’s performances – wow! I can’t wait to see season two.

Three other actresses/artists:: Nicole Kidman because she is having a glorious comeback at 49 and vowed to work with female directors; Keira Knightley because I think she has a beautiful elegance and will see her in anything; and Kirsten Dunst because she has been able to sustain her career from childhood and takes interesting roles. I can’t wait to see her adaptation of  The Bell Jar.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

My friends. I am lucky to have found not just some amazing girl – and guy friends! – but a wonderful group of collaborators. My friends are writers, theatremakers, filmmakers who I think challenge the world we are in at the moment.

I also feel right now that I am working on projects that I want to be working on, I am creatively fulfilled and challenged by each one of them.

I love traveling, reading, seeing films and theatre.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I always have so many ideas that are in different stages of development at one time and some are just sitting in my head right now. Haha!

I have avoided making films set in the South ever since my first film, so for my AFI thesis I am excited to return to my roots.

I am planning to do more theatre, I’m directing a play reading of Anna Karenina by Helen Edmundson later this month.

I’d eventually like to turn my short film Sunday Tide into a feature and shoot it very low budget in Florida. It’s so bizarre and magical. I also want to write something more suspenseful – something set in Ivy League New England/the South of France, inspired by Talented Mr. Ripley and The Secret History. I also have an idea surrounding a female detective and the story of a missing girl in 1979 after the great flood in Jackson, Mississippi. That was such an interesting time politically as well. I think that could make a cool series.

I am currently pursuing the rights of a novel that I think would be my second feature, but don’t want to spill the beans on that one yet!

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

I think being surrounded by people that believe in me and help create work. You don’t always start out working with those people immediately. It takes some time to figure out. But I’m lucky to be finding and collaborating with those people. I’ve been told all my work has a certain look to it – I’ve been told you can tell I directed it. I’m not sure of words I would use to describe my work but I think it’s kind of vintage and nostalgic. I hope it makes people feel something.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Working with directors I admire – whether acting in their projects or assisting them. It would be a dream to work with Sofia Coppola or Jane Campion! And there are so many more! Or act alongside some amazing ladies in different, diverse projects. I hope my first three big projects would get funded! Haha! I also want to be on Broadway. In anything. I’d happily just walk across the stage or be a tree.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

I often feel frustrated because professionally I sometimes feel I am not where I want to be. That may sound crazy because obviously I am very lucky. I originally just wanted to be an actor. I started exploring different areas of the industry because I wasn’t booking the acting jobs I wanted and didn’t want to go to cattle calls. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the ultimate obstacle to my vision but it would be great to be able to continue to act and lift my career in that direction through filmmaking and working with various likeminded collaborators. You can’t do this alone, and I have great support and I hope that network will grow. Being just an actor is hard. I admire those who stick with just acting, and don’t try to be crazy multi-hyphenates like me (haha!) Now, I refuse to give up acting to solely direct. So much of what I do comes from a performance background. People always ask me which aspect I prefer, I don’t know why I necessarily have to prefer on thing; if you can do both and trust yourself, acting and directing for film really go together. You learn so much behind or in front of the camera in various circumstances.

I think I was met with a lot of judgement when I started directing. That I was too shy or just an actress and why did I think I could direct? Or people assume I am selfish or narcissistic because I sometimes act in my own films. When I acted in my first short film Between Departures it was pretty much on a whim, I understood the character because I guess she’s based on me and I was like hey, I am acting and directing! Fun! I didn’t even know what a shot list was but I somehow managed the people I was working with to trust me and that film is still playing festivals and got me into AFI so I figured I must be doing something right.

Of course, I am drawn to the characters I write. I am not turned off by people who criticize or dislike my work because hey, that’s great and their opinion. As an artist you want people to have reactions and there is obviously enough people responding and connecting with my films to keep making them.

I think another challenge we face today is sort of the perception of women in film. I am not really interested in labelling myself in terms of feminism or female sexuality and it seems like in this day and age especially with art there is a pressure to do so. That it will somehow help your work. Maybe it does. It’s true that women are minority filmmakers. I found it interesting coming across this topic when I was working on the debut issue of Constellation Magazine. Many women were really sick of talking about it. People sometimes mention that my films seem feminine or point out that I worked with an all female team or cast and this somehow seems really significant, that it make sense for me. But I’m not sure what that means, and really find that kind of collaboration between women (and men) happens organically. I don’t prefer working with one gender or another.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I like to spend time alone and reflect. I am an only child and I often go places by myself – I love to eat and go to the cinema alone. I guess this may seem weird to people but I grew up playing alone with my dolls and imaginary friend. So I’m used to it and in this industry you are constantly surrounded by people.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

I’m pretty resilient. Not a lot of things hold me back. I think when I graduated college I was young and confused so for about 2-3 years I didn’t really pursue much when I graduated. I wish I didn’t have fear then. But that changed pretty quickly.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

That’s a hard one. Nothing specific comes to mind but my favorite play
of all time is A Streetcar Named Desire.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Elizabeth I. She led a country and shaped a nation in her vision when basically everyone told her she couldn’t. She broke all barriers and is now remembered as one of the most important women in history.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

That’s hard! Acting, I think. But I hope to create a film with Indigo Valley that presents a new voice in filmmaking. I’m still going on that journey.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Determined. But can I have two? Kind. I really hope I am kind.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I read tons of magazines! From high end fashion magazines to trashy weekly ones. It annoys my friends and family because I collect them wherever I go.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

It will all be okay. Fifteen years ago, I was 13 – what a terrible age!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

London! I love the European approach to life and filmmaking. I love the culture and theatre in London. It’s amazing that Europe is right on your doorstop. Being an artist and making a living is still hard, but I find it’s just much more feasible and acceptable in the U.K.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Feeling happy. Being surrounded by friends and family. Performing consistently and inspiring myself and others.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Sitting at home in Mississippi with my dogs and doing nothing. This rarely happens but I like to think I carry that happiness on!

Q: Final Thoughts?

Do what you love! Life is too short.

 

Fast Forward Friday with Claire R. McDougall

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer Claire R. McDougall. She is a native of Scotland, graduated from Oxford University and lives now in Aspen, Colorado where she raised her family. After an early start as a newspaper columnist, her career in creative writing moved through the genres of poetry and short stories to settle on Scottish novels with an historical bent.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I have just finished book three in a trilogy, the first of which, Veil Of Time, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

When I wrote the first in this series, I had no idea I would take the story any further.  My impetus for that book was just to set a story in this magical place in Scotland where I grew up and where the kings of Scotland were once crowned in the very early Middle Ages. I didn’t want to write strict historical fiction, so I decided to write a time travel story.  In the first book, without really planning it, I was already beginning to raise a question about what the pagan world lost when Christianity took over.  But I hadn’t said enough: in the second and third books, I go deep into the question, and, in fact, imagine an alternate present with no Christian history.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

On the wall of my office hang three portraits: Emily Bronte, DH Lawrence and Friedrich Nietzsche. All of them have had a profound effect on me.  I am also an ardent fan of John Steinbeck.  The Scottish author Lewis Grassic Gibbon sowed the seed in me that it was possible to present the real lives of Scotland’s people to the world in a literary way.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

I have been writing stories for eons now and only in the last decade have I had a literary agent to my name. Writing, as all the arts, is a tough business with mazes and gatekeepers along the way. Progress often happens at a snail’s pace. So, no clever lines or dreams of fame and fortune will really sustain you through the long haul. I suppose I have had since childhood a sense that I would make it in the end. That’s not something I wake up in the morning and tell myself, but it probably explains why I have kept on going despite the odds. And then, of course, too, like Martin Luther, the bottom line is: Here I stand. I can do no other.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

Since I have been writing for so long, I have a big backlog of books that haven’t seen the light of day yet. My agent wasn’t able to sell my first novel,  the one he picked me up for.  It’s the dearest one to my heart and tracks a young girl’s journey from her rural Scottish home to Oxford University, so a bit more biographical than most of my books. Among others, I have a “family” novel about a wild mustang. So, the stories are all over the map theme-wise, but most are centered in Scotland. Trying to get a foot up on the entertainment industry, I have also written all the screenplays for the stories.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

I suppose I feel like I’m on the right track when I  see all around me support for the idea that we need to take a serious look at where we came from. Even my biographical novel is questioning societal norms, the veneration of the life of the head over the heart, in that case.  And then as I witness the decline of  Christianity even in my lifetime, I feel people are looking for something to fulfill their spiritual yearnings. It was always in my nature to poke sticks into things and see if they could withstand the probe.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

All my books would be on book shop shelves. All the movies of my stories would have been made.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

With my background in academia, it took years to find my literary voice and time, too, to understand what makes for readable prose.  The industry is geared to fashionable trends and edgy writers, who often don’t have a lasting voice or anything real to say.  I had to try for years to get an agent, so the whole process has been an exercise in patience, not a quality that I have in huge amounts.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I keep a quote by DH Lawrence in my office that says: In the end, the soul is alone, brooding on the face of the uncreated flux, as a bird on a dark sea.  It’s a rather grandiose thought, but the truth is that as creative people, in the end we are alone with ourselves You can go to as many writers’ conferences and writers’ groups as you can fit in, and you can bask for a while in the celebrity of having a book published, but the reality for any creative person is the creative moment, which is a solitary place.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

I think it would be the tendency to think that everything is going to be solved once all my books are out there and all my films have been made. It would certainly solve some financial problems but not any issues I have with myself.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I have two watercolours by Jennifer MacLean on my living room wall.  They are of crofts and tumble-down walls within a Scottish landscape, and they make me whistful and full of longing for Scotland.  So, they’re doing their job as art.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

I’m not sure “admire” is the word, but there are definitely people, dead people as it turns out, that I have pulled in alongside.  I suppose they are people like Nietzsche and Lawrence who had something important to say about our lives but had to overcome huge resistance to get that vision out.  In the end they were true to their sense of things and that was their strength.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

I would like to be known as a good writer who had something important to say about western civilisation.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Passionate. (I’m a Scorpio – it’s kind of written in!)

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I would say chocolate, but it’s not that guilty. I have given myself permission to read silly glossy magazines when I go to the hairdresser.  I feel guilty, but every few weeks, it’s okay to do it.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Be patient! This is going to take a while.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

In a house by the sea in Argyll, Scotland.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Well, I am enough of a child of my age to think that having sufficient financial resources would count. But the real measure, I think, would be that I have said what I have to say and started up some kind of  cultural discourse that leads to real change.  

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness is fleeting, of course, but I’ll tell  you one fantasy of happiness I entertain, which is to have enough money to pay for my children and significant others to come and spend a week or so in a house right on the ocean. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Q: Final Thoughts?

The creative life is tough because you are in this constant tug-of-war between your creative vision and the needs of the market. It’s not for the faint of heart and not to be undertaken lightly. But then the creative life is truly not one you choose, but something that is born out of who you are.  

 

Fast Forward Friday with Lisa D’Apolito

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed director-producer and documentarian Lisa D’Apolito. She started her career as an actor with parts in films including Goodfellas. When she started working at an ad agency as a producer she realized she loved being behind the camera instead of being in front of it. As producer-director of  3Faces Films, in addition to her passion projects, Lisa works with corporate clients but also believes in giving back to non-profits. She continues to direct and produce for Gilda’s Club, Planned Parenthood, GVYC and Surfer Environmental Alliance. Her current passion project is LOVE Gilda a new documentary about comedienne Gilda Radner.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

My documentary film LOVE Gilda – The Eternal Spirit of Gilda Radner. In her own words, comedienne Gilda Radner looks back and reflects on her life and career. It weaves together recently discovered audiotapes; interviews with her friends – Lorne Michaels, Martin Short, Laraine Newman; rare home movies shot by Gene Wilder and friends; and diaries read by modern day comediennes inspired by Gilda – Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Cecily Strong. LOVE Gilda offers a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of a beloved performer whose greatest role was sharing her story.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

The idea for LOVE Gilda came out of Joanne’s creative group.  I had been doing pro bono videos for Gilda’s Club, a support place for people and their families living with cancer, and realized the deep connection people had with Gilda Radner.  She has a very unique legacy as she lives on in the world of comedy but also in the world of cancer.  

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

When I was an actress, I was lucky to have the opportunity to be directed by Martin Scorsese.  He was so nice, so calm, funny and yet really knew what he wanted from a scene.  He made it seem so easy and comfortable. I have seen so many people stress over production but being on the set is really the best part of a film for me.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

I grew up in Greenwich Village in very creative times. As I kid I was always around creative people.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

 I also have a funny screenplay that Gilda Radner wrote.  I hope to start working on producing it next.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

I think when I was interviewing Amy Poehler.  We were having a conversation about Gilda and her writings.  I had so much fun with her and Maya, Bill, Cecily and Melissa.  And it is all on film!

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Living in a beautiful space overlooking the ocean.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Though I have 20 years in directing and production, this is my first feature documentary.  I have come across many people who say, “you are a first time  filmmaker and no, this is how it is done.”   I was listening but now I realize that there is no “this is how it is done.”   A creative process and choices are unique, and do not always fit into someone else’s box.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I have great creative friends to talk with, I go a lot of museums and I walk in the park.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Listening to others who may have their own interests.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?  

There are so many.  I love Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage at the Met.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Gilda Radner!

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

 I followed my dreams.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Sensitive.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Wanting it to rain on days I have nowhere to go.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

You did it! You achieved your dreams.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

By the ocean.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Not worrying about finances and having security to do some fun things.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Being by or in the ocean.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Thanks Joanne for your great sessions and advice as I start making some major decisions about my final partners in completing LOVE Gilda.

 

 

Fast Forward Friday with Jennifer Snowdon

snowdenFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed makeup artist Jennifer Snowdon. Her work includes film,features and shorts, television, commercials, theater, reality shows, documentaries, corporate videos, private consulting and workshops. She has award winning directors and celebrities as her clients. For more information, visit www.jennifersnowdon.com.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I have been busy rebranding myself to set up more opportunity teaching makeup for actors, individuals and groups; as well as preparing for the second shoot for WonderamaTV this summer.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

I love sharing my expertise and finding others’ experiences opened by it, whether for a role or for their life. Wonderama is a great concept variety show that inspires young people to find their gifts.  It is true to my purpose of bringing meaning in what I do.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

My grandmother Doris Snowdon – painter and my first mentor who taught me color theory in her row boat and how to sew for my dolls at 8 years old. My Barbies never dated, they designed!!

Georgia O’Keefe – “Make it so big that everyone will have to notice it!”

Dr. Kenneth G. Mills – when I was ready a teacher … the Universal message
.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist? 

Working with kindred spirits on their passion projects in a supportive role. This inspires me to never give up on my own! Perfect example was the film No Pay, No Nudity with Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Frances Conroy, Boyd Gaines, Donna Murphy and more …

 It just topped me up with inspiration working with Lee Wilkof on his directorial debut. Check it out on Amazon, itunes and Starz.

 Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I’ve started writing my first book/screenplay based on a true story you’ll never believe. I have a children’s story to publish that is already illustrated, Imagine That.  And an animation to collaborate on, Wake up the Questions,a poem in my own voice! A Dr. Suess-esque poem with a Mother Earth voice.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

When I have recited Wake up the Questions and the listener is stunned at where it took them. It’s for the young of all ages.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

 Working on all of the above and getting them out to the world.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

 Figuring out how to sustain myself with enough time and quiet energy left to just do the work.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

Attend live performances, work on others films and projects, watch other’s works, cheer us all on.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

 Thinking that I have to do it all myself first to prove I’m worthy of receiving support.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

 I love Eskimo line drawings. I was once given an art assignment by Dr. Mills to capture a walrus and a dolphin with five lines each.  It changed my entire life. Essence 101.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Dr. Kenneth G. Mills – always dared to make the impossible possible.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be? 

Since I was a child I was driven by a calling to do something important. That comes in many guises and it guided my choices in life that were not always understood by parents and others. I really feel my writing would fulfill that call from my own essence.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Persistent.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I love HGTV shows! Especially Fixer Upper. I wanted to be an architect/interior designer when young and I love makeovers for people for the same reason. I just love people and problem solving with art.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Do it now! Ask for help somehow!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

 Somewhere in the woods communing with Nature but accessible to city life and travel.

Q: What is your idea of success?

To be a part of something that is meaningful to others. Any form of the “make a difference” life that opens a new experience or broader horizon for someone.

Q; What is your idea of happiness?

Daring myself to go beyond what I think I’m capable of and accomplishing it. The only legit way to self-esteem that I know of.

Q: Final Thoughts?

 Makeituptrue! Dare to be your unique self, express your unique gifts. They are needed more than you know and are part of the Essential puzzle of Being .

 

Fast Forward Friday with Danijela Stajnfeld

Danijela HeadshotFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-director-producer Danijela Stajnfeld. After earning her MFA from the Academy of Film and Theater at the University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia, Danijela achieved critical and commercial acclaim in film, television and theater in her country. The Hole, her directorial debut, premiered at The New Filmmakers Film Festival NY 2016 and has been presented at Women Behind the Camera screening series in Los Angeles. Hold Me Right is an especially important project for Danijela, as she draws on her personal experiences and activism to create this documentary film, with the hope of inspiring social change. For more information, visit http://www.holdmerightfilm.com/

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

I am currently working on a documentary, Hold Me Right, which explores the aftermath of sexual assault through interviews with all of those who are affected by these crimes. This includes survivors, perpetrators and the wrongfully accused. The production is currently in the final stages of principal photography and we are preparing to work on a promotional crowd-funding campaign in order to begin post-production.

We have also recently partnered up with Glam4Good, an amazing organization that uses style and fashion to promote positivity and inspire positive self-esteem. I’m very excited about future collaborations between Glam4Good and Hold Me Right.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

After experiencing the effects of sexual assault firsthand, I was able to understand the complicated aftermath of the initial crime. I understand both the trauma of the initial crime and the second trauma faced when forced to be judged and silenced by a culture that does not provide support to its survivors. This second traumatization is an often ignored narrative and one that I believe can and will be heard through the final product of this film.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Lauren Greenfield, the director of Princess of Versaille, certainly inspires me and my work on this documentary. Kitty Green, the director of Ukraine Is Not A Brothel, has also influenced my work, significantly.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

The motivation behind my artistic endeavors is my constant desire to create and tell stories, through multiple outlets. I am both an actress and a filmmaker because I need to be, it is my passion.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I’m currently developing a mockumentary called Stasya, which is a comedic take on an Eastern European woman who has just moved to America and dreams of becoming the most desirable trophy wife.

I’m also developing Public Service Asses, an Instagram movement with sexist images accompanied by anti-sexist statements.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

It was a personal experience that inspired me to make this film. So, of course, I came into this with my own perspective. However, over time, I have been able to take a step back and develop an outlook that goes beyond my personal experience. I think that this is a sign that I am living in my vision, in this film, rather than in my own head.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

To my understanding, there are no unbreakable barriers when one has a true calling and I believe this is mine.

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

I always feel that there are not enough hours in a day.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

 Creating comes naturally to me because it is what I love to do and, because of that, I am always connected to my creative self. In fact, I am often overwhelmed by the number of projects I want to take on.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

I wish that I could let go of my tendency to be impatient. I want things to be completed immediately and, when they take too long, I sometimes get frustrated with the project – and myself.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

It’s very hard to answer that question. There are so many creations that I draw from and am inspired by. My answer changes with the moment. Right now, the work of Sally Mann comes to mind. I particularly love her piece At Twelve.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Oscar Wilde.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

I had a chance to be celebrated and recognized as an actress, back home in Serbia. I didn’t find anything appealing about it. Thinking about how my work is received is not something that I consider.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Mirror.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Coffee and cigarettes.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Dear Danijela,

Your parents fears are not yours to be fearful of.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

New York City. It was my home before it was my home.

Q: What is your idea of success?

The moment that you succeed is the moment you are done. Success, to me, exists to reveal and inspire new challenges.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

“If you pursue happiness, you are an ordinary person. If happiness pursues you, you are an extraordinary person. Do not chase happiness; let it chase you.” Petar Dunov.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Don’t take things too seriously.

 

Fast Forward Friday with Phil Augusta Jackson

Phil_Augusta_JacksonFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed the multi-talented actor-writer-musician-comedian Phil Augusta Jackson. His writing credits include Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, Survivor’s Remorse on the Starz Network, and Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He’s received Emmy, WGA, and NAACP award nominations for his contributions on Key & Peele.  Phil was selected as a performer at the 2015 New Faces Characters Showcase at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. For more information about Phil, visit http://philaugustajackson.com/about/.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I am currently writing for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a television series on the Fox network. I’m a co-producer on the show. It’s a cop workplace comedy starring a diverse and fantastic cast that includes Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, Stephanie Beatriz, Joel McKinnon Miller and Dirk Blocker. My job includes ideating new episodes, writing and re-writing scripts, and consulting on set as the episodes are filmed. 

As far as personal projects go, I just finished a short film called Long Lost, which I co-wrote and co-starred in with my friend and collaborator Aaron Covington. I also make music  – hip-hop with elements of R&B and spoken word – , and I just finished work on a new EP called New Palm Tree that I will be releasing in April. I’ve collaborated with director, Nic Stanch, and DP, Carlos Medina, to create two music videos to visually complement this EP as well.  

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

As far as Brooklyn Nine-Nine goes, I had always been a fan of the show. I moved out to Los Angeles from NYC at the end of 2013 to write for the sketch show Key & Peele and after wrapping that show wanted to get more narrative experience. I worked on a great show on the Starz network called Survivor’s Remorse which gave me my first professional taste of crafting narrative and after working on that show was fortunate enough to get an interview and land the job on Brooklyn Nine-Nine – I’ve written on season three and four of the show. 

As far as the personal projects go, I’m always looking to create work of my own to keep refining my voice. Also, at a basic level there is something very satisfying to me about finishing projects. Long Lost is an idea that came about while I was out at dinner with my friend Aaron. The movie Creed had just come out, and he co-wrote it. I was in the midst of working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and we both felt like it would be cool to work on something together. We came up with an idea that night about the idea of two brothers meeting for the first time on a park bench. We wrote it over the course of a few months, and self-funded the project with no real goal but to create something and see it through to completion. 

And when it comes to the music, it’s something that I’ve been doing since I was in high school. It’s like my therapy. There is something so unique, challenging and rewarding about writing and creating music. I create music in waves, usually after or in the midst of life-changes. This new ep is pretty much inspired by my transition into Los Angeles, where I’ve been living the past three years. It’s five songs and I’m really excited for people to take a listen to it. 

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key – they are both geniuses and I was a huge fan of them both before getting hired to write on season four and five of their show. They are masters at collaboration, brilliant writers and performers, and all around good dudes. They also both have aspirations outside of comedy, and it’s fascinating and inspiring to see them both transcend the comedy genre that popularized them with such fluidity and ease. 

Basquiat – I love his art, and the documentary Radiant Child is amazing.

Rene Magritte – I love his art. I released a music album called False Mirrors several years ago and the idea for that album hit me when I saw Magritte’s False Mirror painting at the MoMa. It really spoke to me in a way art never had before.  

My parents – we are a product of our upbringing and my parents always encouraged me to think for myself and get stuff done. 

Anne Hathaway – she’s a great actress and I want to be a great actor. 

Jill Scott – I love her music. It’s so Philadelphia, and that’s where I’m from. She’s got her own flare and style and is so talented; musically she’s a genius. 

Kanye West — too much to get into, but I think Kanye is great. 

Ava Duvernay – she’s a trailblazer, and I hope to direct someday. 

Denzel Washington – he’s an icon. 

Edward Albee – The Zoo Story is one of my favorites — I read it as I was starting to realize that I really wanted to be a writer.  

There’s more, but those are the names off the top of my head. I will almost certainly regret some names that I can’t think of right now. 

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

I’m a huge fan of dialogue. Crafting scripts where the conversations feel real is something that I love to do – whether it be comedy or something more dramatic, I’m really drawn to things that feel like I could actually see happening, or see myself or someone else saying and experiencing. So that being said, listening to other people and their stories also keeps me motivated and inspired. And that is true whether it be a sketch, a pilot, a feature, making music or performing improv. 

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I have an indie feature that I wrote called Seven Days. My appetite for writing features has been growing steadily and I’m excited about the potential in this project. I’m sure there will be a lot of rewriting moving forward but it feels good to have a draft. 

I also started an improv collective called The Colin Kaepernicks. I’ve been studying improv for years and found am amazing group of people who are down to experiment with improv and what it can be. We often have sets that have a lot of tears followed by a lot of laughter – it’s cool playing with a comedic art form and inserting some drama into it while still delivering laughs when it feels right.  

Q:  What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

My first day writing for Key & Peele. Keegan came up to me and gave me a big hug. Jordan came over and gave me a high-five. And then 10 minutes later I pitched my first two ideas as a writer on the show. That moment still feels surreal and for me was a real moment of – “This is the very thing that I’ve been working towards. Now let’s not mess it up.” 

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Getting my supremely talented friends work. 

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

When it comes to writing, reminding myself to judge the draft and not judge the process. I can overthink things sometimes but it’s better to overthink once you have something to revise, so I try to stay out of my head while I’m writing, but it’s a challenge. 

When it comes to acting, I think the brutal process of auditioning. I’ve been performing for years, but there’s something about that audition room that I have yet to master. I’m working to get better all-around as an actor.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

Taking trips to places I’ve never been before, and shaking up the “routine” in general keeps me connected to my creative self. I’m heading to Spain in a few weeks to vacation and to clear my head and experience culture like I never have. I’m pretty sure I will return with some creative ideas. 

I also take long walks – about five miles a day, sometimes more. I get a lot of ideas on these walks. It’s therapeutic and gives me time to think about an idea or just let my mind wander. 

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be? 

Self-doubt as an actor. Letting go of the unhealthy perspective that I wasn’t good enough for a role instead of the role just not being right. 

Also, not just telling myself what I want creatively but letting it be known to other people, including people that can actually assist in making it happen: i.e. sharing my vision. It feels crazy sometimes telling people what you think you’re capable of and I’m trying to get better about just letting it out without feeling odd about it. 

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

New York City.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Two people, Joseph and Oona Jackson, my parents. 

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Being a dope artist. 

Q:  If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Listener. 

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

The pumpkin loaf at Starbucks.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Don’t regret not going to law school, it will be one of the best decisions you ever make. 

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Fall and Spring in NYC. Winter and Summer in LA. 

Q: What is your idea of success?

Waking up and being happy. 

Q: Final Thoughts?

Thank you for your time. 

Fast Forward Friday with Minji Kang

Minji Kang Director JPGFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning South Korean born American film director Minji Kang, who is based in Los Angeles. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with a focus on Film Art and Aesthetics. She continued her artistic development at Columbia University, where she received her MFA in Film Directing. While attending Columbia, she dedicated herself to the craft of writing and to understanding what it means to create. She is a recipient of the SAIC Enrichment scholarship as well as the Columbia TOMS scholarship. For more information about Minji go to www.minjikang.com

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I am currently in the process of completing a feature screenplay, Illicit, with my co-writer Luke Spears, with whom I studied in Columbia University’s MFA film program. I believe that in order to start a career as a director, the genuine story and one’s own vision must come first before directing anyone else’s story. Illicit scrutinizes the complexities and terrors of adolescence and growing up in an allegorical fictional world.

The film is about Jake, a struggling musician who has recently moved into a gated apartment complex – and Mona, a young blind resident.  Jake and Mona’s worlds literally collide and Jake feels compelled to help Mona escape her dark restrictive environment, which is governed by her intimidating brother.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

I have been a fan of fairy tales ever since I was a child. Although works of fiction, fairy tales often tell powerful life lessons and warn us that the world is not all filled with brightness. I want to tell an emotionally provoking, socially important stories with images and characters that have symbolic meaning in our own lives. C.S. Lewis said, “Someday you’ll be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Using cinema as the finest tool to create the modern fairy tale, it is my desire to put all my thoughts, experiences, hopes and dreams in new, provocative fantastic stories.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Before coming to Los Angeles, I was an international student for about 15 years.  I have some very dear mentors – or Guardian Angels as I call them – who have helped me to find my voice as an artist and filmmaker.  Their priceless words of wisdom always seem to come to me in a moment of need.

Plus, here are the film directors I admire: Ingmar Bergman, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Stanley Kubrick.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

Learning music from a young age always helped me trust my own instinct and follow what I truly feel rather than think logically and try to construct a story in a cerebral way. Classical music is a mysterious puzzle of pieces filled with unknown configurations that sparks my curiosity.

When I hear music it provokes images and when I watch a film or scene, I can hear the music that would accompany it.  Both music and vision create an emotion that feeds the other. Whatever we create, be it music, film or even poetry, we open a conversation with others and society.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

My latest film, The Loyalist, will be widely released via online platform later this month and the film is currently available on Hulu (NBCUniversal short fest channel).

The Loyalist is about a father and daughter who, because of their North Korean nationality, do not have the choices that most of us do in more democratic societies. The film opens on a North Korean General picking up his daughter at her Swiss boarding school for a spontaneous weekend getaway. Following up on reports of her contact with Western diplomats, the General sets out to test his daughter’s loyalty to her Motherland and bring her home. The General finds his deep paternal love for his daughter ultimately defeated by his blind loyalty to the totalitarian regime that formed him. He realizes his mistake too late.

The story also depicts a tormented young woman who stands with one foot in the East and the other in the Western world. As I visually constructed this fictional drama, I wanted the camera, as our silent witness, to ask us why these characters live the way they do and to prompt us to wonder what we would do if we were in their shoes. Though we all wished this story had a happy ending, the tragic ending of this short film was carefully decided: it reflects the continuous tragic reality of the Korean peninsula, which, despite deep family ties, remains painfully divided by irreconcilable ideologies.

The opening sequence clip can be seen:

http://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi3084498457?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

One minute hunting scene can be seen: http://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi1593750041?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_2

Q:  What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

Every morning at dawn, I sit down and meditate on my project and write down the ideas that come to me.  This very process brings some exciting revelations.  This excitement and what I live for – and the knowledge that I will one day share these revelations with the world through the completed film.  Filmmaking is indeed a long process where you create a secret that you must keep for months or years, then eventually you get to tell it to the world.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I’d very much like to own a hotel, designed with eco-friendly materials, perhaps in a deep forest or by the waterfall or by the ocean.  I have had the great fortune to travel a lot and have been most productive, inspired and happy when I have stayed in that sort of environment.  I’d like to give others the same experience.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Of course, like most people, the biggest obstacle is myself!  They say Koreans are the Italians of the East – we are very passionate!  Sometimes, that passion leads to frustration. I can be my worst enemy at times.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

Every day I try to keep up with my violin practice and try to take a long walk in the sun. Whenever I can, I also try to go to museums and theaters. I also enjoy conversing with other creative minds, such as filmmakers, artists, musicians and writers.  They often will provokes new thoughts, and differing points of view – I like that.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

The abstract modern artist Wassily Kandinsky comes to mind.  Especially his painting entitled Circles in a Circle (1923). I feel this piece really conveys a profound spirituality and human emotion.  I often look at Kandinsky’s work while listening to JS Bach’s Variations Goldberg. Together they create a perfect wordless prayer.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

There are two European directors who have greatly inspired me: Ingmar Bergman and Krzysztof Kieslowski. I’m fascinated by these filmmaker’s persistent desire to find the meaning of life as they explore the human condition through time, death and eternity.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

It’s a difficult question.  Perhaps the hidden themes I thread through my films. No matter how different my films may seem, in truth they secretly ask the same questions.

Q:  If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Stubborn!  So stubborn!

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I enjoy karaoke all night long with my dear friends.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Like most artists, the surrounding world often discourages a career in the arts.  It took me a while to be confident about my path.  I would assure myself that becoming an artist will be the best decision I would ever make and to follow it passionately.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

By the ocean.  When I first came to America, I spent four years at a boarding school by the sea. It was the ocean nurtured and healed my loneliness and sunshine that kindled my passion.  

Q: What is your idea of success?

True success for me is ability to make a peace with myself and be happy on the path to wherever I may travel to.  I feel that when I was younger I missed out on many precious moments of life, so I no longer want to rush to a destination – wherever or whatever that may be.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Being content in oneself, having the mind filled with inner peace and having the good fortune to make my films.

Q: Final Thoughts?

For the past 17 years I have had the good fortune to have traveled and lived in various places in the world. Now, everywhere feels like home but nowhere feels like home. “Home” is a constant endless search for me – often I see myself trying to find it through or in my works, if that makes any sense.  This experience of Asian, European and American cultures has given me the desire to help tell multicultural stories and share the dichotomy in their philosophies so that each may understand the other.  I also like to tell stories about the power of courage and the importance of standing up for what one believes in.  

Zip Creative Community Looks Ahead to a New Year

We sat down with Zip Creative clients SHARI BERMAN, NAOMI MCDOUGALL JONES, KERSTIN KARLHUBER and ARTHUR VINCIE and asked them what was their proudest accomplishment of 2016 and what were they looking forward to in the year ahead. We hope you enjoy and find inspiration from their responses.

 

Q: What was your proudest accomplishment in 2016?

– Shari Berman  That’s a tough question as 2016 was a crazy ride. I’m proud of helping to get a high school musical up and running and having an impact on the lives of younger people. I’m HighFalls with Nora Brown (Executive Director)proud to have edited a few projects pro bono to help artists without funds and a non-profit trying to do something good in the world. I’m proud to have been an active member of both Film Fatales and the FilmmakeHers – groups where women support each other as we all attempt to navigate the industry and life as an artist. As a filmmaker, I am proud that my second feature film Sugar! won so many festival awards – including directing awards and best narrative feature awards. I’m also proud to have finished my Super 8 film (Woman), the screenplay of my science fiction film Numbers and the first draft of what will possibly be my next feature – Pink Mist . Yay for a year of creating, screening and giving back! 


DRP-TxBS2016-0995web – Naomi McDougall Jones  I’m going to have to give a double answer for 2016 because I can’t choose. In November, I had the great privilege of getting to give a TEDxTalk, The Women in Film Revolution Begins With You. I’m pretty sure that stepping onto that stage was the single most terrifying moment of my life (and I once chased a mountain lion away from my cat with a garden hose), but I am so grateful and proud to have done it. If you fancy having a watch, it’s on YouTube My second, equally proudest thing from last year was that I had the significantly great good fortune to team up with heavy-weight finance women Lois Scott and Sona Wang and my former producing partner, Caitlin Gold, to begin The 51 Fund, a venture capital fund that will finance films written, directed and produced by women. It turns out that putting together a many-million dollar venture capital fund is a heck of a lot of work, but I could not be more pleased to be doing my part to turn the tide on women in film. You can find more information about the fund and sign up to receive a notice when submissions open on our website

 

– Kerstin Karlhuber   There are so many milestones that my film Fair Haven hit in 2016; our world premiere, accompanying it to Canne’s Márche du Film, traveling to screenings around the world, Kerstin Karlhuber with crewand highly successful French and German releases (hitting the #1 bestseller spot on Amazon in each territory in the LGBT category). But the most recent accomplishment that I am extremely proud of was finding out that Fair Haven would have a limited theatrical release in the US. That didn’t seem like a reality for us, and in November, when the release was secured, I couldn’t have been prouder! Fair Haven will officially release in North America in March of this year.

 

 

3TC_Invite– Arthur Vincie  By far the best thing I did in 2016 (professionally) was write, direct, and distribute the first season of Three Trembling Cities.  It’s a fictional, intimate portrait of the inner lives and daily struggles of the immigrants trying to make it in NYC.  The cast and crew did a magnificent job, and I’m very proud of our work together. 

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in 2017?

 

NUMBERS – Shari Berman  I’m looking forward to working my way towards the final version of Pink Mist (on draft two now so only 10 or so more to go), finishing pitch materials for both Pink Mist and Numbers (I think I can, I think I can…) and meeting producers interested in working on films that focus on women’s issues (and want to drink coffee together). I’m hoping it will be a year of collaborating with other artists that I’ve gotten to know over the last few years (who are as insanely driven as I am). I’m also looking forward to continuing to give back, spending time with friends and family and getting some sleep…(maybe). 

 

 

Fear(ful)less Logo – Naomi McDougall Jones   I am certainly looking forward to continuing the work of pulling The 51 Fund into existence. My second feature film, Bite Me, will (god-willing, cough-cough, knock-on-wood) be going into production in April. Films take such a very long time to wrench into existence that finally getting to go to set feels like an especially fantastic Christmas morning. The film (which I wrote, am a producer on and will act in) is a subversive romantic comedy about the real-life subculture of people who believe that they are vampires (yes, real, real) and the IRS agent who audits them. You can find out more on our website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to follow the project. I am also insanely excited and petrified to be branching out into a new medium with the launch this month of my podcast on iTunes, Fear(ful)less: Filmmaking from the Edge, which will be a weekly window into the success, failures and adventures of an independent filmmaker. I will bust the myth of the “overnight success” by pulling back the curtain on my real struggles, real wins and real panic attacks as I make my movies, attempt to crack the nuts and bolts of breaking through, and, ideally, take down the patriarchy in the process. Finally, I’m very much looking forward to trying to bring greater balance into my life and find space for a little more down time, which, reading the above, does seem like possibly a fool’s errand. Happy New Year!

 

 

Kerstin Karlhuber  In 2017 I am looking forward to transitioning the projects I have in development to production. With Fair Haven in good hands and being released to theTension Rise On Mexican Border After Border Patrol Agent Slain Last Week public, I am ready to dedicated myself to what’s next. Jack Bryant (Fair Haven’s screenwriter) and I are developing two features and a limited series. The series is called Our Texas and it deals with the subject of immigration in this country.  It is a modern and fresh take on the issue, taking place in a small, Texas border town. The series explores many sides of this hot-button topic through a diverse set of characters, all of whom are
deeply effected by this issue.

 

unknownArthur Vincie  2017 is looking to be a busy year: We’re in the early stages of planning season two of Three Trembling Cities now.  There’s a bigger, full-sized television show that we’re hoping to get on the rails, The Spectral City.  It’s a supernatural/war show about a small band of refugees who are desperately trying to flee a decades-long civil war, but can only go deeper in, leading them to the Haunted City.  And I co-wrote a drama/thriller, Die Hunter, about a South African poacher-turned-ranger, and the teenage daughter he’s trying to keep from following in his path. we think has a good chance of getting optioned.

Fast Forward Friday with Diane Smook

DianeSmook copyFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award winning photographer and author Diane Smook. For her latest project Love & War: The World War II Letters of Arthur Smook,  she edited her father’s letters (and two of her mother’s) and combined them with photographs and other historical material to create a  record of one of “the greatest generation.” Diane will reading excepts from her book at the Chatham Public Library in Chatham NY on January 28th.  For more information about Diane, click here.

 

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

 

When my mother died, I inherited a box of the letters that my dad wrote to her during WWII. When I read them in order I found two compelling story lines – one of a love moving from buddy type friendship to passion; and another of my dad’s arc from training troops to shipping out to Europe, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge among others, running various German prisoner stockades after the war, and finally returning home to marry. I edited and organized them, was unsuccessful in getting a publisher, and put them aside. Twenty years later I realized that I could publish them myself. I reedited, learned what to do and published the book through Amazon. I got help from a writer friend who made me add footnotes and totally rewrite the introduction. It is sometimes good to take advice. The book is called Love & War: The World War II Letters of Arthur Smook. It includes many photographs and, believe it or not, is a page-turner.

 

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

 

I studied portraiture with Philippe Halsman years ago.  I still follow his principles when I shoot portraits.  When I was younger I shot a lot of headshots for actors as a result of my study with Mr. Halsman.  I studied darkroom printing with George Tice, a master of his craft and a wonderful teacher.  I have printed all but the largest images in my black and white exhibits in my own darkroom.  I love seeing those images emerge from the baths and making them as perfect as I can.

 

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

 

Curiosity. When I see something I want to shoot, I can’t wait to begin and see how the concept develops. The starting point is always just a starting point. I am always curious to see how I will find elements of my work that are not good enough and improve my initial vision.

 

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I am a photographer and I love to make images. When I have an idea for a project I just leap into it. I am interested in the artistic process and am a bit of an opportunist. I worked on a book on the making of the full round statues for the FDR Memorial Park in Washington DC when my friend, sculptor Neil Estern, was working on them. I loved documenting the progression from tiny models to scale models to enlargement and bronze casting. I was struck by the forceful personae emerging out of inert substances and Neil’s interaction with them.

Likewise, through a dancer friend, I got to know the work of dance choreographer Isabel Gotzkowsky. We worked together on a project documenting the collaborative process of creating works for a season of performance.

Both projects are on my website. www.dianesmook.com

My husband and I have a farm in upstate New York. I spent several years photographing dead or dying flowers, like Queen Anne’s Lace. I find the shapes very beautiful. Lately I have become interested in the geometry of fields of hay bales. That is leading me to document the juxtaposition of bales with the evidence of modernization in this historically rural area.

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

 

Family obligations. Easier now, but I always had to earn a living and had day jobs. I borrowed darkrooms on weekends. When I shot the book on the FDR statues I was married, had a job and had a child at home. I had to organize my work on the dining room table and clear it away every evening. It was very difficult but I did it.

 

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

I am persistent. Once I see what I want to achieve in a project, I keep at it, even if it takes a long time to complete. Also persistence in overcoming obstacles. It was a big leap to begin to work digitally. But once I took classes and learned what I needed to process the files and make fine prints, a new world of color photography and the digital printing possibilities was opened up to me.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I am blessed to be both in NYC and upstate New York, where my husband grew up. I love the artistic resources and ease of transportation in the city and the quiet and photographic inspiration I find upstate, where my studio and darkroom are located.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Quiet time upstate with my husband to work and contemplate.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Some of my best work has come out of saying yes to opportunities, even if I was unsure of how well I could rise to the occasion. You never know what will happen the next day. Everything can seem like it is going wrong but you never know how it might turn around tomorrow. I wish I were better at marketing my work, though.

 

 

Fast Forward Friday with Stephanie Yuhas

stephanie-yuhas-photo-by-rachel-trocheFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-filmmaker-performer-producer-activist Stephanie Yuhas. She creates and develops scripted original series for Cinevore Studios. Her debut book  American Goulash was published by BookTrope in November 2014 and won the PNWA Nancy Pearl Award in 2015. She is also the co-founder of Project Twenty1, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that runs programs for emerging filmmakers. For more information about Stephanie, click here.

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

I’m the co-owner of Cinevore Studios, a Philadelphia/NYC company that creates smart comedy and science fiction with my production/life partner Matt Conant. We’re actively pitching original content to networks and partner studios so I’ve been gathering a lot of data about current mandates to find a match. We’re shopping two half-hour comedies – a series about a band of misfits in a high-IQ society, Standard Deviation, and a quirky female-driven sitcom with puppets, Work in Progress. We’re also shopping a handful of animated properties, including a very witty cut-paper sketch series, Victorian Cutout Theatre, a wacky adventure series about a chicken traveling through an interdimensional trade route, Marco Pollo; and a couple of late-night animated series.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

For a long time, our bread and butter was commercial work – industrials, commercials, live events, non-profit mission videos through our umbrella Crystalline Studios. Whenever we had spare time/change, we would write and produce narrative web series, short films and short online stories –  ok, blogs but I hate that word because it implies that we write 100-word click bait articles. I’m too loquacious and hippy-dippy to write those. 

We assumed that all creative people secretly paid for their lives through corporate work and that one would ever support our narrative work at Cinevore – after all, who cares about funny stories from some nerds in Pennsylvania? We’re not famous. We’re not even that good looking. Solid B-. But after several of our original animated series were optioned, we won a bunch of awards, a publisher gave me book deal, and a bunch of our videos went viral and got sponsorships, I finally got some confidence.

Previously, I was afraid to tell people that I was primarily a writer. Somehow, if you have a $100,000 camera in front of you and a name-brand client behind you, folks take you seriously. Tell anyone you’re a writer/producer on the internet and most people assume that’s code for “unemployed.” But for a decade, I’ve been over-employed.

I didn’t realize the difference between being “busy” vs. working towards a major, concrete career goal until Luanne Brown, my good friend and former manager for Booktrope, gifted me some career coaching from PBS’s John Jacobson. He looked at everything I had done and said, “You would make a fantastic life coach or a fantastic TV series creator.” I replied, “But I’m not a life coach!” He replied, “Then why are you acting like one? You either need to start charging people at least $250/hr. for your life and creative coaching. Or you can stop giving away your creative juice and become the creator/showrunner you are destined to be.” A few of my industry friends and mentors echoed his sentiments. Somehow, the combination of prolific people in the industry giving me “permission” to pursue my own goals, combined with the threat of forever being “the helpful-but-trod-upon Gal Friday” was a wakeup call. I’ve been cookin’ with bacon grease ever since.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Tina Fey (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), and Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (Broad City). They all said, “Hey! I have a project! And talent to back it up, b*tches!” I might be paraphrasing here. But these folks had the balls to beat down closed doors so they could make millions of people laugh. I tend to gravitate towards funny and/or innovative creators who seem to be authentic individuals, and they all remind me of people I know in real life. Maybe it’s a Philly/East Coast thing. They reassure me that you don’t have to be born in the womb of Hollywood and be a blond bombshell heiress with a sex tape to make it. Not to disparage any golden goddesses who like to get freaky; you do you, girl. But I dared to be born poor, with no industry connections and brown hair. It’s nice to know that’s it’s not just all nepotism, and there is room for people who have talent, drive and a couple of trusted friends to vouch for them/pull them up when something is just out of reach.

I also have to mention Aziz Ansari, Matt Groening, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Nia Vardalos, Mindy Kaling, Carol Burnett, Julie Klausner, Amy Schumer, Jenji Kohan, Gene Roddenberry, The Wachowskis and The Coen Brothers. I have no idea if all of them are/were nice people. I’m sure someone who reads this will go out of their way to tell me that I’m not allowed to like someone because they are too thin/too fat, too feminist/not feminist enough or make out with goats in their spare time. Humans are imperfect, and I think it’s really dangerous and unfair to hold our heroes to unrealistic standards and then vilify them for not meeting those standards. How many people have you seen on social media write the words, “I hate [insert celebrity name]”? When exactly did that celebrity stop being a human being?

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

I’m always inspired because I make it my business to surround myself with intelligent, hilarious and inspirational people. I put any spare time and money I have towards travel, so I can experience new cultures, landscapes and ideas. I have never experienced writer’s block, but only because I *have to* write everyday. It’s truly a part of my mental health regiment. Actually, I’m writing this aboard the Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas, on the way to Belize. Ahoy!

The problem is, creating the work is not enough for me. I create work to entertain and enlighten. It’s knowing we’ve touched someone – getting the laugh or the gasp or anything. Even hate – at least the person felt something. Otherwise, the work feels like screaming a secret into the void. You think it would be enough to just have it exist, but to me, it serves no purpose. I have to share. Once the art is shared, I can feel euphoria. And to avoid the growing problem of approval addiction – aka “being thirsty”,  I take in feedback only from my trusted colleagues, partners and friends. And then take what I’ve learned to the next project, be it another episode or season of the same project or even a completely different project or company. To me, the message is more important than the medium, which is why I haven’t restricted myself to a specific format.

It’s the cycle of “Creating, Sharing and Learning” that keeps me going. I think this is why I enjoy team writing so much – the energy exchange is much more immediate on collaborative projects when everyone is invested. It’s why I keep going between “I” and “we” in this interview; the work is what it is because it came from the writers’ room. And then it was touched by dozens, if not hundreds of other artists in production and post.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

We are capacity building at the non-profit I co-founded, Project Twenty1. It’s a 501(c)3 on an E.P.I.C. mission to Educate, Promote, Inspire and Connect creatives through film and animation programs. Our community is large enough that we need to hire full-time staff, expand our board of directors, and find a larger studio space to accommodate the needs of our community, volunteers and program managers.

I also just finished my directorial debut on Vessel, a science fiction short I wrote starring an entirely female cast. It’s really a proof-of-concept for a much larger project, but since sci-fi involving a lot of crowds and destroyed cities is prohibitively expensive, I wanted to test the water with a short before I decided if the project has enough legs to become something much larger. So far, we’ve played six festivals and won an award, so fingers crossed that we can find the right partner to scale the project. This seems to be our year of scaling, which is both exciting and terrifying.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

I have always considered myself a storyteller first and foremost. The fact that multiple companies are now seeking us out for our writing work, as opposed to strictly for our production work, is an example that I’m on the right track.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I would be writing a successful primetime series that I created on a major network right now. As opposed to a couple of years from now, ha ha! This is the industry I plan to continue to work in and I will knock down whatever barriers I need to in order to get there.

Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

There has definitely been a financial obstacle. As a first-generation American born to economically disadvantaged Transylvanian immigrants, I did not have the privilege of being able to live in New York City or Los Angeles and “intern for free” for several years, which is still pretty much industry standard. Luckily, that encouraged my entrepreneurial nature and forced me to fly my own freaky flag.

I’ve also been suspicious that some people are taken aback at my tenacity, since I’m a doughy female with Resting Smiley Face. While I have the privilege of being able to speak to pretty much anyone I want without them feeling threatened, it also means that it’s harder for me to have serious conversations about business and financial matters. It’s really exhausting to constantly have to prove myself while my male counterparts can simply show up and people respect their authority. I’m not imagining this; as someone who is married to their production partner but has a different last name, I can literally track the financials. He and I have the same credentials but he’s been offered honorariums to speak while I am expected to volunteer. One of our clients kept failing to CC me in an email chain because he assumed I was the secretary and not the director of a project. When I can, I try to make these teachable moments instead of reasons to become angry. It’s human nature to make snap judgments about people. Heck, talk to any casting agent – it’s their business to identify which people make us feel safe, which make us lusty  and which make us crap our pants. So in this life, people mostly “cast me” as the caterer, which is flattering in a way because I do not have the skills to light a sterno without burning down an entire building. So I just keep swimming, even though I might have to expend a little more energy getting to the place I want to be.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

As I said, travel. Ironically, it’s the time I spend away from screens that best helps me focus on the work I really want to do on screens. I tend to pack my time at home with projects, so I sometimes need a moment alone with my thoughts. “Oh, but stay at home and think!” you say. At home, I have a thousand little fires. The bathroom grout needs scrubbing. My Gmail has 236 unread messages. How is the bathroom grout dirty again? I just scrubbed it! There’s always something else I can be doing, so I often feel guilty for focusing on my creative self.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Guilt and people-pleasing. I’m trying to focus more on being “respected” rather than just being “liked.”

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I’m an art collector, so this is a difficult question. I’m probably supposed to say something poignant about a piece of art that has been covered in my Art History book. But to be perfectly honest, a lot of that stuff makes me really angry. We tend to promote art created by penniless artists that is now owned by multi-millionaires: art that is a status symbol more than work that moves us. But I keep all of my favorite art in my house. A watercolor of yellow seahorses by Bob Dix. A limited-edition manatee skeleton print by Lauren Etkins. A surrealist acrylic on canvas fish by Adam Cusack. Oh, man, Liesje Kraai’s super cool space manatee print! All of these pieces of art were created by my friends, especially for me. If an artist loves you, they will create work with you in mind. I feel extremely loved! Also, upon further reflection, they all contain a marine motif, so I might be biased.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

My original answer was “the thousands of people it took to create the technology that allows us to carry a vast network of the world’s information in our pocket.” My husband thought that was a boring answer and told me I need to pick someone. As I said before, I tend to feel uncomfortable answering questions like this because people are imperfect and I recognize that almost all great innovation comes as a sum of knowledge, not from one person.

I took a few days with this question and finally picked Gene Roddenberry because his writing inspired real-life scientists and engineers to create the technology from his dreams. Also, he’s one of the few science fiction writers who envisioned a utopian future and society, which is so rare in a genre filled with apocalyptic forecasts. If he ate live baby kittens or something, please don’t hold it against me for liking him.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

My work. Where I create comedy or science fiction, my mission is to make people think. I’m not a scientist, doctor, engineer or [insert actually important job title here]. But if my work helps inspire someone else to think, to make change, or to innovate, then my work has a life of my own. I like to trail-blaze, so I’d like to be known for being the person who was brave enough to champion a project that created a butterfly effect for goodness that outlives me – and people in my family tend to live into their 100s, so this is a lofty goal!

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Motivated

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I am rarely all alone with a couple of hours to myself. Oh, but when I am …I  immediately eat mac and cheese with salsa out of the pot while watching musicals. Glee, The Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid, Moulin Rouge, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I like to sing along, so I would be mortified to watch those movies with anyone else.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Oh, gosh, I would hand myself a binder of color-coded notes, lessons and things to watch out for! But my number 1 comment would be “CHIN UP! Have confidence. Some people have tall poppy syndrome –  the desire to cut down anybody trying to stand above the crowd – look it up! and it’s their problem, not yours.”

I’m going to break into my old-world Nagymama’s voice here but I was raised to “Keep my head down or else…

… people vill think you are stuck up and no von vill marry you.”

… The revenge! People vill tink you are rich and burn you in your sleep.”

… you’ll get freckles, and den no von vill luff you.”

 So 15 years ago, I did not make eye contact with anyone. I was convinced that something horrible would happen to me if I fought for myself and that people would judge me if I said, “No” or spent $12 at Hair Cuttery –  seriously. A family member yelled at me for spending it, even though I was the breadwinner at the time. And yes, I didn’t go out in the sun. Ever since I broke those habits – and told people who have a problem with my position as a “tall poppy” to kiss my beautiful, freckled butt – I’ve been happier, healthier  and way more productive.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

In a perfect world? Somewhere safe, with opportunities in my industry, within walking distance of a healthy coral reef. To be honest, I really dig Cozumel –  yes, it’s in Mexico and totally safe and Costa Rica –  Pura Vida! but currently only 15% of my workload is based on remote writing opportunities, so I am not in a position to make the move. I’m aware that we need to spend a lot of time in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia for our careers, but I’m not crazy about the amount of crime we’ve experienced in those towns. Industry folks have been courting us to move to Toronto, Pittsburg and Atlanta, among others, so we have to see what makes sense in our future.

I know for sure my answer is “on Earth.” You’d think this would be obvious, but I freaked out when my husband signed us up to volunteer to be the first couple on Mars. Very lovely and highly romantic idea, but I have people to see and stuff to do on this planet!

Q: What is your idea of success?

I will know I’m successful when I see merchandise from a project I’ve created bootlegged in some shore town and when I’m comfortable enough financially to not be bothered by it. I have a Shelf of Atrocities in my house where I collect bootlegs from my favorite franchises. My favorite has to be the Predator Bart Simpson we picked up in Cancun. Man, did I haggle for that thing!

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Freedom. Freedom to choose who is in your life, your career, where you live, where you travel, heck, even the food you eat. Not everyone has those freedoms so I am so grateful to be able to enjoy them.

Q: Final Thoughts?

I already talked too much. If you like what I have to say, please visit Cinevore.com and  subscribe to our YouTube. Tell your friends who are Directors of Development to come see me. I’m serious. And if you like self-deprecating comedy, check out my book  American Goulash, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks for your time!