Fast Forward Friday with Ludovica Villar-Hauser

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed theater director-artistic director-dramaturg Ludovica Villar-Hauser. Ludovica has directed a wide range of plays on diverse topics, most recently She Calls Me Firefly, which just completed a run at the SoHo Playhouse. Alongside her directorial career, Ludovica is founder and artistic director of Parity Productions. She is a recipient of NYWA’s Galaxy Award, and has served on the Board of the League of Professional Theatre Women since 2009. To learn more, visit www.parityproductions.org

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

I recently directed the world premiere of Teresa Lotzs She Calls Me Firefly. My company, Parity Productions, has been developing this play for the past few years with New Perspectives Theatre Company and we are thrilled that we had our world premiere at SoHo Playhouse.

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

When I first read the play, I was struck by how an emerging playwright could have such an extraordinary understanding of the human condition. She Calls Me Firefly speaks innately to how we can be hurt, live through it and despite copious scars learn the importance of positive and unconditional love. In short, despite bad odds, we can become better. The subject matter is entirely relevant on many different levels it delves deeply into the culture of sexual abuse and the generational effects that ignorance and silence can have on a family. In addition, Teresa Lotz takes on a dynamic model of non-linear storytelling, which is thrilling. For subject matter that would often be portrayed in a dark manner, it is ultimately a story that is filled with ingenuity, humor, light, and, most importantly, hope for all its characters.

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

Its something that I cant put into words. It really just lives inside.

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

We are currently developing Melisa Anniss Charlies Waiting, which is one of our 2017 Annual Parity Commission winning plays. Melisa has been working through rewrites and we just recently had a closed reading that received wonderful feedback. Here is the description of the play:

The night before their wedding, Louise is busy with all the planning while her fiancée Kelly busies herself feeding the goats. Everything is blissfully exciting until a friend from Kellys past shows up with an unexpected wedding present and threatens to derail Louises hopes for the future she so carefully planned.

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

When I start dreaming about projects.

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

I would definitely be directing most of the time.

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

Myself An innate lack of confidence. But it is changing as I get older.

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

Meditation though not enough of it! I enjoy seeing other work. And developing new work.

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

The producing side of things.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Anything by Sylvia Sleigh. Parity received an endowment of her work a few years ago. Her art is particularly inspiring to me because it equalized men and women, and reversed stereotypical artistic themes by featuring nude men in poses that were traditionally associated with women.

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

I admire many. Nelson Mandela. Gloria Steinem.

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

Directing and Advocacy. Sorry thats two things, but for me theyre so intimately and necessarily connected.

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

 Tireless.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Chocolates. And massages.

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

Let go of everything that doesnt serve you and focus on what you really want and what makes you happy. 

Q: Where would you most like to live?

NYC and London.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Happiness.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Directing!

Fast Foward Friday with Russell G. Jones

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-director-teaching artist- facilitator-moderator Russell G. Jones. He has been a member of The Labyrinth Theater Company since 1995. He is an OBIE, Auldeco, BTAA, NAACP Theater and SAG Award winning actor. In addition to his multi-award winning theatre work, he has a recurring role on the hit FX show The Americans and was recently seen in the Netflix series Godless.  To learn more, visit www.russellgjones.com.

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

I am currently acting on Broadway in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan starring Condola Rashad as Joan of Arc.

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

This was one theater audition amongst several that for the first time in years was not a new play.  It is neither a play nor playwright that I had imagined working on and therefore presented a new challenge.

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

One of my artistic heroes is a former professor and one of only three black acting teachers that I’ve had, Jim Spruill.  He is no longer with us but his vivacious and unabashed love of storytelling and his keen understanding of the line between business and art made it seem like a career was a possibility for me.  He was an early example of a actor-director-teacher-husband-father who embraced the socio-political climate with his life onstage and off. I love what Don Cheadle, Geoffry Wright and Viola Davis have been able to carve out for themselves.

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

My community continues to inspire me.  Although Facebook definitely has it’s downside, being able to see a wide swath of my peers creating opportunities, exploring, and booking enables me to keep the dream aspect alive.

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

I have an ongoing side project called Blind Spot.  It is an effort to normalize conversations about systemic oppression and implicit bias so that our theater community can embrace anti-racism.  I just finished a year long salon series with Ensemble Studio Theater and prior to that a concentrated version at HB Studio. Both organizations have really taken to the work and have asked me to join the organizations in a more hands on manner.  I continue to look for ways to infuse my longtime artistic home LAByrinth Theater Company with these values.

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

Blind Spot is definitely one example but an even more concrete example is that my last vision board had the goal of appearing in three films and three TV shows in 2017 and I shot three films and three TV shows.  And this is after making a conscious choice five years ago to book more film and TV.

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

Directing TV and film.

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

Access to the directing pipeline and the self-confidence to create my own way in.

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

Having a near three year-old keeps me on my toes creatively, whether by finding new ways to engage and teach him or by watching the ways he does so for himself.  That and being involved in play development.

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

Racism.  White supremacy colors so much of the world we live in and rooting it out of myself requires much of my focus.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I have been moved by many works of art and it’s hard to name a favorite.  Right now I have a water color that my castmate Max Gordon Moore painted of my character in Saint Joan that I am really enjoying.  Last year Rueben Santiago Hudson directed a production of The Piano Lesson that was perfection.

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

Dick Gregory.  He maintained his creativity, integrity and our attention for 6 plus decades.

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

Enabling and empowering scores of other artist-activists.

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

Dogged.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Late night binge watching.

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

This is the best path for you.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Someplace that values and practices justice and equality with all people and nature.  I thought that was the Bay Area for a while.

Q: What is your idea of success?

When love is visible.   

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Grattitude.

Q: Final Thoughts?

I love being an artist!  Thanks for letting me share about it.

 

Fast Foward Friday with Arden Kass

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed playwright-screenwriter-producer Arden Kass. She is is the recipient of two playwriting Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her work, ranging from full-length dramas and dance theatre to musical theatre, has been seen in Philadelphia, Minneapolis and New York productions and developmental workshops. She is the author of several full-length screenplays, and with her writing partner Mark Gallini, co-author of numerous screenplays and television pilots. To learn more, visit ardenkass.com.

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

My main project right now is writing the book for my first original musical comedy, Daddy’s Girl. It’s a mash-up of contemporary themes and music and old-fashioned Broadway/vaudeville-style theatricality, underscoring the idea of changing assumptions and values. Daddy’s Girl is about 40 year old Tracey Zelnick who returns home for her Papa’s funeral after twenty years of estrangement, where she faces a daunting task in briefing the Rabbi who will officiate –  given that Papa was America’s leading merchant of sexy/sleazy women’s lingerie designed “through a real man’s eyes,” and she is now a noted feminist academic.

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

There are far too few stories about women’s lives, told from a woman’s point of view, on Broadway — not to mention the scarcity of great roles for women. I wanted to write a story that is relatable to audiences of various ages and genders, that is funny and emotionally authentic, and that addresses vital issues without being dogmatic or pedantic.  This piece was inspired by a magazine interview from the 1970s or ‘80s with the man who founded an iconic direct mail lingerie catalogue – America’s first – which referenced the fact that his daughter had worked for him briefly, then left the company to take a totally different path. I couldn’t stop wondering what a young woman must have felt, coming of age (as I did) during the height of Second Wave Feminism and trying to process the growing realization that her father’s worldview, once considered progressive, now defined political incorrectness — or appeared to. I invented a daughter and several other characters and soon realized that the story was far more personal than I had understood; and also, that what I was writing about was in part, the contentious fault line existing today between being politically correct and creating meaningful political change.

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

Tony Kushner, Suzan Lori Parks, Jeanine Tesori, Bob Dylan, Paula Vogel, Marsha Norman, Wendy Wasserstein, Kurt Weill, Toni Morrison, Peter Schaffer, Maria Irene Fornes, Quiara Hudes, Lynn Nottage, Lee Breuer, Mark Morris, Laurie Anderson, Rinde Eckert, Tony Yazbek, Dorothy Parker, Alberta Hunter, Cole Porter, Carl and Rob Reiner, Mel Brooks, Art Spiegelman, Emma Thompson, the Coen Bros. and Frances McDormand. I could go on for pages …

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

Inspired: Visual art, music, travel, nature. Motivated: my children and their future on this planet.

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

In 2014/15, I conceived and co-created a “live documentary theatre” project, School Play, based on 100 interviews with PA residents statewide, that dramatized the chronic underfunding of Pennsylvania’s public education system and the devastating real life human impact on individuals and communities.  It premiered at the National Constitution Center and toured Pennsylvania. I recently co-authored several TV pilot concepts, including one that’s a sort of American Downton Abbey drama set during post-Civil War Reconstruction, one that’s based on William Carlos Williams’  The Doctor Stories, and I’m about to write a series pilot about a woman attorney who defies many, many expectations when passed over for a partnership. Frankly, my list of dream projects would fill many lifetimes.

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

Discussing a word choice in my play Appetite with the perceptive and articulate Jemma Redgrave, and realizing that this was exactly the level and tone of conversation I live for, any time I am not sitting at my desk writing.

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

Writing a well-funded adventure/romance film set in an exotic locale in South America.

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

Time, timing and the times into which I was born. For a variety of reasons, including bringing up two kids and money, I have devoted time to many different things besides my writing career. Now that I’m more in control of my schedule and resources, my greatest obstacle seems to be “breaking in” to the various fields I couldn’t wait to work in years ago — which is frustrating, as I’m probably a much more thoughtful, disciplined and determined artist now, thanks to the variegated life I’ve had. To my great joy, I think I see some of those walls starting to come down.

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

I am never not-creative — my issue is how to stay focused and seated long enough to get at least a fraction of what goes through my brain onto the page. Walks, bike rides, museums and yoga are helpful. And espresso. (And Joanne!)

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

The negative, anxious goblin that lives under my bridge. It is a demon that whispers to me about my greatest fears: missed opportunities and mediocrity.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I could never choose one – my whole life is about art. The first one I visualized is the Nike of Samothrace at the top of the stairs in the Louvre. I wrote about her.

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

Oskar Eustis. I love his taste in artists and how he treats them.

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

Writing an iconic role for a woman on stage, film or TV.

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

Rechargeable.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Expensive black boots, on sale.

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

Believe it or not, you’re still young. And no, you’re not fat.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Maybe the Southwest, maybe Monterey, maybe Italy. I like sun better than clouds, horses better than cars and natural scenery better than buildings. But I have to be able to get to a good city fairly easily.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Having healthy, inspirational relationships with creative colleagues, getting my work produced consistently and finally earning enough money to stop worrying about money.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Being healthy and fit, having a life filled with exciting, wonderful people — and knowing that I have succeeded enough to feel proud of myself and the choices I’ve made.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Girls rule. (Pity everyone else didn’t figure this out sooner.)

Fast Forward Friday with Michael Bofshever

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-director-teacher-author Michael Bofshever.  As an actor Michael has appeared in countless theatre, film and TV projects including A Dog’s PurposeUnited 93, Scandal and Breaking BadMichael recently made his film directorial debut with the award-winning short Echo Park Blues, which will be playing at The Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park from March 22-25. To learn more, visit www.michaelbofshever.com.

Q: What are your currently working on?

As an actor, I recently appeared this season, opposite Viola Davis, on two episodes of How To Get Away With Murder. Next up, I will be seen in Bill Haders’ new HBO television series Barry, in which I guest star opposite Bill, Henry Winkler and a troupe of wonderful actors playing actors.

As a director-producer, I have hired screenwriter and good friend Steve Armour (All Saints), to adapt an award winning short story by novelist Donald Lystra into a feature film. The story takes place in Northern Michigan, where my family has a multi-generational summer cottage. It has been a goal of mine to film a story there for quite some time. My short film, Echo Park Blues, in which I made my directorial and writing debut, is finishing up its festival run, having been recognized in Europe, Canada and the United States with wins in all cinematic categories.

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

Having been an actor for over 40 years, but yet to direct a film – I have directed for the stage and have taught acting class on and off for decades – I did an inventory of myself and felt that if not now, when? This motivated me to approach a dear acting friend of mine Allan Wasserman to see if he would raise the money and executive produce a short film. With him jumping on board immediately, I approached another long time actor friend of mine turned writer Rick Lieberman. Rick and I wrote Echo Park Blues around Allan, who is a talented journeyman-jazz saxophonist. Having taught at the University of Southern California School of Cinema, I brought on my department heads for the film from a very talented group of filmmakers that I previously worked with or were recommended to me. The success of the film has exceeded any expectation I may have had when I first created this endeavor. To see it come to fruition, has been one of the most rewarding highlights of my professional career.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes?

Artists who think outside the box, that are daring, innovative, willing to share, expose who they are within their work. Those with humor, passion and commitment. I love watching actors who give a revelatory performance on stage or film or even in the classroom. It inspires me to be brave and challenge myself to be the best that I can be.

Q: What keeps me motivated?

My motivation comes from an internal drive to succeed, a need to be creative, a desire to belong to a group of like-minded individuals that appreciate the need of living an artistic life. I have had the good fortune to have been able to earn a living as an actor throughout my career. To me, that’s a remarkable accomplishment.

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

Sometimes it is the absence of being creative, when I am out of work, not knowing when I may be cast again; then I feel like chucking it all, until my wife or a close friend reminds me, that after all these decades, you are an actor, an artist and you will get through this period. The opposite holds true as well. When I am on set, feeling like I belong to a group of fellow artists, all working for the same goal, when I’m in rehearsal and my fellow artists are struggling, discovering the material, when I recite poetry or Shakespeare just for myself, so as to express what is going on inside me, I know this has been my true north.

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

I would be in pre-production; scouting locations; hiring department heads; casting exciting, talented actors; and preparing to direct my first feature length film. And I will also be playing the lead character. Doesn’t hurt to dream big!

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

On a personal level it is fear. That insidious, critical voice that artists have, I struggle with that. At times it prevents me from realizing my full potential. And as much success as I have had, I still do battle with those inner demons, seemingly on a daily basis. But when I give myself permission to be whole, I find that I can soar in my endeavors.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

We have a painting in our bedroom, from our younger daughter who was a Fine Arts Major in college. It is a self-portrait of her looking in profile out into an empty space, seemingly an unfinished piece of art, with a few additional paint strokes in the corner of the canvas, as if testing what color is to be used next. To me it is a story of a young woman seeking her future, not yet completed but recognizing her potential with an optimistic outlook. My wife and I many years ago visited the Rodin Museum in Paris and his sculptures still inspire me.

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

My creative role model has been my acting teacher, mentor, colleague and friend Michael Howard. His compassion, theatrical knowledge and unique understanding of the creative spirit molded me into the artist I eventually became. It was also in his class that I met my wife, 40 years ago. Lucky me!

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

My two beautiful daughters, Jessica and Katie, now married, whom I am most proud of. They are the very best parts of my wife and myself.

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

Perseverant.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Spending time with my family at the dinner table, eating, drinking, laughing, sharing stories.

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

There is still so much more to accomplish. Keep striving, never give up. So much to look forward to.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Anywhere my family is, now here in LA, so we are always close by each other.

Q: What is your idea of success?

My healthy family, being able to find balance between my life and profession, internal well-being, continuing to grow as an artist.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Finding joy in the moment, giving back to my artistic community, being available to listen with humor and patience.

Q: Final thoughts?

It has been a great journey of discovery, a few setbacks but many more accomplishments. I continue to persevere.  “ And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.”

 

The Latest News from the Zip Creative Community

Director-producer-writer-editor Shari Berman has just completed the screenplay Pink Mist – a twisted, off-beat tale about a 12-year-old amputee, her eccentric grandmother and the holocaust ghost that lives in the attic. Shari is currently actively raising funds to produce the film, which is scheduled to shoot in the fall. Her Super 8 film, Woman, continues its festival tour, recently screening at the St. Louis International Film Festival. For more information about Shari, visit www.shariberman.com.

Michael Connif‘s novel, Book Of O’kells: Mother Nature, hit the top ten on the Amazon bestseller list for Historical Fiction in January. He is also preparing for publication of the how-to Write Good! And Notes On The Supernovel: The First Twenty Years, his journal about his quest to create a truly multimedia platform to encompass all media in the 21st Century. He also finished the  television pilot Spy High and the movie script for Dire. At the moment he is writing Hyde: Seek as a novella based on his script of the same name. Michael has also been hired to develop a television pilot and series about the clash of the Mughal Empire and the Britsh East India company in the time of the Taj Mahal.

Amy Guggenheim just shot Dawna 15-minute short film and proof of concept for her feature dramatic film about love and the martial art of Kendo. A great and unusual team of cinematographer Chris Benker, actors Mickey Koga and Katie Morrison, along with sword choreographer Ken Kensei, and martial artist actors Ted Oyama and Yoshi Amao made the film come to life over an intense three days! The first Manhattans screening took place on February 15.  Stay tuned for more news on the feature as it gets its legs.

Naomi McDougall Jones is currently in post-production on her second feature film, Bite Mewhich she wrote, produced, and acted in and will be released later this year. Naomi’s TEDTalk What it like to be a Woman in Hollywood went viral on TED.com in October and has since been viewed nearly 1 million times. She is at work on a book expanding that talk, that will be published by Beacon Press. 2018 will continue her crusade get more women behind the camera with The 51 Fund and a new Revolution as well as her own work as a filmmaker with her third screenplay and a TV series in development. www.naomimcdougalljones.com

Playwright/screenwriter Arden Kass had a readong of her new musical libretto Daddy’s Girl in January at BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in NYC, as the kick-off to her search for a composer/lyricist. Daddy’s Girl follows the feminist academic daughter of America’s pioneering sexy lingerie mogul, who, the night before his funeral, wrestles with how to portray her larger-than-life Papa in a eulogy. Arden is also shopping a TV drama set during the American Reconstruction era, written with partner Mark Gallini. Next up, she’ll start work on a new TV series set in a strip club in Philadelphia, and a play about a female Impressionist painter. http://ardenkass.com/

In 2014, Cornelia Ravenal initiated a documentary called Moving Stories, directed by Sundance award-winner Rob Fruchtman. After three years of hard work with her producing partners Mikael Södersten and Wendy Sax, it’s finally coming to fruition, with a premier at MoMA this month. You can see a trailer at www.wildernessfilms.us. 

Sarah Wharton produced and starred in The Ring Thing, a feature film about marriage that is currently on the festival circuit and will be released by Gravitas Ventures in the Spring. She also is a producer on Bite Me, a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her. Bite Me is currently in post-production. http://sarahawharton.com/

Kerstin Karlhuber moved from New York City to Los Angeles in August with her husband and two dogs. Her film Fair Haven is still airing on Showtime and releasing internationally. Kerstin is working on her second feature film the drama Rear View Mirrors about 3 generations of women in a small town which will shoot in Texas in the spring of 2018. https://www.silentgiantproductions.com/

Arthur Vincie’s webseries “Three Trembling Cities” was accepted to the HollyWeb Festival which runs April 5th-8th http://www.hollywebfestival.com. On Tuesday, Feb. 27th at 7pm, Arthur will be on a panel called “So You Want To Produce a Webseries” at Montclair State University. The panel touches on webseries creation, production, distribution, community outreach, and financing. www.chaoticsequence.com

Fast Forward Friday with Nivedita Kulkarni

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed New York-based writer-actress-comedian Nivedita Kulkarni. Nivedita is a reader and nominator for the Kilroy Awards. Nivedita was chosen as one of 15 artists for HBO’s East of Main Street/Taking the Lead, profiling Hollywood’s rising Asian American talent. She is a part of the ensemble cast of Morgan Evans’ Untitled Web Series, which was nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award. She is a former national face of Bank of America. To learn more, visit www.niveditakulkarni.com.

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

I’m creating a TV show right now – I can’t talk details, but it’s funny!

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

I’m writing about something that is very personal to me, which I haven’t done before. I’m both nervous and excited about this project because of how much it relates to my life.

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

Anne Hathaway is an entertainment hero of mine, as is Justin Timberlake. I love that they both keep reinventing themselves and don’t get pigeonholed into one path as an artist.

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

Watching great work. I would encourage all artists to find creative work and follow the careers of people who inspire them to create.

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

I run a startup called Nuva Comedy. We’re a networking and mentorship organization for women in entertainment. Women can sign up for a profile, similar to LinkedIn, and then they can ask members of the group for help with any topic.  

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

Seeing the number of women we’ve helped through Nuva – in the thousands, has been amazing for me and my team. I always wanted to build a company that helped people to succeed and Nuva has been a dream come true.

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

Writing and acting in my own TV show, a la Tina Fey. And running my own company, as well.

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

I think that it takes a long time to grow into your voice as an artist. I think that it has taken me years to develop a voice and be confident in what I want to say through my work.

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

Watch movies, read great books, see great art.

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

I wish I needed less sleep! I also wish I could learn to manage my daily routine – gym, work, meal prep –  a little faster to give me more time for other things.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand.

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

Wow. Hmm. I would say I most admire great entrepreneurs. Oprah. Richard Branson. Howard Schultz.

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

For building great companies and affecting people’s lives for the better through my organizations.

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

Thinker.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

All goofy sitcoms! All of them.

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

Get started faster! I hesitated for so long to make decisions that I actually wanted in my life. I overthought everything. Now, when I want to do something, I just go for it!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Hmmm. Any big city. I live in New York right now, which I love. I would also love to live in either London or Paris.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Fulfilling work, a happy family and a balanced life. Being a well-rounded person who doesn’t only think of work.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Parties!

Q: Final Thoughts?

Thanks for interviewing me! And to all the artists reading this – keep creating!

 

Fast Forward Friday with Veronica Moonhill

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed multi-hyphenate artist and activist Veronica Moonhill. Based in Los Angeles, she is dedicated to exploring the question of being in the digital world. She is currently working on projects in performance, film and virtual reality. To learn more about Veronica go to: www.natandveronica.org

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

I’m working on a surrealist short film called This World and The Next. It is part Alice in Wonderland, part Girls and I’m making it with my partner-husband Nat Moonhill, which is the best. We are getting to play with the medium of film in a real way for this project because it is driven by imagery and cinematic magic. Coming from theater you are limited by the fact that you have to be able to repeat the performance over and over again, so it is difficult to do extremely messy or super intricate set ups. But in film we can make the magic happen once and it is caught forever. Love that.

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

This project is my way of bringing theatrical presence and my own imaginative wanderings to the cinematic medium. The central drama of the short is a woman who finds out she is pregnant and is dealing with the impact of the knowledge that her whole world is changing. I feel like I have not seen pregnancy explored fully in film. I mean, film is so patriarchal and many men seem to think pregnancy and motherhood are not universal subject matters but are boring or only for “chick flicks.” We were all BORN so I think this is a grand oversite. Getting born is one of the most dramatic things we do in our entire lives! And for a woman to create a life! That is wild and truly super-powered. I want to embrace and engage with the notion that women have the power to create life and look at it almost like an origin story of a superhero. You find out that you have a power and you never fully realized its impact.

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

Right now I am obsessed with Maya Deren, the experimental filmmaker and choreographer. I cannot believe it took me until now to find her. I think she is brilliant. Her short films use movement and camera in such a fresh way, she also has a distinctly feminine eye. I want to bring cinematic energy into a more narrative structure. Jodorowski is my other cinema mentor, I love his use of image and color. Romeo Castellucci is my total hero, he is an Italian theater director who has transformed what I believe is possible on stage. He makes image based theater that transports you beyond space and time. He drops cars from the ceiling, has wild dogs run wild amongst characters, creates a moving tornado on stage; between scenes you are on the edge of your seat because he could make absolutely anything happen next. I am also deeply inspired by visual artists. I come back time and again to Louise Bourgeois, Leonora Carrington and James Turrell for images and inspiration.

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

There is so much work to do in the world. We need art to center ourselves, tell new stories, reach the hearts and minds of people who feel forgotten and apathetic. I believe that film-TV are the mediums by which we understand ourselves right now, and that is a powerful thing. I would like to build a better future and telling stories that shine light on pathways forward seems like a way to do this.

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

I am also launching Clitter: pussy powered confetti, which is exactly what it sounds like, glittery vulvas, breasts, and ovaries in a fun party pack. Let’s be real. Dicks are ever present. Skyscrapers! Being drawn on peoples faces! thrown at bachelorette parties! They are running our country! It is time for the pussy to grab back. Clitter is my small way of increasing the yonic energy in the world and celebrate where we came from!  Clitter will launch via Kickstarter Tuesday, January 16. People can sign up for clittery details at www.clitterparty.com.

I am also in the beginning phases of writing a TV show about a radical commune of midwives who are out to save the world. It’s very early phases but I’m pretty excited. The short is a way to test some of the ideas for the larger show.

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

I would like to direct a large superhero movie, and make it funny-feminist-queer-diverse and totally badass. I don’t think there is a barrier to entry but just that it will take me some time to get there.

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

Well, when I was making theater the biggest obstacle was live performance itself, I would want so many people to see it but was limited by the fact that the show could only exist at one time in one space and the instant I stopped performing it, it stopped existing. So I have transitioned to film, where I can use the incredible digital era we are in to share my work with as many people as who would like to see it whenever they would like to. In film I just need to find the financing to make my projects come alive.

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

I go on walks in nature. Whenever I am feeling anxious, self-conscious or generally blocked I just need to go look at some plants or stare at some ants. They remind me of how all of the human things I engage with every day are just one part of the story, that there is so much going in the earth. By walking, taking deep breaths and looking out on nature I get invigorated, my ideas flow, and I am able to get back to my creative self letting go of my lists and worries.

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

I often think of myself as not a writer, that I cannot write. I have mostly created using my body and images, or directed other people’s words. I get frustrated when I try to write but it does not sound like what is in my head. But really it just takes practice.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Oof that is so hard! Well,this is a strange one but James Turrell’s Roden Crater is my favorite piece of art even though I have not been able to see it in person, but the man bought a crater in the ‘70s and slowly has been turning into the largest piece of land art. A place to engage with celestial movement and natural change. I love it’s scale and commitment to art as a way to engage with nature.

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

Maya Deren. She lived unapologetically and just made her work. She was driven by curiosity and passion. Also Alejandro Jodorowski who has made work in an insane amount of mediums and is committed to magic and making.

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

Helping create the space and light the path towards a post-capitalist future where there is universal basic income and universal healthcare, and all citizens benefit from the technological advances and the selling of our data.

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

Astral Panther.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Eating an insane amount of Honey Nut Cheerios.

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

Hey babe, you look great! I know you are obsessed with the idea of being an actor, which is amazing, but why not think about directing a play? I think you will love it and it will give you the power to decide the kind of things you want to work on. Do not worry too much about which roles you get, just engage and make the things you wanna make. You are a maker and people will see and appreciate you for that. Also do not worry about what the boys think, you don’t need ’em, trust yourself you know what is going on. You know how to make good things, I promise. I love you so much, go get ‘em girl.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I want to fund a collective live-work space in upstate New York with lots of land that artists in different mediums can come and build tiny houses on. Then we can have communal buildings where we share ideas, food and performances. Then go to cities to produce and show our work. Then return to nature to fill up and create.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Personally, to have the freedom and support to make my ideas come to life. Also the fall of the patriarchy and the closing of the wealth gap.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Being in the room with your favorite collaborators making magic happen. I want this to be the way I spend the majority of my time. Off of the computer and on the set, making.

Q:  Final Thoughts?

Some things I am thinking about:

That when I am creating a crew for a project it needs to be majority female, this includes PAs, techies and actors. There is a shift of energy when there is a full majority of women in the room, ideas are shared differently, space is held differently. There can/should be men on set who can experience the power of a female lead team. At this point we can all see that men are pretty high risk, I want to create women lead works.

I am tired of stories about the incoming apocalypse. It is so easy to imagine how all of this turns out horrible, and in doing so I think we increase the likelihood that it will. I want to create stories about how we engage with the technology that’s coming and make it work with us, or how we rise up against corporations and the people regain power. Films have become bleak and sci-fi explosive or bleak and highly realistic. I want to make movies that are full of magic and power, that ask audiences to use their imaginations! That encourage people to tap into themselves, to be skeptical of all the ways we are encouraged to serve capitalism and to be kind to each other. We are all human and at our core we all want the same things: to keep ourselves and our families safe and fed, and to feel fulfilled.

Fast Forward Friday with Allan Wasserman

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-producer-musician Allan Wasserman. He most recently appeared as Adam Sandler’s doctor in Funny People and as Matthew Broderick’s psychiatrist in Finding Amanda. He guest starred on TV shows such as Two Broke Girls, Bones, The Office, ER and The Sopranos. On stage, he performed in the Broadway production of The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel with Al Pacino, directed by David Wheeler. He produced the multi-award winning film Echo Park Blues in which he stars and plays the jazz saxophone.

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

I am working on a one man show of a famous Hollywood producer. It is still in the early stages so for now it’s under wraps.

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

Many years in the industry on all levels are my life influences.

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

So many heroes to admire and emulate when possible but I surely admire Olivier, Pacino, Streep, DeNiro, Caroll O’Connor, especially as a character actor, Paul Muni … so many, many more for so many reasons.

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

I have always been a very ambitious and energetic individual with a need to artistically express myself. It’s important to me to continue to express.

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

I am producing Common Ground at two Los Angeles theaters – a project I created in 1995 where actors write and perform biographical 15 minute monologues based on personal life changing events.

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

My recent film that I produced and have the lead character in, Echo Park Blues, and a 47 year acting career that continues on.  Echo Park Blues was a three-year process from conception to screenings with director-co-writer Michael Bofshever, writer Rick Lieberman and myself. We were all acting colleagues for decades in NYC and our shared past and current collaboration was key to sculpting and embroidering my jazz saxophone side career with a fictional script to represent the aging artist who still desires to express, be heard and leave a footprint. The film has been more successful than we ever imagined and the numerous awards and accolades were all due to a larger cadre of fellow actors, musical artists, crew and donors. I could not be more grateful for the true and total ensemble effort and results.

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

More regular theater, feature film and television series work without having to audition and gain other’s permission to participate. You can say I’m a dreamer!

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

Fierce and talented competition and aging. Such is life.

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

I continue to work onstage, and big and small screens and I create projects as well as teach.

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

Self-doubt. Worry. Those are monumental wastes of time. I do little to none of that anymore.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Anything by Chagall.

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

So many. I cannot nail that down. I have broad appreciation for many.

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

Being a good person. A “mensch” for those familiar with the vernacular.

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

How about four words: A hopeful renaissance man. An individual who acts, writes, teaches. plays jazz saxophone and loves life.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Hiking with my dog and being a foodie. I actually am not feeling guilty about those pleasures.

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

Relax. Breathe. Trust. Don’t worry. Keep doing the footwork!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Where I am for the past 20 years: Altadena, California.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Good marriage,  family, friends and pets. The rest is ancillary.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Same as success.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Great to be back in contact with you Joanne! You were an integral part of the success of our acting company THE ACTORS PRODUCING COMPANY early in our careers in NYC. Eternally grateful to you then and now.

Fast Forward Friday with Jason D. Avalos

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-actor-director-producer Jason D. Avalos.  He has been steadily working in independent film for 10 years and has studied in master classes with Quentin Tarantino. His lastest project, which he produced and served as creative consultant, NAMCAR Night Race, has already won 13 awards and was nominated more than 20 times around the world. To learn more, visit his website.

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

I’m currently working on ways to afford my kombucha addiction, as all people from LA do, but beyond that, I’m an actor-writer-director so I’m always pushing a few projects forward until one gets made. I just went into casting for Rhythm my feature film directorial debut,  in which I also play the main character.

Rhythm centers on Daniel Largo, a musician who jumps off a cruise ship band gig and battles his way to glory by being an original artist in the heart of the East Los Angeles music scene.

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

It comes from growing up in the Long Beach band culture, watching bands like Sublime, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, etc before they were huge, in backyard house parties and warehouse keggers. I played in a punk band and then later was a DJ so music is a huge inspiration in my life and it made sense to use that as a foundation for the story. The major push was watching some music and micro budget films like Tangerine, Filly Brown, 8 mile, Almost Famous, and Sweet and Lowdown and realizing there are no music films with Latino lead characters that aren’t inherently of Latin culture, for example Selena and La Bamba. It’s important to show what first  generation Latin-Americans look like, talk like and play music like. I grew up Angeleno and I don’t own any mariachis.

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

Stanley Kubrick, Terrance Malick, Truffaut, David Bowie, The Doors, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Bukowski, Burroughs and Hunter Thompson.

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

Other artists. Everyday I get inspired by my fellow colleagues and artists:  photographers, architects, animators, comedians.

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

I have three original cable TV pilots I’ve written that have gotten great feedback from the Jane the Virgin producers and other trusted mentors working in TV. One is an animated adult cartoon about the afterlife of animals that I’m really excited about.

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

Since I’ve been writing Rhythm, I have worked and met more like-minded creators making LGBTQ, female empowered and Latin first generation projects who I believe are very much my allies, my sisters and brothers. This is the power of proactivity in your vision. You staking your claim and your voice will inherently bring you side by side by other like-minded people. That is proof to me that the universe is chilling on my shoulder like a pet monkey. Damn, I really want a pet monkey.

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

I would be creating my own TV show, hiring a diverse team not unlike Aziz Ansari or Ava Duvarney.

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

Money. Yes you can make things cheaper now, which is awesome, but producing is a game played by folks who often come from money. The other one is people aren’t buying Latin movies unless they are about drug lords, cartels, crossing borders, etc. I hope to be a part of that change.

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

I feed myself with art from every walk of life, a lot of yoga and seeing a therapist. They are just three ways to reflect on what is a constant moving energy of creating and seeing what I’m connected to moment to moment.

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

Maybe not trying competitions, festivals, workshops enough. I don’t make work to be better than another person so it seems superfluous. I lately am loosening up and seeing it as a way to connect with other cool creators and collaborators.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

That is a cruel question. ahaha. Right now I’m pretty in love with Horn Players by Jean Michel Basquiat. I’m a huge fan of jazz and Basquiat. It demonstrates improvisational painting with underlying structure, which is like jazz and also how I approach filmmaking.

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

I admire my grandfather Emilio. He worked everyday in a coffee field in El Salvador through crazy civil wars, etc. He had a heart attack in those fields and died peacefully there. There was no hospital close enough to do anything. If he can have that work ethic than I can stick it out in my career.

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

Dimples, baby. But if I don’t get the dimple award next year than it would be to have hugely helped open doors for other voices not being heard and creating a real place for us.

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

Tenacious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I always feel guilty  – it’s in the my Latin Catholic nature, but I will go with cheese. Expensive and stinky.

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

Buckle up and don’t take a backseat because someone makes you feel less privileged or allowed.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Paris.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Sharing your work with the world and working with the very best in the industry while helping others along the way.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness is a moment that comes and goes constantly. I just want to know that I’m feeding myself the right energies so I can embrace as much of it as I can every day.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Just a shout-out to two films I script supervised this year. I’m super proud of working on Bite Me and Tragedy Girls, which is in theaters now! Shameless plugs!

 

Fast Forward Friday with Sarah Wharton

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning actor-writer-producer Sarah Wharton. Her feature That’s Not Us played at more than 35 festivals around the world and was released as a Netflix exclusive through Strand Releasing. She previously collaborated as an actor and associate producer on Percival’s Big Night  and Jane Wants A Boyfriend, which aired on Showtime. She has produced work in Oslo, London and New Orleans, and served as associate producer for the Harare International Festival of The Arts in Zimbabwe. She is currently in post-production on Bite Me, a subversive romantic comedy about a real life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her. Her feature, The Ring Thing, a documentary-narrative hybrid about same-sex marriage currently on the festival circuit will premiere at Newfest in New York City on October 21st and will be distributed by Gravitas Ventures.  To learn more, visit her website.

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

I am an actor-writer-producer, so there are always multiple project pots on my creative stove. The one that is currently boiling most urgently however – can you tell I just made dinner? –  is a feature film I am producing called Bite Me. It’s a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire  – yes! There are people in the world who believe they are vampires! –  and the IRS agent who audits her. We wrapped principal photography on September 7 and are now beginning post production.

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

The inspiration and impetus for the project is all due to the very wonderful Naomi McDougall Jones who wrote, produced and also starred in Bite Me. She wrote the film with the very specific and honorable mission of making something that would bring joy to an audience. I think comedy is one of the best and hardest things to do well. When I first read the script I felt like I had the experience of falling in love – I laughed, I cried and giddily wished for more. In joining Naomi as a producer, my wish came true and it’s been an honor and privilege to work on it every day. It’s a story that reminds me there is good in the world – the hope it gives me inspires me every day.

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

Oh! So many!

Currently: Jill Soloway. When I watch their work I can feel my atoms rearranging themselves. I’ve learned so much about myself and the kind of creator and person I want to be through experiencing their art.

Foundationally: Stella Adler. “Growth as an actor is growth as a human being.” If I ever forget why I want to be an artist, I read her book.

Consistently: Shakespeare. The language, the characters, the size of the emotions – Shakespeare always reminds me that anything is possible. Plus, my parents met while working at The Shakespeare Theater in D.C. so technically I owe my whole being to him!

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

My colleagues. They are such brilliant, hopeful, dedicated, interested and interesting people. They keep me honest, inspired and challenged. I work hard in order to keep up with them!

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

I produced and starred in a feature film called The Ring Thing that is currently on the festival circuit. I play a character aptly named Sarah who, when she accidentally proposes to her girlfriend, embarks on making a documentary about marriage in an effort to figure out what marriage means to her and how her past might be holding her future hostage. We play at Newfest in NYC on October 21!

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

There’s this quote from Shaw that always kicks me in the guts: “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

I realized recently that for the last year or so, I arrive at the end of each day thoroughly worn out from having filled my mind and hours with things that I care so very deeply about. There’s a certain kind of exhaustion that comes from boredom and despair – I am incredibly privileged to be in a place now where I am consumed by the pursuit of what I love instead trying to slough through what I do not. I feel constantly occupied by my vision, so I know I must be living in it.

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

I’d be a showrunner of a show I created.

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

Figuring out what my vision is! I think it’s really easy, especially as an actor and a woman, to get wrapped up in what other people think your vision should be. It took me a while to understand that what makes me happy is feeling empowered to tell stories that I care about. For me, that means being in control of what those stories are and how they are being told. Becoming a producer in addition to being an actor has made me feel like a more complete, happy artist. It took time to figure out that’s what I needed, though, particularly because it meant stepping off the path that is traditionally recognized as being the way to success for actors.

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

My work demands that I show up to it with my creative self intact – sometimes, however, my creative energies can feel depleted or blocked. When that happens, traveling always reignites my creative self. “Traveling” can just be walking down an unfamiliar street or visiting a part of the city I’ve never been to before – anything that gets me out of the pattern of “knowing” and into a more curious mind frame.

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

Fear of making mistakes. For the love of Goddess – FAIL! Learning hurts so good.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

New York City.

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

My parents. And Nelson Mandela.

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

Connecting people around the world through art.

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

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Online window shopping.

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

Ok – look. I know you love school. And you are very good at school! Keep being good at school – for now. Soon, you are going to have an opportunity to go to a great school. A great college, to be specific. But here’s the thing. No one is going to care if you are “good” or not. I dare you to ask a lot of questions and make a lot of mistakes. Take risks. Literally no one is going to look at your report card once you graduate so stop. playing. it. safe. Find out what happens when you lose control.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

New York City. With an apartment in Paris and one in Cape Town, please.

Q: What is your idea of success?

When the wishful purpose behind making a piece of art comes true. For months, sometimes years, you can sit in a room with your collaborators and talk about why what you’re doing is important, the audience you’re making it for, what you hope people will feel and think afterwards … when you finally put it out there in the world and a total stranger takes the time to reflect back to you that you actually achieved the thing you set out to do – that is success to me. Fulfilling a specific purpose.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Doing what I love with people I love.

Q: Final Thoughts?

I feel incredibly privileged to have a choice in how I spend my time and how I make a living. That choice is not something I take for granted. I ask myself on a fairly regular basis, “Is this still what you want to do?” It’s important to me to continue to answer that question honestly. This is not exactly the most stable or financially sound profession I have chosen. I always hate it when people say “if there’s anything else you can do, do it.” There are lots of other things I could do! But I don’t want to. I honor my choice in that, and the privilege that is the pursuit of my own happiness. If being an artist stops making me happy, I’ll choose something else that does. Until then ..