Fast Forward Friday with Bibi Flores

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed artist-designer-activist Bibi Flores who was born in Austin, Texas, raised in Mexico and who, for the past 12 years, lives and works in New York City. With paint as her main medium, Bibi works in acrylic and occasionally oil. Her most recent series, Goodbye to Assholes, I Deserve Much Better, is a feminist body of work addressing a society in which women are often the target of violence and oppression. For more information, visit www.bibiflores.com.

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

My latest body of work is titled, Goodbye to Assholes I Deserve Much Better. It is a project that I started in 2010 connected with my healing story as a survivor from different types of abuse and traumas – a survivor of situations related with rape, emotional and physical abuse, including in some relationships I had in the past, in and between other painful experiences  that happened to me from my childhood and throughout my life. It connects with my earliest collections of works too as the story of my emotions. This last project tells my story in a more specific way, puts it out there, and my message brings my voice as a survivor and everything I went through where pain and emotions were kept in a hidden place, to a place of being heard and acknowledged and to be able to heal.

My work represents my feminist point of view; it’s a body of work that includes –  as in my earlier works – painting pieces, photographs, installations, the last two usually incorporating the element of painting or paintings in them in full or partially. The focus of the project is to empower and celebrate your one unique personality, love yourself and respect yourself. It also critiques a shallow and judgmental society where women still exist in a submissive structure and are the subject of violence, suppressed feeling and oppression, and sometimes they don’t even know it since they grew up accepting those beliefs. This affects all humans, particularly women, on all levels, places, classes and countries. Victims end up feeling guilty, shamed, devalued, alone and in silence, and it creates wounds that need to heal.

Work started with the process of identification of assholes and moving on from ego-centric personalities, and to heal from present and past events. I’ve been gifted as a very empathetic person and that, in so many cases, lead me to see compassion or good in everybody, even attackers. I had to go a long way to see the bad and think about myself, to build healthy boundaries and recognize emotions I had, express them, empower myself, build respect and recognize that I deserve better, I deserve to be respected, to be loved and happy, to heal from past abuse and to be surrounded people that care and love me as I am.

The word asshole, which I never totally liked, was a very powerful word for me, it was stronger than words like jerk or idiot, and it was exactly what I needed to express and recognize there was abuse and move on to better place. The word asshole in my mind gives me a power to be alert, mark, define and create healthy boundaries, bring respect of the self and start to heal the wounds. When you suffer from emotional and physical abuse, you learn to accept some other types of abuse too, since it doesn’t seem as bad as other but it’s not good either, and my wounds kept attracting some people that opened those wounds more. I needed to change this, move on and heal.

Titles in the work connect with pieces within each other and tell the story, all my process and healing. I also believe in the meanings behind certain colors and shapes connected with emotions and energy, and I believe those are tools as other ways to communicate and it was the way to express my healing message too, and put my healing energy into it.  I want to live in a better world where there will be less suffering and more joy, I believe that all humans, especially women, should be feel respected, loved and supported. I deserve much better, all women deserve much better, all women and men, we all deserve better.

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

My love for painting as a medium to share my story. I always notice I want to paint my emotions as a form of energy, almost like a portrait of a certain parts of my life, this is since other past work starting mid and late ’90s, and that led me to the depths of my latest project.

My passion is to paint. For me, painting is another type of language that exists and connects to another energetic dimension.  Being able to communicate and explore thoughts through colors and shapes is inspiring to me. It is exciting to have your own personal way to express emotion and to tell the message directly from your soul that bridges with you and the world.

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

I don’t think I ever completely liked the word superheroes. I think because in my mind it connects to fictional characters that are portrayed as perfect and powerful, and humans don’t need to be superheroes to be powerful too. I’d rather say they are inspiring humans with flaws – not perfect but beings who are or were their unique selves, express it in special ways and got to the depths of my soul. I enjoy from those humans seeing energy transmuted and putting it in a physical plane in infinite ways, and multiple artists sharing their own stamps in their work.

I will say I get attracted by bold works that feel connected energetically with me or with my way to see the world, my thoughts or my ways of  communicating by shapes, or colors. Some examples I can mention are: Franz West, Mary Heillman, Yayoi Kusama, Barbara Kruger, Sean Scully, James Turrell, Any Goldworthy, Cai Guo Chag, Kara Walker, Christo and Jeanne- Claude, Pipilloti Rist, Dan Flavin, Rothko,  Jackson Pollock, Marina Abramovic and Alexander Calder. It is hard to mention only a few and I’ll add definitely my father Jaime Flores who, with his paintings, introduced me to art. Paint became part of my life, and passion. Since I was young, I loved to play and experiment with it. He also introduced me to energy, metaphysics and other wonders of the world, from enjoying gazing at stars to walking in the park and enjoying those valuable special things in life, those good things about him that I keep close to my heart. 

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

Doing what I love to do, being brave, courageous and believing in myself, my message and my passion. Just do what you feel is right and go out of your comfort zone – that is what creates excitement.  

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

Right now, I am working on paintings related to my project The Goodbye to Assholes, I Deserve Much Better, and as a part of this I have been working on a mural in three buildings in the same block where I have had my studio almost since I arrived in New York. It’s a mural as a temporal piece, with complicated surfaces almost  feeling like barriers and obstacles, so I choose it to be painted ,to be transformed, and connected with worth, open doors, healing energy, transformation and letting go of the past. For a long time, the three buildings had the feel of being abandoned. I have been looking the same way since I arrived in  New York. In all the years I have been working on my project and during my healing process, they have been like that, so I thought it would be nice to connect it with my project and transform it and paint over it, like putting healing energy into it, as a symbolism of erasing doors, blocks, barriers and moving on to better. I felt in a point of my life like those abandoned buildings. I want to repaint  it in a metaphoric way, giving it life again. It’s also interesting how in this piece, I already brought wounds out, like people feeling entitled to write on the work, or do something to it, and how ethics and respect of a person’s space and healthy boundaries are respected or not. This piece shows where it has been wounded and healed.

As a painter, it’s interesting for me to work outside in these buildings, I had painted artwork in walls before but in private indoor places including galleries and this is the first time outside in buildings in New York.

The building’s owner passed away a few years back. He used to love art we talked about the artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude before so I thought it was going to be special to do something in his building too. My project was accepted and I was able to start to paint in the buildings, so I been working on this as a public painting piece for about two months. Since my latest project has been very personal it hasn’t been easy to put it out, so this piece is like saying I will be brave enough and do it in full now, open that door and put my message out for others to heal too.

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

The process of transforming my life and healing wounds, growing and expressing my passion of painting,  speaking up and sharing my story and message, helping others to heal, plant that seed helping to make this world a better world. 

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

I don’t think I would be doing something different, maybe I would be able to do it in a different way or the world in general would be more free, but I believe things happen for a reason.  I believe the world is in the process of change, mentality and spirituality, and maybe some barriers could be a way to learn experiences that will lead you to where you need to be.

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

I had to overcome a lot of pain, so much pain that I had to overcome by myself, self-doubt,  fear of  being judged for what happened to me,or being devalued for the same reason. I had to overcome and move away from people who didn’t respect me and didn’t appreciate my worth. It was not easy to share my story and to do it through art in a very personal way. I had to heal and confront it,  put the message out and be brave about it. I had to have some guts. Not as easy as it sounds.

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

Being myself and connecting to my own creative process, the feeling of joy, joy of what I love to do, and put love into my passion. I also love to connect with nature and have time to myself in calm meditative states. Music is also always good.

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

I guess fear as a protection, fear sometimes held me back, doubts from past pain, certain beliefs from past experiences that limited me in my past. It was not easy to trust since I was hurt, manipulated and controlled by people. It has been a process of letting go and healing of all those since my project started. It  has been a whole process, step by step. leaving behind the past, all toxic or hurtful for my soul, and moving on to a different loving, respectful, environment slowly but surely.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I have so many different pieces of art that I like, since each one has had a very special importance in my healing process and my story. Each one takes a special moment, like a stamp, and connects with what has been going on in my life.

Some of these works were breakthrough moments in my life when I started to build healthy bounderies and reclaim my own space. I’ll mention the titles of a few: Cabrón Total, 2011; Stop Feeling: NOT Being Enough, 2012;  I Say No, No and No to You, Asshole;  I Walked The Wire For You Asshole… Not Anymore, 2012; La Gota Que Derramo el Vaso, 2011; Limosnero y Con Garrote, 2011; For a Life Full of Yays Instead of Yikes, 2012; Judge by Assholes Not Anymore, This is a Goodbye, v.2 2013.

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

Well I admire people who are passionate and had something to say or did something great for the world to make it better, those who go beyond limits to show different ways of thinking, breaking from usual thinking or those who also did something special through art, music, poetry, film or any creative tool or form of expression.

Mahatma Gandhi, as an activist of peace, civil rights and freedom. The Dalai Lama, Amma, Sadhguru.

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, with her poetry as a feminist, Hombres necios que acusáis a la mujer sin razón, sin ver que sois la occasion, de lo mismo que culpáis …

Coco Chanel and her very individual way to break the rules of how clothing was supposed to be and to be herself.

Mother Theresa, for her love for humanity,

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

Just for being me, for my message and doing my passion.

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

BEing (Bibi)

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I really enjoy to paint in big sizes, like murals, not everybody understands why, a lot of people had to ask me, but I just love it. I also really enjoy in those cases to get paint all over while working. It is like magic dust in the painting version and I guess it reminds me of how I use to play with it when I was a child.  It could be in a deep part of my soul – it takes me there and connects with my inner child somehow. I will add to that all kinds of chocolate, water as an element  and travel, all without the guilty part and the joy of it.

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

Don’t worry how you are feeling right now: never heard, abandoned, being strong by yourself and for others, even when you were going through a lot. At one point, you may try to talk with someone about what happened, they will not understand and they will make you feel bad, judge you – don’t listen to them. You are worthy, you have a voice, a message to share, and you were meant to be your own awesomely weird person. The experiences you went through didn’t lower your worth, don’t let anybody tell you differently. Its ok if you feel you don’t think the same as others. All those many who pushed you down and made you feel bad, hurt you emotionally and physically, take advantage of you, and made you feel like you had to fight to be enough. Forget about them!  Your were always enough, your gut feeling was right, and you will have time to heal all those wounds, express, love and say what you always want it to say, tell your story, your message, be free, and be just who you are. Never give up, you’re getting to the place, your place where you supposed to be. Just being. Be Bibi.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

There is a reason that I came to New York, I think is the city of the world, were creative minds join, the city for art, it’s the city where you can meet and connect with people from everywhere any place on the planet.  Be friends with them, be part of their lives too, get to know different flavors, ways of thinking, different ways of doing things, languages, color meanings, that coexist all together in New York. I am really loving the experience for about 12 year now. Who knows ,maybe later if I will explore other places.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Being able to live from doing my passion, and enjoy every part of it.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Enjoy the moment as it is, enjoy every emotion that it brings. Being in the present and smile, enjoy being you, enjoy your own process, learning, your own time. Life is magic … it is so precious, gorgeous and unique, this life where  you and I just happened to coincide and be living at the same time and moment on this beautiful planet. Enjoying each part of your journey, enjoying each moment as a great gift, as different and unrepeatable as it is, that is my idea of happiness.

Q: Final Thoughts?

I’ll end with my MANIFESTO:

Past is ….

                        Just past

   Focus on today

   Respect yourself

 

Anyone and Anything that

   Drains you ….                   Just…

                                                           Let it go…

 

                       Be aware of your fears and…

     Beat them

   Unveil yourself

Be with the right good people

     And with friends that care

I Say Goodbye to Assholes

   Goodbye to Assholes

   Goodbye to Assholes

       I deserve Much Better

Became and Celebrate Yourself

   BE Distinctive

  BE Exceptional

     BI Dazzling

          BI Worthy

               BE Brave

Bi…

                  BI      BE JUST       BI

                             For the Right to Be

                        For the Right to Bi

                                                             Just Be…. BIBI

                                                                       AND Fuck YEAH

                                                                            BE HAPPY!!!!!!

 

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.