Fast Forward Friday with Madeline Johnson

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning screenwriter-director Madeline Johnson. Her debut short film Juneteenth was an official selection of the Prague Independent Film Festival, the Budapest Short Film Festival, and the Crown Heights Film Festival – as well as winning a Platinum Reel Award at the Nevada International Film Festival in the student competition. Her newest short film Beyond our Mountains won Best World Director at the Austin Revolution Film Festival and continues to play on the 2018 festival circuit.  She is currently finishing final drafts of two feature scripts and developing an interactive web series. To learn more about Mattie go to: http://madelinemjohnson.com/

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

I am currently working on an interactive series, tentatively called America’s Freedom. Through this project, I am exploring what racial reconciliation could look like in the U.S.

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

Honestly, I feel inspired to tell this story because I’m trying to answer a question I wish we had an answer to. Over the past two years in particular – although this is a conflict we’ve been navigating for generations – I find myself and others wondering what it would take for the U.S. to actually achieve racial justice and reconciliation. I really wish for so much better for us all.

I think a lot about what America’s legacy could be and what it has been so far. I find there’s a gap between the legacy we wish to leave and reality – and what matters most is the legacy we actually leave behind us.

I think a lot about America’s past and what we can do now to give ourselves a better future. In general, I think a lot about how the past, present and the future we dream for ourselves, can co-exist in the same decisive moment.

This project had a distinct jumping off point about a year ago when my friend showed me an article about a diverse, mixed-race, eco-friendly community who lived in the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina prior to the end of the Civil War. A significant portion of the community were ex-slaves who freed themselves by escaping into the swamp.

I was fascinated by it. It amazed me to hear about a diverse community who lived together, but who disbanded after the end of the Civil War. I found myself asking so many questions about them and wishing I knew more. I was also surprised that I had never heard about this. I had even studied Ethnic Studies in college, but I still had never learned about this. I wondered if this community had wisdom we could learn from today.

For this project, I found myself pulled in so many directions – into the swamp, into my father’s family in West Tennessee, into the mass incarceration crisis of today. While each deserves their own story in their own right, I found myself feeling like the answers that I want could only be explored through incorporating them all together. I wondered whether I was trying to do too many things. But I think this story really does need to be told with all of those touchstones in place. I want to see what happens when we intercut the past into today and when we intercut our dreams when we are making decisions right here, right now.

Finally, I am so excited about the interactive portion of this story. Our technology is changing, allowing us to interact with audiences and tell stories in new ways. Honestly, we are living in an age where the news is so proximate; our newsfeeds are flooded with our own echo chambers. It really feels like we are actors living in a larger story. So I decided to craft the story to empower audiences to truly participate in our communal narrative and questions.

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

Oh my – such a hard question. Honestly, most days I find myself being filled from many wells.

James Baldwin and Toni Morrison are the first to come to mind. I find myself in awe at the truths they are able to reveal about race through narrative.

I also listen to a lot of podcasts with Krista Tippett. I find the interactions between her and her guests help me feel more whole myself and tap deeper into the healing truths I want to share.

Regarding film I was impressed with Moonlight, for artistic vision; The Handmaid’s Tale, for bolding telling a story of injustice focused on women; I Am Not A Witch, for narrative and cultural complexity and depth, for directorial vision;  and Capernaum, for the director’s trust and courage to work with non-professional actors and to let them guide the narrative.

While writing for this project, I’ve also been listening to a lot of blues – Mississippi John Hurt, Fred McDowell, hip-hop, Hamilton, Gregorian chant and Japanese drumming. Somehow these fuel the energy I need to write this story.

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

My film career is where I feel closest to the real Mattie. That feeling is so tremendously special and is such a source of healing; I find there a lot of energy for my work.

The feeling of knowing I’m doing precisely what I’m meant to be doing is very fulfilling. Honestly, even though this work is so hard, it doesn’t feel like I have another choice. Of course, there are other jobs that I can do and that I enjoy. Film is not the only work I find meaningful. But even though this career path is difficult and unknown, it doesn’t matter to me how hard it is. I wouldn’t choose something else.

One way that I keep myself motivated as an artist is to think about my film career like it’s a pilgrimage. Who knows how long the journey is, what type of terrain is ahead, what kind of support I’ll get along the way, etc. With that analogy in mind, I decided it’s foolish to make this journey without giving myself the right support and mindset. I always joke to myself that I’m making this pilgrimage in an RV.

What that translates to in real life for me is making sure that I have a stable income, giving myself flexibility and as much time as possible to do my film work, taking care of my health body and soul; and connecting with friends and family who support me.

Another thing that keeps me motivated is managing my expectations. I read an article a year or two ago about a writer who aims for 100 rejections a year in order to have a moderately successful year. This comes in handy especially when applying for grants, festivals, etc.  I’ve also thought a lot about how statistically it was easier for me to get into Yale, than it is to earn some of these achievements. So I’ve learned not to take the rejections personally. Rather, I accept that I need to aim for about 100 rejections myself in order to move forward. By keeping my expectations low, I can receive all of the progress with deep gratitude.

What inspires me most as an artist is thinking about the impact stories have within ourselves. Before I decided to pursue film, I thought seriously about becoming a civil rights lawyer. I really wanted to change the world. But I found myself frustrated by the limits of law. I think a lot about how we may have abolished Jim Crow laws, but the U.S. still has vestiges of Jim Crow hearts. What inspires me the most is to constantly pursue telling stories that will touch our hearts.

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

I also have two feature scripts I’ve written that I am in the process of editing. One is inspired by my work in the criminal justice field about someone turning his life around. The other is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which I wrote with my mother. I’d still love to see these come to life one of these days.

I also have a short film Beyond Our Mountains, which I wrote and directed in Kosovo out on the film festival circuit. The story centers around an Albanian-Serbian couple navigating a difficult choice. In this film, I am exploring the process of healing; the interactions of our past, present and dreams for the future with the choices we have at hand; and the difference between what we want to have happen and what does happen. For this film, it was an honor to work with many talented artists in Kosovo and N.Y.

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

On the last day of shooting Beyond Our Mountains, I was walking in Pristina to meet the crew. It was early morning and I was walking down the Dragadon steps – a tremendous number of stairs that connects pedestrians from one area in Pristina to another. The sun was just rising, switching from hazy fog to dawn. As I walked down those stairs, I was bathed in dawn’s sunshine. Even though I was tremendously tired and hadn’t slept in weeks, I felt so full of energy. It felt like I was walking into my future.

And honestly, even though I didn’t know what would unfold the next year and I still don’t know what will unfold in the coming years, I choose to move forward with the certainty that I am going to make it.

A few months ago, I saw a photo of Ava DuVernay wearing a t-shirt that said, “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.” I think about that a lot. I feel so tremendously grateful to be able to live my dreams. I hope I am making my family proud.

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

I’d be knee deep in a swamp in North Carolina shooting the pilot episode of America’s Freedom.

I’d be writing my feature.

I’d be starting my own production company that focuses on telling untold stories with a social justice focus.

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

Funding and time have been two of my biggest obstacles in achieving my vision.

Additionally, I sometimes struggle with negative self-talk. Sometimes I can be tremendously and unforgivably hard on myself. My perfectionism can really break myself down such that it’s hard to move forward with the work. I’m learning good techniques for dealing with this – for getting out of my own head and out of my own way – and just letting myself move forward with the work.

Finally, I’d say one of the biggest obstacles has also been knowing my own vision, although there is a blessing to this as well. Honestly, it has taken some time for me to recognize what it is that makes my work special and distinct. But while this is a challenge, I still believe this is an exciting part of the journey as well. While I hope to continue to discover my own vision, I also want to discover my own expansiveness, so I can bring my talent to lots of different films. I really feel like every story is different and so I want to strengthen my skills so I can tell each one in the way they really deserve to be told.

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

It helps to spend time with friends and family.

I also practice Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I write Morning Pages every morning and I try to take myself out on an adventure every week. I love trying new foods, seeing new things, going new places, and all of that newness really opens me up and gets my creative self running.

I also find that in order to be creative, I need to take prodigious care of myself. On writing days, it helps to go for a run, meditate, text all of my friends, eat lots of healthy food, drink tons of water and tea, and look and dress in a way that makes me feel proud. When I feel good about myself and take care of myself, it helps me work. Sometimes that requires taking care of myself emotionally, especially if my work brings up hard emotions. I need to self-soothe and allow myself to be a learner who is trying her best. These practices help me stay connected to my creative self.

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

Negative self-image. I wish I had trusted myself earlier. If I’m being honest, I feel like I’m on a healing journey to love myself fully and let myself be free. It’s a process.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Such a tough question! I’m not sure!

One piece of art that I have spent a fair amount of time wondering about is this Tranquil Zen Garden of Kyoto. As the original designer did not leave an explanation, this rock garden and its meaning is mysterious. Many people have wondered why it is laid out as it is, including myself. I have a soft spot for art that encourages us to continually wonder without answer. Somehow, I feel like the art gives us more this way, revealing more and more about ourselves and the world around us through our own wisdom and insight.

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

I’ve always been a Jane Austen fan. Jane Austen was a pretty irreverent woman and I admire her astute and frank perception and writing.

I also admire Martin Luther King, Jr. While he has become a bit idealized and consequently de-radicalized recently in U.S. culture, I find inspiring his ability to see beyond who America was/is to see who we deserve to be. I admire his steadfast pursuit of justice at such a tremendous cost.

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

For loving people so deeply, they feel more free to be their full selves. For loving myself so deeply, I am free myself. For helping us to see a way forward toward love, healing  and justice.

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

Tenacious. Persistent. Creative. Smart.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I scroll endlessly on Facebook. I am a sucker for expensive meals. I turn the heat up really high.  On bad days, I splurge on Starbucks chai tea lattes.

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

I don’t think I’d say anything. I’d just listen. I’d want Mattie to know she’s deeply loved and valuable. I’d do anything she wants.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Oh my! You are asking Mattie to dream big today! If I could live anywhere, I’d love to have an apartment in Manhattan, perhaps a brownstone in Harlem. I’d also love to have an apartment in Paris.

But honestly, I never really thought of settling anywhere. I always think of my life as an adventure life, going wherever I find it meaningful and valuable to be. But I will say these days, the idea of having a home of my own is becoming more tempting. While I love flexibility, I also love the idea of being able to welcome people into my own warm, loving space.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Oh my! I’ve got so many dreams!

I think my idea of success is being able to do what I’m meant to do in the world. I’d love to have enough financial security to work on my art. I have worked hard to balance my life so that I can do that now. But I’d love to be able to achieve this with even more financial and creative freedom in the future.

Honestly, I’d love to rise up in my career in a way that changes our industry and the world for the best. My idea of success is not even to achieve top awards  – although I’d like that too. I’d love for our entire industry to be different – to be a safer space for women, people of color, LGBT folks, people with disabilities, etc. to tell stories. I’d love for us to achieve parity in work and salary. I’d love to establish a whole community of badass folks who give back to communities and transform society.

I also think that outside of my career, I’m on a healing journey that signifies true success to me. I want to feel safe and proud in my own skin and ideas. I want to feel like I’ve truly set myself free and I’m able to be who I want to be in this world.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Tea, adventures, seeing the people you love truly happy, good food and that feeling in your soul of content pride and peace.

Somehow from this place, I’d love to give back to the world, encouraging others on their own pilgrimages toward love and freedom.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity! It’s such a blessing.
 

Fast Forward Friday with Martha Williams

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed Martha Williams, writer-director for Run for Your Life and a long-time maker-writer-performer-organizer. Martha (BA anthropology GWU & MFA film directing CalArts) is an award-winning film director, event maker and former multi-media, dance-theater maker who’s work has been seen and celebrated in the US and abroad. Martha also works as a content creator and creative consultant for hire at BugHouse Media, bringing her wild, winsome approach yet web-like thinking to everything she does.  To learn more, visit  bughousemedia.com and marthawilliams.info.

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

I’m polishing up the last four scripts for Episodes 4-8 in Season 1 of the  comedy web series Run for Your Life, which is about ridiculous internet dates that make the main characters run for their lives until they figure out what went wrong. I also always have three other projects I want to put creative energy into but decided to take that energy and actually nurture Run for Your Life into the world. This means I’m looking for sponsorship, distribution and/or other funding sources.

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

Two years after a pretty tragic break-up with my “soulmate,” I thought I was mended enough to start online dating. Wrong! Turns out that tragedy was buried deep in my bones and I was very angry. I’m not alone in using online dating to distract from a break up, which might lead to some good times, but often leads to bad behavior. Not that I was having a ton of success in my mind, but I went out with a lot of men and since online dating says there’s a dating surplus, I treated them like disposable diapers. This means, I also have stories! Like the guy who said God and Joseph Campbell were his writing partners, and the guy who claimed to be a shaman but in person told me he was a warlock with a coven gone wrong.

As comedic as my life seemed, online dating was also troublesome. I asked why is it so terrible? Was it that I was growing older? You know every woman in NYC goes to that question. Was I too prudish or too slutty? Was I too serious or too demanding? Was it me? Yes! It was partially me, I wasn’t ready to open my heart. But simply put, when technology is my matchmaker, I usually want to run for my life. Ultimately, this catch phrase “run for your life” stayed with me until I was ready to actually make it last year.

So, yes, Run for Your Life is a comedy but it’s comedy with heart designed to contribute to the collective conversation around modern romance and the profound question: why does online dating suck so often?

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

I don’t have art heroes but I do have art angels, people who have called me forward in one way or another. These include Kristin McCardle, Pascal Rekoert, The Broken Rose Portal team, Elke Rindfleisch, Rachel Werbel and Lawrence Crimlins. Each showed up to steer me in the right direction or help me break through a block. It’s these friends and artistic cohorts with whom we are weaving this epic artistic, very nuanced and circuitous journey.

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

My impetus for making has always been a fascination with the world we live in. I thrive in street culture, which is why living in LA was such a fail for me. I could spend hours watching the way someone moves or listening to the way someone talks or thinking about how it all fits together. I often call myself a culturalist, because it’s big picture culture that fascinates me the most and this started at a very young age. 

Partially culture is fascinating because as a child, we moved every three years to a new town because my dad was a Marine and then retired and became an Episcopal priest. Everywhere we went, North Carolina, Hawaii, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, people were convicted about their beliefs and way of life i.e.  they thought they were right about what was cool, appropriate and right. But what was cool, appropriate and right changed everywhere you went. If everyone thinks they are right, and right is different everywhere you go, what is right? So early on, I started to ask, what is really going on? Why is all of it right and none of it right at the same time? It seemed to me that there was much more to life than meets the eye and that most people embody prescribed narratives and perhaps…a lot of lies.

So to this day, what keeps me motivated is my curiosity about the world around me. What is the story behind someone’s life that creates a beautiful tragedy or a raging success? Why do they move like that? What are they hiding and why? What is truth? How are our bodies maps? Where do body, mind and spirit truly help each other? Are we more human or less human because of technology? What assumptions about power make male/female relations riddled with transgression?

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

In-ter-arch-y noun. a system of society or government in where integration of male and female values are paramount, not hierarchy…and a word I made up for a TV show I’ve been developing called Church of Christy about a female driven near future utopia (interarchy) and the contradictory ambition of Christy Church, one of it’s founders. I always say it’s Terry Gilliam’s Brazil meets Veep  – absurd, comedic and fast talking. I’m looking for a producer, co-writer or agent to hop on board sooner than later.

I also wrote lyrics to a rap called Welcome to the Interarchy and looking for the right musician to collaborate with on it. My dream is to get it in front of Beyonce or Janelle Monae.

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

Just recently I was hired to conceive and direct a handful of music videos (not yet released) and I had this distorted image that came to mind that didn’t seem relevant right off the bat, but I couldn’t shake it. When I sat down to really work it out with the song, I finally realized that the image made perfect sense for the video. I often have a profound image or word in my head, and then when I follow that, it tells me the story. That’s when I know vision is leading the way.

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

I’d be doing whatever I want and have a lot of people helping me to do it and never once think about money. I’d be following not only film ideas, but public art project ideas, spectacle, fashion and sharing my truth with the masses through speaking and writing.

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

Often, I make something and then, because of resources, I don’t nurture it into the world. That said, I’m trying a new strategy with Run for Your Life.

But besides resources, I think my barriers have to do with starting “late” and not historically feeling entitled to be an artist, something that can go along with being female i.e. not taking up space, being nice, lack of confidence or just having parents who would prefer you to be a star athlete instead of a ravenous maker of things.

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

I dance, touch trees and am helplessly curious about life so I read a lot, take workshops, see movies and most importantly have an ongoing conversation with creative friends and cohorts. And on the more practical side, I also make sure I carve out time every day for writing or dreaming.

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

I’m blessed by an avalanche of ideas but sometimes splintered by them too. I think I’d benefit from a very practical dorm mother who told me what to focus on.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I’m not into favorites. Although I do love Bill Viola’s experience d l’infini and anything by Pina Bausch and the Coen brothers.

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

My grandfather. He taught me that life was beautiful and that laughter weaves the ultimate safety net of life. He also heated up coffee like no other, loved ice cream and to drive fast, always had a joke in his pocket and acceptance up his sleeve.

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

I’d like to be known for making wild films and work that shows the bended truth of reality and contributes to the evolution of the collective mind.

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

My best friend (and magician) has named me “Mountain.” As a 6’4” woman, I think it fits.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I love getting my nails done, looking down at my hands to delight in color. It’s guilty cause those nail salon ladies are likely modern day slaves.

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

You are an artist and this is why the world seems strange. Trust that itch, it’s probably right.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

My first memories were in Hawaii, where I learned my first dance: the hula, where we didn’t have to wear shoes in school and where I ran free amongst the banyan trees. Then we lived throughout the south where hammocks and lemonade feast on southern drawls. That said, I’ve always been drawn to hot, humid, natural life and love the feel of islands, like in the Caribbean. I love sublime island beauty mixed with danger of being sand and trees in the oceans belly – pulsing with heat, rain, birds and the possibility of being swept away by a swipe of nature’s hand.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Success is making work that impacts the way we think of the world, that touches a deep seated not-easily known or understood center of the human nature.

On a practical level success looks like I have a strong, loving community of inspired friends and makers while making work in a sustainable way. It also looks like my work is known by the masses, I’m considered to be a thought leader and I’m a sought after creative thinker.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Here are some conversation starters:

What would be a better narrative around power?

How does the erotic heal?

Why do so many little girls like pink?

Who is kale’s press agent? Cause when I was a kid it was a border patrol at the salad bar.

 

Fast Forward Friday with Heather Cappiello

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed  director Heather Cappiello. Heather is an award-winning director of film, television and theater. She has directed episodes of Madam Secretary, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods (2016 Voice Award winner) and the horror series Freakish, streaming on Hulu. Additionally, she directed the pilot presentation for the one-hour drama Corporate produced by The Collective. Heather wrote and directed the short film Ruby’s Tuesday that screened at more than 25 festivals including The Short Film Corner at Cannes. She was one of two directors chosen for the CBS Directing Initiative during the 2015 cycle and is a current protege in the inaugural DGA Craft and Mentorship Program.  To learn more, visit www.heathercappiello.com.

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

I just conceived and directed my first site-specific live dance performance titled Break Glass at a beautiful outdoor space in Los Angeles. I had the pleasure of working with the talented dancer and choreographer Lizzy Mulkey, and three LA-based dancers for six weeks as we devised a 20-minute piece exploring what it means to be a woman working in a man’s world. Through dance and physical movement, the all-female ensemble explored motifs surrounding the experience of hitting the glass ceiling, climbing the corporate ladder and the barriers that often prevent women from getting a foot in the door. I chose a venue with an outdoor patio and a three-tiered staircase that allowed the dancers to use the entirety of the staircase as the set. The composer, Mike Meehan, created a score using original music, arranged tracks by the musician Ryat and sampled quotes from Hillary Clinton, Sarah Grimke and Abby Wambach. The pre-recorded score was accompanied by a live violinist during the final climb of the performance. The response to the show was very exciting and I hope to mount it again at various locations in California and possibly New York. In the meantime, I am editing a highlight reel of the show and will post it on my website.

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

Dance is my favorite art form and it has been a dream of mine to collaborate with a choreographer and dancers on a live performance. Over the past few years, the concept of exploring what it means to be a woman working in a traditionally man’s job has been at the forefront of my mind and dance seemed the perfect expression. As a TV director, I have witnessed the gender gap in the hiring process of television directors in particular and the production crew in general. I have been observing and discussing this inequity and have started to take an active role in trying to understand the underlying biases that lead to discrimination – starting with my own implicit bias. Using accounts of actual events from my own work life, stories in the news and the experiences of dancers in the ensemble, we set out to both entertain and enlighten our audience with a non-verbal portrayal of what we encounter during our career trajectories as women facing barriers of gender, race and unconscious bias.

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

The humorous and wonderful writing of Samuel Beckett; the courage and austerity of Peter Brook’s theater; the talent and friendship of actress Holly Hunter, writer Jessica Mecklenburg and activist-writer Kim Bender; the curated sounds of DJ-producer Gilles Peterson and all of the musicians he celebrates; the choreography of William Forsythe; the cinematic sensuality of Krzysztof Kieslowski.

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

Engaging in the process of art-making and experiencing art made by others.

Travel is also a gateway to creativity for me: smelling new aromas, hearing different languages, watching people from everywhere and getting lost in a new place. I love traveling with my son who has a similar thirst for new experiences and community.

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

I am very excited to return to New York this fall to direct episodes of the upcoming season of Blue Bloods. It’s thrilling to continue working with the cast and crew over several years and find new ways to shoot action scenes and delve into family dynamics that are so familiar. Also, stay-tuned for more site-specific dance! Lizzy Mulkey and I are conceiving a new piece around the ideas of touching/not touching in private and public spaces/relationships.

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

When audience members cried at each of the Break Glass  performances!

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

I would love to be a producing director on a TV show. I look forward to the opportunity to be part of the collective brain trust that creates a show, chooses the directors and attenuates the tone prescribed by the writer.

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

My gender. But the vision is coming into focus, I feel grateful for my patience and for the examples of my mentors.

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

Make art, travel, cook, laugh, dance in my kitchen, see art with my fiance, read, create community, swim in the ocean and stay physically connected to nature and myself.

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

Fear of failure.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I’ve never been able to pick just one favorite book or movie or painting. I love Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings of women.

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

My mother. She always made everyone feel welcome.

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

Bringing people together for artistic collaborations and personal friendships.

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

Curious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Watching Claws and all of the Step-Up movies. I also love setting-off illegal fireworks!

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

Time flies as a parent but it slows down as a female director – keep pursuing both things everyday with all of your might!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Where I live now – Venice Beach.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Enjoying my daily work life and having a community to engage with regularly.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Telling stories for a living and being in the moment with people I love.

Q: Final Thoughts?

“She rises by lifting others”

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.