Zip Creative Community Looks Ahead to a New Year

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

 

Q: What was your proudest accomplishment in 2016?

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


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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Q: What are you looking forward to in 2017?

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

Fast Forward Friday with Diane Smook

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Q: Where would you most like to live?

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

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Quiet time upstate with my husband to work and contemplate.

Q: Final Thoughts?

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

 

 

Fast Forward Friday with Stephanie Yuhas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motivated

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Where would you most like to live?

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

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

Q: What is your idea of success?

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

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

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

Q: Final Thoughts?

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

 

Fast Forward Friday with Ian Belton

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaw4aaaajdziyzhlnzrilwjinzgtngm2ns1indu4ltyzzthhyju5nwu3naFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning theater director-filmmaker-teacher-dramaturge-writer-producer Ian Belton. His stage directing credits include the US premiere of Marina Carr’s Hecuba (Skidmore College)Big Love (University of Hawaii), Guinea Pig Solo (The Public/LAByrinth), The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (two Drama Desk nominations), and Barefoot In The Park (Singapore Rep). He is the director of several short films and is a frequent collaborator of acclaimed acting coach Greta Kaufman. Currently he is adapting The Seagull by Anton Chekov with Laura Wagner for stage and screen as well as the book Operation Babylon with Matthew Price.

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

Three things: A screenplay called Operation Babylon adapted from a book of the same title about the 1940s Jewish underground railroad through Iraq and Iran that led to the mass migration of the 2500 year old diaspora. A companion stage-play theater piece, Baghdad Radio, that deals with illegal wireless operators in the Middle East. And then dramaturgical prep for Jim Findlay’s Electric Lucifer, a bio-musical based on electronic music pioneer Bruce Haack, which is being workshopped in January here in New York. As of this moment I am actually in Jim’s piece as a performer, playing an abstraction of a Gitmo detainee.

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

I am half-Persian and half-Irish yet I look like I am fresh off the boat from Iran. Like when I mention I am working on Electric Lucifer the majority of people jokingly ask, “Who do you play?” owing equal parts to my swarthy complexion as much as my dark disposition.  Thus contradictory identity politics plays heavily in my work. I have a family connection to the founding fathers of Israel yet was raised Catholic.  Regardless, it is my staunch belief that a working knowledge of Middle Eastern history, religion and culture is going to be essential if humanity hopes to survive the 21st century.

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

I came up in the ‘90’s, when AIDS wiped out a whole generation of artists in multiple mediums. Like Brad Davis would have been the gay Channing Tatum had he not died.  Jonathan Foster, who was the founder of the amateur Homemade Theater where I’d do summer stock, was another early victim.  HIV positive Mario Garner took his own life after giving the most devastating of performances in The Law Of Remains by Reza Abdoh—a director I worshiped, who generated amazing work literally from his deathbed.  Thus, in spite of generally being considered heterosexual, I gravitated towards queer counterculture of Genet, Fassbinder, Monika Treut, David Wojnarowicz and Kenneth Anger.  I love art house cinema and wish I could go back to school and get a doctorate in film theory. I have also been extremely blessed with amazing teachers including Joanne Akalaitis, Michael Kahn, Garland Wright, Anne Bogart, Yoshi Oida, Alma Becker and Dave Yergan.

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

It varies wildly.  More often than not, it is an overwhelming sense that justice be served but then that can also be a huge distraction.  Like it is taking everything I have not to drop what I am doing right now and join the protests against having elected a straight-up fascist as POTUS or join the DAPL protestors at Standing Rock in North Dakota.

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

I have this model for a 24-hour film festival that we tried out this past summer —to write, shoot and edit a short movie in 24 hours. Everything is done on smartphones with a steadicam-mount in the style of the film Tangerine.  This is great for young people as it empowers them and they see what is possible with limited means.

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

I usually experience “flow” or “selflessness” after the fact, like an alchemical waking up.  This happens to me mostly when I am directing theater, like right after tech, perhaps because I have been doing it for so long.  Like with Hecuba that I directed this past April at Skidmore College, I am watching these first and second year college kids tackle impossibly hard material with aplomb and supersized power and I think, “Who did that? How did we get here?  Did little elves come in here and make the shoes while I was sleeping.”

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

I love teaching and directing undergraduates as well as making films. I think I am doing it, just need more of the same. Would like to try my hand at TV. That and health insurance.

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

I am a 9-11 first responder and I lived three blocks away from the North tower. A lot of people don’t realize that the fires at Ground Zero burned until December of 2001. I have had a lot of neighbors die of respiratory related illness. Thank heaven – and Obama – for the Zadroga Act which provides free medical and psychiatric counsel for those affected. At the same time, I don’t think I would have the same interest in the Middle East if it wasn’t for that event. So we will see.That and a not so healthy fear of routine. Doing the same thing with consistency is the only path to mastery—to get to the 10,000 hour mark. Yet time speeds up when you do this and slows down when you break out. Like when you travel to a foreign country and a day seems to last a month. Or you stop answering questions about your art to join a protest movement.

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

Read books unrelated to work, yoga, swim and try to sit quietly in “seiza” for a couple of minutes a day.

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

My ability to hang on and stay with something in spite of impossible odds is both a curse and a blessing. So tough to say. The playwright Alice Tuan taught me that there is no such thing as “wasted time” for an artist. The inherent problem with this being is that you are working and never working. You are on perpetual vacation yet there is no such thing as “time off.”
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?The black “Alamo” cube in the East Village, Manhattan, by sculptor Tony Rosenthal. It’s 8 by 8 feet, mounted on a corner. You used to be able to rotate it on its axis in spite of it weighing 1,800 pounds. I loved spinning that thing as a kid growing up in New York. It was gone for a while and I heard it’s back as of November 1! Yay! It also reminds me of Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square painting as well as the Kaaba in Mecca. Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

Jimi Hendrix.

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

Getting actors to be “interested” instead of “interesting.”

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

Restless.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

My Little Pony. Yup. If I could go to Comic-Con and be a full-fledged Brony, I’d be stoked.

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

I’d thank my mom for having awesome hair.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Iceland for a while. Istanbul. And retire to Beyreuth to die watching Wagner operas from my wheelchair with an IV drop of an opioid drug or some other.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Political upheaval.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Family, extended and otherwise.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Gratitude.

 

 


Fast Forward Friday with Kerri Lynn Miller

miller_kerriap8a7203rtsmallFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-producer-writer Kerri Lynn Miller.  She has acted in numerous New York theatre productions, independent films and as well as featured roles on TV shows such as Royal Pains, BlueBloods and Odd Mom Out. Her latest project which she starred in and produced is a short film titled Etymology.  For more information about Kerri click here.

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

I am an actor, writer, producer and mom.  I am so excited that we are birthing our short film Etymology out into the world via festival submissions. Our team just started the process and we are very excited to see where Etymology finds its audience.

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

Women are constantly sold unattainable and conflicting expectations about who we are supposed to be. Because of this, I believe we all struggle with some form of perfectionism. I was drawn to producing Etymology because it reveals an ugly side of perfectionism specifically related to a mother daughter relationship.  It explores the roots of perfectionism and the consequences it has on ourselves and our daughters.  As an actor, I was drawn to the darkness in my character Catherine.  

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

I gravitate to movies that explore perfectionism, failure and shame.  I love Hillary Swank’s performance under the direction of Kimberly Peirce in Boys Don’t Cry and her performance in Million Dollar Baby. I find inspiration watching David O’ Russel’s movies, my favorite being Silver Linings PlaybookMy favorite movie is Goodwill Hunting. The scene between Matt Damon and Robin Williams – “It’s not your fault”  – will always touch me.  

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

Above all else, I love connecting with others.  As an actress, I love those moments when you are so present that you get lost.  As a filmmaker, I love sharing stories that make me feel vulnerable.  It’s scary to be vulnerable in your work but that is where the “gold” of creativity lies and where authentic connection comes from.

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

I have a feature film in development that I have been working on for four years.  It’s a passion project of mine, and near and dear to my heart. I will be looking to secure investors early next year.

 I just wrapped a new and currently untitled series for LMN (Lifetime Movie Network).  It was such a fun role to act!  My director told me to watch Basic Instinct to prepare for my role.  No, there wasn’t a crotch scene, but lots of seducing, betrayal and manipulation in the name of my character’s next book.  

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

Recently, we did a small screening of Etymology with a group of moms.  At the end of the short film, we recorded their individual feedback ….  I was floored.  These moms were moved to tears. They saw themselves in the main character and could relate to her struggle.  It was during these interviews that I felt a sense of satisfaction.  I thought, “No matter what happens with this film, it was a success.”  We connected with these moms in an authentic way.  It was a win and as far as I am concerned, everything else is gravy.  

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

There is a movement happening with women in film.  Barriers are being broken as we speak.  I am so proud to be a part of this time in history and I am excited by all the opportunity. If there were no barriers, I would be doing exactly what I am doing now but at a higher level.  

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

I think there is an opportunity to inspire more female investors for film.  We need to have our stories told because these stories will be the ones that shape our future generations. They will empower our young daughters of tomorrow.

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

I am my most creative when I am in a joyful space.  I create my joy through being in nature, spending time with my family, playing with my dog, journaling, dance parties in the kitchen and working out.

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

Perfectionism.  I am a recovering perfectionist and I know that I have often let the judgement of others impede my progress at times.  I would let go of all the times I placed pleasing someone above being truthful to myself.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I am obsessed with Laurent Bahaux’s photographs of lions and elephants in Africa.  My favorite shot is Criniere De Lion.  It’s magical!

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

Albert Einstein.  He seemed to have all the laws of the universe figured out.  He could give me a road map.

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

 Living joyfully and being an uplifting presence to those I came in contact with.

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

Dancing!

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Without a doubt, raw cookie dough! Yummy!

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

I would say: “You’re enough.” Funny thing is, I’m still telling myself that today.  I’m learning it’s a practice.  

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I would like to be bi-coastal and travel the world.  It’s not so much about where I live as who I am sharing my life with.  I love exploring and seeing as many different parts of this world as possible.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Freedom to create stories and characters and share them at the highest level.  Freedom to travel and spend time enjoying life with the people I love.  Having a beautiful space to live in.  Being surrounded by laughter and well-being.  Feeling a sense of ease and flow in my life. Joy. I want it all.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Gosh, I think it’s the same thing as success.  Above all else, happiness is feeling good when you wake up and feeling good when you go to sleep.  Rinse, Repeat.  

Q: Final Thoughts?

Nope, because I’m a work in progress, nothing is final.

Finding Inspiration on the Road!

Traveling -It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. – Ibn Battutaunnamed

The long days of summer have finally faded into the fall. I have been reflecting on my journey to India in July and about how I can continue to draw inspiration from my experiences in this mystical land. While many people travel during the summer months, if you still have dates circled on your calendar, you can start thinking about how you can use those days of freedom to feed your creative soul.

Experiencing new places and meeting new people can expand your worldview in ways that stay with you even after you return home. The more your surroundings are different than your everyday life, the more you will be challenged. Thing about it – you are a blank slate to the people you meet while on vacation. They do not know your “story” and if there is a language gap, you need to find new ways to communicate even simple needs. Traveling forces you to live in the moment and be connected – something we often often forget to do in our smartphone driven world.

All artists can tap into their creative side while traveling – regardless of whether it is a trip to the beach or down the Nile. Here are some reasons why traveling is one of the best ways to find inspiration.

unnamed-1Experiencing new surroundings

New experiences can bring about new ideas. The memories stay with you long after you are back home, and can help you look at your everyday surroundings with new eyes.You will appreciate the beauty thatunnamed-2 surrounds you and may even find creative inspiration in things you took for granted or considered routine.

Meeting new people

If you are traveling abroad, chances are you will meet people from many different countries, with beliefs and customs different than yours. Through simple conversations, you can not only challenge long-held belief systems, but you can find unexpected inspiration in the stories you hear. Maybe one night when you are staring at a blank page or canvass, a sliver of a memory will come back to you and get the creative juices flowing.

Learning to leap

While travel mishaps are never fun or welcome, they can be sometimes be a source of inspiration and a reminder how important it is to embrace the unknown and not to be too attached to expectations. After you are home, you can reflect on your experiences, both good and challenging and find creative outlets for expressing what you’ve experienced, seen and heard. Your personal art is a perfect way to deepen your connection to a place.

The Latest News from the Zip Creative Community

Naomi McDougall Jones has just brought on Emmy Award-Winning casting director Judy Henderson to cast her second feature film, Bite Me, which will be going into production in Spring 2017 with up-and-coming Canadian director Hannah Cheesman (Whatever, Linda); and producers Jack Lechner (Blue Valentine), Jonathan Bronfman (The Witch)  and Sarah Wharton (That’s Not Us). She is just launching a major women’s film fund will be giving a TEDxTalk in Boston on November 19 on the effect the lack of women in film has on our daily lives and the ways in which we have the power to change it.

Amy Guggenheim‘ s Intrinsic Value has just launched – a new consulting service for filmmakers and others to address their writing needs such as pitches, concept, director’s statements and visual materials. She also did a test shoot for her dramatic feature film When Night Turns To Day with actors, Kendo Players, sword choreographer and more.

Shari Berman has just completed her Super 8 experimental film Woman and will be directing a surreal short film titled Giving Notice, written by Christopher Dunlop. Her second feature film Sugar! began its festival tour last month and has already won major awards in all four festivals it has played including the latest   at the The Glendale International Film Festival (Los Angeles) where it won 3 awards- Best Female Director for Shari, Best Actress (Alice Ripley) and Best Cinematography (Fletcher Wolfe). Upcoming screenings of Sugar! include The Big Apple Film Festival and the High Falls Film Festival.

“Three Trembling Cities,” a new webseries written and directed by client Arthur Vincie, is coming out online in October!  The 10-part fiction/doc series is an intimate portrait of the inner lives of a group of immigrants, as they struggle to live and thrive in NYC.  Here is the first trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ6wznHnZuA

Kerstin Karlhuber is currently touring with her feature film Fair Haven on its international festival run. Fair Haven, which has been called, “deftly and meticulously directed”  and “a potent, stirring new film” has been acquired by the Academy Award-winning, worldwide motion picture sales, marketing and distribution firm The Little Film Company. Kerstin was lucky enough to attend the Cannes Film Festival in May, where Fair Haven was featured in Le Marche du Film. The film is also currently playing theatrically in Germany and more territories are releasing soon. Kerstin is actively developing two new narrative films and a limited series.

This past summer, Ian Belton launched the 24 Hour Film Festival while he continues to develop Operation Babylon for the screen and Baghdad Radio  for the stage. In January 2017, there will be the first public showing of his new musical collaboration with Jim Findlay called Electric Lucifer.

Danijela Stajnfeld has been working on the documentary film titled Hold Me Right, about the aftermath of sexual assault. Visit the website for a trailer and mission statement. They conducted about 30 interviews with survivors of sexual assault from various backgrounds and stories throughout the country. With this film, they hope to produce a “live pamphlet” of how to understand and be there for the survivors of sexual abuse, to raise awareness and aim to stop this silent epidemic of crime in all parts of our society. The film will be translated into 10 languages and released in the early 2017.

Sarah Krusen is a video editor and writer currently working full-time as an assistant editor at a commercial post-house in Manhattan.  Before commercials – Sarah co-edited and post-supervised a feature documentary-drama filmed in Bosnia; was the lead editor for a docu-drama filmed in Michigan; traveled the globe filming and editing wedding videos; and freelanced for a variety of clients.  Be sure to check out her work at sarahkrusen.com.

Jonathan Flowers teaches piano, voice, and music theory/composition to children, teens, and adults through his studio Mindful Music in the Philadelphia area. His innovative teaching approach incorporates mindfulness practices to help students enhance mental focus, creativity and relaxation. In addition to teaching his rapidly expanding clientele and performing concerts as a pianist, Jonathan recently presented lectures on mindfulness for Pennsylvania Music Teachers’ Association and West Chester University. He is presently working on a book and forthcoming blog The Mindful Musician.

Fast Forward Friday with Bat-Sheva Guez

Adventure Pants April 12, 2015 Brooklyn, NYFor this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-director-editor-producer Bat-Sheva Guez. She has directed more than a dozen short films and screened them in festivals worldwide including the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the HollyShorts Film Festival. To Learn more about Bat-Sheva click here.

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

Right now, I am finishing up the festival tour for my short film Behind the Wall, which has screened at 20 festivals worldwide, picking up many awards along the way; and I am also in the financing stages of a magical realism film called And How She … This is an art world drama seasoned with magic, experimental sequences and a dash of whimsy. It’s a story about a  young artist named Asha who embarks on a collaboration with an established artist in the midst of his own creative crisis.  But the balance of power is skewed and Asha’s creative identity, not-yet-formed, becomes swallowed up by his.  She must decide whether to be an invisible part of someone else’s work or to start over, anonymous and alone.  So she seeks advice from her neighbors: eccentric, elderly folk with their own kind of street magic.

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

I wanted to tell a tale that followed different magical encounters in a Brooklyn neighborhood, one where the neighborhood itself plays a role in the story.  And I was inspired to retell a tale I had seen of young artists in my own life, friends of mine, who found themselves laboring as the invisible part of someone else’s work, an invisible part of a larger ego or artist’s brand.

I was so curious about this dynamic.  What would make a young artist stick around in a situation like this?  What were they receiving from this sort of a relationship? The more I looked, the more stories like these that I found, stories of invisible artists who were an unknown part of a famous artist’s – or filmmaker’s or musician’s – work.  In my mind, an image formed of a small fish swimming in the belly of a massive fish, alive and safe and traveling fast, but alone in the dark – like a Gepetto or a Jonah.

Q: What films have had an impact on you and your work?

I really love Julie Taymor’s Frida,  Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.  I’ve also been influenced by Amelie, Velvet Goldmine, Strictly Ballroom, Tideland, Y Tu Mama Tambien as well as Israeli films like Jellyfish, The Farewell Party, and Zero Motivation.  I think when it comes down to it, I respond strongly to films that are beautiful, films that incorporate a strand of magic in the narrative and weave subtle humor into everyday tragedies.

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

I really love directing.  So when I am on set, even if it’s a work-for-hire project or directing practice scenes with actors in a Director’s Collective, I’m reminded why I chose this line of work.  That’s when I feel like my most complete self. It keeps me fired up to keep doing this.

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

I’ve just finished a dance film featuring a dreamy and nostalgic pole-dance  set in outer space.  It was a collaboration with the talented performer Jessi Jamz Colon.

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

I was recently hired to direct a video about an experimental theater company.  On the day of the location scout, I felt that familiar thrill of curiosity.  I love the rare moments of my career where I get to actively participate in the world and experience a tiny taste of someone else’s life.  In my line of work, you can just as easily find me in a power plant as you would in a musty costume room of an old theater or in the living room of a concert violinist.  I love the variety of functions/duties that a director performs in her daily life, like taking the train to a previously unvisited street in Manhattan at an unorthodox time in the afternoon to ask a stranger how best to capture his life on film.

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

I would be shooting my feature film right now.  No question.

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

At the moment?  I need the funds to shoot this feature film.  I feel like the man from the musical Gypsy who sings: “Got my tweed pressed, /got my best vest. /All I need now is the girl. / Got my striped tie, / got my hopes high / got the time and the place and I got rhythm / Now all I need is the girl to go with ‘em.”

Only replace the word “girl” with “dough” and that’s pretty much where I am!

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

I try to play and experiment when I can.  It helps to just be making things all the time.  

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

Fear and self-doubt.

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

Curious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I  find it ridiculously soothing to watch sitcoms where friends hang out.  Lately,  the show New Girl has been my guilty pleasure of choice.    

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

I don’t know actually. I feel like any advice I would give myself of 15 years ago might be the wrong advice.  The life of a filmmaker is not an easy one. There’s a lot of obstacles, a lot of rejection, long stretches of poverty and a lot of work that doesn’t look anything like directing.  Fifteen years ago, I was so ready to embark on that life, open and enthusiastic, and convinced I had something new to contribute to the art form.   But now I have a lot of battle wounds from this lifestyle.  If you catch me at the wrong moment, I might tell my younger self that she may have been happier in a different line of work.

Or if you catch me at a different time, I might tell her, “just go and shoot your feature, don’t worry about writing the perfect script.”  But I’m not sure that’s the best advice either.   I think the years I have spent practicing this craft, getting better at directing and better at writing, though while delaying the release of my first feature, will have helped to make it a better one.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

For most of my life, this answer has been the same: Brooklyn!  It’s where I’ve wanted to live ever since I was a little girl when my grandmother took me to NYC for a visit in first grade. And happily,  this is where I do live today.  But the cost of living has become so prohibitive here, that many of my friends have been forced out and it’s possible that the cost will force me out eventually too.  It’s very sad. To feel rejected by a place that I love so much, in a region that was once so welcoming to people of all socio-economic backgrounds, is very unfortunate.  This feeling tends to run through all of my work of late.

Q: What is your idea of success?

My vision of success is to have a career where I am able to direct films, video and tv for a living, and still have enough occasional free time to have a healthy lifestyle, see my friends and family, exercise regularly, eat healthily.  Sometimes in this industry, creative success comes at a high cost to every other aspect of one’s life and health.  And I’m always fighting to find a way to balance these – even if it means doing the healthy things after production ends. I’d also really like to write a book one day.  And in a perfect world, some of the things I make would live after I’m gone, leaving some mark of beauty or inspiration for others who come after me.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness for me is having the freedom and ability to create on a regular basis, the freedom to spend time with the people I love, access to people to collaborate with and be inspired by, the freedom and ability to have an active life with dance and running and swimming and hiking – and plenty of easy access to trees.

That’s it.  Thank you!

Fast Forward Friday with Mike Evariste

CourtneyLindbergPhotography_072414_0984For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed singer-actor-Tony Award nominated producer Mike Evariste. His latest project is a concert series/show Broadway at the W, which originated in Los Angeles and launched in New York City in July. To learn more about Broadway at the W, click here.

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

I’m currently working on a series I produced and created with my best friends called Broadway at the W. The concert series/show takes place in the W Hollywood in Los Angeles and W NY Times Square in New York City, and features Broadway’s hottest touring and New York Broadway shows, along with the incredible cast. We started the series in Los Angeles a year ago and recently launched it here in New York City on July 10. It truly is an authentic Broadway experience. A raw, acoustic, up close and personal evening with Broadway’s brightest talents. Daniel J. Watts of Tony Award winning Hamilton and HBO’s Vinyl hosts the series featuring cast members straight from Broadway and special guest stars from Broadway, TV  and film.

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

Well, I’ve always thought that Los Angeles could have more of Broadway in the city. I’ve been to LA many times while on tour with shows and I noticed LA folks really loved Broadway, and I could feel there was a yearning and craving for more than just the touring shows that came through the touring houses. Broadway at the W was the perfect vehicle. So, the idea came about when one of my best friends from college – now one of my producing partners –  wanted to do a one night concert version of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World in Los Angeles. I told her I’d help and produce the concert with her. When it came time to look for a venue we wanted something cool and different – not your typical proscenium. And it was at that point the idea went from a one night concert of Songs for a New World to Broadway at the W. I pitched the idea to the W Hollywood of doing a concert series featuring singers; dancers; live band; special guest singers from TV, film and Broadway; and using the catalog of Broadway and pop songs. They loved the idea!

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

My artistic heroes are honestly my peers who I see and witness doing incredible things on and off the stage. Not only are they acting, singing and dancing eight times a week on Broadway, but they’re writing, directing, choreographing, producing, recording albums, doing commercials, starring in TV shows, starring in films. It really inspires me. If I had to name a few individuals they would be Casey Nicholaw, Broadway director for The Book of Mormon, Aladdin and Something Rotten; Chris Gatelli, Broadway choreographer for South Pacific, Newsies and The King and I;  and Josh Bergasse, Broadway choreographer for On the Town and NBC’s Smash for paving the way for Broadway performers to not having to limit ourselves to only performing eight times a week on Broadway. What they all have in common is they were all once Broadway performers and are now very successful Tony and Emmy Award winners.

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

One of the things that keeps me motivated is my loving family. My mother, father  and grandparents have been so supportive in everything I’ve done and have sacrificed so much for me and my career. The second thing that keeps me motivated and inspired is the genuine love I have for creativity. I love seeing what begins as an idea in my head, turn into something tangible and comes into fruition. It’s so much work but so rewarding and creatively fulfilling.

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

I’m very excited about two independent films I’m a producer on that are coming out in 2016/17 – Pass the Light and Construction. Both great films with great messages. I also optioned an incredible book based on a true story that I’m working on adapting for television called To Vegas and Back written by an amazing person and author, Suzanne Krauss. Lastly, developing a new Broadway show called Beauty and the Bulldog.

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

When celebrities you watched on TV as a child are now acting across from you. When Broadway stars you would mimic and sing along to on Broadway cast albums are now singing and acting alongside of you in New York City on a Broadway stage. When you’re taking phone calls and pitch meetings with Tony Award winning producers, production companies and TV execs. I have to take a step back sometimes and remember to take it all in.

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

Producing TV and film.

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

Money.

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

I see live theater, live entertainment, watch TV and film, and listen to music. Have conversations with every and anyone. I get a lot of my inspiration when I’m by water. I find water to be very calming and rejuvenating for my mind.

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

Not being prepared for unforeseen opportunities. Always be prepared because you never know what will be presented to you.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

The ocean and palm trees.

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

My mother. She embodies strength, determination, intelligence, will power, beauty and kindness.

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

My kindness.

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

Genuine.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Cakes and cupcakes.

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

Don’t be so trusting.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

On the beach.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Happiness, financial stability, love, stable career that I love, good health and a loving family.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Being surrounded by those you love – family and friends. Having a job and career you love and being in good health.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Thank you for having me as one of your guests.

Fast Forward Friday with Janet Grillo

download For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-director-producer Janet Grillo. She is an award winning, critically acclaimed filmmaker, Emmy Award winning producer, former Senior VP of Production/East Coast at New Line Cinema, and Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. Her most recent feature Jack of the Red Hearts won the Grand Jury prize at Geena Davis’ Bentonville Film Festival, promoting gender balance and diversity. It was seen by one million people on LIFETIME and is currently available for digital streaming, VOD and DVD. To learn more about Janet and her work, click here.

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

Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not say. Maybe it’s superstitious of me and maybe it’s about creative privacy. But while something is gestational, I’m protective of its fragility and would rather not publicize it.

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

Lisa Cholodenko is a contemporary, American filmmaker I much admire and am inspired by. I revere Billy Wilder; his versatility and craft discipline­­ the way he explored all dimensions of what it means to be human. Even his gossamer romps hold the space for darker truth. They are NOT mutually exclusive! His work resonates with wit and humanity. The same is true for Cholodenko. Nothing is made palatable – ­­it just IS palatable. Because it’s accepted as who we are, what we are and thus can be laughed about, as well as gasped at.

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

I’m lucky to teach full time at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Undergrad Film/TV Program. My students motivate and inspire me­­ – it’s a virtuous circle. As I teach, I learn. Being in the classroom with these brilliant, ambitious, passionate and optimistic young artists is like going to the storytelling gym for a rigorous workout.

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

It happened this week … I was taking my dogs for a hike upstate, where I have a weekend “sanity’”house, and am spending the summer. I had spent the morning writing a draft of a script on which I’m collaborating with an esteemed peer (who’s also a delightful woman). I looked out on the Hudson, saw an egret on the shore and deeply appreciated the amazing balance I’ve been blessedly able to achieve; between NYC (working at NYU, constantly stimulated by students and colleagues) and Upstate (work and renewal). I flashed to a fantasy/dream/goal/vision I had when a college student of what my life would be like as an adult ­­and realized I am now living it.

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

I actually think this would be it. Writing and directing stories where I explore what it means to be human. Functioning independently and with full sovereignty. I’m very lucky … and deeply grateful.

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

My own neurosis … oh, and the overarching sexism/misogyny of the Industrial Entertainment Complex. Yes, that.

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

Spend time alone!

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

Fear.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Oh gosh … I don’t have a favorite! Too many to recount. What kind of art? What medium? Overwhelmed by the possibilities … lately I’ve been obsessed by Hamilton.

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

Eleanor Roosevelt.

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

Compassion and putting it into action; rising to the occasion of my disabled child’s needs.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Key and Peele … It’s my happy place. But I don’t feel guilty about it. So does that count?

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

GET OUT OF THERE NOW!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I’d love to live Upstate full time.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Being happy.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Reality minus expectations.

Q: Final Thoughts?

 Thanks for the chance to share these ramblings!