Fast Forward Friday with Peter Stass

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-director Peter Stass. He is the co-author of the 2006 feature Relative Strangers, which starred Danny DeVito and Kathy Bates. He has also written and directed several of his own shorts, which have played at such venues as the Steve Allen Theater and the LA Comedy Shorts Fest. He has taught screenwriting at the Gotham Writers Workshop. He is currently developing his feature, Ackerman & Associates Meet Dracula.

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

I made a one-minute short comedy during lockdown called The Conversation, which has just played at its first fest (The Micro-Minute Film Festival appropriately.) It’s a satirical commentary on modern communication.

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

I feel that phones and the internet have profoundly changed how we communicate, not entirely for the better. I wanted to address that through humor. Also, I made another (longer) short a year ago, which I made the mistake of producing myself. It showed. So this time around, I was determined to find an actual producer, which made all the difference. So often, independent filmmakers try to make something that is simply beyond their present means, and the film usually suffers for it. I decided that I would make the best film that I could with the resources I had. And that it was better to make a one-minute film that looks (and sounds) like a real movie than a fifteen-minute one that looks more like a Youtube sketch. 

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?

I think my role is to keep telling stories relevant to the moment we are in. Through stories, we encourage empathy and catharsis. When we see our experiences reflected on the screen, it makes us feel less alone.

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

One of my artistic heroes is Sylvester Stallone. I have always been touched by the way he created “Rocky,” his own independent film, and held out on selling it to a major studio (even though he was a poor, unknown actor at the time) until he was allowed to star in it. This must have taken a great deal of faith and vision. 

Another is the director John Sayles. He has been writing scripts and script-doctoring in Hollywood for years and then using the money to finance his own, totally independent films. His films deal with many political and social issues, movies the Hollywood system would probably never make. He has found a way to do his thing, and I have to admire it.

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

I am always inspired when I see new examples of people making their own art, especially when it’s not in line with what is popular at the moment. Usually, it is young people who are not thinking in terms of limitation but merely expressing themselves. Some of the most beautiful things in the world come from this.

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

One thing I’m working on at the moment is stand-up comedy! I’m taking a class at a wonderful performance space/learning center in Astoria, Queens, called QED. I don’t know where this will take me, but stand-up is something that appeals to me because it provides the opportunity for me to share my material (which is mostly comedy) directly with an audience. 

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

I think you are living in your vision when you are very alive with a project. You are not caught up in the practicalities of its success or failure, not thinking too far ahead, just immersed. It’s love, really. I felt this way when I wrote my first screenplay, and I didn’t even know what I was doing! I was very young and mostly self-taught, but I was so alive with it. I was constantly improving it and telling anyone who would listen about it. And actually, this led to my first professional job, working with Greg Glienna, who had just sold Meet The Parents to Universal. So there is something to be said for this approach!

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

If there were no barriers to entry, I would be making my own feature film, a horror-comedy called Ackerman & Associates Meet Dracula. It’s something that I really love and will make someday.

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

Self-doubt. It can be hard to trust yourself, especially when people you perceive as knowing more than you tell you something isn’t right or can’t be done. Trusting yourself is very important, not just in art but in life. Bruce Springsteen said this in his excellent autobiography, but I’ve heard it elsewhere too (in regards to art): “Remember, life comes first.”

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

I like to look back at the things that inspired me to begin with; those films, that art, that first sparked my interest. I usually find that the thing it touched in me is still there, ready to be reignited. Whenever I hear the early music of Bruce Springsteen, for example, that exuberance, that sense that anything is possible, always inspires me. 

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

I would let go of the past, of “failures” and things I wish I hadn’t done. Or things I wish I had! It’s really just beating yourself up. All you can do is start from where you are, hopefully, use those lessons from the past, and move forward better than before.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

It’s so hard to pick a favorite piece of art, but certainly, my favorite film of all time is the original Rocky. We don’t tend to think of it as an independent film because it became this huge franchise, but really it was. It was made for a million dollars and had no stars in it. And we don’t tend to think of Stallone as an independent artist because he subsequently became associated with the excesses of the ’80s. But at the time, he was just an unknown actor with a slurred speech who could only get roles playing thugs. One of my favorite things about Rocky is that, unlike its sequels, he didn’t even win the fight at the end! Because it wasn’t about that. It was about proving something to himself. (And it’s also a wonderful love story.) We didn’t have to win in the ’70s. That all started in the ’80s when the only thing that mattered became “success.”

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

This is another tough one, so I will just pick one of the people I most admire. Bruce Springsteen is a major artistic hero of mine. He knew what he wanted to do from a very young age and made a bee-line for it. He built it from the ground up. No friends or family in the business, starved and struggled in the beginning, but wouldn’t even consider a job outside of music. He would rather sleep in a surfboard factory, which he did. This might not be possible (or advisable) today, but the bottom line is he built the life he wanted and did so on his own terms. Also, an example of a living icon who has never “gone off the rails.” He has no major controversies, no drug years, no sex scandals, and has always been down to earth and accessible. He is still doing it his way, in his 70s now.

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

I would like to be known as someone who did what he wanted to do. If you can look back and say, “I did what I wanted to do,” then you’ve had a good life. Because most people don’t.

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

These are good questions! (And very difficult.) Probably “kind.” I genuinely love people.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure. Sitting around watching crap on YouTube. Just a little of this, a little of that, and completely wasting time. A lot of it is nostalgia: an old Siskel & Ebert review here, a David Letterman interview there, a movie clip, a music video, etc. Pure comfort.

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

I would say: “Trust yourself. You know what you’re doing. Enjoy your life. You have a really good one.” Artistically speaking, I would say: “Pick one thing and focus on it. See it through to the end. You are very good, and people will love it. Trust me. Don’t spread yourself too thin.”

Q: Where would you most like to live?

There is a place in Manhattan called Sutton Place. It’s gorgeous and old and kind of tucked away on the East Side. I would love to have a townhouse there. (And getaway to the country often.) But then I live in Astoria, which isn’t too bad either! I was born and raised here. 

Q: What is your idea of success?

My idea of success is doing what you want to do. If you have the work you want, the kinds of relationships you want, and you’re living life on your terms, you are a success. 

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

My idea of happiness is being able to appreciate what you have—being willing to be happy. Some people choose not to, no matter what is going on. They view the world through a lens of misery. You must choose a good lens. (Film metaphor!) When you do, everything gets better.

Q: Final Thoughts?

These are great questions! And it’s given me an opportunity to review some of my most basic values. So thank you! I hope it is of help to others. I guess the one thing I would like to say to artists who may see this (and remind myself) is to trust yourself. And love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Out of this, all good things will come.

Fast Forward Friday with Nancy Nagrant

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning actor-producer Nancy Nagrant. She founded Amenone Productions in 2014 to generate work for film, television, and theater with an emphasis on the female protagonist. Anemone’s films have played at festivals such as: LA Shorts, St. Louis, and Reel Sisters. They have been official selections in 24 festivals thus far, and have garnered eight awards from 17 nominations. To learn more, visit her website.

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

I’m currently working on a project tentatively titled American Girlhood. It explores the subtle and not-so-subtle lessons girls learn as they come of age in American society. From “be content with what you get” to “be careful what you wear,” American Girlhood aims to create “shared memories” of growing up that all women can relate to. 

I’m collaborating with a friend from college. She and I used to collaborate on theater projects a lot back at university and also when she lived here in NYC. It’s been a while, and this is our first film project and it’s exciting to be back working with her. We’ve known each other for a long time, and know each other pretty well. It’s nice to collaborate with someone like that because you have such a refined short-hand. 

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

She and I met in Chicago in 2019 to see another college friend in a show. She mentioned she had this idea for some sort of creative project, maybe a film, but she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. She went on to share a story from her early-teenage past. It was all so clear to me, almost as if it had happened to me. We talked a lot about the impact it had on her, and I then shared a story from my early-teenage past. Each of these stories was so vivid and visceral. We knew what it looked like and felt like, without having to have had the *exact* same experience. We knew it was subject matter ripe for exploration.

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?

I’ve had a couple of big revelations during the last year. I had COVID back in mid-March 2020 right as the massive wave hit NYC. It was a really frightening time on so many levels. I’m very lucky that I had a minor case that didn’t require me to go to the hospital. That said, my recovery took a long time. I suffered from headaches and brain fog for over a year, and still haven’t fully recovered my sense of smell. My not being able to work as I normally do really threw me for a loop.

I’m lucky to have a group of smart women to talk to on a regular basis. An important discovery I’ve had is about following my heart vs letting my mind take charge. “The mind is a wonderful servant but terrible master.” Yeah, I’m thinking about that on a very deep level. For most of my life I’ve really let my brain take charge, as opposed to letting my heart lead. My busy, loud, bully of a mind had been running rampant, and I had lost contact with what my heart was saying.

The last month or so my life has gotten busy again, and all of a sudden I’ve fallen into that same hamster wheel — putting out fires, and working on tasks for others at the expense of what is actually important to me. I’m sure that’s relatable to a lot of folks out there. I just recently listened to my 22-year-old niece talk about this very thing, and it broke my heart a little. It’s very seductive — “being productive” — and so many of us place such high importance on it, but ultimately it just makes us miserable. 

So my intention for life is to get very quiet, listen for what my heart has to say, and let that lead the way. That is my role in this moment. 

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

I am most interested in experiencing work that puts females at the center of the action. I’ve seen more than my fair share of art from a male point of view. I’m all about the female gaze. That goes across the art world, but let’s specifically talk about film and TV creators.

I’m especially excited when I see something on screen that feels like it’s lifted from my life, but that I’ve never seen portrayed before. It’s so profound and inspiring. That’s the work I’m most excited to watch, not to mention create. 

Here are creators who have given me that experience: Lena Dunham, Issa Rae, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Shonda Rhimes, Jane Campion, Reese Witherspoon, Joey Soloway.

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

Connection and collaboration. 

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

I have two short films out on the circuit right now. Miracle Baby, which I co-produced and also starred in, is a 19-minute psychological thriller about power and revenge within a troubled marriage. Incurable, which I co-produced, is a nine-minute serious rom-com about love, rejection, and an overactive imagination. I am so proud of both of them. They both premiered in 2020, which was less than ideal obviously, but I just returned from the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival that happened in person, which was absolutely thrilling.

I have also been brought on to help produce, and potentially act in, a new television series called Kangaroo Flat. It’s a half-hour magical-realism dramedy set in 1960s rural Australia and present-day NYC about finding your place in this world. 

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

As an actor it happens when I get lost in what I’m doing and forget that I’m performing — in fact I’m not really performing anymore, I’m just living. As a producer it happens when I anticipate and solve problems — taking care of the people and the project. Oh and when I’m on my way to set — I tend to feel very at peace and empowered in those moments. 

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

Developing and executive producing work that features women behind and in front of the camera. And of course, I’d have to star in some of it!

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

Not being clear enough in my vision. Not having a mentor. 

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

I’ve been practicing Vedic Meditation 20 minutes twice a day for eight years. It’s been a huge game-changer in my life.

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

Trying to make myself fit into what I think someone may want as opposed to just being my authentic self. 

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

I love wandering around a museum, discovering new things along with old favorites. I’m not sure I have a favorite piece of art though. The Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre takes my breath away. I’ve recently discovered Lee Bontecou’s sculptures, and they give me all the emotions

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

I admire Meryl Streep very much. Her talent is an inspiration, and she’s just so classy. Confident, kind, present. 

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

Broadening our story-telling spectrum by driving forward stories that feature female protagonists, and uplifting and championing female and other under-represented humans as I do.

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

Grounded. Empathetic. Fierce. 

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I love sleeping in. I also watch an awful lot of TV, the “guiltiest” of which is competition reality shows — RuPaul’s Drag Race, Top Chef, Project Runway, America’s Next Top Model. 

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

I’d probably share the lesson about letting the heart be the master and the mind be the servant. Beyond that I’d say prioritize self-care: meditate, floss, wear sunscreen. 

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I really do love living in NYC. But I would like to live where I could see a body of water. I’d like to be able to witness something that large and impressive on a daily basis. To be able to observe its cycles. I think it would be very educational and inspirational.

Q: What is your idea of success?

A balanced life. 

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Living in the present moment.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Thank you for inviting me to do this, and for these thought-provoking questions.

Fast Forward Friday with Elizabeth Page

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-director-producer Elizabeth Page. Olympia Dukakis produced one of Elizabeth’s first plays, Spare Parts, which moved Off Broadway to Circle in the Square Downtown and brought her into television where she won six Emmy awards and four Writers Guild awards and fell in love with the camera which brought her to film school and on to making award-winning shorts and online content for artists like Melba Moore. Page is the founder of From Script to Preproduction, a lab for women filmmakers.  For more information, visit www.elizabethpage.org.

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

I’m working on a narrative feature film about an exuberant, ambitious 18-year-old woman who wakes up after a raucous campus party and discovers she may have been sexually assaulted – she has no memory of what happened and everyone at the party has a different story.  The film follows her efforts to get help, find the truth, and ultimately reclaim her life, jumping out to retell what happened in that dark room six different ways and never telling you what really happened. 

We explore the impacts on everyone involved – the young man who’s initially accused, his so-called best friend who may be more involved than he claims, his teammates who have reasons to hope she never remembers, and her roommate who has her own secret.  While the film is certainly issue-driven, it also aims to attract its core audience – high school students looking to college, college students, survivors and their friends and family – by leaning into classic movie tropes: mystery, suspense, courtroom drama, romance, and friendship.

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

My daughter is an only child and grew up tagging along after another only child in our building.  When this slightly older girl headed off to college, we cheered her on, only to discover a few months in that she’d been raped at a frat party.  She was devastated and her life derailed. 

It enraged me and upset me, and when my daughter was also cornered at a party – and mercifully escaped – I began to research what was going on and discovered that while sexual assault had always happened at colleges, it had now become a “thing” – that in fact 1 in 4 college girls were being sexually assaulted.  Colleges administrations had no idea how to handle it and then when the Trump administration began rolling back the few protections and processes in place, I felt compelled to do something. 

And so I wrote this script, convinced that only by raising questions and challenging students to take the issue into their own hands, would real change happen.  The plan is to make the film with students and then to take it to colleges and high schools and finally release it where students consume their content – on streaming platforms.

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?

At the moment I’m doing what is possible.  

I pitched a weekly column about the impacts of COVID-19 on the community to a string of Hearst newspapers in Connecticut last March and they loved it. I’ve been doing that for the past year.  It may end up as a book – if we get a happy ending. In the column, I am able to talk about how the virus is impacting all aspects of our lives, and also help persuade people to trust the science and follow the recommendations.

I also took my lab, From Script to PreProduction, online when COVID hit.  The lab helps level the playing field by helping women filmmakers create all the materials they need to attract financing and producing partners.  We choose up to eight filmmakers and work with them collaboratively for six months to create loglines, synopses, pitches, lookbooks, reels, social media imagery, websites, preliminary schedules and budgets, and business plans.  I know it’s been of great comfort to the women in our cohort to be able to meet weekly and continue to work on their projects – in other words to have a community and to feel like they are progressing as artists.  While I usually only do this once a year, I decided to do it again this spring to help as many filmmakers as I can during this pandemic. Applications are open until February 15th on Coverfly and thereafter by reaching out to me.

I’m also preparing to go back out to continue raising financing for About That Night as soon as the vaccine is more available and it’s safer to meet.  I think it’s very important to have faith in ourselves and our work and keep going.

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

Way back when I was of course inspired and influenced by every great writer out there – in particular Shakespeare, who still dazzles me; Dylan Thomas, who’s always been my boyfriend; and Fugard, who never fails to break my heart. 

Right now I’m swept away by Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Kitty Green’s The Assistant.  Fantastic films.  Can’t wait to see what they do next.  And can’t wait to see Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow – love her work.

I am also very inspired by the women out there today who are giving back to the film community. Tema Staig, who founded Women in Media and is focusing on training women below the line and getting them hired. Leah Meyerhoff, who founded Film Fatales and has built it into a huge resource for women directors. Naomi McDougall Jones who, along with Joanne Zippel, reinvented indie film distribution, put together a film fund and wrote a brilliant book, The Wrong Kind of Women, that takes down the film industry for its misogyny and short-sightedness.  All of them have been very supportive of my lab and their example motivates me every day. 

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

I have a prayer and meditation practice that keeps me grounded and inspired.  Also my work often centers on a social issue so I feel a real obligation to get the work made and out there.  Finally. my work with other women filmmakers in my lab inspires me every day – there are just so many brilliant women out there making amazing work.

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

I have been making notes on two screenplays – a tragi-comedy called In Your Dreams and a romantic thriller called Fever set 100 years ago.  I hope to make both films with friends.

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

Any time I walk onto a set – especially if it’s to direct something I’ve written – I know I’m living in my vision.  I just love it. 

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

The barrier I face – and most women filmmakers face – is money.    If I were able to have ready access to the money I need, I’d be making a 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 consume art.  Whether it’s reading scripts or novels, watching films or plays, listening to music, looking at paintings or sculptures. I really love great art and it always inspires me.

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

It’s kind of hard to argue with the facts – that it is in fact much harder for women to get financed and distributed.  And yet on another level, I think it’s necessary to let go of that “truth” and go for it with the expectation that it’s going to happen.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

The desert island question – what would I bring…  anything by Johann Sebastian Bach.

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

I have to say that in my lifetime, I most admire the Obamas.  The courage it took to walk into the buzz saw of the presidency given the racism in this country – in the world! – and how they did so much to move the country forward, and did it with such grace, good humor and excellence was just astounding.

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

That my work has helped women.

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

Imaginative.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

First, “guilty” and “pleasure” should never be in the same sentence. That being said, I love the water – I love looking at it in every light, in every season. I love smelling the salt. I swim and sail every day as soon as it’s warm enough.

I also like to cook and I like to garden. As a writer and filmmaker, I spend so much time in my head, I just love taking a break and working with my hands.  And in both cases – cooking and gardening – the rewards are immediate.  I love to eat and after an hour or so of cooking, I get to sit down to wonderful food.  And with gardening it’s even simpler – I get to dig in the dirt!

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

It gets better.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I’m very lucky.  I have a little house by the water that we rebuilt slowly but surely over two decades and I just love it there.  We also have a place to stay in the city.  So I get to live in my two favorite places.  

Q: What is your idea of success? 

Being paid to do my own work.

Q: What is your idea of happiness? 

Doing my own work. 

Q: Final thoughts?

Thank you so much for asking me to do this.  Thinking through all these questions was really rewarding.

Fast Forward Friday with Julie Crosby

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed producer-manager Julie Crosby. She has worked on more than 100 productions for stage and screen.  She was honored with the Lilly Award for Outstanding Producer in 2013, and named to Forbes’ 40 Over 40 Women to Watch list in 2017. Julie is a member of Women Independent Producers and New York Women in Film & Television. For more information, visit www.showbizing.com.

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

Aside from learning how to make biscuits, I’m focused on helping out people in the entertainment industry, which has been hit so hard by the pandemic. 

For the past three years, producer Jane Applegate and I have had a career coaching and production consulting business called Showbizing. We were hired by universities to prepare graduating students in filmmaking, directing, writing, acting, and so forth for the job market. It was a sort of bootcamp about how to navigate the industry, and we really enjoyed being able to share what we’ve learned over many decades in this crazy business.

This past April, we took Showbizing online. We now host a monthly workshop called Focus Your Lens for entertainment professionals, and we have workshops for those who wish to break into showbiz. The response has been wonderful, and it’s very gratifying to be of service right now.

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?

To mentor, guide, champion, and listen to artists and creative professionals.  

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

My heroes are independent producers of film and theater. It is a miracle that anything gets produced outside of corporate and institutional settings. I greatly admire the careers of Elizabeth McCann, Nelle Nugent, and Margo Lion in the theater world. And in film, I am routinely dazzled by my colleagues in Women Independent Producers.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired?

Random, small, daily things keep me going — a romping squirrel, a gorgeous sunset, the smell of biscuits baking, laughing with a friend, a good slice of pizza — it doesn’t take much. 

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

When the world rights itself again, I’ll be producing work with my fabulous partners at Cromono International

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

Hearing audience feedback, preferably positive.

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

Traveling. COVID-19 has made it ill-advised, if not impossible, to see the world. I look forward to getting back on a plane. 

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

Producing a show for the stage or screen takes years. I still have to remind myself to enjoy the process and embrace the uncertainty that comes with it; otherwise, it can be pure agony. 

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

Take a day off! Seriously, whenever I feel like my muse has ditched me, I know it’s time for a break.   

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

I would love to worry less about people who hold political power. They are a major distraction.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Dante’s Divine Comedy. The breadth and depth of the work are beyond comparison. 

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

I’m too fickle for this question. I’m a huge fan of Laurie Anderson. She’s a brilliant artist and a lovely human being. Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morissette are balm for my soul at times. On the other hand, there’s Mother Theresa, Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Stacey Abrams, Elizabeth Warren, and a host of other badass women to choose from!

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

Producing great shows.

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

Good-humored.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Playing Spelling Bee in the New York Times. I can’t start my day until I make it to “Amazing.”

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

Take a day off!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Manhattan in the fall. Buenos Aires in the winter. Paris in the spring. The Hamptons in the summer.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Manhattan in the fall. Buenos Aires in the winter. Paris in the spring. The Hamptons in the summer.

Q: What is your idea of happiness? 

Hanging out with my partner, Bruce. When possible, we take 10-15 mile walks to and through neighborhoods we don’t know in whatever city we’re in. Those days are priceless.

Q: Final thoughts?

Please wear a mask!

Fast Forward Friday with Richard Skipper

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed entertainer-MC-host-Interviewer Richard Skipper. He has conducted more than 700 interviews celebrating people in the arts. This past year, Richard completed an artist in residence at the Laurie Beechman Theater in New York City where he presented a monthly talk-variety show produced by Russ Woolley. His one-man show The Magic of Believing will be ready for booking when pandemic restrictions are lifted. For more information visit www.richardskipper.com.

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

Since the pandemic hit, I have focused solely on interviewing others. It is really nothing new, but the platform has changed. For years, I’ve done in store interviews for Barnes & Noble, red carpet events, and blogs. One of my goals this year was to launch my own podcast. I live stream on Facebook and YouTube, and then it is syndicated through my podcast, which is syndicated on more than 25 platforms.   

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

Richard Skipper Celebrates, my brand, came about several years ago when I started my blog. When I first began my blog, it was called Richard’s Rants and Raves. A good friend pointed out that I was always raving but seldom, if ever, ranting. He was right and I came up with Richard Skipper Celebrates because I believe every day is worth celebrating. I also want to be the antidote to all of the negativity in the world today.  

Q: In this current time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, what do you believe your role is in this moment?

To uplift. Building upon what I said before, there is enough negativity in this world. Why build upon it? I don’t know why we became a snarky nation.  

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

My first artistic hero was Miss Florence. She was my first mentor. She instilled in me a reverence for those that have gone before me. She told me that every time I step in front of an audience (either physically or virtually), that I carry the mantle of all that have gone before me, and to this day, I take a moment to pause in gratitude for those that have paved the way for me. My other artistic heroes are Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin, James Lipton, and Graham Norton!   

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

By my very nature, I’m a very optimistic person. Even with what we are going through at the time of this interview, I’m looking forward to what I believe will be an even greater future. I love the creative process. After I do my morning pages and meditation, I’m open to the possibilities of what every day holds. I think of myself as a vessel and am open to the possibilities ahead of me. I try to say YES when I can. I think of each day, especially now, as its own entity. I also only think about what I can accomplish in the next 24 hours.

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

I am very busy with my interview series. One of my goals going into 2020 was launching my own podcast. They stream live through Facebook and YouTube and then are syndicated on to more than 25 platforms. I’ve also launched a bi-monthly program with Dr. Judi Bloom called  Creativity In The Age of Covid.  

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

Setting an “intention”  and following it through to fruition. When I apply myself wholeheartedly to my goals and they happen! Every time I hit the “end” button at the end of every interview, I know I’m living my vision.  

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

Exactly what I’m doing now. I have found my true calling in life. I truly love interviewing others and finding what makes them tick. My focus on others takes the focus off me, which is very gratifying especially nowadays. 

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

The word ‘no’. I’m a ‘yes’ man and unless the yes is going to be met with tension, I try to be open to that. The more I’ve studied the lives of others, I’ve discovered even with the greatest successes, there are those that go through life wanting to obstruct rather than being open to most opportunities.  Imagine a world of YES instead of NO!

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

I’m a huge follower of Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.

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

Projecting negative thoughts about an outcome when they are not warranted.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

That is truly a difficult question. I try to look at art through the eyes of those that create it. I’m always interested in the backstory. What are the circumstances that brought this piece of art to us? 


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

Being thought of as someone who is interested in others and always being present to their needs or helping them to be able to tell their story.  

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

Empathetic.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Believe it or not, my work is my guilty pleasure. I LOVE what I do!  

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

That was 2005, I was 44. I went back and looked at that calendar year. It was a very busy year for me workwise. I would say: enjoy the day to day process. Take the time to smell the roses. I also look at the people who were in my life at that time who are no longer here. Appreciate the people that make the fabric of your life. Show gratitude to all they bring to the table.  

Q: Where would you most like to live? 

Depends on the outcome of this year’s election!  

Q: What is your idea of success?

Being able to do what I desire to do when, where, and how I desire to do it without the permission of others.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

My home life, my career, my pets, my husband, music, sitting in the audience of a great entertainer, being in the spotlight, sharing the spotlight, seeing those that I love succeed.  

Q: Final Thoughts?

Please go out and do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. Go to your Friend’s list on Facebook and call the seventh name on your list and tell them that you love them and what they mean to you! “We are all in this together, but not in the same boat!” -David Friedman