For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed Zip Creative client, writer-director-producer-actor Graceann Dorse. Her short film The Skull will have its world premier at the Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival. To watch the film trailer, click here.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
The main thing I’m working on right now is submitting my short film The Skull to festivals and everything that goes along with that: building up the film’s social media presence, email lists, website, postcards, press, etc. The Skull, which I wrote, directed, produced and acted in, is my first short film. It’s a dramedy and I’m so happy to say that I was able to work with the playwright, poet and actor Edgar Oliver, who provided the voice of the Skull. I’m leaving for Lafayette, LA right now (if you’re reading this on Friday!) to attend the Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival where the film will have its world premiere. Wish me luck!
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
The film is based on the very true story of my family having an odd heirloom, a skull that was supposedly taken from a Japanese soldier who was killed in WWII. My great-grandfather owned a bar in Coaldale, PA, and sometimes when the bar patrons didn’t have enough money, they would barter for their drinks. One day he received a skull as payment and eventually it made its way into my mom’s hands. When my parents moved out of their house last year, they debated what to do with the skull. I thought it was a hilarious conversation that needed to be turned into a film but when I was writing the script, I realized it was about something much deeper. I wanted to explore people’s relationship with objects and how we hold on to the past.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes who have had an impact on you and your work?
I love Jared Hess, the director of Gentlemen Broncos and Napoleon Dynamite. He’s exceptional at presenting humor in a way that is very loving to his characters. I also love Derek Cianfrance, Woody Allen, Ana Lily Amirpour and Sarah Polley. I’m naming filmmakers but I also appreciate the work of Miguel Gutierrez, a choreographer who treats his dancers as actors with very specific personalities. He’s also very good at showing you exactly who he is, like he can’t help but create exactly what he creates. He doesn’t do anything because it’s cool or it’s what other people are doing. I heard him give a talk one time and he said something that really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but the nut of it is: if you have an idea, don’t immediately dismiss it just because it’s YOUR idea. If someone else came up to you with that same idea, you’d probably think it was great, right? So why do we (well, I) automatically think something is stupid or bad just because I thought of it? If I’m excited by something, it must have some type of meaning and value.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Jealousy, competitiveness and the fear of dying unknown. That sounds jerky and it’s more complicated than that. It’s more like I say to myself “If that person can do it, so can I.” Once I see the success of others, I realize that they are no more special than me. The only difference is that they’re working their butt off. So I’m happy to see the success of others because it means that success is possible. It just also makes me want it more, too. As far as inspiration goes, I find it everywhere. Music, conversations, personalities, my own consciousness. I’m hyper-aware of everything. I can’t see anything without attaching a story or an emotion to it. And when a story becomes so over-powering within me that I need to tell it, that’s when I start work on it. Then, when I’d rather snuggle up on the sofa with my husband and cat and watch Netflix, I go back to my first three motivations.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I’m also working on some live performance projects: a character sketch for a show called The Fart Monologues in January at the PIT; and an original two-minute monologue that I’ll perform at the Manhattan Monologue Slam in February.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
All of the festival submissions on my credit card statement.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Starring in a film directed by Derek Cianfrance.
Q: What has been your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Money. (Although if you mean what’s the biggest obstacle to the above question, I’d say it’s that Derek Cianfrance doesn’t know who I am.)
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
Making a little note whenever I have an idea. I need to get better at this. My brother got me one of those little Moleskine notebooks for Christmas for that purpose. I hate taking notes on my phone. I also get lots of ideas and make up film scenes in my head when I listen to music when I’m running. I love running. It’s free therapy and your butt looks better afterwards!
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Fear of failure.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
I know I’ve seen art but I don’t remember one particular piece that has stuck with me. I’m actually not a big visual art person, which is probably not good for someone who wants to make films. I should go see more art but there’s also a part of me that can’t get excited about something that limits my interaction with it. I can’t touch it, I can’t smell it, I can’t taste or hear it. I’m using only one sense. If I had to think of one artist, I guess I really like Mark Rothko. I’d be afraid to touch his paintings, not because I’d get into trouble with a security guard but because his paintings are scary. They’re like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
Charlie Chaplin. He’s the most talented person who will ever exist.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Connection. That’s what this whole business is about. Connecting with people through storytelling, whether that’s performing, writing or directing. Someone telling me that they feel the same way is the best compliment I can think of.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
I indulge in small guilty pleasures almost everyday, like Facebook and carbs, but if I could create an ultimate guilty pleasure experience, it would be sitting at home with my cat, with an assortment of excellent cheeses and a crusty baguette, drinking a lot of wine, and watching a Christian Bale movie with the greatest amount of screen time in which he’s shirtless (in a good way, not like in The Machinist kind of way). And then right before I go to bed I would eat Doritos over the kitchen sink.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Don’t be intimidated by the thought of something taking a long time. Just dive in and take the first steps, no matter how mundane or futile they seem. Be patient with the long-term.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
A soundproofed brownstone in the West Village with a washer/dryer, wood-burning fireplace and a backyard for my currently-imaginary-but-hopefully-real-someday rescued Australian Shepherd (oh, and my husband).
Q: What is your idea of success?
See above. And also getting picked for a Fast Forward Friday interview!
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Being okay with not succeeding, as well as being okay with people doing stupid stuff. I don’t mean people doing truly terrible things like ISIS killing people. Definitely DON’T be okay with that. I just mean people texting in the middle of the sidewalk and my downstairs neighbors making a lot of noise. Most of my angst comes from other people annoying me and I think I would be much happier if I didn’t mind them. Sartre said hell is other people. I agree, but I also think heaven is other people, like my friends and family. If you’re a lucky person, then the people who are heaven outweigh the people who are hell.
Q: Final Thoughts?
Thanks for having me as a FFF guest! I learned a lot about myself from answering these questions. I hope you all get to see my film The Skull someday and I’m proud to be a part of this select group of quality people who make stuff.