Month: April 2013

An Interview With Casting Director Carl Proctor

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Carl Proctor is the owner of Carl Proctor Casting, the company which cast The History Channel’s mega hit The Bible. He is also the producer of the film Snow on Saturday; Here is a link to his website:

www.carlproctor.com

Q: How did you become a casting director?

A: As an actor, interested in producing, I attended a Dov Simens two day filmmaking master class in London. He said “you Brits, you don’t share information, you don’t talk to each other, now go and have lunch and talk for C….. sake”  I sat opposite Alan Martin and Paul Brooks who had who had just put money in to ‘Leon The Pig Farmer’ and set up Metrodome Films.  We talked. They didn’t know any actors. I did because I was one and over the next three years or so, I cast several of their low budget British films. Other casting work came my way in that period and before I knew it I was a casting director. Paul is now in LA and for him I cast ‘The Wedding Date’, Joel Schumacher’s ‘Blood Creek’ and ‘Shadow of The Vampire’ with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.

Q:  How did your company get chosen to cast The Bible.

A: Jules Husey (who I had cast BBC documentary dramas for some years ago) and Richard Bedser (Bible Producer) came to my office to talk to me about the series, which at that point was planned as very much a drama doc.  Just a few actors in each episode and experts or religious figures popping up here and there.  As the scripts developed, directors came on board and casting commenced, so the series started to become much more a drama than drama doc.

Q:  Are you more surprised by the success of the show or that people would be surprised by the success of the show?

A: I knew that Mark Burnett was a man who had good instincts to say the least.  I knew that the team making the project were very knowledgeable and talented, that the scripts were becoming very real and gritty and that we were attaching some of the best actors in Britain, so, quite early on, I saw the potential for it to be a very successful series.  So I guess I am surprised if other people are surprised at its success. Why? Well it was always going to be well publicised, it was always going to grab the attention of the religious audience at least. Perhaps some people assumed that it was going to be just another safe and lovely family religious piece, much like they had seen many times before. Perhaps it is people who didn’t watch the series that are most surprised by its success.

Q : What did you look for in an Israelite?

A: My original brief was to cast good actors with neutral English accents so that they would be clearly understood, but nobody too pale and English looking. Having decided to cast in the UK, we were never going to be looking for fully Middle Eastern looking actors, but actors with just darker complexions, darker hair, perhaps mixed race if the look was along the right lines. Growing hair and adding facial hair was always going to help. There are a few Middle Eastern actors in The UK but some have accents and looking too authentic would risk comparisons with the look of other cast members. The neutral English accent brief was relaxed as we went along which opened us up to a few regional and foreign accents.  The extras and a few of the very small parts were cast in Morocco, but hopefully they don’t look too different from the main cast.

Q:  What do you think is the main difference between casting for an English production and casting for an American production?

A: Not an easy question. Is it fair to suggest that there is often a bit more emphasis on people being good looking in American film and TV ?  Perhaps there is more writing for character actors here than over there? More often than not, I cast people to look real and believable and looking attractive isn’t often a part of it. When I cast for American project, it often is a factor with some characters at least.

The budgets are usually smaller here but the actors/agents know that, so might not expect the same fee as for something equivalent in America. The American Producers and directors that I have worked with, tend to be hugely efficient and enthusiastic and have a lot of respect for English actors. SAG have a lot more power and control than our unions, which is good in some ways but it is often too complicated and costly to bring American actor over to be in British productions.

Q:  What is the oddest casting request you have ever had?

A: Well nothing too odd or interesting, but one story line in an episode of ‘Renford Rejects’ (a youth TV series) had the central characters, a five-a-side youth football team who always lose, play against some old men. They are convinced that this will be their first victory, but it turns out that the team of oldies is made up of real players from the 1966 World Cup squad.  A challenge but we managed to persuade these legendary footballers to get involved.

 

Q:  If you could recast one role in one film what would it be and why?
A: Well apart from casting my actress wife (Olivia Caffrey) as Holly Golightly in her favourite film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, it’s a difficult one. I believe that Marilyn Monroe was originally cast in the role which would have been interesting to see and quite different I imagine to Audrey Hepburn.

I wouldn’t want to offend the living,  be it an actor or a casting director and I just can’t imagine anyone else in the old classics. I have spent some time on this and just can’t come up with a good example.  David Hyde Pierce as Rambo? This question is too hard for me. I can only think of silly answers. Have I failed?

Q:  Who is a director you think does a particularly good job of casting and why?

A: I think it has to be the likes of Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, because they are allowed to cast lesser known actors who might be either ideal or less obvious, bolder choices for a part. In the UK this can only usually be done on the lower budget films of course.

Q: What is Snow on a Saturday about?

A: Snow on Saturday was inspired by an American short story by Erica Wagner – literary editor of The Times from a collection called Gravity. It is heavily adapted.

It is an urban fairy tale about hope in the face of tragedy. The story follows the Snow family – two little boys and their father after the death of their mother after a family picnic at the ancient standing stone site of Stonehenge. The youngest son stops speaking and the father takes refuge in drink and depression. They never go out . They never talk about the mother. The older boy overhears a teacher threatening the father with alerting the Social Services to take the boys into care if he does not pull himself together. So out of fear and desperation, the ten year old decides to galvanise them back into being the family their mother would wish them to be.

They embark on a crazy project to recreate the place where they were last happiest as a family with the mother. The picnic at Stonehenge. The story follows them recreating Stonehenge out of old car wrecks on a waste site in a very poor area of London beside the flyover. And then having a picnic under the Car Stonehenge on some astro turf as dusk falls. The final image is of the three of them in a car on top of two other upright cars  beneath the moon with the tube trains roaring past and the flyover beside them. Happy and together as a family once more. The little boy breaks his silence and starts singing Starry, Starry Night. The Dad joins in. The ten year old looks up to the moon and shuts his eyes

“If Mum’s looking down I want her to know – we DID something”.

The music is by Roger Eno (brother of Brian) and David Bowie “Fill Your Heart with Love Today”

It won the Best Film Award in the Kino Film Festival.

Q:  I used to do a bit of background extra work myself. I noticed that the casting directors often wanted good looking, Caucasian young people even in scenes when it would have made more sense to use average looking people who were of all ages and racial backgrounds. Have you noticed this as well?

A: I can’t say I have noticed this really, not in TV or film anyway. In a pop promo or a commercial it can happen because unreal worlds are often being created where they want glamorous or perfect or want us to believe shopping at a particular supermarket or buying the right car, makes us attractive.  I think it would look very odd in any film or TV programme set in modern times, not to have an ethnic mix in the background.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Massage Therapist/Model and Aspiring Actress Samantha Barnes

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Samantha Barnes is a massage therapist, actress and model who writes books in her head; here is a link to her website:

http://samanthab130.wix.com/barnes#

Q:  What do you think makes the job of acting so appealing to so many people?

A: People want to be seen but they put a lot of energy into hiding. For a lot of people I would say that acting holds the appeal of becoming famous (aka. the most seen) and also getting to be somebody else. People are rewarded for hiding and acting appears at first to be the ultimate cave; a series of masks and different identities. Maybe that’s what first drew me too. But in a figure modeling session a while back I was asked to smile for an artist that was sketching my face, and he drew it out for an intense hour. A facial expression is so much more challenging to hold than a body position because it is exquisitely interconnected with the feelings behind the expression. Without feeling like smiling, one can’t genuinely smile for long or it quickly slips and reveals the fake. I would say that most people walking about are trying to act, trying to wear a mask to avoid being seen. However, the true actors out there are continually exposing their actual feelings-whether they have to convince themselves to feel a certain way or not, it’s real in that moment and it takes vulnerability to display. In any scene we can pick up quickly who we believe and who we don’t believe. Do they really feel that way or are they faking? The best is, of course, when the actor feels their role so deeply that it’s real for them and they share that vulnerability with viewers to the point that viewers can forget someone is “acting.”

Q:  Why do you think people get so excited when they see famous people in person?

A: This was a more challenging question for me. Why do we get so thrilled to be near someone who is a celebrity? Do we love them? Is it that we feel like we know them, having followed their lives? Or is it boosting our own self worth to be near someone esteemed ‘highly valued’ by ‘everyone?’ Man, if I got to hang out with Meryl Streep for 5 minutes, wouldn’t that be something? Or if Jim Carry looked in my eyes? I’d be so blissed out, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Why is that? Of course, those are both actors I respect, but it would probably stir me up to see anyone well known. Then perhaps I’d feel more connected. Having seen someone that’s known globally, I might feel like more of a member of that community.

Q:  What is the strangest thing you have ever done for money?

A: Oh boy. Well, there was this guy and guess what he wanted me to massage? Just kidding.

I’ve done some strange things for money. Some of which I should probably not say on this platform, though you can be sure I’m putting that stuff in a book. But some of the various strange jobs I’ve held, under the table, over and sideways, span from my first job of sorting Slime Eels in a seafoods processing plant, leading tours from 2-50 people in SE Alaska, being a living exhibit in a cannery museum, Sea Urchin processor, a go-kart tour guide, working in a 19th century B&B tea house, dead-heading flowers in an exceptional garden, working the slime line in a cannery, being my pop’s deckhand for 3 years, corn-row braiding in booths at festivals, selling loads of crocheted things I’ve made, selling soaps I’d handmade and jams from berries I’d handpicked, selling handpicked Chanterelles, I was apprenticed to a Scrimshander, worked in a freezer stocking ice cream in Alaska, was a special ed preschool attendant, and pulled many an all-nighter on the event staff of a convention center. Not to mention all the nude figure modeling and random photo shoots that have been part of developing a portfolio and starting a career in performance art.

Q:  Who was the worst boss you’ve ever had and why?

A: This is such a challenging question because I’ve had to work for such difficult people in really tense, awkward, and even dangerous situations. I took the verbal abuse of a captain to his deckhand from my father on his boat 3 years in a row, I took the swindling gypsy ways of an artistic NYSicilian pizza maker who insisted I was volunteering, or hanging out as a friend whenever I worked. He withheld payment time and again, not to mention how he refused to have a working schedule. But most recently I found myself answering yet another craigslist ad, (oh craigslist how you tease me!) this time an ad for a personal assistant to help with organization in a home business. 2 others worked for him and I quickly found that he had made a habit of verbally abusing his employees, meanwhile being a kiss-ass smuck with everyone else. He’s the world’s biggest sucker, getting sent endless brochures about the new monthly miracle drug and other garbage. I took it upon myself to weed through stuff he wouldn’t see as a scam- the man is already a hoarder and compulsive spender who tries to write off every expense. He doesn’t sleep more than an hour or two at a time and he subsists on pills, shakes, and air. His taxes are a void of darkness that have repelled multiple accountant groups even while he bullied them about their services. But when he started messing with my hours, telling me late at night to not come in the next day, etc, I’d had about enough of being patient. Needless to say, I don’t work for the mess anymore.

Q:  You are pursuing acting; why Portland and not LA?

A: Cause I’m not a total sellout? Eh, just kidding. Maybe I like having clean lungs and less traffic. Or because I like it when people give individuality a chance. Maybe it’s all the trees in Portland, or the intersecting rivers, or all the bike-commuting that I get to do, or that it’s so easy to recycle and reuse items here, or the fact that it can be in to look different. That’s cool.

No, actually I moved to Portland to study massage therapy a little over a year ago. Previously I’d been living in Ketchikan, Alaska, a very small island community in the Tongass National Rainforest. I was already an actress at this point, though I wasn’t pursuing it on a professional level yet, and my only thought was to find a convenient, portable career that could pay my way through the rest of whatever else I decided to do. What’s more portable than your own loving hands? I can do massage anywhere, anytime, which I frequently do; it’s wonderful. But in the process of learning how to understand my therapeutic boundaries and be an excellent giver, I began to melt. The armor I’d been wearing fell away and my heart was as ready as ever to follow a dream that had been there all along. Not, ‘I want to be an actress.’ I am an actress.

Q:  What was the most interesting thing you’ve ever modeled?

A: Years ago, when I was traveling around Peru, I took on this task of crocheting a Salsa dress. It was something I’d dreamed up. It was supposed to be a super sexy, red, salsa dress. At this time I was beginning to unfold like a flower into womanhood. There were so many questions about sexuality- where does that confidence come from? Is it boldness? How bold is too bold? It’s a fine line in the search for sexual balance. I settled with the contradictions: a bold black flower over the genitals, and a flower-painted mask to hide behind, over the sexiest red dress I could think up with cascading flower petals as the skirt. I finished it and came back to Ketchikan, a sexual dynamo at 19, just in time for the annual Wearable Arts Show, where I wooed my town on the catwalk, salsa dancing to WEEN’s Voodoo Lady.

Q:  Why do you think so many people hate their jobs?

A: It’s an interesting thing how people make such big compromises in their lives around different jobs they hold. “Well I hate it, but it pays well.” What does that mean? Is the money worth it then or is it an excuse not to change? “Well I hate it, but I get great benefits.” What benefits? Who are you trying to convince that you’re not wasting your life? It’s your life. Live it. Reach, choose ‘yes.’ I think a lot of people are scared to admit what they really want to have, because the moment it’s exposed it can be taken away or judged. People hate the jobs that keep them prisoners to an unsatisfying existence and they see the job as the prison, but really, the keys are on their belts the whole time. Who’s really the jailer?

Q:  You say you are writing several books in your head, what are they about?

A: One is going to be a collaboration with other women, and I’m feeling strongly about the title-to-be, Becoming Beautiful. It’s a look at what it takes to be a beautiful person amidst our western society of judgment and conformity and sameness. I’d like to follow the trail of what we find beautiful and how to get there. Is ‘Beautiful’ truly a person that hits everything on the media’s checklist, or is it someone that just makes you feel good to be near? We can all be that unique beauty that inspires others, it just takes the vulnerability to accept self and let it be seen. I came from a place of feeling immeasurably ugly for a long time. Only recently as I’ve begun to heal and love myself, have I been able to let the private out. And I’m finding that as I reveal more of the sacred, I actually become more beautiful. Truly, photos of me as a teen show someone who was holding on to a lot of anger. Bitterness is ugly. Our postures say a lot about what we’re holding onto, and insecurity speaks as plainly as words. Confidence=self-love and it’s beautiful. Ego is another thing entirely, and it’s not so pretty.

The other book is one that I started after a totally psychedelic epiphany when I realized that we’re not separate at all. I looked at my hand and could see that although my thumb and forefinger seemed separate at the distal ends, they clearly are of the same hand. In the same way, a mushroom may appear to be singular in one place, but the same fungus could be producing similar mushrooms states away, you know mycelia mats can be enormous. Yet they’re all expressions of the same life force, as we are, though we’ve forgotten because we don’t have physical roots and we no longer have the same reverence for the Earth so the connections are harder to see. Epithelial cells die continuously, but do I die? Someday it might seem like I die, but those are just my cells completing their cycle. Life force is cyclical oneness. The title is simply, God Is Love: A Collection of Expressions.

Q: What makes you watchable?

A: People want to watch me because it stuns them that I’m real. How many people expose their hearts to the world? Brave artists one and all, that’s who, though my art is in my pores, in my tall spine, in my Qi flow as I move through a room. Every movement is a dance and a meditation. My art is in the smiling eyes that make contact with strangers on the street that are ready to connect. It’s a message of love and it’s for everybody. Of course they want to watch me. I remember too when I was hiding and wished to be seen. By letting myself be seen now, I’m hoping to incite a great rebellion against concealment.

Q: If the world is a stage, what is the greatest performance you have ever seen by a proletarian?

A: Oh the world is a stage. Sometimes I think everyone around me is here for my viewing pleasure. In Portland, this town of weirdness and exploration, I seem to pass performers every day, but they’re regular people. People practicing their hula-hooping, or Capoeira, or fire-spinning in the streets and parks as clowns on double-decker bikes zoom past. But once, my first week living here, I walked into an Ecstatic-Blues Dance Party in a home off of Hawthorne. People were swirling and flinging each other, holding each other close and intimately jirating to the beats. Everything was a prop for this incredible dance! Couples would dip their partners over railings, lift each other through doorways, twirl around posts on the porch, and this was only what I could see from outside! I wandered in, so curious, and fell in love with 2 couples on the dance floor simultaneously. A man danced with another man, and a woman danced with a woman. They traded following, respectfully submitting to each other’s lead. They felt the music and moved tumultuously around the house until the last beat when they graciously thanked each other and switched back to man-woman couples, in which case even the women would take a turn in leading. It was magnificent.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Dog Food Cook/Actor James Anthony Tropeano III

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James Anthony Tropeano III is dog food cook for Zoe’s Premium Dog Food and an aspiring actor who appears in the film Invisible Wounds. Here is a link to Zoe’s blog

http://www.zoespremium.com/

Q:  How did you become a dog food cook?

A: I became a dog food cook out of sheer desperation. I’m not as successful of an actor as everybody likes to wish they are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a bad actor… but the market’s rather competitive and unless you have an agent or you’re just lucky, odds are you’re going to need a day job here in NYC. So I’d been working as a cook in the local made food scene here in Brooklyn, which is a really a huge renaissance movement here in the city. I was in between jobs over the winter this year and I came across an ad from my current employer Zoe’ Premium, and well the owner and I hit it off and since then I’ve been the premiere dog food cook in NYC. Honestly, it’s the best 9-5 job I’ve ever had.

Q:  What’s the secret to really good dog food?

A: I’d have to kill you if I told you. But seriously, it’s all about the best ingredients first and foremost. As crazy as it sounds I’ll guarantee the dog food I cook is healthier and better for you than what 8 out of 10 people eat a day. It’s all human food we use, steak, chicken, turkey, kale, squash, carrots, celery. But other than that it’s kind of a secret. The most I can say is it has a ton to do with moisture levels and proper cooking techniques. People want to think “oh it’s just dog food.” But really it’s not, it’s food first and foremost. So you really have to know what you’re doing in a kitchen to be able to make great food.

Q:  What is Invisible Wounds about?

A: “Invisible Wounds” tells the story of James Calore; a young Army combat infantry soldier from a special elite unit as he tries to reintegrate back into society after combat. The film mainly deals with the struggles of PTSD in returning veterans. The goal of the film is to educate society about the invisible wounds more commonly known as post-traumatic stress disorder that veterans returning from combat suffer with. Both the director of the film Lenin Rivadeneira and the screenwriter Michael Calore are Iraq war veterans. It’s a great film about a very serious topic that many families are currently dealing with here in the United States. I’m really honored to be a part of this project.

Q:  What role do you play?

A: I play the part of Parry a class member at a college James Calore is enrolled in. I am also the 2nd A.D. and helped produced the film. We’re still in production and will wrap shooting the first weekend in May. The film will then premiere here in NYC on June 26th.

Q:  What has working at your day job taught you about acting?

A: Its allowed me to be able steal certain traits from people to use in my acting. The foodie culture is full of some huge personalities and as an actor stealing those traits and putting them into the characters you play is a big part of playing a role. Because when you’re playing a role you’re not playing yourself. That’s why it’s called acting. So the more characters you meet and spend time with the more you can study different types of people and develop certain types of characters. So working service jobs really puts you in touch with a bunch of different personalities on a daily basis.

Q: .I ran my ad for actors with day jobs In New York, Portland and Los Angeles, I got ten times as many responses in NY and Portland as I did in LA. Why do you think actors in LA are so afraid of admitting that they have day jobs?

A: Because you’re not Johnny or Sally Hollywood if you have a day job I suppose. I mean the industry is huge in LA and everybody wants to be a star. So I guess in LA if you have a day job you’re nowhere near that coveted A-list spot. I think it’s just really an ego thing. In my personal experience I found LA to be more about your status than your skill set. So admitting to having a day job isn’t going to get you on the guest list in some people’s eyes. I know tons of great actors here in NYC with day jobs and nobody’s judging anybody on what they need to do in between roles to pay the bills. I think everything’s a little more plastic, so to speak, in LA.

Q:  What do you like about working in New York?

A: I love working in New York because it’s a very competitive market and in order to get work you really need to be on top of your game. You can’t do anything half-ass here in the city and expect to get work, and that goes for acting or washing dishes, You need to do whatever you’re doing in New York like a world champion in order to make it here.

Q:  What don’t you like about it?

A: See my previous answer.

Q:  What is your strangest back stage story?

A: A friend of mine was making a film that involved a dead bird. So we were pretty perplexed about how exactly to get a dead bird for the scene and nobody wanted to actually kill a bird in order to make this film. So we spent an entire day going to pet stores trying to find a bird that may have died from natural causes. It took an entire day but we managed to get our hands on one and nobody was left with blood on their hands.

Q:  Why do you think so many people want to be actors?

A: I think it has a ton to do with American culture. We’re celebrity obsessed in this country. Movies are also a huge part of American culture. So I think anybody who’s ever watched a movie that really moved them has said “I want to be part of that.” Film is such a powerful medium that touches people on so many levels. I think people want to be a part of something that’s larger than life. I also think people think that the life of an actor is some fabulous thing and it’s so easy. Which is the furthest thing from the truth. You really need to starve to be an actor. You have to get by on the bare minimum. You have to work jobs that aren’t glamorous and have flexible schedules so you can go to auditions. You work crazy long hours and do a bunch of stuff for free just to get your foot in the door. The life of an actor is anything but glamorous. You’re constantly broke fighting for your big break. It takes a special breed of person to be dedicated enough to make it. It’s a life full of sacrifices.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Vibraphonist Ľudmila Štefániková

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Ľudmila Štefániková,is an electronic MalletKAT player, jazz vibraphonist, vocalist and composer; here is a link to her blog.

http://www.ludmilastefanik.com

 

 

Q: What exactly is a vibraphone?

 

A: Vibraphone is a musical instrument from the family of percussion instruments. The player stands behind a metal frame, and with 2 or 4 mallets (when using 4 mallets, performer holds 2 mallets in one hand) is hitting tuned metal bars, that are layered on the top of the frame, in two rows, similarly to the piano. Once the desired bar is hit, the sound spreads down through the resonators in form of tubes, that are hanging below each bar.

It’s a melodic percussion instrument, like marimba or xylophone, but it has metal bars, and it also has a sustain pedal, that can make the sound last longer, again, like the piano sustain pedal. The instrument itself is pretty heavy, and to get to a gig, you need to have a big car to fit the frame in.

Q:  What made you interested in becoming a vibraphonist?

A: I started as a pianist. Besides studying classical piano, I was also singing in a children’s choir and later on I started to play drums. I believe it’s a combination of all of this. Vibraphone looks like a piano but you play it like the drums. What I like about it is the fact that the player is standing, so you can actually “dance” to the music. Vibraphone is mostly used in jazz music, and as I love to play jazz, I believe that helped it too.

Q:  What is the most surprising thing to you about living in the United States?

A: Besides the typical things like unhealthy food or different lifestyle than in Europe, I think it’s the fact that everything is somehow much louder. When I first came to America, I was shocked by the street noise: car noise, sirens, and even people talking too loud. I have a friend who is still walking the streets with earplugs. Luckily I don’t have to do it, now I am used to the noise, but at a time it was little bit strange.

Q:  What was your greatest professional triumph?

A: This is a very hard question to answer, because everything I work on hard and that I succeed in, is a great professional triumph. Especially, as an independent professional musician, not signed to any producer or label, I am doing things on my own. It has pros and cons, but I hope I can keep this independence in my work. I know what I am doing, and I am respected for that. I received several prizes and awards as an acknowledged musician and composer, from intellectual authorities, critics and higher-level education and music institutions. These days, my work is featured (among the work of the greatest of the jazz world) at an International European Jazz Personalities Conference conducted in jazz appreciation month.

Q:  What was the most challenging piece of music you ever had to play?

A: Oh, it was the classical solo piano music. I played music of Skriabine, Bartok, Prokofiev, Szymanowski, Schumann, Brahms, Saint-Sains, Bach and many more. The music was so challenging to me, it was like a gym for fingers and mind. But the most challenging was probably Bela Bartok – Allegro Barbaro. This musical piece was scary. I honestly never felt the same with vibraphone, although I played challenging music at challenging venues. I feel very comfortable and confident with vibraphone. It just feels right, and it’s probably the way it’s supposed to be.

Q:  What makes your music unique?

 

A: Here is what one critic wrote about my work:

“This study discusses the issue of Slovak identity in the music of Ľudmila Štefániková, a Slovak jazz musician of the younger generation (b. 1982) who left Slovakia to study jazz vibraphone and composition in Paris and, later, at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. 

Be Beautiful, her debut album released in 2011, shows Štefániková mainly as a composer and arranger. A suite of seven pieces, written for a 16-part ensemble, displays a wide range of “languages“ used in jazz in the latest decade – starting from mainstream swing through to groove and complex (or constantly changing) meters to elements of free jazz, electronic music, rap, and, last, but not least, Slovak folk songs.

Although Štefániková left Slovakia to acquire both professional musical craftsmanship and a wide knowledge of the “universal“ jazz tradition, she continues to maintain a distinct identity in her music linking to the country of her origin. She does so in three different ways using both Slovak language and original Slovak folk music. This makes her a part of the wider tradition of Central and Eastern European jazz musicians, yet the message carried by her music opens new interpretational possibilities. “

Q:  What would you do if you could no longer be a professional musician?

A: I don’t even want to think about it. It’s not like be or not to be a professional musician. You just are a musician. It sometimes feel like a curse cause you just need to do the music and more you do it, more you want to do it. If there were no but absolutely no ways to do music anymore (perform, record, write or teach), I would probably get into journalism, design or computer programming. I like to do all of those little bit, but life goes by quickly and there is no time to learn everything in a greater detail. But if I had to decide about my future 10 years ago, and I would not be a musician J, I would go to study medicine.

Q:  What is the most misunderstood thing about Slovakia?

 

A: I have impression western people think that Slovakia is still a communist country or that it’s a low-income country. In the past I met people who thought we didn’t even have the electricity. But the contrary is true. Slovakia is a middle-income country these days, it’s part of the European Union and has euro as a currency. The country is very small (population of 5,5 million), it has beautiful nature and it’s rich for natural resources. It’s a popular hiking, spa/healing, but also cultural destination. One shouldn’t forget that the country went through many quick and dramatic political changes for the past hundreds of years, from thousand years of Austro-Hungarian empire, through establishment of Czechoslovak Republic, then through Soviet Union period to the birth of independent Slovak Republic, and it’s European Union integration later.

Q:  Do you think things are better there for the average person since the transition from communism?

 

A: Yes I do. Just for the freedom. Before you couldn’t do anything, everything was centralized and controlled by the party. There was no money – only checks and every time you wanted to travel, there was a hassle to get the travel permit, get the real money so that you can live out of something abroad, and on the way back home, you were strictly inspected by the police at the boarder. Everyone was suspected to be an enemy to the party; there was not freedom of speech. This is a complicated and truly sad topic, but these days things are much different.

Q:  In your opinion is there more support for the arts in the US or Europe?

A: It depends on what kind of support. America is good for Americans – you have plenty of grants and resources you can apply for and start from there. But they are all designed for US citizens, so for me this is not the best. In Europe the funding don’t work the same way. You have grants, mostly from government agencies; the competition is high but fair. But in general, Europe deeply live with and through the art, it’s been there for thousands of years, and still develops and stretches. It’s just different – while here in America art is a certain form of entertainment and very business related, in Europe it’s considered more as a science and thus the approach and general perception of it has a totally different form.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

A Interview With Art Curator Jill Conner

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Jill Conner is the founder of the online archive,  AS | ARTISTS STUDIOS and an editor at Whitehot Magazine; here is a link to her website:

www.artists-studios.com

Q:  What is your background in art?

A:  My background is in art history and criticism.

Q: What inspired you to start AS | ARTISTS STUDIOS?

A: AS | ARTISTS STUDIOS was launched in September 2011 and grew out of an interest in making art coverage more active. This online archive focuses specifically on artists who work frequently in isolation, beyond the art world spectacle, yet continue to develop their own aesthetics out of personal conviction.

Art critics have stopped discovering and finding artists. Instead, they primarily write about what they see in galleries.  AS | ARTISTS STUDIOS returns to the in-person studio visit and presents the strongest work being made today in both New York City and Paris, France.

Q: What exactly makes a piece of art “alternative?” (Alternative to what?)

A: I consider “alternative” art as any art that is not exhibited in New York’s mainstream galleries.

Q: Who are some of your favorite artists?

A: That is a tough question since there is so much to like. I tend to like artists who push for change in their work, or who take risks with traditional art-making practices to come up with something new. Many artists from the 1960s and 1970s did exactly that – they made art that was not for sale but instead, to look at. The ideas were pure, independent of art market influence. ”

Q: What makes a piece of art a good investment?

A:  There are a number of factors. A simple answer would be misleading, but if someone really likes a work of art, they should buy it.

Q:  If you could change one thing about the New York art scene, what would it be?

A: It would be great to have more in-person gatherings, but given the population that is next to impossible. However the New York art world is quite comfortable communicating on Facebook.

Q:  What is the most misunderstood aspect about contemporary art?

A: The most misunderstood aspect about contemporary art is that it has no value. Collectors and philanthropists should not hold back on supporting contemporary art at an early stage.  Continued support over the long-term will build the value back into the artist and the art itself.

Q:  What makes Whitehot Magazine different from other art magazines?

A: Whitehot Magazine is a global publication that has not been hindered by either advertisers or paper costs for its growth as a publication. As a result it covers a broad spectrum of artists and events that are not at the extreme margin but remain just outside the mainstream.

Q: How did you become involved with the magazine ?

 

A: I began writing for Whitehot Magazine in 2009 at a time when the magazine was establishing its reach.  When we published the interview with Michael Halsband, the response was record-breaking and the publication has since been established as a viable publication in New York City.  Currently the magazine engages a cross-section of writers who present a phenomenal array of responses to the growing global art scene that is based in both New York and beyond.

Q:  New York is famous for its small crummy apartments. If you had to share an apartment with Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali or Judy Chicago, which one would you pick and why?

A: (Laughs) I guess Pablo Picasso because everyone always wants a piece of him.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Comedian Karl Hess

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Karl Hess is a stand-up comedian who is performing at this year’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival; here is a link to his website The World Procrastination Headquarters:

http://karlhesscomedy.com/

 

 

Q:  What makes you funny?

A: the necessity of having to deal with the trauma that comes from oscillating wildly between blinding self-confidence and crippling self-doubt 417 times a day.

Q:  What appeals to you about the Bridgetown Comedy Festival?

A: Bridgetown is comedian-centric, well-organized, well-booked, in a great city with great people. plus, that Andy Wood is reeeeal easy on the eyes. also, free booze!

Q:  What is the most laughable thing about Portland?

A: the fact that they think they need to “Keep Portland Weird.” i’m not sure what, exactly, the threat to Portland’s weirdness is, but it doesn’t seem like the weirdness is losing any ground. like, i don’t think that at some point dudes in pleated dockers and polo shirts are just gonna show up like “all of this has gotta go.” the weirdness is safe.

Q:  What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?

A: i think not being embarrassed easily kind of comes with the masochistic nature of doing stand-up, at least for me. i rarely get embarrassed on stage. off-stage, though, i get embarrassed somewhat easily, especially for others performing. once this comic onstage just started really making fun of this young guy in the crowd for having a cane, and i think the comic was the only person in the room who didn’t realize the guy was blind. i may have pulled a muscle cringing.

Q:  I have about fifty two hours of free time each week in which I could be developing my mind. I spend approximately fifty of that time procrastinating. What makes procrastination so appealing?

A: procrastination is kind of the ultimate defense mechanism. it shields you from necessity, and provides you with an all-encompassing retroactive explanation. it’s very tempting because we know we can get probably get away with it, and if things end up not working out well, we can use it as an excuse: “well, if i had started on time, i would have done great.” it saves you from ever having to live up to your full potential, and is right there to take the fall when you don’t, which can be destructive. i’m a huge procrastinator, and i don’t think it has anything to do with laziness, more with a reticence to face yourself. that being said, i’m also extremely lazy.

Q:  Who are some of your comedic influences?

A: as a child i loved George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, and Bill Cosby, but i think the shows Seinfeld and The Simpsons were really the foundations for my comedic sensibility. later, in college, i got into guys like bill hicks, Richard Pryor, Louis CK , Patton Oswalt and such, but now that i’m a comic my influences are just my friends, as i’m privileged enough to hang out with some of the funniest people in the world. but i still contend that nothing will ever approach how funny it is when someone falls down the stairs.

Q:   What sort of day jobs have you had and how do they influence your comedy?

A: i used to be a bartender, which is a good job for a comic because you get to banter with strangers and learn to hate humanity as a whole, firsthand.

Q: . How important is bitterness to a comedian?

A: i wouldn’t say it’s important. i guess it depends on the person, some people seem to be fueled by it. i’d say it’s more of a byproduct of an industry that can seem capricious and arbitrary a lot of the time. but, in reality, i think the really funny, talented people end up rising to the top. bitterness seems like a waste of energy. unless we’re talking about that one dude, i fucking hate that guy.

 

Q:  What do you like about Hollywood?

 

A: i live in Echo Park, i try not to go to Hollywood unless i have to. it smells pretty bad. but, if you’re looking for over-priced juice and startling poverty on display, it really can’t be beat.

Q:  What don’t you like about it?

A: i think it can really put blinders on people and make them lose perspective. i’d answer this question further but i have to go drive 50 minutes to audition for a gum commercial that could make or break my life. ciao!

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Comedian Rosalie Gale

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Rosalie Gale is a comedian who makes shower art and invented Hot Girl Fart Shoes. She will appear at The Bridgetown Comedy festival this week; here is a link to her website:

http://rosaliegale.com/


Q:  
What made you want to be a comedian?

A: I’ve always loved making people laugh. I was never the hot girl so I didn’t get that kind of attention and instead depended on humor to ingratiate myself with others. In my late 20’s, I realized I had a knack for saying things out loud that other people tried to shush internally.

But honestly, when it comes down to it, my hatred of “legitimate theatre” was what drove me to try stand up comedy. I used to love theatre and immersed myself in it all through high school. Then, I studied performance in college and about 1/2 way through I realized that I actually kind of hated it. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to choose a different major, so I pressed on and graduated. I moved to Seattle in 1999 decided I wanted a creative outlet. I had always loved stand up and once I made the connection that I could do it anytime I wanted – whenever it fit into my schedule – I decided to try out an open mic.

Q:  What is shower art and what made you interested in making it?

A: Shower Art is waterproof art you can hang in your shower with a suction cup. My husband and I make them out of rubber, glitter, discarded toys and a fair amount of sarcasm. The origin story isn’t all that exciting: I was bored in the shower one day and when I came out I told my husband, Doug, that there should be something in there that you can look at. We set about figuring out how to make them and two years later we finally had the process down pat. We hung up our shingle shortly after.

Q:  What is it about life that you find worth laughing at?

A: I find most everything that is uncomfortable and awkward hilarious. Also, poop. Really anything that a five-year-old boy would laugh at is what cracks me up. That said, I keep the poop jokes out of my stand-up and really focus on them in my art instead. You have to draw the line somewhere, right?

Q: What is unique about the comedy scene in the Pacific Northwest?

A: I think the Pacific Northwest is kind of like comedy Kindergarten. You can find stage time most any night of the week and there are all kinds of comedian-run rooms in bars and coffee shops around the city. It’s a great city to start out in and hone an act before moving on to New York or LA. You won’t get seen by the right people here – and for those just starting their careers – that’s a good thing. “Get a solid 1/2 hour and then move” is a strategy often employed here.

Q:  Who are some of your comedic influences?

A: Janeane Garofalo: She was one of the first female comics I connected with. Edgy.  Kinda,  grumpy. Not overly concerned with fitting into Hollywood beauty standards.

Jen Kirkman: I love the way she tells hilarious stories from her life. Also, we share the same views on retirement communities (can’t wait!).

Paul F. Tompkins: I’ve seen some of his earlier stand-up that I didn’t connect with as much as I do his current work. He gives me hope that one day I’ll find my voice – like he obviously did.

Kyle Kinane: Another story teller at heart. I remember seeing him open for Patton Oswalt in Seattle and my husband and I repeated one of his jokes over and over and over. I’ve made a point to see his act every time he’s been to town since. His stories are so crazy and far-fetched and so obviously true that you can’t help but fall in love with his life a little.

Q:  What is it that you find funny about crafts?
A:  The indie craft revolution started about 10 years ago and created an environment where people can create and sell weird things that you would have previously never been able to find. One of the first, Jenny Hart created Sublime Stitching, a company that produces cool embroidery patterns depicting Day of the Dead, burlesque dancers, robots, meat, vital organs and heavy metal (to name just a few). Before Jenny, those themes weren’t available to embroidery fans. Thanks to her – and the Internet – people can buy weird patterns anytime. The whole movement has really created more options for people. It used to be – if you didn’t like bunnies and geese – you were out of luck. Now you can find crafts that cater to just about any interest.

Some examples of crafts I find funny:

A knitted dissected frog.

This three-headed kitty.

Bigfoot wearing pasties.

This bird telling you what’s what.

This bunny that swears.

Q:  What trends in comedy annoy you?

A: I’m not sure if there are any specific trends in comedy that annoy me. I do get annoyed when people make blanket statements about women not being funny — but how could I not?

Q:  Who was the strangest heckler you have ever had?

A: I used to co-produce a show called Non Profit Comedy that benefited a different organization every week. At one show, one of the non profit employees talked incessantly through the show. During my set she commented loudly on every single thing I said. It was bizarre. You know we’re doing this to raise money for you, right? Right?

Q: What is Hot Girls Fart Shoes?

 

A: Hot Girls Fart Shoes is a collaborative project that my friend Jessica Obrist and I created last year. We make fart shoes like Fozzie the Bear wore in the Muppet Movie — self-inflating whoopee cushions attached with Velcro. We ask women to put the shoes on and have someone film them as they walk around in them for the first time. In short: It’s just stupid fun.

Q: If you could open for Lenny Bruce, Johnny Carson or Ellen DeGeneres, who would you pick?

A: I’m sitting here trying to think of a scenario where Lenny Bruce, Johnny Carson and Ellen DeGeneres all want me to open for them on the same day so I have to only choose one. It’s making my brain explode a little. I guess if someone’s life depended on me choosing, I would pick Ellen so I could ask her to record a Hot Girls Fart Shoes video.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)