Month: September 2013

An Interview With Filmmaker Tal Almog

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Tal Almog is an Israeli film directors whose short film ILOVE will appear in festivals around the world this year; here is a link to his website:

mitziproductions.co.il

Q: What made you interested in being a director?

A: When I was a kid, my grandparents owned a movie theatre in our neighborhood, so whenever I needed a refuge, I could always go there and catch a movie for free. Maybe it was due to my grandparents choice to play sweet Hollywood films in order to attract audience, But when the movie was over, I got a new perspective on the world around me and a fresh take on this thing called life.

After a while I wanted to find out for myself how this magic works. Video cameras were too expensive at the time but my grandmother was kind enough to buy me a used stills camera. I couldn’t put it in words back then, But I found that the better I got taking those photos, the better I could explain the world to myself, and sometimes even shaping it the way I wanted it to be.

Up to this day, the world is still too complicated for me to understand, but when I manage to squeeze it into this miniature world called a movie, It appears, even for a short while, to make sense.

Q: What is iLOVE about?

A: It’s a romantic comedy about a love triangle between a girl, a boy and his smartphone. After receiving a smartphone as a birthday present from his girlfriend, Eric finds it hard to put down. Eventually his loving girlfriend wants to get her boyfriend’s attention back so she asks him to put the phone away. This is when the smartphone starts to get jealous and plans out a digital revenge on her in order to win Eric’s attention back.

Q: What gave you the idea for the film?

A: My girlfriend. She always complains about how much time I spend with my cell phone, and how little time with her. Since I think I’m not the only one that has an affair with his phone, I figure it could make a great film if we actually turn the smartphone into a character, give him his own personality and have him fight for what matters the most – having it’s owners undivided attention. It’s almost natural for most people these days to spend more time with their mobile devices instead of their loved ones. We tell ourselves that we are multitasking but eventually we are all just addicted to this technology.

I personally, would love to spend more time just staring at the sky and less time in front of screens so I think this film might remind people how important that is.

Q: Why do you think people like their phones so much?

A: There is a whole science behind those phones that make them addictive but I think the biggest problem is us, the users. We keep forgetting it’s only a tool that is supposed to help us connect more easily and become addicted to the shiny screens even when there is no real reason to check them. It’s a global addiction issue and I believe now is a good time to admit we have a problem.

Q:. What film festivals can we see it in?

A: Paterson falls film fest, USA,  Fastnet film fest, Ireland, Speechless film fest, USA, Fear No film fest USA, Icon film fest, Israel,Identities film fest, Israel.

Still waiting for answers from Interfilm Berlin and several other film festivals in the US and in Europe. wish me luck 🙂

Q: What is the most challenging thing about being a filmmaker in Israel?

A: Israel is a young country than is often under threat by it’s surrounding neighbors. Unfortunately the reality is that 1 third of our country budget is spent on our army that is supposed to protect our borders. When a country spends that much money on tanks and airplanes, art doesn’t figure high on the list of priorities, and when films are eventually funded they often tell the story of the conflict with the palestinians or other war stories. Nevertheless, the Israeli film community is getting stronger every day, and makes more and more exciting genre films that are immensely successful in film tests worldwide. My hope is that in the next decade along with the peace process, Israel will become a source of innovative filmmaking. I do believe we have a lot of beautiful stories to tell and using imaginative screenwriting together with international co productions might be the key for a new wave of Israeli cinema.

Q: What major themes do you try to touch on in your work?

A: As a director I have embraced the genre of romantic comedy. I have figured that love – the most challenging and rewarding subject in life is also the one most worthy of making films about.

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your work?

After graduating from Tel Aviv university film school I have opened my own production company in order to be able to finance and direct the films I had in mind. In my work I operate very much like Batman – On day time I direct music videos, commercials (Lexus, Pfizer, Nike) and TV documentaries, but at night I turn a switch and make the time to work on my passion projects, which are, for the most part – romantic comedies. After making numerous award winning shorts I have dedicated myself to the making of “Rebound”, a dark romantic comedy which has made it to Cannes 2012. This has made a major change in my career that enabled me to receive offers from bigger clients who were looking for more narrative oriented directors. I can say that my passion projects have contributed to my commercial work as much as it worked the other way around.

Q: What do Americans misunderstand about Israel?

A: Many Americans I get to meet believe that Israel is a lot about the army, anti-terrorism and the conflict with the Palestinians, which is what they pick up from the media. These things are barely present in our everyday life. We have a fascinating culture here and an extremely vibrant lifestyle that is a mix of western and mid-eastern cultures. The best thing for Americans to do is pay a visit and experience Israel for themselves.

Q: Who are some of your directing influences?

A: I know it’s a boring answer, but Steven Spielberg is a huge inspiration for me. His style of directing is something that is so unique, it is impossible to copy, and even today he has a lot to offer. His films are definitely the reason I find cinema to be inspiring and worth all the pain and hard work.

My next project will be my feature film “Shtiglitz”. It is a sci-fi -romantic comedy about a girl who is supposed to go on a date with the man of her dreams. On the night of her date, an alien invasion is breaking in her city. She decides a few aliens are not gonna stop her and leaves her house to meet her man. As you can imagine, Spielberg was an inspiration when I was writing the script…

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 City Shakes Co-Founder Allison Volk

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Allison Volk is an actress who appears in the film Lone Ranger. Allison also runs The City Shakespeare Company; here is a link to the company’s website:

www.CityShakes.org

Q:  What made you interested in starting a Shakespeare themed theater company?

 

A: As an actress I’ve always been interested in Shakespeare. The tradition inspires me, and I’ve always thought that if an actor can handle Shakespeare’s words, she can handle pretty much anything. It was sort of an accident that I started City Shakes withe Brooke Bishop – she’s a Shakespeare buff too, and we decided to produce ‘Taming of the Shrew’ last year. Then we realized we should probably have a name for our group… and it naturally evolved into a company.

Q:  What is your background in theater?

 

A: I was an opera major/theater minor at Wellesley College, and I studied for a year at the National Theater Institute (NTI). With NTI, I traveled to Russia and England as part of the program and got a taste of theater making abroad. I’ve performed with The California Shakespeare Company, as well as Drive Theatre Company. I’m also a playwright and I’ve had work produced in New York and Los Angeles.

Q:  How  do your productions differ from other Shakespeare companies?

 

A: Our mission at City Shakes is to make Shakespeare more relatable to modern audiences. We feel that often, Shakespeare is perceived as boring because it’s performed in a presentational, unrealistic manner that’s confusing. People don’t flock to see work they don’t understand. We like to present the work in non-theater spaces as well. We’re working on ‘Macbeth’ at the moment, and that will be performed in a storage space behind an art gallery!

 

Q:  Many people seem to think Shakespeare’s plays were really written by Francis Bacon; what do you  think off this theory?

 

A: To be honest, I’m not really sure. It’s an interesting theory because there’s some great history there. But I’m not a Shakespeare historian. I just love his work.

Q:  In 1971 Roman Polanski made a film version of MacBeth in which Lady MacBeth was portrayed as a very attractive young woman who influenced her husband with her sexuality. Before Polanski’s film they were always portrayed as a middle aged couple. How much influence do you think Polanski’s version of MacBeth had on all future productions of the play?

A: Well, I think Polanski had a great take on the Macbeths but I’m not sure it was entirely revolutionary. In fact, Sarah Bernhardt famously portrayed Lady M as a seductress in her 1899 performance of the role, so much that it’s said audiences were offended by her outright sexuality. I personally think it makes more sense that the Macbeths are a younger, and more vital, couple. I can understand that the couple has the energy, passion and recklessness to take such a huge risk when they’re younger.

Q:  What is the key to making Shakespeare accessible?

 

A: The actors must understand every single word they are saying, or else they cannot communicate clearly the the audience. Also, the entire team – director, actors, stage manager, producers, etc. – has to be really clear on their intentions and goals with the production. How ever much the performers understand is just how much the observers will understand.

Q: How did you go about getting funding for the theater?

A: We have always been privately funded on donations. Our audiences that attended our last two show (which were free) have been very generous, making it possible for us to move forward. At this point, we have an angel donator, a well-known musician who happens to be an avid Shakespeare fan. We’re very excited to work with him.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that running a theater company in LA presents?

A: Since we don’t have an actual theater space (we find each space depending on what we feel the essence of the play calls for), one of our biggest challenges is finding space. It always seems to work out for the best, however, but the process of space hunting takes a lot of energy and focus. Also a lot of hearing the word “no.”

Q: What is your strangest back stage story?

A: This summer when we performed ‘As You Like It’ in Rustic Canyon Park, we had a couple strange issues with trees! Our “stage” was really just a grassy space grounded on each side with two big trees, so the playing space was well-defined. The day of our first performance, we arrived at the space and one of the trees had fallen down and was lying right in the middle of the stage. We were shocked to see the roots sticking up in the air. We had to work around it and be creative, which was sort of fun. Last in the run, another tree in the park fell over right in the middle of the performance. Luckily no one was hurt.

Q:  What role do you play in The Lone Ranger?

A: I play the role of Jane, a woman who gets robbed on the train in ‘Lone Ranger.’ It was a lot of fun being on set and spending time with big names in film!

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 SHAPETOWN Producer Steve Bakken

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Steve Bakken is one of the owners of Triumvirate Prods. Which produces the show SHAPETOWN; here is a link to his IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0049134/

 

Q:  What inspired you to start Triumvirate Productions?

A: Well, it started simply as a protective housing for SHAPETOWN as we moved development from the web-series to a 1/2 hour sitcom format. We had worked previously with others on the web-series, but after four episodes were completed and the money we raised was depleted, everyone fell by the wayside, except for myself and my two partners who make up Triumvirate Prods.

A little back story: we started My Two Pennies as a collaborative effort to bring a like-minded group of actors together who were motivated to “stop waiting for the phone to ring” and to “forge their own destinies.” A Facebook email was sent out in December of 2009 by Nakoa Lee (one of my current partners) to almost 300 actors in his network, announcing this effort to create a company of actors who would produce their own work. And I believe only 12 or so actually showed up to the first open meeting. This was right around the time that the whole web-series thing was running like wildfire throughout the Hollywood actor community. Cameras were cheap, there was no need for film and you could edit on your laptop, so every actor decided they could be a filmmaker, and eventually an internet sensation. I was one of them. Along with the other 11 or so eager souls who took this first step toward something new. Our first project was a 3 page short about a guy and a girl on a date in a diner. The guy is awkward and the girl is way too pretty for him and so the date is really going in a bad direction when a man at the next table begins choking and this awkward “hero” performs CPR to the beat of a disco song and saves the man’s life. It was called DISCO DINER and, unfortunately,  it was never finished. The editor was doing a favor for the director and wasn’t willing to do more than a basic rough cut. This was before I had tried my hand in editing, so I couldn’t edit the thing, and so we decided to move on to something new, rather than hire a new editor. This is when SHAPETOWN was born. We decided that jumping on the web-series bandwagon was a better idea than trying to turn out another short film. After all, all we had to do was write, shoot, edit, and upload something brilliant, and the chips will all fall into place. So we wrote five 7-page webisodes (which ended up being edited into 4) and raised the necessary funds to produce, shoot, and edit all of it over the course of 15 months or so. We began the first shoot in November of 2010 and finally finished editing of Episode 4 in January of 2012. During that time, the company evolved into this triumvirate of leadership. Nakoa Lee, Julianna David, and myself were clearly the ones who took control of the production and post phases and who really showed commitment to the project and the desire to see things through. So, after much discussion and a few disagreements with the other members of My Two Pennies, we three decided to push forward on our own and leave M2P behind. Thus, Triumvirate Productions was born and as I said earlier, it was originally formed just to house out intellectual property (SHAPETOWN) until we found a network or production house to come on board. However, through connections, we have been brought a couple of projects to produce this year – another independent TV pilot and a feature. The pilot is finished but the feature fell through due to financing issues.
Q:  What kind of training and work experience have you had?

A: I studied theatre and acting at the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU in Dallas, Texas and came straight to LA the fall after graduation. I have been a struggling actor for well over a decade. I have had many great personal successes and some minor financial ones. I’ve had agents and been agent-less. I’ve had meetings with some Hollywood icons and nothing came of it. I’ve been on LA stages working with some famous people and it was just for that night. I’ve done readings with well-known actors to help them audition for a role that I wasn’t up for. I’ve taken cold reading, scene study, improv, on-camera, and other classes and workshops. I’ve had many day jobs around town from hotels to restaurants to retail stores. At times I feel I was spinning my wheels as an actor. It is so hard to get above water in LA as an unknown actor in his 20s with no connections and no trust fund to support himself. Had I never taken a day job to support myself and lived off of the hunger and need for acting work, maybe that would have compelled me to break down more doors. But you gotta eat and pay rent so I couldn’t ever figure a way around the day job thing. And as far as breaking doors down, industry people aren’t necessarily attracted to overly aggressive actors, and I didn’t want to group myself with the crazy ones. And there are many crazies. Overall, I’d say the best experience and training I’ve had is just living in the city itself and finally making my mind up to learn how the business runs from the other side of the camera. This began with My Two Pennies in 2010. And I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to find that group of actors if I hadn’t auditioned for a short film written and produced by my present partners. They were also starring in it and brought me on to play a key role opposite them. That is what led us to our partnership today.

Q:  What is Shapetown about?

A: It is a single-camera style half-hour workplace comedy that is set in a rundown mom & pop fitness club in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ called Gilbert. The premise is that an international conglomerate called Shapetown, Inc. acquires this little gym as one of its new locations and sends in a fresh-out-of-Wharton-school grad into this new location to get it up to corporate standards. The new guy is met with a staff of zany characters led by an obtuse and dysfunctional manager and coincidentally is reunited with a high school crush who works the front desk. It has the potential to be a hit show like CHEERS or FRIENDS. That is my humble opinion 😉

Here’s a link to the original web-series teaser: http://youtu.be/nAaLr9p5xc0

We have a new sizzle reel and full pilot presentation but those are both under wraps due to the fact that we are shopping it around town.

Q:  What role do you play?

A: Writer, producer, and actor. In the show, I play the role of “Rick Maddox,” the aforementioned delusional douchebag of a manager.
Q:  How are you going about shopping it around?

A: We are doing a lot of cold calls on our end. I’m calling in as many favors as I can to folks in my network that have connections in the TV world. My partners are doing the same. We do have two big agencies looking at it now and one of them reps a writer who is high school friends with Julianna, and he has loved the concept of the show since he saw the first webisode in early 2011. He came on board a while back and wrote a pilot script based on our web-series and his agents are working on a plan to package the show with an experienced, well-known show runner. But nothing is on paper right now, so we are pursuing every and any avenue we can.
Q:  What  makes a web-series worth watching?

A: I guess the same that makes anything worth watching: Story, characters, humor, drama, etc. I have to be honest and say that I’m not a web-series fan. I don’t think the format works very well for most stories. I primarily used the web-series format as a way to get my feet wet with production and as a cost-effective (well, relatively) way to develop a show that I felt really should be a 1/2 hour comedy. When we were writing our web-series, we were aiming for 7-7/12 pages per episode. So that three episodes, back-to-back, would be about the same running time as a full half-hour show. It was really difficult to give life to 8-10 characters within a coherent, logical storyline that would provide enough action to provide laughs and keep the audiences attention each episode. It was like we were really trying to compress 22 pages into 7. So finally moving to the full 1/2 hour format has been a necessary change. The most successful web-series I know of either target a very specific niche audience (i.e. Mortal Kombat) or have a very simple, short setup and punchline format that recycles every episode (i.e. Fact Checkers Unit). SHAPETOWN just didn’t fit in the web-series arena, in my opinion. It’s a character-driven show and it needs time to develop real relationships. It used to be that web-series were always “supposed” to be 3-5 minutes, because the belief was that no one would sit at a computer and watch anything for longer than that. But I never bought into that, as cable and satellite boxes are just simple computers anyway. So when we finally decide it’s okay to hook our real computers up to the TV (or monitor), we will be watching all of our programming though our computers. And that is what’s happening now. It’s all content anyway – web-series, TV, film – no matter how you define it.
Q:  What’s your favorite web-series ?

A: I don’t have one.
Q:  What sort of day job do you have and what makes film production better?

A: Currently I work part-time in a high-profile Los Angeles restaurant. I’ve been there for 7 years and it supplements my income and keeps the bills paid. But it doesn’t fulfill me creatively, spiritually, and intellectually like the work I do in film production. I didn’t come to LA to wait tables or tend bar. I spent many years trying to break in as an actor to no avail, so I’ve switched up my strategy a bit and doors seem to be opening for me. I wish I would have figured this out 10 years ago, but there’s no use in looking back with any regrets. Everything in my past has led me to this very great place I stand in right now. And I believe this next year will bring about lots of change for me professionally, including my exiting the restaurant industry and moving full-time into production.
Q:  What is your oddest Los Angeles story?

A: There are so many of them. Let’s see… I guess ALL of them. It’s an odd town, full of odd people. But that is what makes it unique and wonderful, as well. I think many of us creative people that are here trying to break into the biz ride a very fine line between rational and just plain crazy.

Q:  What’s next for you?

A: Hopefully getting SHAPETOWN sold and/or into production. That is my main focus over the next 3 months. I just want to get my foot into the door on a TV show and have the opportunity to work my way up the ladder. I also am one of the producers on an indie feature called IN EMBRYO, written and directed by European film star Ulrich Thomsen. It is set to hit the festival circuit in 2014.

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 Cinematographer Aimee Galicia Torres

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Aimee Galicia Torres is a cinematographer whose upcoming documentary John deals with the sex trade industry; here is a link to her website:

http://www.aimeefilms.com/

 

 

Q: What made you interested in cinematography?

A:  I became interested in filmmaking ever since I was a kid.  In fact, when I was a child, my parents got me an agent, and I did commercial work and acting.  However, I knew from the very get go, that being in front of the camera was in fact not for me.  I fell in love with cinematography in film school, and being able to transfer a set into a whole different world, became fascinating to me.  In hopes of becoming a better director, I set myself, working myself up as a cinematographer, in order to be able to work alongside other directors while I developed my craft.  In turn, it has made me a better all around filmmaker.  Not only am I able to visually tell the story thru application of light, shadow, and framing, I can do in a matter that is cost effective and visually captivating.

Q: Who are some of your influences?

A:   Some of my major influence in film are John Carpenter, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan.

Q: What made you interested in making a film about the sex trade industry?

A:  I became interested in making a film about the sex trade industry, because I myself, am an abuse activist and survivor of sexual abuse.  I recently formed a nonprofit 501(c)3 called the Majestic Dreams Foundation, an organization that provides exposure and awareness of ALL forms of abuse through various mediums such as film.  There in particular,  I became an activist against human trafficking and sexual exploitation, where I have been feature on Al Jazeera English, as well as CNN’s Anderson 360 show.  Through my activism, I met real-life human trafficking survivor and activist Michelle Carmela, and became good friends with her.  Through our friendship, we developed a very close bond, and I decided to help Michelle, with her life-long dream of creating a documentary based on her life’s story.  The title of our upcoming feature documentary is called “John,” in which we are actively seeking donations and investments at this time to bring this film into completion.  In this film, we interview real-life human trafficking/abuse survivors, Michelle Carmela and Nick, as they share their stories of abuse, survival, and recovery. Despite growing up in two very different parts of the United States, Michelle and Nick later uncover the truth to their captors and their direct link to organized crime.  http://www.gofundme.com/47msdw

Q: What kind of research did you do for the film?

A:   We did a lot of various research for the film, such as digging thru our list of resources from various human trafficking organizations such as our own.  In fact, Michelle Carmela is an expert in her own right through the human trafficking community for both sexual exploitation and organized crime.  She has been speaking for over 30 years, and educating some of the top organizations in the business.

Q:   What sort of visual effect are you looking to achieve in the film?

A:  The kind of visual affect we are trying to achieve in the feature film, “John,” is to transcend a visually empowering film that will inspire audiences world-wide.  Using my skills as a cinematographer, I am going to shoot this film no different than I would for many of my clients.

Q:  Do you think things have gotten better or worse for female crew members in Hollywood in the last ten years?

A:  I think that things have changed drastically for female crew members in the industry within the past 10 years that I have been it.  One thing is for sure, there are a lot more females wanting to pursue positions in the camera, electrical, and grip departments.  When I started, I was usually the only female on set behind-the-camera, now there are a lot more.  However one thing that has definitely not changed in this business is the lack of respect for women behind the camera.  Unfortunately, women do not make as much as men in this industry despite having more if not the same experience in that given category.  Women are not respected behind the camera, and are expected to not know as much as the men.  Women are very much babied on set, and sometimes it can be very frustrating.  I worked on nearly every department, as a Gaffer, Key Grip, 1st Camera Assistant, and I never thought I was any different.  I worked my butt off, to prove my worth, that not only could I excel, but be better than most of the men on the sets I’ve worked on.

Q: Have you ever had a difference of opinion with a director; how did you deal with it?

A:   In my career, I have had a series of disagreements with many of the directors I’ve worked with.  But that is all in a day’s work.  My job is to bring the director’s vision to life, by transforming it into light, shadow, and composition.  So in the best interest of the film, I always manage to ease the director’s mind, that I am there to help see their vision through.  That usually ends the dispute.  Given the fact most of the directors I work with are first time directors, there will be a share of disputes and disagreements, but at the end of the day, I am there to do my job and do the best work possible.

Q: What’s your strangest LA story?

A:  I wish I could pinpoint the one strangest LA story, but there are simply too many to just write down.  I can however name a very recent memory.  When a couple of us were out in April, we were obtain b-roll footage for my documentary, “John,” it was around 4am in the morning in Western Ave in Koreatown.  We were driving by, and on camera, we saw two men having sex literally in broad daylight at the curb.  As we drove by, they made eye contact with my driver, and still continued to have sex.  That was one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen.

Q: What film do you think had the best cinematography in the history of film (why)?

A:  One of the best films up to date that I personally feel had the best cinematography up to date would be, “The Prestige.”  The colors and framing was so beautifully captivating.  Also, another favorite of mine was “Memoirs of a Geisha.”  Another great example of great color.

Q:  What is the most common mistake young filmmakers make?

A:  The common mistake that young filmmakers make is the lack of production value and planning they make on their beginning projects.  A lot of new filmmakers overlook these details that might seem minor, and it ends up costing them at the end.  For example, a lot of new filmmakers try to skimp out by hiring a Cinematographer or Gaffer only based on the fact they have the equipment, when in fact they should be going by the person’s reel.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make something look great, but you really should invest your time and research to make your film the best that it can possibly be.  Most people who come in this business want to come in and think they can make their way into the director’s seat right away, but people need to know, that sometimes you got to start from the ground up, and work your way from various departments to become the best director you can be.  Learning more, and getting experience in as many departments, will make you a better director, a better filmmaker.  There is so much to making a great film than simply turning on a camera and shooting.  What makes a great film is the attention to details, and sure application of it.

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 Psychotherapist Mark Gundry

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Dr. Mark Gundry is a pre-licensed psychotherapist in Portland, Oregon; here is a link to his website:

http://markgundry.com/portland-therapy/


Q:
 What kind of educational and professional background do you have?

A: I went into graduate school a year after graduating from Wheaton College in Illinois, where I earned my BA in Philosophy, with a minor in Literature. Wheaton was a mixed experience, quite invigorating intellectually in some ways, with some lovely individuals as professors and friends, but also dominated by conservative Christian, evangelical literalism and dogmatism. After college I spent a year traveling through Turkey and both Western and Eastern Europe. Then came graduate studies in Systematic Theology, which is a sort of blend of philosophy and religious ideas, at Boston College, where I got my PhD. I wrote a dissertation for that degree on the theological and philosophical implications of psychologist Carl Jung’s practice of the symbolic life–that is, modern people paying a certain attention to dreams, imagination, and images, and working with these experiences in a kind of spiritual way. In so doing, we get linked up to mystery, quite apart from creeds and churches. This work later got published as a book, Beyond Psyche. Anyway, I thought I would eventually teach philosophy and religion at the college level, but instead found my vocation in clinical psychotherapy, and writing and photography and other creative pursuits. For my clinical training, I earned my MA in Counseling Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, near Santa Barbara, California. I had many life-changing experiences there and appreciated the emphasis on paying attention to your own inner life and development. Most academic psychology has lost any significant sense of the psyche and its reality. From that point on I’ve been in private practice as a therapist in Portland, Oregon.

Q:  You have a very unique group therapy about dreams. What made you interested in dreams?

A: Isn’t everyone interested in dreams? Perhaps not. Or, more likely, we kill off our natural interest in the mysterious phenomenon of dreaming by brushing it off as meaningless nighttime chatter, by inundating ourselves with media, by stuffing back down the challenging gifts that our dreaming offers to our waking selves. As for my own personal history, I reached a critical point in my late 20s and ended up in the office of a psychotherapist who by chance was interested in dreams. Lo and behold my dreaming responded to his interest. I kept paper and pen on my nightstand. Page after page of rich dream imagery poured out, nearly every night for quite some time, and it was not random. It expressed my deepest feelings and difficulties more eloquently than the waking I ever could. From that time on, I’ve recorded my dreams and worked extensively with them. When you’ve had experiences like these, you need no convincing to be interested in dreams.

Q:  What is the most interesting dream anyone has ever told you about?

A: It’s hard to make a judgment of most, and of course I can’t share dream material from my clients here. But let me think…. Well, once years ago a friend told me of a dream that foretold a terrible personal tragedy that actually took place the day after the dreamer dreamt it. This is interesting on many levels. It suggests (not proves) that the psyche may have a nonlinear relation to time. It was also a dreadful kind of numinosum for the dreamer. In other words, in the presence of such a dream, when the dreamer shares it with full emotion, we come in contact with something beyond our usual horizon of meaning. The hair stands up on your neck. That sort of dream is provocative. By and large, on the other hand, I think the not-so-big dreams are important to pay attention to. Our day-to-day emotional undercurrents get worked in dreams.

Q:  Why do you think people always want to tell other people about their dreams?

A: We’re always dreaming, even when awake. It’s happening in the background. Images and affects are moving around and trying to give shape to all of the stuff that comes at us, either from within or without. When an actual night dream is recalled, the waking self feels connected to this ever-moving realm of the unconscious psyche. Something of great worth has been retrieved, and it’s natural to want to share this. Too bad we don’t have many venues in which to share our dreams; too bad lots of people don’t want or know how to hold a good space for a friend to share a dream.

Q:  What do you think of vivid dreams; are they possible?

A: Yes, they do happen, though not often to me. A vivid or lucid dream is one in which the dream self becomes aware that he or she is dreaming, and is able to exert some agency within the dream. This is fascinating, because it shows that there are multiple ways of being aware as a human being. There is a wakeful dreaming, for instance. I haven’t tried to train myself to do this. I don’t really want my waking self to direct the flow of dreaming. I like the dream to be the voice of an other within, a mysterious dreamer who dreams the dream, to use psychoanalyst James Grotstein’s terms. I’m not interested in assigning more power to consciousness. Many of us these days have plenty of that already.

Q:  To what theories of psychology do you ascribe?

A: I’ve focused my reading and training on a few streams of psychology. I’ve read a lot of Carl Jung and the contemporary Jungians. Also certain psychoanalytic thinkers such as Harry Stack Sullivan and his interpersonal psychiatry, or Donald Winnicott who linked psychopathology with an inability to play, or Wilfred Bion who developed the symbol O to indicate a mysterious, transcendent presence that accompanies psychic life, or Ronald Fairbairn who identified the inner saboteur that attacks us from inside. The upshot of all of it, clinically, brings focus and importance to the mysterious relationship between therapist and patient, and to the ways that this relationship stimulates psychological development, or as Jung put it, the individuation of the person. The therapeutic relationship becomes a kind of vessel in which things happen, over time, hopefully resulting in a more lively engagement of self, other, and cosmos.

Q:  In your experience what is the most common repressed desire expressed in dreams?

A: Classically, these repressed desires were seen as forbidden sexual and aggressive wishes. Freud developed the notion that dreams simultaneously reveal and hide such wishes from the waking self. I don’t generally ascribe to this view, but have seen dreams that fit this pattern. On their seagoing voyage together to Clark University in Massachusetts for a conference, Freud and Jung shared their dreams and free associations. This caused tension, eventually, since according to Jung Freud felt his paternal authority threatened, and the tension presaged their infamous breakup later on. Here you see aggressive feelings playing out between father (Freud) and son (Jung).

Q:  I am a chronic day dreamer how can I be helped?

A: Sorry, there is no known treatment for your condition. I am kidding. Actually, this reminds me that my second grade teacher wrote on my report card that I day-dreamed a lot and stared out the window. I think some people daydream a lot because so-called real life seems dull and uninspiring, and entry into the day dream promises some relief from endless hours sitting in a cubicle, staring at a screen in a job one hates, for instance. The day dream offers a release from the banality of life and offers entry into a limitless horizon. In this way, day-dreaming can promote more meaningful living. This only becomes a problem when a person can’t incarnate any of these waking fantasies. Work to bring a few of them into existence, and chronic day-dreaming becomes creative fantasy.

Q:  Are there any sorts of dreams that indicate psychosis; if so what are they?

A: Well yes and no, or not exactly, or necessarily–no particular types or images. I find that dream images are very particular to the dreamer, to the setting in which the dream is told, and to the relationship with the person one tells the dream to. On the other hand, some dreams have a psychotic feel. When I sit with one of those dreams, the atmosphere changes, and there is a felt sense of what are called primitive anxieties in the psychoanalytic literature. These anxieties affect the basic structure and experience of being a person and may threaten to destroy the individual’s sense of going on existing as an intact person in the world.

It’s disturbing to sit with such dreams. One common theme is fragmentation. Blown to bits, in pieces, ripped apart, blanked out, dismembered. Awareness itself fragments in the presence of dreadful, psychotic fragmentation. It’s actually arduous simply to focus. It is the presence of the unthinkable–literally, what can’t be thought or what feels like if I think it, I will break apart. But it’s just then that a dream can become a gift. Say that therapist and client can sit together and feel the presence of these dreadful things together, maybe imagine them, circumambulate them together a few times, and then, the warmth of the human gets to come in, and maybe the person stuck in the psychotic sector of personality has a rope to hold onto, and maybe will decide to come back into life.

It’s important to note that normal people have a psychotic sector too, or so I speculate, along the lines laid out by thinkers such as Michael Eigen from the Wilfred Bion stream, or Nathan Schwartz-Salant from the Jungian stream. At certain developmental crises or traumas, for example, a reasonably adapted and sane character might be prone to going a bit mad for a time. Or certain relational conflicts will spark a mad part of the person’s psyche to step forward. The grappling with this chaos factor can help form an individual and also deform. It’s as though we orbit around the alchemical black sun and inevitably get hurt, or killed, sometimes at the very same time we come into being in transformed ways. Alchemically, we can speak of the Spirit of Mercury (Mercurius) and its destructive and creative operations. Symbolic systems such as alchemy or religions or spiritual practices are speaking in images about the unseen factors that animate the developmental processes of life. These factors constitute the psyche as an animated and animating force. In the older usage the psyche is psychotic, yet only some people develop psychotic types of pathologies, which likely grow out of biological vulnerability, trauma, and interpersonal disturbances.

Q:  Let’s say it were possible to pick a favorite dream and live inside of it for the rest of one’s life. Do you think most people would choose their dream or their reality? Why?

A: Who knows? Maybe it depends on temperament. Some are more oriented to this world, the concrete, and others are oriented to a dreamtime reality of one sort or another. Like I’ve hinted, the point of depth psychology would be for the individual to hold the tension of the dream, on the one hand, and concrete reality with all its limitations, on the other. Out of holding this tension you can hope for a symbol to come and help you put bones and flesh on your dream. Collapse towards one pole or another, dreamtime or concrete reality, and you may escape suffering the anxiety of being a human being, but you also lose the chance to become a human being who mediates deeper energies in the course of his or her individuation as a person.

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 Sex Pose Man Star David Bianchi

davidsexpose

David Bianchi is the star of the web series Sex Pose Man; here is a link to the first episode:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laD5Ge730do&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL3TeFb_d2ZG7q5IzRBydB405eUcktRznu

Q:  What is Sex Pose Man about?

A: Sex pose man is an adult comedy series about the adventures and mis-adventures of Winston aka Sex Pose Man. He’s a gigolo, who is very tantric and is inspired by mundane things that he performs on his nightly clients unbeknownst to them. In a very hysterical way.

Q:  What attracted you to the project?

 A: SPM is truly an original idea and concept…it’s a character that came out of some early comedy work I had done and the idea evolved over time. Don’t get me wrong i love sex just as much as the next man but I don’t wanna freak anybody out while I do it! So SPM was an idea that spawned a couple years ago and we finally got around to putting it together.

Q:  The most consistently clicked on interview I’ve ever done has been with a professional escort. What makes sex a more interesting subject to learn  about than anything else?

A: Everybody loves sex some people admit it and some don’t it doesn’t surprise me at all that there is that much interest…what makes SPM so fun is that its good harmless adult humor…nothing to crass or raunchy about it.

Q:  How did you prepare for the role?

A: Well I think about a lot of the great sketch ‘sexy’ characters of past. Deuce Bigolo, Superfly, Steve Martin on SNL with “Wild and crazy guys” and of course all the deuche-baggery that I see and pick up on in real life…and definitely some Matthew Mcconaughey LOL…but personally I had a sense of what and how the character would behave…I also train really hard in the gym and being physically ready was really the hardest part.

Q:  What do you like about Hollywood?

A: It’s the mecca for film and television and it’s where the industry lives. If you want to work in the business you don’t have to live in LA but if you want to always work, then you should.

Q:  What don’t you like about it?

A: Traffic, distractions, pretentiousness, homeless people.

Q:  What makes a web series worth watching?

A:  Whether it’s comedy or drama it has to be well executed…and that means camera, cast, color, music, tone, style BUT it has to be quick! And you have to have a through line that keeps the characters evolving…and most importantly entertain.

Q:  What kind of training have you had?

A:  Been acting since I was 5 or 6, went pro in 2005…have a BFA in Theatre and Film from Arizona State University (Magna Cum Laude)…I also have been to several prestigious Producer academies. BUT I write and produce for things I act in….because if I wait for anyone to give me anything I’d die of starvation. I was trained at ASU by Marshall Mason (4 time Tony Award Winner) and I’m a natural performer. Some people have great instincts naturally, those folks will succeed.

Q:  What makes an actor an artist?

A: Any actor is an artist first, not the other way around. Transforming text into a palpable emotional delivery is an art form. The ability to do that is innate. You either have it…or you don’t. I’ve met a lot of people that don’t…and I’ve met some incredible people that really do!

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 Author Delin Colón

rasputin

Delin Colón is the author of  Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History; here is a link to her website:

: http://therealrasputin.wordpress.com/

Q:  What originally made you interested in writing about Rasputin?

A: My roots are Russian-Jewish. I’m a second-generation American. My father had always told me that his great uncle, Aron Simanovitch, had been secretary to Rasputin, and he had often recounted meeting Simanovitch in 1923, when my father was a young boy.  I was in my late forties when I started researching my great-great uncle. I began finding mention of him in various biographies on Rasputin, but I hit the jackpot when I discovered an out-of-print copy of the 1930 French edition of Simanovitch’s memoirs (originally published in Russian in 1928).  Fortunately, my undergraduate degree is in French and I spent several years living in the province of Québec, speaking only French.

When I began reading the memoir, I knew I was going to translate it into English, but as I delved into Simanovitch’s daily life with Rasputin, over the decade they were together, I was struck by my ancestor’s affectionate account of Rasputin’s aid to the poor, the ill, the disenfranchised, and especially the Jews. It was not at all the image of the ogre-demon that’s been popularized and exaggerated for profit.

It occurred to me that history wasn’t written by the poor, the disenfranchised, and certainly not by the illiterate. It’s generally said that history is written by the powerful. In this case, the powerful were the aristocrats who eventually felt threatened by Rasputin’s talk of social equality.  In tsarist Russia, anti-Semitism was government policy.  There were numerous laws defining not only where Jews could live (most were restricted to the Pale of Settlement), but what jobs they could have, what they could own, and allowing educations to only a small percentage of Jews.  To advocate equal rights for Jews, under those circumstances, was akin to treason, as most Jews were considered spies.  The aristocracy had an axe to grind when it wrote Rasputin’s history.

I knew I had to show the other side of the story. So, I spent the next dozen or so years researching Simanovitch’s claims, reading biographies, memoirs, papers, history books, treatises and articles, in French and English. I found a wealth of substantiating material. Of particular note is the fact that nearly every book about Rasputin, from his daughter’s to his murderer’s, mentions his efforts to obtain equal rights for Jews. Whether it’s noted with admiration or derision, it is there. I published the results of that research two years ago under the title Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History.  That book establishes a more global historical context for Simanovitch’s Rasputin: The Memoirs of His Secretary which I translated into English and annotated.

I was further encouraged by my contact with Rasputin’s great granddaughter who tours Europe speaking about him, in an effort to dispel the many myths that surround him.

Q:  What kind of professional and educational background do you have?

A: I attended six different universities to accommodate my wanderlust (remember, this was the late sixties and throughout the seventies), with my undergraduate work in French and my graduate work in Clinical Psychology.

I’ve held a variety of positions including researcher, technical writer, editor, and owner of an agency that paired writers with jobs. I’ve worked in a variety of psychiatric settings, as well as having owned and operated a stair-building company. My weirdest job was as a ‘disco bunny’ at a Playboy Club (more than 40 years ago), and my favorite job offer was that of shepherdess on a sheep ranch in Québec.

Q:  For those who don’t know, please explain who Rasputin was and what his role was in Russian history.

A: Grigory Efimovich Rasputin was a Siberian peasant who was neither monk nor priest, but a ‘strannik,’ a wandering spiritual pilgrim. He was widely known among the peasantry for his sermons and healing powers, and was brought to Tsar Nicholas II’s court to attend to the hemophiliac heir to the throne, Tsarevitch Alexei.  Rasputin was effective at alleviating the young boy’s pain when doctors couldn’t.  He became the spiritual advisor to the royal family as well.  He was often accused of interfering in politics, as he suggested to the Tsar bureaucratic candidates who agreed with his anti-war and egalitarian agendas.

Historically, he is characterized as a womanizer and a drinker, which is not completely inaccurate but has been wildly exaggerated by those who wished to discredit him, and further still by writers and filmmakers profiting from sensationalism.  The myth of Rasputin resulted in the title of ‘the Mad Monk.’

Q:  What is the most misunderstood thing about him?

A: That he was evil.  The demonic image fabricated by aristocrats, the clergy and the newspapers were intended to discredit Rasputin.  The tsarist regime was oppressive for most Russians, unless they belonged to the nobility.  What people don’t read about him, although documented, is that many citizens lined up at Rasputin’s door every day seeking help. Some were bureaucrats seeking promotions and decorations, but most were poor and many were Jews seeking educations (above the allowed quota), permission to move out of the ghetto or some other favor such as preventing a ‘pogrom’ (a raid by the military, including looting, torture and slaughter) on a Jewish village.  He tried to help them all.

Rasputin’s aid to Jews and his pleas to the Tsar to accord them equal rights flew in the face of government policy. It was widely believed that Jews were not to be trusted and had to be kept in check to foil the fictitious ‘Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world.’  The military could destroy an entire village of Jews (and often did) and justify it with the accusation of espionage.  One of the worst generals bent on the elimination of Jews was the Tsar’s uncle, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armies. Rasputin was horrified by such inhumane treatment and was seen by many as a traitor for sympathizing with the Jews. People found him ‘evil’ for his views when, in fact, the ‘evil’ lay in the tsarist regime.

Certainly he liked to party and enjoyed the company of women (with his wife’s approval and pride in his popularity) who threw themselves at him. He loved dancing and gypsy orchestras.  However, to put his behavior into proper context, the aristocracy’s accusations of womanizing and alcoholism were more than hypocritical considering that they, themselves, consumed champagne and vodka by the case, and were rife with venereal diseases due to their own promiscuity. Many military, noblemen and bureaucrats were known to have been taking cures for diseases like syphilis, which were so rampant that the newspapers were filled with ads for remedies.  In fact, one historian wrote that if Rasputin had been born an aristocrat, no one would have thought anything of his social activities.   The bottom line is that he never harmed nor killed a soul, unlike the Russian military which, with the Tsar’s knowledge, tortured, raped, maimed, and murdered many thousands of innocent Russian Jews and other minorities.

Q:  It’s my understanding that Rasputin was a spiritual advisor to the Romanovs and other aristocrats; you say that “Rasputin was a progressive humanitarian who was victimized by the aristocracy who fabricated his evil image.” What led you to believe that he was a humanitarian, and how were his actions progressive?

A: Rasputin was, primarily, spiritual advisor to the Romanovs (and key to their son’s health), as well as giving sermons to his devotees (mostly wives of aristocrats and bureaucrats, when he was in Petersburg).  It was, by the way, customary for the tsars to have a spiritual advisor, seer, holy fool, or psychic to consult.  So, Rasputin’s position as the Tsar’s ‘favorite’ was not an unusual thing.

However, it was quite progressive, even radical, for Rasputin to suggest not only equal rights for all Russians, but that they have a say in government.  He did what he could to bend the oppressive regulations in order to gain justice for the persecuted, often through bribery of officials (a customary and accepted practice in Russia for centuries).  Through requests to the Tsarina, he often managed to reduce or eliminate the prison sentences of those who had been incarcerated on fabricated charges.  If petitioners needed money for food, or to bribe officials for an education, job, travel permit, etc., Rasputin would demand that the rich petitioners empty their pockets to divide the money among those who needed it.

He was able to have many Jews excused from military service, as their lives were generally in as much danger from anti-Semitic Russian soldiers as from any enemy.  In addition, Jews were generally conscripted in proportionately higher numbers and for longer periods than the rest of the population, with the goal of distancing them from their religion and even converting them.

Rasputin also abhorred bloodshed and begged the Tsar not to go to war with Germany at the start of World War I.  During the war, his pleas for its end, like his stance on Jewish rights, was viewed by many as treasonous and he was accused of being a German spy. Any and all accusations against Rasputin were, of course, discounted by the royal couple.  As the war waged, Rasputin begged the Tsar to wait until after the harvest to send in new recruits because Russia would need the food supply. He also asked the Tsar to put an end to the black market food prices and not to send soldiers into combat without weapons and ammunition (a common practice).

All of the above actions and convictions, in addition to healing the ill, are indicators of a humanitarian — someone whose first priority is human lives, unlike that of the tsarist regime which found them all too expendable.  Despite Rasputin’s entreaties  to the Tsar, his vision of equality for Jews, an end to the war, and government with citizen involvement would not come about until the 1917 revolution (and then only briefly), several months after Rasputin’s murder.

Q: Who would be a modern day Rasputin?

A: That’s a really good question if we’re talking about the man and not the myth.  Any particular individual eludes me.  I’m sure one will pop into my head after this interview is published.  Such a person would love his country and its leader whom he would try to persuade, at risk to his own position and life, to eradicate oppressive laws to ease the suffering of the masses and stop ethnic cleansing.  If that individual, upon having no legislative influence, routinely circumvented the law to help the oppressed, case by case, and was subsequently scapegoated, vilified and murdered as a subversive, then you have a Rasputin.  And, of course, he would have to be able to survive all night parties of singing, flirting and dancing.

Q:  Do you believe he was really a mystic?

A: It’s a tricky question.  I do believe he was very spiritual but, again, was progressive in his beliefs. He didn’t believe that God resided only in the Russian Orthodox Church (his religion), but that there was just the one God for all religions and that the way a person worshipped was his own business.  He especially revered the teachings of Jesus, and encouraged people to worship God in a joyful way rather than a fearful one.

There are numerous tales of Rasputin’s healing abilities which he stated were not his at all, but God’s.  Simanovitch recounts that Rasputin had an extensive knowledge of Siberian, Tibetan and Chinese herbs which he often used.  But he also describes incidents that have all the hallmarks of empathic healing — the ability to draw out and absorb the energy that makes one ill.  The healer is temporarily afflicted by the symptoms before releasing that negative energy they’ve absorbed. It is an exhausting process that leaves the healer depleted. Many witnesses, including the Tsarevitch’s doctors have described such scenes.  Both of my books contain accounts of various such healings, including the one of Simanovitch’s young son who had long suffered from a debilitating neurological disorder called ‘St. Vitus’ Dance.’  The boy, who had barely been able to walk, recounted that Rasputin laid a hand on his head and began having tremors and spasms symptomatic of the disorder. After several moments, the tremors stopped and Rasputin told the boy to run home, which he did and never suffered from the affliction again.

It’s hard to say if he’s a mystic. From everything I’ve read, a number of his predictions did come true, but many didn’t. I do believe that Rasputin had healing capabilities, aside of his knowledge of herbs.  If you want to call that mystical, then I guess I’m a believer. There was, however, a time when he began to lose his healing powers after an assassination attempt which left him in critical condition and from which he never fully recovered.  Maria Rasputin, his daughter, wrote that when he could no longer heal people, in the year or two before his death, he put all of his energy into championing the causes of oppressed Russian minorities, especially the Jews.

Q:  Why do you think he got such a bad reputation?

A: The reasons are numerous and came from all quarters, notably from the clergy, the aristocrats, the bureaucrats and the military.  The clergy grew to hate Rasputin due to the popularity of his informal sermons in which he discussed applying biblical wisdom to daily life, as well as finding joy in God rather than fear. The priest in his Siberian village was so jealous of the attendance at Rasputin’s talks that he lodged a formal complaint with church authorities, accusing Rasputin of belonging to the secretive Khlysty sect, known to hold orgies and to repent with self-flagellation.  Undercover church investigators infiltrated his meetings, which were not held in secret as the Khlysty did, and returned not only confirming that Rasputin was Russian Orthodox, but raving about his sermon as well. Unfortunately, the accusation was made repeatedly, although always found to be untrue, and was used to discredit him.  While a juicy bit of gossip, it was widely used to support the view of him as some sort of sex fiend. When it became evident that the smear campaign wasn’t working, one monk initiated several assassination attempts against Rasputin, even after being exiled.

The aristocracy feared Rasputin’s influence on the Tsar would ultimately threaten its privileged standing if the weak-willed Tsar permitted a constitution, allowing greater participation in government.  They also didn’t want the Tsar changing the numerous anti-Semitic laws of his forefathers, having been inculcated with a paranoia vis-à-vis Jews. The Tsar’s mother and uncles also wanted Rasputin gone, with his liberal ideas that would only reduce the power and authority of the Romanov dynasty. So, the nobility conducted their own extensive smear campaign against Rasputin, including rumors of sexual impropriety with the Tsarina and her daughters, and making sure the newspapers published any salacious rumors about him.  They hoped he would appear so repulsive that the Tsar would banish him.  When that didn’t work, the assassination plots began until one succeeded.

The bureaucrats were fed up with Rasputin’s constant requests for favors for various groups and people. They resented that he wielded the power to influence their actions, usually with the threat “I will tell the One Who Loves Me,” meaning the Tsar or Tsarina. His influence on the appointing and firing of various cabinet members intimidated many of them into simply complying with his wishes.  Several government officials plotted assassination attempts against him, and one was involved in his murder.

The military, too, resented Rasputin’s ideas and his interference with its persecution and imprisonment of innocent people on manufactured charges of espionage or in ‘blood libel’ cases.  They saw him as a traitor — as a German spy because he was anti-war (and closely associated with the Tsarina who was German), and because he defended and sympathized with the Jews, contrary to government policy and social convention.

All of these groups worked to discredit Rasputin via smear campaigns, the Twitter of the time. Parlor gossip was the most common form of entertainment at that time and was more likely to be believed than not — the more outrageous the better, and the more quickly it spread. Russia was prodigious at finding scapegoats for its ills.  The Jews had long been one of their scapegoats; Rasputin was an easy target. This is how his reputation was fabricated. Many cite Rasputin as the cause (or at least one of them) of the downfall of the Romanov Empire.  This short-sighted view ignores the centuries of oppression suffered by many Russian citizens, and their unwillingness to suffer any longer.  The evidence is that before the 1917 revolution, there was another in 1905 by factory workers seeking better conditions, hours and pay.  Rasputin was not yet known in Petersburg at that time.

Q: If you had to sum up his philosophies into a paragraph what would you say?

A: Rasputin was a spiritual man (and devoted father) who believed in equality for all citizens and avoiding bloodshed. He believed that anyone who believed in God was a good person and should worship according to his own religion.  He decried the church’s lack of aid to non-Russian Orthodox citizens, believing that all people are children of God. His plan for social equality involved abolishing anti-Semitic laws. His idea for economic reform was to buy acreage from the nobles that the peasants could farm to increase the country’s food supply, and then have the aristocrats, with their profits, build factories to increase industry and create jobs. Ironically, most of these ideas were realized, in some form or another, after the revolution.

Aron Simanovitch, Rasputin’s secretary and friend, said it best in his memoir, Rasputin: The Memoirs of His Secretary:

He was fond of me and, for my part, I also felt close to him. I never saw him do anything evil or wrong. In fact, his mission was to be good to everyone. If Nicholas II was a bad tsar, Rasputin was not to blame. With my assistance, Rasputin helped thousands of people, with a real and sincere goodness and with no personal profit motive. Numerous were those he saved from misery, death, humiliation and suffering. This I will never forget. I have neither the right to judge nor to condemn him. No human being is without faults, and Rasputin was more honest than most of those around him.”

Q:  What personal characteristics do you think Rasputin had that made people listen to him?

A: Most of those who knew him said that his eyes were very intense. However, his behavior was always friendly. He talked with, joked with, and hugged and kissed people on the street, as well as in high society milieus.  Most found him jovial and energetic. However, those who came to him with spiritual, physical or psychological problems generally reported that he had a great talent for calming people and making them feel better. Nicholas II even stated that his spiritual discussions with Rasputin left him feeling serene.  Rasputin’s sermons were so popular not only due to his impassioned delivery, but because he showed his followers how to use the scriptures to fashion their own lives and behavior.  While he had little tolerance for injustice, he felt it a waste of time to respond to his accusers, although many encouraged him to.  His daughter, Maria, would urge him to defend himself against the vicious attacks in the newspapers, but he would laugh it off, saying they had to have something to write about, and that Jesus had had to bear far worse than mere accusations.

 

 

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