Month: January 2015

An Interview With Filmmaker Maude Michaud


Maude Michaud is the director of the feature film DYS-; here is a link to her website:


Q:  What made you interested in film making?

A: I’ve always been a huge cinephile, thanks to my grandma who would watch all the great American classics whenever she would babysit me. As a kid, I was also an avid reader and I started taking drama classes when I was 9. One day, when reading a magazine about cinema, I realized that filmmaking would be a way for me to merge my passion for film, theatre and storytelling, so I started experimenting with my dad’s camcorder and read everything I could get my hands on that was about the filmmaking process.

Q:  What is DYS- about?

A: Eva, a former model, is fighting off a severe depression after she suffered a miscarriage while her husband Sam, a photographer, is unsuccessfully trying to mend their marriage. A sudden viral pandemic forces the estranged couple to quarantine themselves in their condo, which widens the divide between them.  When James, Sam’s best friend, comes to visit and displays symptoms of the infection, the tension escalates for Eva and Sam as they both start dealing with their fear of the viral threat in very different ways. Sam descends into paranoia and madness, while Eva confronts the dark demons of her past.  It doesn’t take long before they both realize that, despite the chaos outside their apartment, the biggest threat resides inside their apartment and within themselves.

Q:  What inspired you to write it?

A: When I decided to write my first feature film, I was aware that I would have to work within certain budgetary limitations, so I chose to write a story with minimal locations and no more than 2 or 3 main characters. I just had to find the right story that would fit these criteria! At some point, I was talking to a friend about the oversaturation of everything zombie-themed and of how fed up I was about this specific subgenre of horror. As a joke, I said: “I should make a zombie film without any zombie!” The idea stuck with me and three weeks later, I had a first draft.

Q:  How did you go about getting it into the festival circuit?

A: I’ve had my short films play on the festival circuit since I was 16, so I have built a pretty extensive list of festivals over the years. I usually sit down and plan the festival strategy – where do I want the film to premiere, which festival do I need to reserve a premiere status for, what are the submission deadlines, what’s my budget, etc. – and then send it out to those festivals. Usually, once it starts playing, other festivals and events start asking for screeners because they heard of the film, so it just snowballs from there!

Q:  What have you done to publicize your film?

A: Once again, since most of my short films have been reviewed by different websites and publications, I have an ever-growing list of potential reviewers. As soon as the project was ready, I reached out to them to tell them about the film. Then, I researched new websites and reviewers, got the word out by using social media, and printed flyers to promote festival screenings. Just like it happens for festivals, once the film starts playing and generates some buzz, things snowball quickly and promotion gets easier.

Q:  What kind of training have you had?

A: I have 12 years of theatre training, which definitely helped me understand directing and scriptwriting. Because I started making films when I was still a teenager, I taught myself many of the technical aspects of filmmaking through trial and error. Then I went to film school and got my undergraduate degree in Communication and Film Production. I also have a minor and Project Management (which helps with production) and a master’s degree in Media Studies.

Q:  Who are some of your filmmaking influences?

A: I grew up watching the films of Alfred Hitchcock, so he’s still my biggest inspiration to this day. Later on, I discovered the work of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, which helped define the type of films I was interested in making.

Q:  How do horror films directed by women tend to differ from those directed by men?

A: It depends; some films have strong feminist messages while, for other films, you could never guess they were directed by women. I don’t like making generalizations, but that being said, I did notice body horror seems to be a recurring theme in films made by women. I also noticed many of these films tend to be more psychologically brutal (as opposed to physically brutal) and have a more serious approach to the genre (as opposed to horror with a comedic twist). The horror genre is a wonderful medium to tell women’s stories and I feel that the way women filmmakers appropriate certain elements of the genre only helps it evolve and develop its potential for creative storytelling.

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

A: My day job is to coordinate special events and projects for an organization that produces audio-visual content. Even if I don’t directly work in production, I’m still fortunate to work ‘in the business’ and in a creative workplace. Most of my colleagues, like me, live a double life and are musicians, visual artists, writers, etc… which makes for really stimulating lunch time conversations!  Being surrounded by so many driven artistic people keeps the creative juices flowing and keeps me motivated to work on my own projects when I get home.

Q:  What would be more horrifying getting a horrible disease or having to live in isolation with your ex?

A: I’m lucky that I still get along with most of my exes and none of those relationships ended horribly. So, I definitely think getting a horrible disease would be way more horrifying than having to live in isolation with an ex. I’m a total wuss when it comes to being sick!

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 Helping Survivors Manage Founder Kat Reed


Kat Reed is the founder of Helping Survivors Manage, which is an organization dedicated to delivering practical everyday assistance to the people left behind after a death; here is a link to the website:


Q:  What inspired you to start Helping Survivors Manage?

A: After my mom’s death, I stayed with my dad to help him with all the odds and ends (the business side of death) that needed to be handled; cancelling appointments, reporting the death to creditors, sorting all the mail (condolence cards, donations), notifying credit reporting agencies, and more. There are so many tasks to manage, so I got on my computer and searched – thinking to myself, “this will be easy, I will just search for the tool that MUST exist to help me get through this” I knew there had to be something to help guide me step-by-step through the process. Turns out, it did not exist. There were tons of resources scattered about in hundreds of different law sites, funeral sites, planning sites, but nothing comprehensive that would hold someone’s hand and walk them through it. As with most new ventures, I filled a void, which I didn’t think was possible anymore. The result was a self-help workbook called Begin Here: helping survivors manage. It helps the survivor through all the necessary tasks left behind after a death – after the funeral – by means of the book (available in hard cover and PDF) as well as online tools and downloads on the site.

Q: What are the basic things everyone needs to know about settling a person’s affairs after death?

A: Of course ‘settling a person’s affairs after a death’ brings to mind the legal side, of which we have tips on our site and in the book for what the attorneys will need, however, we do not provide legal advice. The Helping Survivors Manage mission focuses on the day-to-day tasks that need attention from a survivor perspective. There are many basic things, but I will break it down into the most important/urgent things:

  • Providing for any dependents of decedent, human or pet. Make sure the people and pets whose livelihood relied on the decedent are safe. Do they need medication? Do they have a place to go? Who will care for them?
  • Checking the home for safety measures. Make sure the stove/oven is in the ‘off’ position. Check for food that needs to be removed (in fridge, cupboards, or scattered inadvertently in the home) that could cause vermin infestation or mold, check windows and doors to make sure they are locked. If in an owned home that is now vacant, turn off the water pipes, set the thermostat properly, retrieve medications and valuables and remove them, turn on a few lights and keep an eye on the mail and the yard, arrange for a trusted or experienced house-sitter if possible, to avert potential burglar issues.
  • If decedent is in any type of rental unit (apartment, retirement community, etc.), notify the owner as soon as possible to set a move-out date. Many places have long waiting lists for new tenants and items should be removed as soon as possible. Take possessions to a safe, separate location for disbursement later.

Of course there are more, but they are in the book and these are the most urgent and important measures to take.

Q:  What are some of the legal resources available to people after a loved one dies?

A: Fortunately, in these times, there are legal resources for just about anything. Unfortunately, on the flipside, the internet is saturated with companies that may have been formed on a whim in the in the past couple of decades that may have ceased to exist, but their websites linger. Side note: Whenever I do an online search and want to make sure I find an updated site, I used the setting to search for the past year or less. This will weed out any old sites that may have not been touched in a long time, meaning, they are likely not doing much to keep up the business. This is not an absolute, but as a general rule, that is my personal preference when I want to find something relevant online. I want to use companies who are keeping up with the times. A few legal resources that are helpful that should, or definitely will, be around for years to come are:

  • The SSA (Social Security Administration) has helpful legal information on survivor benefits.
  • The Funeral Consumers Alliance “is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting a consumer’s right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral” excerpt from their website. If anyone is confused and feels they need guidance in the funeral planning, it is important to know your rights, and the decedent’s rights.
  • The National Military Family Association is a good resource for survivors of military personnel. The US Department of Veteran Affairs (aka the VA or Veteran’s Administration) is also a good resource for survivors of military vets.

These sites will help a survivor with basic information. Depending upon the net worth of a decedent, a survivor may want to hire his/her own attorney, just remember that fees add up quickly.

Another important thing to remember is that if the survivor is emotionally close to the decedent, it may be difficult to make good decisions due to the grief. Having a trusted friend who has been through the experience may be prudent as they may be able to provide constructive and helpful feedback. It is a difficult time to think clearly – no matter how together anyone thinks they are, grief is a whole new plane on which to function.

Q:  Why do you think there are so many organizations dedicated to grieving, but only one like yours?

A: What a great question! This is the best question I have been asked, and the answer is…drum roll, please…it is not fun and it is a thankless job! It is like being a janitor; no one wants to look at the mess, or clean the mess, but they are happy when it is clean (which is what happens after a survivor gets and uses my book for a decedent). Death in general is such a tough topic, especially for Westerners.

It is difficult to pick up the phone and tell a creditor “I need to report a death” especially if it is someone with whom you have spent your entire life loving. Because it is not easy, it is typical for people to just let the decedent’s attorney handle it (never underestimate the power of denial), which means you are paying someone between $100-500.00 an hour to do something you can do yourself – or delegate it to someone who wants to help you do it (with the help of my book and the tools on the website). From a practical standpoint, it is not the wisest financial choice to hire a law office to, for instance, shut off the water and electricity of the decedent’s residence, right? Bottom line, it is neither fun nor glamourous and no one will care when you finish; and when you finish, you never want to think of it again.

Also, there is no sense of happiness or achievement when you complete the tasks because it means the decedent is really gone in every way (physically). To get a perspective on not wanting to let go (which is what managing all these tasks is accomplishing), my dad died in 2008, I still have his email address in my contact list, I cannot (of course logically, will not) delete it. Almost everyone I know has the last voicemail someone left a survivor before the decedent died. I have my grandma’s last voicemail message she left me on my answering machine tape (and I no longer have the answering machine) and she died in 2001.

Plain and simple, it is not fun; but that doesn’t make it unnecessary.

Q: What kind of professional background do you have?

A: Since 1984 I have worked as an Office Manager, an Executive Assistant, an Accounting Manager, a Business Analyst, a Technical Writer, an Editor, a Bookkeeper, a Training Coordinator, and an Instructional Design Developer, now an author and blogger – all jobs that have anything to do with details. I love details and organization and take great pride in every job I have ever had. I also have an affinity for the elderly and have been a Hospice Volunteer, and I am an avid reader and true crime fanatic.

Q:  What are some of the ways a person can manage a person’s online presence after they die?

A: Again, as with anything available now, companies come and go on the internet. Great ideas are a dime a dozen and people have them every day – and these ideas are thrown on the internet with a free website that may only be touched once or twice. I have done this myself with ideas. It is what we do with those ideas – and how we cultivate something lasting that will be sustainably reliable – that matter. Frankly, from my research, I have not seen anything stand out as a great product yet. In my opinion, it simply has not been a long enough period to make a judgment on the credibility of some businesses out there that claim to want to help you with your online social media presence after a death. This is why I recommend having your own plan (we will have a tool on our website by mid-2015) that you can use as instructions for your survivor. It is old school, but until a company proves to me it has the best method for decedents and survivors, manual is the only way.

Q: What are some pitfalls of prearranged funerals?

A: There are many aspects of prearranging. Part of prearranged is preplanning, which is not necessarily the same as a prepaid planning. You can plan everything and not pay for it; there are dozens (and dozens) of preplanning toolkits available online, in fact, we will have one on our site in mid-2015 after many requests for it. Right now, many of our customers purchase our book and fill it out for themselves and leave it in a place where a decedent will find it. My dad would have done this, and this is a wonderful gift to give your survivor.

From my research, I think the best description of some of the setbacks is described in the New York State Department of Health site for prepaying for a funeral, which states, “As with any financial transaction, there are potential drawbacks. While the law gives New Yorkers some of the strongest protections in the country, it does not provide absolute protection, as the money is controlled by the funeral director, not you. There are some things you must study carefully before entering into a prepaid funeral arrangement:


Make sure you always have a pre-need agreement for services whenever you prepay a funeral, whether it is directly with a funeral home or on your own with the funeral home as beneficiary.


Let someone you trust know that you have prepaid your funeral arrangements and the name of the funeral home. Otherwise, they may select a different funeral home and pay again.


Always deal with a funeral home with which you are familiar and comfortable, or that has been recommended by someone whom you trust.


Know how and where your money is being deposited.


If you pay by cash, get a receipt and keep it in a safe place.”

Of course, every state varies, but I think these guidelines are solid and worthy of following no matter where you live or the decedent lived. From my personal experience, both my parents were completely prepared, they preplanned and prepaid their funerals, including their headstones, which they bought decades before their death. However, I am not sure that would have been the case had they not known their funeral director their entire lives and trusted the funeral home implicitly. It was a great relief for me to know they had prepaid, but I am very pragmatic by nature. In my case, I preplanned what I want to happen to me when I die and I will leave enough money for my decedent/executor to pay for what my plan is.

Q:  What are some things a person should include in a living will?

A: As you readers may or may not know, a Living Will is also called a Health Care Directive. I recommend every adult have a completed Health Care Directive now! They vary by state (search online “Health Care Directive”, and your state) and should be completed and shared with a trusted source (one or two family members and a lawyer) and easily found if you become incapacitated. I think my dad kept his Living Will on his person beginning around age 65. I recommend reviewing them yearly when you do your taxes to make sure it is still applicable to your desires.

The directive addresses matters such as how you would like to be cared for if something happened to you and you are unable to make decisions on your own. If you have a stroke and lose the ability to speak and communicate, the Living Will directs your caretakers, nurses and doctors how you want your care bestowed. Another example is you may state in your directive that you do not want to be put on a ventilator if your health declines to such a state that it would be necessary to keep you alive.

Q:  Do you think the Brittany Maynard case will change death with dignity laws around the country?

A: I definitely do. I am a big advocate of death with dignity and the group Compassion & Choices (the leader in the fight for individual end-of-life choice) has a wonderful example in Brittany. This is also a good case in the use of a Living Will, while not always adhered, at least it is something substantial for an attorney as evidence of a patient’s rights and desires. I wrote about it on my blog not long ago, and here is an excerpt:

“In November, Brittany Maynard captured the world with her determination to end her life on her terms, death with dignity. Brittany’s terminal cancer gave her the unfortunate vehicle to be a crusader for the cause. The topic is no doubt one that has affected us from the beginning of civilization. The discussion, however, is more recent in our western culture. According to Compassion and Choices, in 1967 ‘A right-to-die bill is introduced in the Florida legislature. It arouses extensive debate but is unsuccessful.’ Since then, much work has been done to address the need and evident desire for choice when one is terminally and exceptionally painfully ill. We are all survivors of Brittany; and her immediate family and friends grieve the reluctant legend in their midst who made a sea change in our views of dying with dignity.”

Q:  What can a person do to protect themselves from posthumous identity theft?

A: I must preface this answer with the disclaimer that I found people in the funeral profession to be profoundly funny, an unexpected perk to my research and continual work in the industry.

Answer: To my knowledge, there is not much one can do about that, and frankly, there are not many repercussions of it since the potential victim is dead, after all, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip!

But seriously, folks, I was shocked to find on a well-known religious website (a group regarded for their meticulous recordkeeping) that my mom and dad’s full social security number and their full name was listed. I thought “Oh no!” then I thought “what horrible things will someone do with this information?” then I thought “What can they do – they are dead?” That said, this is a perfect example of how important it is to do all the things that are outlined in my book to avoid fraud that may occur before you have reported the death. For example, if someone got the credit card of a decedent and the survivor had not yet reported the death, it would be a bigger hassle to get the charges removed after the fact. I am not saying the credit card company will not honor your copy of the death certificate and remove the charges eventually, but why take the chance in having to do all the extra work of managing that when you can just let them know right away and avoid the extra work. It is already not fun handling all these tasks, why make it more difficult on yourself?

For survivors, I always say when it comes to death, it never gets easy, just less difficult – and we want to help survivors in that journey as much as possible.

Disclaimer: Helping Survivors Manage has no affiliation with any of the organizations mentioned in the article.

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 Actor Grant Patrizio


Grant Patrizio is an aspiring actor who appears in Josh Mitchell’s new film Frankie Flutie; here is a link to his Backstage page: 

Q: What made you want to become an actor?
A: Not only did I grow up watching a ton of cartoons and playing a ton of video games (falling in love with a huge variety of the characters,) I grew up with a mother and father who both wanted me to do VERY different things with my time when not in school.  My father was always one to get me into sports. He tried EVERYTHING – basketball, soccer, and baseball, to name the notable ones.  He even coached a team I was on in little league one season!  My mom, on the other hand, LOVED the fact that I enjoyed my time at Shakespeare camp and continued to push me in that direction.  Ultimately, once high school rolled around, I had made my decision and took the path of the actor.  Even though I was built like a football player back in the day and could have easily held my own on the field.

Q: What kind of training have you had?
A: It started with summer Shakespeare camps when I was five years old.  From there I was involved with school plays during middle school, high school and college, taking classes in high school and college respectively.  I’ve had some improv training, I’ve taken a few voice over classes, and am currently studying acting for Film and TV while taking a few more voice over classes on the side.  An actor should never stop training. Being a life long student is one of the things I love about being an Actor.  There’s always more to skills to learn and more tricks to add to your tool belt, so why not add those skills and tricks to your performance arsenal?  It can only make you better.

Q: What is Frankie Flutie about?

A: Frank Flutie is about a man (Frank) who wants to live out his dream of being a lexicographer and flex his creative muscle amidst the hustle and bustle of corporate America. The film takes him through major highs and lows, having Frank face the reality of a situation he unintentionally put himself in due to his self-driven rejection of the corporate world and, ultimately, his pride. While striving for his creativity, he ends up pushing away the people who support him the most, forcing him to come to grips with what he’s become.

Q: What role do you play?
A: I play Frank’s brother, Jaxson.

Q: How did you prepare for the role?
A: Honestly, the way I Jaxson’s character was inspired by similar reactions my father and brother had when they knew that I was serious about becoming an actor and moved to Los Angeles. Like Frank, I know they care a lot about me and want to see me succeed and stand proudly on my own two feet. Also like Frank, I’m a bit stubborn when it comes to letting my creativity be stifled, even by the most well-meaning of people. Using this knowledge of myself, my relationships with my family and Frank’s character and motives, I was able to get to that place of concerned compassion that Jaxson has for Frank throughout the film.

Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it affect your ability to pursue an acting career?
A: I don’t have just one day job.  I’m an on-call teller at a bank, I occasionally drive for Lyft and I pick up work through a temp agency.  The “actor’s struggle,” as it were. That’s really what it’s all about – struggling to find a way to support your ability to do the things you love.

Q: Frankie Flutie deals with a man who rejects corporate America for the life of an impoverished lexicographer. You are an artist who works in corporate America; do you feel the two things fundamentally conflict with one another?
A: On some level, sadly, the two are at fundamental odds with each other. Most jobs in corporate America adhere to a certain rigidness in their hours, payment structures, attendance and job requirements. While that’s a good thing in the way of job security, a decent living wage with the opportunity for advancement, and a predictable schedule, it fundamentally impedes on somebody’s chances of pursuing their creative passions.  When I worked at the Bank full-time, for example, I couldn’t go on more than one audition every two weeks. There would be some months where I couldn’t audition at all. I was grateful for the chances I had to audition, but I couldn’t take a last-second audition that I’d be a perfect fit for because I’d already gone on an audition on a different day that month. The lack of flexibility and work-life balance that these larger institutions impose will eventually back its artistically-inclined employees into a corner, forcing them to make a sacrifice that they, quite literally, can’t afford to make. If you sacrifice the art for the stability to support your art, what art are you supporting?  If you sacrifice the stability to hone your craft, you won’t be able to afford the ability to hone your craft not to mention more important things, like food.)

Q: Who are some of your acting influences?
A: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Mel Blanc, Robert Downey Jr., Rob Paulsen, Maurice Lamarche, Charles Martinet and Robin Williams, to name a few.  All of them for the sheer variety of roles they’ve played across stage, film and voice-over.

Q: You played Dr. Lyman Sanderson in Harvey, how do you take a role that well known and make it your own?
A: At that point in my career, I had worked with the director on several other shows and he knew my ability to play characters with distinct, quirky, animated personalities that didn’t change throughout. He wanted me to take that skill I already had and use it to give Dr. Sanderson two distinct personalities. One of which was more realistic, relatable and vulnerable (especially around his assistant/crush, Nurse Kelly.)  The other being a professional, cold, emotionless boss who seems to not even possess the aforementioned vulnerability, almost like a caricature of the “head honcho” character archetype. Effectively, I made two versions of Dr. Sanderson that shared one body, and each Sanderson went through his own changes as the show progressed.  It was quite an undertaking, and I loved every second of it.

Q: You just got a phone call from your agent, you have two offers, but you can’t take them both. You can either take the role of a minister who is secretly an intellectual atheist or one of an alcoholic frat boy forced to do community service; which role do you take and why?
A: For the sake of challenging myself, I’d take the role of a minister who’s secretly an intellectual atheist.  It just sounds like a deeper, more compelling, more complex role, and it’d be something I’d genuinely want to try.  I’d have to get into the mindset of a religious person who actively defies the religion he preaches about, and the chance to delve that deep into a character’s psyche excites me as an actor.

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 Child of the Seventies Creator Michael Vaccaro


Michael Vaccaro is the writer and star of the web-series Child of the 70’s; here is a link to his website:

Q: What is Child of the 70’s about?

A: Child of the ’70s follows “Carlo Perdente,” a total loser, whose life completely falls apart as he’s about to turn 40. He loses his survival job, his NYC rent-controlled apartment, and his hot boyfriend. His acting career is going nowhere, and his obnoxious and overbearing Italian family are forcing him to abandon his dreams of stardom and get “serious.” A chance encounter with his favorite 1970s TV star, “KiKi Lawrence,” changes everything for him.

Q: What inspired you to write it?

A: I’ve always had the idea in my head, pretty much. But when I realized that people were creating their own content on the web, I realized I could do that, too. I didn’t have to sit around anymore and try to get a meeting with a network in order to pitch an idea. When that hit me, it all took off. I began writing furiously, and it all sort-of poured out of me.
I was kind of sickened by how gay people were portrayed on TV. We were either “Jack,” the over-the-top, ridiculous fool, or “Will,” bland, sex-less and non-threatening. I wanted to write and portray a gay character who was funny and interesting and charming and edgy and flawed and real.

Q: Upon whom is your character based?

A: Me, of course! 🙂 But also, he’s a little bit “Rhoda Morgenstern.”

Q: You worked for Lainie Kazan as an assistant. What is your most memorable work story from that time?

A: Oh, brother…I could tell you stories! Ha! But, I’ll save all that.
Lainie Kazan is an amazing woman. She is literally the person who walks in and completely lights up the room. She is fun and gregarious and intelligent and tough. She had great stories about her life and career. She should absolutely write a book. I really enjoyed my time with her. But, it was also non-stop! From the second she woke up ’til the moment she went to bed, it was overwhelming. My head would literally spin. I couldn’t keep up.

Q: How has the gay culture changed since the seventies?

A: This is a difficult question. Clearly, we’ve come quite a long way, baby, and I’m very happy about the strides we’ve made, and the rights we’ve achieved, but in my view, we’ve been watered down, diluted. We’ve been homogenized, and I feel that we’ve lost what makes us special. We are not like everybody else. We are different. And I’m interested in celebrating those things that make us unique. We are also certainly less political. We’ve become complacent. Our values have changed. I sometimes miss the fight, I miss the anger, I despise the apathy. I treasure the thought that I came up, and out, in quite a difficult, yet magical time. Of course, there will be many people who will be angry at me for this response.

Q: There have been several recent hit films sent in the seventies including Inherent Vice and American Hustle, how realistic do you think these films were?

A: I haven’t seen Inherent Vice, but I thought American Hustle was sooooooooooooooooooooo ’70s, that it made me want to puke! Not everybody who lived in that decade had a perm and bell-bottoms and beaded curtains and bean-bag chairs! Not everyone painted their apartments mustard and orange. It was ridiculous. Insanely unrealistic and over-the-top. Unless the art director and the wardrobe department were trying to portray some kind of 1970s nightmare, then they totally succeeded.

Q: What was great about the seventies?

A: Best decade for movies, ever! Filmmakers and actors took risks, nothing was safe, nothing was taboo. They don’t make movies stars like that anymore. Great TV. Norman Lear changed everything. Fantastic music, amazing performers. A decade when you still had to be able to sing in order to be a singer! Fascinating politics. The destruction of the USA began the second Ronald Reagan took office. And also, it was fun! People danced and did drugs that weren’t made in somebody’s garage. And the sex! I had fantastic sex in many bathrooms of many clubs and bars! We weren’t afraid then. We weren’t weighed down by this pall of death and sadness that eventually took over.

Q: What are some things you don’t miss about that decade?

A: Living in The Bronx. Let me qualify that… I have very fond memories of that place, but I also have nightmares sometimes where I have to move back there!

Q: Do you think being openly gay helped or hurt you as an actor?

A: Both. It hurt in that I was always out, and that wasn’t as chic as it is now, so I lost out on a lot of opportunities. But it made me a better person, and that’s more important.

Q: If you could go to lunch with Walter Findlay or Dwayne Schneider who would you pick (why)?

A: Definitely Walter Findlay! First of all, he lives in upstate NY, and he could come down to the city for lunch. Dwayne lives in Indianapolis. Second, Walter and I could have a great discussion about his fascinating wife. Dwayne would just want to talk about chicks!



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 Rosemary Agonito Author Of The Last Taboo: Saying No to Motherhood




Rosemary Agonito is the author of The Last Taboo: Saying No to Motherhood, which argue that women may be better off if they do not have children; here is a link to her website:


Q: What inspired you to write The Last Taboo?


A: I began to notice the incredible impact children have on women’s lives after my two children entered the picture (one biological, one an international adoption). Over the years, I’ve been exposed to countless women from all walks of life in my college teaching and training work as a gender issues specialist– executive women, professional women, rank and file working women, poor women, displaced homemakers, women trying to re-enter the workplace in middle age, older women. The motherhood theme was always there, an integral part of these women’s stories, often in a negative sense. And for those women who, for whatever reason, did not have children, there was the stigma, the guilt, the sense that something must be wrong with them.


My work in Women’s Studies and my writings also provided many questions. My first book, History of Ideas on Woman, traced what the so-called great thinkers had said about women from ancient times. Mostly, it wasn’t a pretty picture. Women’s inferiority and subordination, their “different,” lesser nature, seemed more and more like it related to women’s role as mother in the eyes of these men.


I grew up in an immigrant Italian home and the idea that children would not be a part of a woman’s life was unthinkable. So over many years and much experience, I became fascinated by motherhood and the motherhood “requirement.” I came at last to see the woman = mother thing as flatly wrong and completely a function of intense cultural and religious conditioning of girls. Given this profound conditioning from the time a little girl gets her first doll, it’s a stretch to say that motherhood is a choice for most women. So I wrote The Last Taboo: Saying No to Motherhood.


Q: Why do you think any woman would be pro life?


A: Actually, I was pro life in my youth. I really believed that the fetus is a baby, a real human being. So killing it was murder. That’s what pro life people believe and if you believe that, you try to save the baby.


But I came to see two things early on. (1) A zygote, two cells, is not equivalent to a human being, any more than an acorn is a tree. The zygote will, at some point, become a human being if the conditions are right, just as the acorn will become a tree – but a whole lot of development has to occur for that zygote to become a human being. (2) Women matter in this whole process and that’s what so-called pro life people don’t acknowledge. It’s a woman who bears the burden of nine months and its physical repercussions. It’s a woman whose life will be dramatically impacted by a child. She will spend the next two decades caring for that child, often alone. She will not be able to do much of anything in her life without factoring in that child at every point. A woman is an actual living human being; that zygote is a potential human being. Sadly, pro life does not mean pro woman’s life.


Now, why a woman would be pro life is more baffling. She should understand the second point. Unfortunately we’ve not been very good historically at identifying with other women or supporting each other. We tend to identify with the men in our lives and too often we are less supportive of each other. Which is why the call for sisterhood has been so important in the women’s movement.


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


A: I was seeing all this negative motherhood stuff in women’s lives that conflicted with all those glorious motherhood myths in our culture and media. I wanted to get at the truth about motherhood. What did mothers really experience? How did children really affect their lives? So I dug deep into the data – research and surveys on motherhood going back for decades. I was surprised at the mountain of data out there. I tried not to rely on a single study or a single survey on any point, but I looked at the data over time – multiple studies, multiple surveys. This meant finding out what women themselves had to say.


I also collected, over time, the stories of women I met or read about. These stories form an integral part of the book along with the data. The book is as much about the real lives of women as it is about what the data show.


Q: What changes have you seen in the women’s rights movement over the years?


A: Lots. I remember the days when we marched in the streets and politicians paid attention – at least more than they do now. We had consciousness raising sessions that showed women they were not alone in their feelings and fears. We met often and plotted strategies. There were multiple support organizations for every walk of women’s lives. For example, I belonged to a women business owners’ support group when I ran my consulting business. There was an active Women’s Commission appointed by the mayor here in Syracuse and a sex equity panel that advised the NY State education commissioner on sex equity in the classroom. It was a vibrant time full of activity on behalf of women. Most of that is gone. TV even changed briefly. We protested women being portrayed as sex objects and actually made a difference, for a very brief time, in TV programing. Strong women began to appear. That didn’t last. Today women are showing cleavage all over TV and media – it’s seems to be a requirement that women be sex objects, even women who do the news! Now little girls and teen girls are sexualized. This is deadly. As long as women are seen as physical beings (sex objects) and their function is biological (motherhood/breeding), how will women ever be seen as fully human, which entails rationality above all?


I remember when the movement briefly started to talk about the oppressive features of motherhood and the pro-family folks came down hard on that. MS. magazine started putting cooing babies on its cover in response. I can’t get MS. to review The Last Taboo. Maybe they fear a backlash since the book is assumed to be an attack on mothers. It’s not.


I know there is a young women’s movement today. But where is the fire? Where’s the presence in daily life? At the height of the women’s movement in the 70s and 80s, it was everywhere, making waves, raising hackles. I was glad to see a bit of the old fire in the campus sexual assault protests and that’s good. I hope for more from our young people.


Q: Who benefits economically from making woman feel guilty about not wanting children?


A: Our economy depends on consumption and you need lots of people to consume goods. It’s as simple as that, I think. We’ve seen countries provide incentives to women when the birth rate drops dramatically. Of course, that’s short term thinking. Long term, overpopulation is a disaster economically and in every way since overpopulation lies at the heart of the destruction of the environment and the human species itself.


And probably men have an economic interest. The more women at home raising kids, the fewer women in the workplace competing with them.


Q: What are some of the benefits to women of not having children?


A: Freedom is the primary benefit. Children, much as we may love them, constrain women who still pretty much bear the whole burden of raising those kids. Without children a woman is freer to realize her full potential. As I say in The Last Taboo, each human life is complex and capable of being lived on many levels. The more constrained a life is, the less able it is to fully develop. Work is critically important in every human life since, ideally, work entails the realization of each person’s talents and skills. Raising children involves developing those children, servicing their needs. It’s all consuming and it can easily inhibit a woman’s ability to develop herself. Childfree women don’t have to cope with those constraints.


There are lots of other benefits of a childfree life. There’s the ability to fulfill herself. The myth is that children fulfill women, but in fact, children require SELF-sacrifice. Mom is not defined by her SELF but by her relationship to a child. A childfree woman has an easier chance at creating herself. Another benefit is financial – children are money pits.


Women without children also have a better shot at happiness. Research is very clear that childfree women and couples are happier than women and couples with children. Childfree women also have the satisfaction of knowing they are not contributing to overpopulation which is rapidly dooming the environment and human species.


Q: What are some of the psychological effects on children whose parents didn’t want them?


A: How awful for a child to be unwanted! I devote a chapter of The Last Taboo, “Godzilla Mom,” to the impact on children. These children suffer from low self-esteem, a sense of unworthiness, a feeling of not belonging. They are unloved, insecure, and emotionally deprived. These are scars that will follow them throughout their lives and will most likely impact any children they have.


And beyond the psychological effects, there’s the very real physical abuse and neglect that afflicts so many unwanted children. The CDC estimates that 20% of American children suffer direct physical abuse or neglect.


Q: Why do you think the conservatives have been successful in infiltrating the religious right; wasn’t Christ a socialist?


A: This is a big, important question. I wrote a book that tackles this question, Hypocrisy, Inc.: How the Religious Right Fabricates Christian Values and Undermines Democracy. There are lots of reasons why the religious right and conservatives joined forces in the 1970s – a shared belief in traditional values and an aversion toward the growing disrespect for authority and toward countercultural social movements, including anti-war protests, the women’s movement, civil rights for blacks, promiscuity and free love, increasing drug use, moral decay, and more.


Anyone who seriously reads the Gospels (which the religious right accepts as literal truth) knows that what Jesus preached and modeled bears no relationship to the “family values” mantra of the religious right. Jesus was a radical in his lifestyle and his teaching. He left his family, on more than one occasion refusing to acknowledge his mother and father, became homeless by choice, lived a celibate life, never married, had no children, preached the virtue of poverty and rejection of worldly goods, practiced no trade and had no income, survived off the charity of strangers, hung with people considered disreputable – sinners and outcasts – and engaged in behavior considered scandalous in his day, often shocking even his own followers. While the religious right obsesses over abortion and homosexuality, Jesus never speaks of either in the Gospels, though both were practiced in his day. And yes, Jesus’ followers lived a communal lifestyle, holding belongings in common, sharing in all things, and above all, giving to the poor.


As for women, Jesus is truly radical. He never preaches motherhood as woman’s role, even publically rejecting the chance to praise his own mother as mother. He doesn’t accept the concept of nuclear family, but insists over and over that the community is the family and that all are equal brothers and sisters. He rejects patriarchy, telling his followers to call no man “father” since there is only one Father and he is in heaven. Women are again and again treated as equals, never consigned to the home, included in theological discussions, encouraged to learn and be active, urged to do all the things men do (teach, preach, travel and convert) – all unacceptable at the time. . . . Don’t get me started.


Q: If this earth is a living organism are humans parasites?


A: If we didn’t start out that way, we have certainly become parasites. We take from the earth and give little back. Our misuse and destruction of earth’s resources, our failure to replenish earth’s stores, our failure to use only what we need, has caused us to destroy whole species of plants and animals. We have long since passed sustainability. Put simply, human consumption is no longer balanced by earth’s capacity to produce our needs and take in our wastes. Sustainability requires a balance between human demands on the environment (food, shelter, etc.) and the area needed to meet those demands and absorb human wastes. Not since the 1980s has humanity’s use of natural resources matched actual global supply.


Overpopulation sits at the heart of this problem and climate change. We add one billion people to the earth roughly every 12 years. Yet another reason to say no to motherhood.


Q: How did Sarah Palin happen?


A: John McCain’s poor judgment? Fox views? Oopps, “news.” Life is a comedy? Sadly, too many people see the world in black and white, without nuance or shades of gray. Simplistic approaches to complex problems have their appeal. Also, Palin is a clear example of the power of the religious right. Her unabashed evangelical views won the hearts of evangelicals, who became her most ardent supporters.

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 Actor/Writer Kristen Doscher




Kristen Doscher is an aspiring actress and writer who has authored two produced plays. She will be at this year’s Sundance Film Festival; here is a link to her website:




Q:  What made you interested in acting?


A: I can remember all the way back to my Kindergarten variety show. I was given the song “How Much is that Doggy in the Window” to sing in front of the entire school with my little toy dog. Then in 3rd and 4th grade, I think that is when the “performance bug” really kicked it. It was definitely not acting from the beginning, I just remember knowing that I had to be a performer of some sorts. So I had this dream in my head of being a “pop star.” I wanted to be on stage in Madison Square Garden dancing and singing in front of thousands of people. That to me was the ultimate dream, having all these people coming to watch little old me. All throughout elementary and middle school I was starting all girl singing groups and hoping to be the next 3LW. Slowly I realized that the dream of being on stage and really committing to this as a life goal and not just a hobby was mine and mine alone. I knew I had to go out there and pursue it. I remember one day I was sitting in my room and wondering how I could make this dream a reality and it was then that I sort of realized that there are other outlets for performers and that I wanted to try them all. So I did my research and signed up for my very first acting classes in New York City. My Dad pulled me out of school early once a week and rode the train in with me. When I got home every night, the only “homework” I was interested in doing was for the scenes we were assigned and it was a done deal from there on out.


Q: You wrote, produced and performed in two plays in New York, what were they and what where they about?


A: The first play that I had ever written premiered in The Strawberry One Act Festival and went all the way through to the finals with several nominations. The plot line is very true to the title ‘A Love Story’, as it explored the essence of love when it is fresh and new and love when it falters.

The second was a play called MOB which premiered in The Thespis Theatre Festival. MOB is the story of a young Italian American couple who breaks the break by sticking up diners (Pulp Fiction Style) all across NY State. Using different alias’ they stage fake proposals and enlist the help of a flash mob to ensure a substantial amount of hostages. But when these two unintelligent bandits turn against each other in a battle of love, money, and some pretty hip dance moves…who will win and who will make it out empty handed?


Q:  What inspired you to write them?


A: When I graduated from school and realized that from that point forward I wouldn’t always get to have a say in what roles I played, I kind of panicked. It was then that I realized how easily I could market myself the way I wanted to. I could write and create a whole world of my choosing and act along side actors of my choosing, in venues of my choosing. I think you catch my drift! The whole thought of it was very exciting and still is. I also think each play that I have written really spoke to where I was at that point in my life. When I wrote A Love Story I was in a relationship that I was terrified of loosing and the shear thought of it created a spark, an energy inside me and writing was the best way for me to express it. MOB on the other hand was my way of exploring characters with a heightened sense of reality. I really wanted to play on stage, like a kid with no boundaries, and that’s where MOB was born.


Q:  How did you go about getting them produced?


A: Getting them produced was surprisingly easy which isn’t always the case. If you are a new writer and you want to see your work up on stage in front of an audience, the easiest route to take is festivals. They provide you with a lot of the necessities and really help the process be as smooth as possible. I won’t sugar coat it though, as it can be difficult with the amount of people you have to deal with on a daily basis to get your show up and running. I also recommend using a crowd funding platform such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter. Especially if you plan to produce the show fully on your own in a venue of your choosing which is hopefully the next step for me and the cast of MOB. Taking it one step further.


Q:  What kind of day job or income source do you have and how does it affect your pursuit of acting?


A: Well this question is a bit of a doozy. It sounds a bit off the charts, but my day job tends to fluctuate and I always seem to make it work some how. There is the occasional paycheck from acting gigs here and there which is always nice and encouraging. Right now, I am working for a friend who owns a dog walking business. It really is pretty sweet. And it doesn’t feel like work which is nice! It allows me to pursue acting and make a schedule that works for me which is something every actor needs.


Q: What kind of training have you had?


A: I graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts which is a two year acting conservatory geared primarily towards theater training (which I loved!!). The Academy gives you a taste of a little bit of everything, which is nice in some aspects. Every time a new semester rolled around you were given a whole new set of teachers and a whole new perspective on acting, movement, voice and speech etc! This was great because it kind of allowed you to choose which methods worked for you.

After graduating, I dabbled in a few classes and tried out other conservatories until I stumbled upon Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre. I can finally say that I found a space and a coach that created the safest environment for me to truly play as an artist! MCS is based around Sanford Meisner’s technique of living and behaving, truthfully and fully in imaginary circumstances. The technique really taught me how to get off of myself and to create this world around my scene partner. I attribute a lot to Matt, my coach. I’ll be sticking with him for a while!


Q:  What do you hope to achieve at Sundance this year?


A: Well, there are a ton of things that I would hope to achieve but I really want to go in head first with out a plan. I sometimes feel like that is when the best and most unexpected things occur. I will say that a main focus of mine is meeting as many people as I can and building my roster of contacts. When I look back to my experience at the festival last year, the greatest thing I took away was the terrific and talented people I met. Most of them I am still in contact with and will be spending time with this year! If I come back home with a pocket full of business cards, then I would have done my job right!


Q: What made you want to transition from theater to film?


A: I’ve always wanted to act in films. Growing up, theater was never something I wanted to do. Once I went away to school and began my training, everything changed and I felt this electricity every time I was on stage. I remember thinking “wow, you cannot beat this feeling” and I fell in love with the theater.  I am glad that I got the training that I did and I will always go back to the theater to continue to grow as an artist and discover new things about myself. I only use the word transition because after graduating, theater has been the bulk of my work as an actress. I want to feed my on screen career and see if it grows. I feel I owe that to my 8 year old self.


Q: How do you approach creating a character?


A: I wouldn’t say that there is one set way that I approach a character. I think there are many different factors that go into it. First, I think it depends on the type of character I am playing. I like to look for the similarities and the differences between myself and the character and then start from there. I used to try and forget “me” all together and try to become this whole other person, but over the last few years I’ve grown to realize that the character is me. I am embodying another life and taking on their struggles and triumphs as my own. Second, I think it depends on the director that you are working with. Some directors are very organic. They just want you in front of the camera or in the rehearsal space, on your feet, doing your thing. And if they love it, GREAT! And if they don’t, then they will tweak it. And I think that works marvelously for some actors because it gives them complete freedom to play. Some directors like to work as an ensemble, discovering the characters as a unit. Why they all came together, etc. What makes them who they are. What brought them to this certain point in their life. How they move in their bodies. On the last play that I wrote I worked with this terrific director, Joanna Tomasz. She was the hands on type which is the kind of director that I love to work with. Like I said, some like the organic route but I like to be pushed and pulled in different directions. I like to see my character from other peoples point of view, whether I agree or not. It’s more fun that way! Joanna introduced myself and the other actors to the Labon Technique, which is based on the belief that by observing and analyzing a characters movements, whether they are conscious or unconscious, you can uncover their inner self. It is essentially a tool to help you build the characters personality through the movement of your body. I am a firm believer in physical work when creating a character!


Q: What would you like to change about the film industry?


A: I’m almost afraid to mention it but I think there is a bit of sensitivity with feminism and woman in the work place lately. I think it is a beautiful thing that so many people feel so passionately about it because it is something that is very important and needs to be voiced. I attended an event for New York Women in Film and Television last month, where Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a marvelous and to the point speech which covered her hopes and fears when it came to this sensitive topic. She ended it by saying that change only occurs as a result of revolution. We need the beautiful, young, and naive girls of this new generation to challenge our views and fight against the current. I thought that this was an awesome way of saying “let people have their own opinions” because in the end people are going to think the way they want to and behave the way they want to and the universe is going to unfold as it may as a result of that. I think women in the industry should continue fighting for their beliefs and if they feel there is an unfair advantage or an unfair amount of opportunities for women then they should absolutely continue this crusade. I can only hope that in the next year we see more of a change and more of an understanding when it comes to this topic. I do firmly believe that art needs a women’s heart and vulnerability to thrive!



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 “The Case” Author Marc Hirsch


Marc Hirsch is a retired doctor who is the author of the mystery novel The Case: here is a link to his Goodreads page:



Q:  What is The Case about?


A: The Case follows Alice White, a divorced legal assistant in 1955 New York City, who travels upstate to investigate the death of a country doctor. What at first appears to have been an accident, turns into a deadly power play of greed and marital discord and threatens to end her life just as she has begun to thaw.



Q:  What makes Alice a character worth reading about?


A:  Alice White is a woman in her thirties, out of her time. She loses her job at the end of WWII to the men returning from military service and refuses to conform to the mold of housewife and mother society seems to expect her to fit into. She is beautiful and athletic, she runs for exercise, inspired by Fanny Blankers-Koen who won four gold medals in the 1948 Olympics, and she goes to law school at night while assisting two Manhattan lawyers with investigation on their cases.



Q:  Why did you chose to write about a female protagonist?


A:  I wrote a chapter to get into a writing workshop. The woman in the scene which composes the whole chapter, sitting alone on a fire escape in the heat of a summer evening in the Bronx of the 1950’s, became Alice White and, only in retrospect, I realized she was modeled after my older sister who underwent similar struggles in 1950’s New York City, as did our mother. Both were working women, my sister a  divorcee like Alice. I have had many women friends who have educated me throughout my life about the struggles of women with societal expectations. I am prejudiced in Alice’s favor.



Q:  How did your experience as a doctor help you in writing a murder mystery?


A: The Case practically opens with a doctor struggling to have a life outside of medicine. That is as much my own story as his. My whole career I have attempted to balance work and many other interests. I did not want to bury myself in clinical practice, yet I took care of critically ill people and wanted them to have the very best I could deliver, so I had to devote much of my “free” time to continuing my medical education. I squeezed in my other interests, though, and started The Case while I was still engaged in high pressure hospital practice. Of course I finished the book in retirement.



Q:  You worked as a doctor on Alcatraz during the 1969 Native American occupation of the island. What compelled you to take that job?


A:  I was a new doctor, interning in San Francisco, and a staff attending physician at my hospital asked me if I’d go, despite the risk of jail time because the Indians had occupied federal land without permission and they were armed. It made me confront what being a doctor meant to me, so I went. Forty five years later, even though I’m retired, I still try to live up to that standard. I volunteer at a local free clinic and, when they try to thank me, I tell them I need to do it more than they need me to do it.



Q:  Who are some of your literary influences?


A: I really didn’t do much reading for pleasure until I finished my initial postgraduate medical training. In the early1970’s I spent a year living on an island off the coast of British Columbia and read boxes full of used detective fiction by kerosene lamp. I discovered Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Earl der Biggers, creator of Charlie Chan, on that island. More recently, James Lee Burke, Lee Child and Michael Connelly have entertained me with their detective fiction.



Q:  How did you get a publisher?


A: I meditate as a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda. Every six months I attend a retreat here in Kentucky. One of the regular attendees read and loved my book, The Case, and introduced me to his son, a publisher in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of my writing as are his editors and they have encouraged me to finish my next book and move on to others. They have named this first group of books the Alice White, Investigator series.


Q:  Many great writers from Ernest Hemingway to Charles Bukowski have been heavy drinkers who have suggested that alcohol helped their creativity. (Hemingway said, “write drunk, edit sober.”)You are in recovery; what are some creative techniques you use that do not involve alcohol or drugs?


A: I am definitely an alcoholic in recovery and can no longer drink. When I did drink I did not find alcohol particularly stimulating to my creative expression, so I don’t miss that aspect of it. Recovery has improved so much of my life I would have thought had nothing to do with my drinking. In regard to being an author, it has increased my enjoyment of the process of writing and going out to research people and places to write about. I also now read far more than I did when I drank. So I think the daily process of recovery has far surpassed my use of alcohol as a creative stimulant.



Q:  What was your greatest triumph as a doctor?


A:  I feel fortunate to have been able to deliver so many babies at various times in my career and that, I would normally say, has been a repeated incredibly positive experience in both my life and my medical career. But the single triumph of my experience as a doctor has to have been very early in my career, one particular teen ager who was involved in a high impact automobile accident, struck in the chest by a steering wheel, with no pulse and not breathing. The nurse present encouraged me to move on to another of the victims of this multiple vehicle catastrophe, but I had a feeling this youngster was still salvageable and I sprayed his chest with antiseptic and plunged the biggest bladed scalpel I ever saw between his ribs and into his chest, and the hole sprayed out a mist of blood under pressure with a sound like a coffee can opening and he came back to life. I never got over that.



Q:  If you could take a road trip with Dr. Watson or Dr. Victor Frankenstein who would you pick and where would you go?


A: I would travel with Dr. Watson to London. There are so many reasons besides the obvious, that, when I read Sherlock Holmes, I identify with Watson. I loved London when I was there in the 1960’s. I stayed with fellow medical students in the East End. I would want Dr. Watson to show me his version of London and regale me with his peak experiences, fears and methods of both medical practice and investigation as a student and friend of the famous detective.




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