Katie O’Grady [Interview]

If you’re anything like I am, you are neurotic and underexposed to the current stream of Hollywood blockbusters and buzz worthy films.  And while this is obviously (but unintentionally) pretentious and absurd, that’s just the way some of us are wired.  Thankfully, we have our ways and means to finding joy in simple, little, and far more artistic films.  And honestly, Netflix has us covered, for the most part.  It was one dreary morning after a long night of work that I settled into a streaming pile of goodness of a film entitled Rid Of Me.  And I haven’t been the same since.
Rid Of Me is one of those sad yet bizarre films that you are surely never to forget.  The story of a woman handed a shit sandwich, and forced to eat it no matter how much she gags.  Not literally, of course, but what our heroine of the film suffers through is actually far worse.  The lovable yet utter disturbed and tormented Meris is the sort of character you just can’t help but feel bad for.  And the main reason for this can only be due to the wonderful performance from one of the today’s finest up and coming actresses and producers known only as Katie O’ Grady.
Katie O’Grady is actually nothing like the character she portrays in Rid Of Me.  She is actually an almost whimsical personality and a generally pleasing person.  She is a force to be reckoned with in the world of independent cinema.  Rid Of Me may be her highlight to date, but it is far from the last time you will be seeing this gem of an actress.  Not too mention she has a reoccurring role on the finest television show out right now, Portlandia.  We were fortunate enough to steal some of Katie’s time to talk about Rid Of Me, and what her future holds.  Check it out!
How did you become acquainted with director James Westby?  Do you work together often?
James and I worked together on The Auteur, a hysterical comedy about a porn director that returns to Portland to make his final epic film. We had so much fun filming my scenes and traveling to promote the film. I had been a fan of his films but after reading Rid Of Me I just knew I had to be part of getting it made. We have since gone on to produce several films, commercials and music videos together.
 How did Alcove Productions come to light?  What made you want to enter the world of film production?
I had been acting in film for a while when I realized  I was tired of waiting around for someone to give me a chance to show what I could do. I really felt like I didn’t have a choice, I had to produce for myself. Rid Of Me had a lead role that was opposite of who I am (in life I am blonde and outgoing, Meris is a brunette wallflower!) and a writer/director I admired. I was really determined to get that part and that included starting my own production company so I could produce it. The director went for it and Alcove Productions was off and running! Best decision I ever made.
How was your experience at the Tribeca Film Festival?  How was the reception of Rid of Me?  Did you happen to rub shoulders with anyone you’ve wanted to meet? 
Tribeca FF was better than we had imagined. For me it was not about rubbing shoulders at all, it was about getting our film seen and sold. The festival was very supportive of RID OF ME and our Producer Reps (Submarine Entertainment) along with our PR firm (42 West) really made the experience a huge learning process. The entire festival rallied to support a film that was shot for under 60k and to me THAT is what independent filmmaking is all about…getting your art out there and getting it seen! I can’t wait to return to that festival, it’s my favorite.
Rid of Me was without a doubt one of the finest films to come out in several years.  It’s been well documented that your role as Meris is almost a polar opposite of yourself.  What was your trick to transforming yourself into such a neurotic character?  Any post traumatic stress ensue? 
Thank you! I really love the film too. Yes, I am absolutely the opposite of Meris, but like her and I certainly know what it feels like to be alone or unaccepted. I despise that feeling. Meris just wants to be liked, she is desperate to get her voice heard. Approaching her was an outside in process, I first died my hair brown and changed my body language, lowered my eyes, and that shifted my inner experience with self and drew me inward immediately. I liked being quiet and observing others. I liked investigating how to disappear in a room, it was easier for me to maintain energy by giving less to others. Meris loves people…she just has no idea how to relate to them.

Regarding post traumatic stress…this is a great question! I am laughing to myself as I consider this. I recently produced a documentary about kids and teens that are bullied in the school system, there is no question that my experience playing Meris informed my passion for this new project. So far the biggest aftershock I have felt from the role is when I watch myself smear menstrual blood on another woman’s face…that gives me nightmares! Who does that?

You definitely have a prominent stance in the Portland Ore acting world.  What is your opinion of the current independent filmmakers community in Portland?  Is there a potential for growth?
The film community is thriving in Portland! I am so proud to be a part of such an up and coming city of brave artists. When someone says they are going to make a film here, they mean it. Work gets done and that speaks volumes. We also have several TV shows shooting here. Producers are figuring out that we have locations for every type of genre and a town of solid crew and actors.  It’s an amazing time to be making film. With the film incentive programs we expect to see a lot more growth of both local and studio work. I work in LA and NY but I gotta say…I love my city! Nothing beats booking work here.
You run acting classes for teens and kids.  How do you enjoy sharing your wisdom?  Is it rewarding?  If so, how?
Those kids run me…dont’ be fooled. I learn more from working with kids and teens than I could ever teach. We get serious in those classes, it’s a support for young artists that don’t fit in in the school system or with friends. So many young artists struggle, this is a class where they can gather and thrive in being THEMSELVES! When I am not on set, being in class is the next best place.
Rumor has it you will be appearing in a film with Justin Bartha and the legendary Cloris Leachman.  Can you tell us a bit about it?  
Those are the rumors I have heard as well. I am attached to Stereotypically You, a hysterical comedy about finding love.  I am really looking forward to seeing how it all comes together. We will be shooting in NY, my home away from home!
 
What else can we expect to see from you and Alcove Productions in the future? 
 

Currently I am working on I Was There, an amazing film about a fire fighter struggling after 9/11. We have been shooting in Brooklyn and NYC, it has been a powerful experience.  I just got off the set of Grimm (NBC) and am also a cast member on Portlandia (IFC-shooting it’s 3rd season), my favorite show!  I love working with Fred Armisen (SNL), he has inspired me to make my own way. Maybe someday I will look into getting a big fancy agent and seeing what more I can come up with but for now It has been an exciting ride.


Alcove Productions released RID OF ME in theaters and now OnDemand, Itunes and Showtime. We are making the soundtrack available as well as the DVD. We have a short film HOT IN THE ZIPPER (a 1940’s comedy about 3 women living in NY) on the festival circuit and a documentary/narrative film about kids and teens who are bullied, Bully’d: The Reality Of Survival, in post. James Westby, Raija Talus and I are also co-producing a 1970’s horror film, The Woodcutter. Much to come and several scripts in development. It’s going to be an exciting year!
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I am going to go all out right now, full disclosure…My new beau KILLS me with the funny. He gets me laughing so hard I can’t breathe. Laughter is where it’s at.
Stay in touch with Katie at her very own Website.

Rex Pickett [Interview]

We’ve had writer’s featured on Trainwreck’d Society in the past.  Some damn good one’s too.  But our latest interviewee is definitely in a league all of his own.  He’s the man who created one of the finest novels to have ever been adapted into a screenplay that would rock the world of Hollywood as we knew it.  He also made wine cool again.
Yes, when Rex Pickett turned, for the most part, away from the world of Hollywood to focus on writing I’m certain he had no idea that his work would soon be once again engulfed around the world of modern cinema.  Around the time that movies really started to suck, there was a cultural rebirth of the independent cinema that brought the art back into cinema.  And while Robert Downey Jr and other comic book heroes continuously and desperately try to suck the art out of filmmaking, there is still some love to be had.  Rex Pickett’s book that inspired the film Sideways became the modern equivalent of some of the greatest art house films of all.
The soul intention in glamorizing Rex Pickett is not to focus on the Oscar-winning film that would become of one of his novels, but when something is just so damn impressive it can’t go unmentioned.  All of his work impeccable.  And we all know that a bad book can still make a good film.  But, a tremendous book is going to make a classic film.  Thus is the case with Pickett and his beautiful anti-hero laced and lovable story.  And he hasn’t stopped yet!  The book now as a sequel, and a third installment on the horizon.  As well as a play directly adapted from his book, not just the film.  Yes, Rex Pickett has transformed the way we look at life, wine, and what we once would like to consider decency in the modern times.
Rex was kind enough to chat it up with us for a minute here at Trainwreck’d Society!  So read on to find out what the future holds, why wine is an important social statement, and how Aliens 3 could have been SO much better.  Enjoy!
What was it like watching your words turn into a Hollywood success with the release of Sideways?
 
Nerve-wracking, then electrifying when it started winning awards and wowing audiences.  Nerve-wracking because the material’s so personal.  If it had failed it would have been a personal embarrassment — as some, I might add, predicted.  But to bare one’s soul, and then have audiences and critics loving it, that’s a high I recommend everyone try. 
How do you think Sideways changed the way people observe the world of wine?  Do you believe a new audience was introduced?
 
Sideways made wine drinking hip.  It skewered both the snobs and the cheapskates.  No longer was it okay to show up with a bottle of Two Buck Upchuck Merlot.  But the way Miles and Maya talked about wine made wine snobbery — which is the monied crowd — look like an elitist bunch, which they are.  Without question, a whole new audience was introduced to wine, and there’re a lot of statistics to back that up. 
Easter Egg
What are you actual thoughts on merlot?  Same as the ever so classic scene in the film with an enraged Paul Giamatti?
 
I’ve written about this at length, and had to answer this question at length.  Winemakers had glutted the market with Merlot for a whole host of reasons — largely because of the French Paradox.  They had vitiated a once noble grape — principally from Bordeux, but also Napa — and they deserved the spanking and the loss of revenue.  However, when I wrote the famous line I didn’t know it was going to be made into a movie, nor did I have any control whether the line would make it into the movie.  So, Merlot makers can blame both themselves and Alexander Payne. 
Last year you released Vertical, the sequel to Sideways, and word on the street is that you will soon make it a trilogy.  Can you give us any insight on what will be happening in the third installment?
 
A woman came to my Sideways the Play and said, “Did you know that you’ve written an epic love story?”  No, I did not.  Sideways is a “bromance” — pardon the horrible portmanteau word — about mid-life crisis and failure.  Vertical, my sequel, is about success.  Sideways 3: Chile is going to, perhaps, be about love. 
Not to dig into too many secrets, but…. is there a chance of a theatrical adaptation of Vertical?
 
This has been suggested to me by everyone who is gobsmached that Vertical isn’t in pre-production right now.  And I’m very seriously considering it.  I’ve already done the adaptation with my sometimes writing partner, Pamela Smith, so the heavy lifting, if you will, has already been done. 
You wrote and directed two independent films in the 80’s, then shifted your way to novels and screenplays.  Any thoughts on directing again?  Anything already in the works?  If not, what sort of film would you do?  
 
I optioned a script of mine titled Repairman.  The deal is for me to direct.  I would like to direct one film in the digital day.  Both my features were made in the analog day and they were brutal.  Barbarous.  So, yes, I hope to direct Repairman if the two women I optioned it to can find me the money. 
I heard that you working on a pilot for an HBO comedy series.  Is this still in the works?  
 
A horrible experience.  Not with HBO, who underwrote it, but with a manager at Leverage Management who is the epitome of pilot development ineptitude.  I got out of the deal before I lost my sanity.  And, it’s too bad, because it was a great idea that was slowly being destroyed by a cretin named Michael Garnett. 
I also got word that you were once working with David Fincher on writing Alien 3, but it didn’t seem to pan out.  Have you consider getting into the world of science fiction again?  
 
It’s a long story and maybe some day I’ll blog about it.  I was one of the last writers on Alien 3.  I worked very closely with Fincher on the script.  It was greenlit by Fox, then Walter Hill, a nasty little man, returned and had it shredded and demanded that Fincher make his script or else.  It was all about politics and ego, not whose script was the best.  Hollywood brings out the worse in people.
Your adaptation for the theatre version of Sideways is doing phenomenal.  For fans of the book and film, what is going to make this a different experience for the fans?
 
A great question.  I like to tell the patrons — because, well, I’m at the theater practically every night — that the play is a pure distillation of my novel, whereas the movie is Alexander Payne’s very faithful take on my novel — faithful, yet seen through the lens of his sensibility.  Sideways was written in the first person from the standpoint of Miles.  When Payne read my then unpublished novel we met.  He congratulated me on it, then said, “You know what I love about your novel so much?  Your characters are so fucking pathetic.”  And that’s how he saw them.  I didn’t.  I mean, when I wrote it I (Miles) was going through a rough patch, but I never saw him as pathetic.  Nor Jack.  A 3-time Tony Award winning director, who read the play script, but hasn’t seen the play, said it best, “It’s richer and more emotionally complex than the movie.”  And he’s a huge fan of the movie!  It’s more of a love story, too.  Payne has trouble with emotionalism in films.  I don’t.  The play IS more emotionally complex.  Also, Miles is funnier.  He’s not so down-in-the-mouth as Paul, brilliantly, played him.  I see him as a more self-deprecatingly funny guy.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
 
A 7-iron I hit 7 feet from the cup on the first hole of my first round of golf in half a year.  I used to be a good golfer.  Some days I still have it.
Stay in touch with Rex at his website, RexPickett.com.  And if you find yourself in the L.A. area, be sure to get yourself down to checkout Sideways: The Play.  And tell us what you thought!