Sophia Cacciola [Interview]


So, we are wrapping up our Women of the Present showcase in the best way we could possibly imagine. Today’s interviewee is a person we have been talking about here at Trainwreck’d Society almost since our inception so many years ago. She is a filmmaker, musician, writer, and overall wonderfully talented individual that we have been fortunate enough to follow along a wonderful journey of artistic discovery. It is the great Sophia Cacciola.

Sophia Cacciola recently transplanted herself from the greater Boston area with her partner Michael J. Epstein (also no stranger to TWS), to the City of Angels, where she has been shaking up the scene as a woman behind and in front of the camera pretty much since she landed. And for those of you who haven’t been living in a box, you will also recognize Sophia as the vocalist behind one of our favorite bands, The Prisoner themed Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling. So, she is no stranger to the TWS world, but we have never formally/digitally sat down and asked her some questions directly. We’ve talked extensively about her work over the years, but never got around to talking to her directly.

So, what better time to get a few words from her when we are celebrating the wonderful accomplishments of women in the world of film and television who are killing it in the business. We are so excited to have Sophia headline the entire gig, and wrap everything up so beautifully. So, please enjoy a few words with the great Sophia Cacciola!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a part of the creative world? What are some of your earliest memories that made you realize you were destined to live the life of an artist?

I’ve always known. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, on a mostly non-functional farm. When I was really young, I had a Fisher-Price cassette deck with a microphone. I think you were supposed to use it to sing along to Disney classics. Instead, I used it to write and record my own little songs. I remember wandering around the empty barn and fields singing crazy songs.

When I was twelve, my father gave me his guitar and sent me to a few guitar lessons and from there I was writing songs every day. By 14, I was finding cafes to play at. In high school, I was part of the AV club, which gave me access to VHS cameras, so in addition to shooting live events (plays/sports), I would bring cameras home on weekends and shoot weird little movies at my house (which is super-creepy, from the 1700s) either live cutting in camera, or later with two VCRs.

My parents were hippies, and I was never pressured into considering college or a “real” career. I was raised to be very independent and self-sufficient, and desk jobs (while I’ve had my share) never could interest me for long. I took off to Boston at 16 to play music, got a job in a record store, and started a bunch of bands. Nowadays, I’m much more in the film world than music, but both figure prominently into my output.


When you find yourself in the writing process, what is your ultimate end goal in story telling? Beyond the pure unadulterated entertainment you provide, what are you essentially hoping to tell your fans through your writing?

With my songs, I was always processing anger and depression into snippets of conversations. They always felt like they were part of another world; one that I created, full of snapshots of relationships, rooms. So, those are much more open-ended than films, and just about providing me a voice, and hopefully somethings others can interpret for themselves and relate to.

With films, and especially feature films (where you have more time to explore/develop), I have the express goal of having a message. I love science fiction and horror films, and the biggest thing that resonates with me is how they hold a mirror (exaggerated, yes) up to society to make commentary. I love leaving a movie and having something to think about. I feel a responsibility, especially as an indie-filmmaker,, to have something to say.

You made quite the splash with your following in the Boston area when you announced that you would be relocating to Los Angeles. I know people were obviously sad to see you go, but knew it was what was best for you. So how are you transitioning out in the City of Angels? Are you finding it easier to find work out west? How has your life changed since relocating?

I’m loving it in Los Angeles. For one thing, no winter can be beat! The big change is that I’m able to find lots more work in film. So, in addition to working on taking our films to the next level, I’m supplementing my time with doing cinematography (and other work) for other directors, which keeps me sharp and learning all the time. There are lots of every kind of project, and I want to work on them all!

You seem to always have like a dozen film projects going at a time. But how has the music been going for you? Are we going to get to hear more from our beloved Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling?

I’ve definitely been pining to start working on music again. Michael [J. Epstein] (my film/life/music partner) and I will probably be starting up a new band in LA soon. It’s time for an electro-punk revival. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling is still going for at least this year. We have two more songs to write/record in our series of 17 songs based on the 1967 British TV-show, The Prisoner. We are very, very excited to be playing at the upcoming PrisonerCon in Seattle in September. We’re coming together to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Prisoner for a whole weekend. Our new, final songs, and hopefully some new videos, will be completed by then.

http://donotforsake.comhttp://www.theprisonercon2017.com


In your films like Ten, Magnetic, and Blood of the Tribades, you put a wonderful and rightfully empowered twist on subjects by featuring primarily women, and in the case of Ten ONLY women, and in Magnetic…just one person, a woman! These are brilliant yet practically unheard of things to do in the world of filmmaking, truly ground breaking. When did you decide that these were the types of films you wanted to make? And why do believe this idea is so rare in the modern world of filmmaking?

I decided I wanted to make films featuring interesting women, women actually doing things, because that’s the kind of film I want to see, and there really is a distinct lack of female representation in film. Everyone deserves to feel represented on the silver screen! It opens up whole new worlds for people, and if certain groups/genders are entirely ignored (as they mostly have been), then they don’t get the same inspiration from films the way others with better representation might. And worse, their stories aren’t told. We’ve had many years of the same perspectives and it’s absolutely time for new, fresh stories to be told. We have so much more ground to cover. I will always make films that feature fully fleshed out women, and I’ve been working on creating more diversity in my output as well.

When you think about other women who are working so hard behind the camera, do you feel as though there has been a good amount of progress? Even in a very male-saturated business, do you believe that women are finding ways to come out on top?

The statistics are still abysmal. Only 4% of directors are women and that number isn’t seeming to go up. Only 3% of cinematographers are women – camera work has become one of my main jobs. Only 26% of dialogue spoken in films last year was by women. It’s not a lack of interest from women, it’s that women are actively pushed out through not being pro-actively hired or given advancing opportunities.

It’s also generally a hard field to be in, as it is a “boys’ club,” and you have to push through a lot of micro-aggressions to begin to be respected, which is difficult when you are already doing a very physically and psychologically intensive job. So, it is still a struggle. That said, there are a lot of great opportunities and groups for women and for now, people seem to be recognizing that there is a problem. Women-led movies tend to do well when they are given the chance, but the common belief, despite evidence otherwise, is still that they won’t do well and they shouldn’t be funded. There is plenty of audience for these characters/stories, and the effort needs to come from the top-down!

What would you consider your dream project to work on if given any opportunity possible?

My dream-project would be a sci-fi horror film set in space! I’m the hugest Trekkie, so really anything set on a spaceship would utterly delight me. I also spent a month on a shoot in Roswell recently, which really got me thinking about how great a series about the events of 1947 (alien visitation? military testing?) would make a great thriller/conspiracy TV series.


What does the future hold for you? What should our readers be looking out for in the future?

Right now, I’m working on a thriller starring two women (big surprise!), with the hopes to shoot that with a decent budget, and then probably also some more wacky low-budget genre-features in the meantime! People can expect off-the-wall weirdness from me for many years to come!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

A few months ago, we got to return to Boston to do some interviews with the cast and crew of Blood of the Tribades (our latest film, a 1970s-style lesbian vampire, Rollin & Hammer-homage). We turned those interviews into a feature-length documentary called, The Blood is the Life. Talking to the people involved with the film a year and a half after filming was really special. It was so amazing to hear their perspectives on the film, how they felt about telling that story, and their fun anecdotes from set. It also furthered and launched a few people into making their own films, it feels great that the experience inspired them. The interviews made me realize that my success as a director is bringing together a community of people and creating a family who will always be connected by this slice of time and film.

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Stephanie Allynne [Interview]


In our continuing effort to showcase amazing women in show business, you may have noticed a pretty common theme…we love hilarious women. Granted, not all of our subjects have been (or will be) comedians or brilliant minds of the world of comedy specifically, but many have been. And today is no exception. In fact, today we have one of the greats with us! Stephanie Allynne is an improv legend, a brilliant actress, and now a talented writer and filmmaker.

Stephanie is frequently featured and writes for in the wonderful, semi-biographical series from Tig Notaro called One Mississippi, which is an absolutely amazing show that is starting up its 2nd season soon and is not to be missed. She is also a bright shining star in the UCB world, which we will certainly talk about in the words below. So to prevent excessive rambling, and to continue on our wonderful showcase of wonderful people, I present to you, Stephanie Allynne!

When did you first realize you wanted to be involved in the world of comedy? Did you always know you would have a knack for it?

I came to Los Angeles when I was 18 to be an actor and was kind of blindsided when I fell in love with Improv. UCB really lured me in. I was shocked when I saw how real and grounded their improv was. I couldn’t believe the place existed. I had always been funny, not in the class clown way, more in the whisper a funny comment to the person sitting next to me way. I’m still that way I think.

We have been fortunate enough to get some words from a few of your fellow UCB alum, and we always like to ask what it has been like to be a part of such an amazing creative force? And what is the ultimate takeaway for you from your time with the UCB?

I love UCB, and yes it is “an amazing creative force.” I’ve spent almost a decade now with that theater and it has drastically shaped my career and personal life. My improv background strongly informs my acting, writing, and directing. The ultimate takeaway from UCB is a deep appreciation for listening and staying present.

In what seems like a very short time, from an outsider’s perspective at least, you have married and become a mother of two, so congratulations! That being said, has your perspective on the world and your work changed at all since you began this new chapter of your life? Have you noticed any differences in yourself?

Thank you. And from an insider’s perspective, I would absolutely agree. I never thought I would be married with two kids by the time I was 30, but, hey, here we are and all is dreamy. Seeing the pure love and innate joy that my sons have makes me only want to be surrounded by love and joy in the world and my work.


I know it is a very “hush hush” set up…but, IMDb is informing me that you will be featured in Showtime’s continuation of the legendary series Twin Peaks. Without divulging too much, what can you tell us about your experience on this project? Even the most vague details! Did catering provide “damn fine coffee’?

I have been sworn to secrecy, but my love for David Lynch is through the roof and it was nothing short of electrifying to see him work.

A very specific film that you have worked on that I would like to ask about is our new friend Henry Phillip’s Punching Henry. You are a part of a very elite cast of comedians and brilliant actors in this truly wonderful film including the likes of Doug Stanhope, Clifton Collins Jr., your life mate Tig Notaro, and many more. So what was it like for you to jump into the follow up vehicle for the cult classic known as Punching the Clown?

Well first of all, I love Punching the Clown and Henry Phillips, so I was thrilled to be in Punching Henry. When I think about that movie all I think about is doing that “sex scene” with Henry. I love the awkwardness of that scene and I love the awkwardness of shooting a sex scene. Plus he’s a friend, Tig was there watching on the monitor, and I was topless. And I got paid for that, and then I paid taxes out of that money… some elementary school has crayons because of that scene. Life, what a place.

In 2016, you released your directorial debut with the short known as The Fun Company. How did this project come about? And what led you to getting behind the camera on it?

The Fun Company is based on my time at The Groundlings. I had so much anger and rage after performing there and I didn’t know where to put it. I decided to write about it, so I wrote the short just to get it all out of my head. Then I loved the script and wanted to actually make it. I really wanted to star in it and it felt like something I had to direct myself. It was very personal and I wanted full control. Directing has always interested me, but I naively thought that to direct I needed a camera and to know how to work software and hard-drives. That’s what was stopping me from directing for about 7 years. I finally learned that all I needed was a DP.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

We are about to start shooting season 2 of One Mississippi, which will air in the fall on Amazon. Tig and I wrote the first two episodes and this season explores our love story. The show is somewhat fictionalized, but it has been fun to revisit the genesis of our love.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My family. And the final episode of Big Little Lies.

Tami Stronach [Interview]


Tami Stronach is a woman that most of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s are pretty familiar with. She portrayed The Childlike Empress in one the most beloved adventure films of that time, and one of the best of all time, really. That film was The NeverEnding Story. And until now, it was pretty much all a lot of us knew about Tami’s work. But, trust me, she has been around. It has been the world of theatre where Tami has thrived. And die hard 80’s fans will definitely remember her wonderful album Faerie Queen that was known as a sleeper hit of that insane decade.

But, Tami is back to her old ways, moving back into the world of family friendly entertainment in the shape of a delightful production called Beanstalk Jack. And Tami has been kind enough to grace our digital pages to talk to us about this project and more at length!

An interview with Tami Stronach feels like a brilliant addition for our unofficial “Women of the Present” series, as she is indeed a woman who has touched so many different aspects in the world of entertainment. She is an actress, producer, performance artist, writer, and so much more. So we are very proud to have her here today. So please enjoy some great words from Tami Stronach!

You were phenomenal in your early performance in The NeverEnding Story. What was that experience like for you?

It was magical. It was an extraordinary summer and I loved being on set immersed in that world.

Are you at all surprised by the cult following and acclaim that this film has received over the last 30+ years?

I am surprised. I’m thrilled and surprised. I never expected it to have the sticking power it seems to have. I think the theme of doing what you dream against the odds is very powerful. We all need to be encouraged to be courageous and imaginative…plus the puppets are really cool.


Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming work you are doing with the legendary tale of Jack and the Beanstalk? What can audiences expect to experience?

My family entertainment company Paper Canoe Company just released a folk rock opera based on the story of Jack and the Beanstalk but we gave the story a girl meets boy twist—ours is called Beanstalk Jack. Right now it’s a concert, which we perform live, but we will also be developing it into a full theatrical experience over the course of the year with costumes and set pieces. I’ll list the dates on our website once we set the schedule. Paper Canoe Company is all about bringing to life classic fables or folktales with an updated spin. We love the story of Jack and the Beanstalk—it’s a pretty unusual story in that many folktales are cautionary and were used to scare kids straight…don’t leave the path you are on–Don’t talk to strangers etc… Jack pretty much does everything he is not supposed to do and it works out for him. He’s a dreamer and a risk taker…I like that. But we wanted him to defeat the mean old giant differently than by stealing his stuff and killing him partly because I have a six year old who would never let that fly. So we gave the giant a teenage daughter who lives alone in a gilded cage. She has everything…all the pillaged loot of the land. But she’s all alone. When she meets Jack, it’s love at first sight and he steals her heart…they run away together. I wanted the moral to be that the best revenge against a tyrant is to create your own corner of the world where love rules the day. The whole story is told through music. The first half of the album is old timey and references folk music but once Jack goes up the beanstalk he enters the giants turf, which is expressed through vintage rock and roll. We wanted to have fun celebrating the sound of great 80’ s musicians-for example the giant in the story sounds a lot like Tom Waits…his daughter borrows a bit from Blondie…I imagine her wearing a mix of Cindy Lauper, Blondie and Madonna clothes.

And how did you become drawn to this project? What was your inspiration, if you will?

It was my husband’s idea. There is lots of great stuff happening in kids music but we wanted to do something that had more of a story. Also we love to sing as a family so we wanted an excuse to sing some more….My buddy Jacob Silver produced the music and he really elevated the whole project by taking the concept and melodies we offered up and turning these simple pieces into this rich sound…he got incredible players to join us and added his top shelf bass playing. We were so lucky to have this team.


What made you want to develop Paper Canoe Company? What is your overall goal with this company?

I wanted to bring everything I am passionate about under one umbrella—telling stories, acting, singing, choreographing, being a mom, and being my own boss….I started with the Never Ending Story which was something the whole family could enjoy…now at this moment in my life it feels right to return to that kind of storytelling. We started out by creating live events because that’s the world I know best but we are excited about moving to digital content with Beanstalk Jack…I’ll be choreographing a video for that later this spring and our goal is to eventually expand to TV and film. But why?…. I believe that art and good stories create empathy…the sooner we build empathy muscles in kids the better! That’s what the world needs more of…stories that ignite the imagination and encourage us to be courageous, resourceful and to question things. Art is in my bones. I need to make it for my own sanity. But with the birth of my daughter I feel compelled to make stories that will nourish the next generation…Its time to reach for a broader audience which includes people ages 2-102.

What else do you have coming up? Anything you would like to tell our readers about?

Besides singing in Beanstalk Jack in the NYC area this spring and summer…

Please look for our music video coming out in a couple months. I’ll post the latest news on our website: papercanoecompany.com to see what we are up to. Please visit Bandcamp to give “Beanstalk Jack” a listen!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I cut my index finger cooking and had to drive back from the Catskills this weekend with my left hand up in the air. The other drivers thought I was saying hi so lots of people waved to me on my way home to Brooklyn.

Check out Beanstalk Jack for yourself now via the Paper Canoe BANDCAMP page.

Amber Coyle [Interview]


It’s still all about the women, folks! And we are wrapping up our second week with another amazing showcase. What makes this one different though? Well, we are moving a bit in front of the camera as well this time with actress/model Amber Coyle. She is a hilarious woman who has worked diligently to establish herself in this business, and will soon reap all the rewards she has earned. And damn it all, if she isn’t working behind the scenes as a writer of original content, most likely knowing full well that if you are to succeed in this game, you have to do it for yourself.

Amber has recently developed a pilot, featuring an ALL FEMALE cast and crew, which if you have been paying attention for the last two weeks, we are HUGE fans of. Coyle is a woman who has proven herself to not only be a beautiful on screen actress, but a lovely person in all aspects of  her life, and we are so excited to see where she goes and to follow her career that appears to only be moving up. To be young in Hollywood these days can not be easy (from an outsider’s perspective) but Amber seems to have that town by the reigns and will soon be pulling in more than the world can handle. And we here at Trainwreck’d Society think this is a damn good thing.

So, ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some great words with the amazing Amber Coyle!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a person who plays pretend on screen for a living? Growing up in Texas, was it always something you aspired to do? What are your earliest memories that led you to the world of acting?

I loved theater as a kid, especially in junior high! I went to speech tournaments performing lip sync routines and improv. I was in every play including the Pink Panther Strikes Back playing Olga, the Russian spy. And one of the witches in The Wizard of Oz (yes, there was more than one witch in the play). I also went on a New York trip with our Thespian Troupe, visiting Juilliard and watching Broadway plays. That really set off the dream. I was having wayyy too much fun!

You have had some extensive training in the world of sketch comedy. What drew you to this world of comedic storytelling specifically? Was it just further practice, or your true aspiration?

I realized in my teens that I had way too much energy, probably classified with ADD and hyperactivity, LOL! I sometimes disrupted class, loved to be the center of attention, and always tried to make everybody laugh. I guess I just enjoyed expressing myself through comedy, escaping from the dramas of reality. I was even awarded “Class Clown” my senior year. I thought I was pretty good at it, and many people (not just family and friends) who have crossed my path have reiterated that to me over the years. It eventually solidified in my soul! I knew it was my calling. My dad really wanted me to go to college and get a degree, which I did. But then I set myself free and said, “That’s it! I am following my dreams! Goin’ to Hollywood!”

You’ve also done some great work in the world of stand up, which we are also very big fans of as well. How has this experience been for you? Have you found audiences to be receptive to your style of comedy?

Stand up is definitely one of the hardest things in life to do, and in my opinion its a great achievement- even if you’ve only done it once. It is the most vulnerable thing one can do. I was encouraged by a few well known comedians I had met. I just wrote down what I thought was funny, worked on it until I felt I had something solid. I went up at the Hollywood Hard Rock Improv in FL for the first time ever. It was a full house, and I was nervous as shit! But that 5 minutes flew by and I had them laughing loud! That is the best feeling in the world! But I have learned, not every high is that high- there can also be some lows. You can tell the same jokes to a different crowd and they will react differently. Its a lot about the energy. But thats how you grow, so its important to go through the motions. A lot of my material was very “blue.” Feedback would either be something like, “Whoa! I was not expecting that to come out of your mouth. That is awesome! I like how you keep true to yourself.” Or it would be, “Girl, you gotta clean that up if you want to go on tour or be on a network show.” Everyone has their opinions. You just have to know that you cannot please everyone in world, someone will always find something to complain about. But as long as you’re being yourself and doing what you think is funny (without being mean or hurting anyone of course) then that’s all you can do.

I have heard some great feedback about Buzzfeed Motion Picture’s comedy series, Up For Adoption. What has it been like to work on such a hilariously bizarre project like this? What was it like to bring the work of the brilliant Quinta Brunson to life?

It was great working with Quinta. Honestly, the whole experience was probably the most rewarding, and I learned a lot. Shooting 10 episodes in less than a month was tiring. But for what I am trying to do in Hollywood, it was exactly what I needed and in the direction of where I want to go. I am so grateful! I didn’t think I would book a mom role at all. I thought I looked too young to have two teenagers. They asked my age and liked the fact that I was a little older but looked younger. I have never been married or had any kids, so I was shocked to find that I landed the role of Tanya. The girls who played my daughters, Tess and Teagan made me laugh everyday. Those girls are hilarious and super-duper talented! Quinta is younger than me and she has accomplished so much. I am so happy we got to work together and share this experience. She has an artists mind. She knows exactly what she wants and she goes for it, no bullshit, Philly style! Her character is the most hilarious. Verizon Go90 bought the series and Quinta told me she did not even want to put herself in the project, but Verizon said, “No, we want you in it!” She made me laugh A LOT with Michelle. But Quinta as a person is very serious, and I respect that. I am praying for a season 2!

I understand you have recently also appeared in the hit comedy series New Girl, alongside re-occuring guest star Meghan Fox. How was this experience for you? Was it as fun to shoot the film as it is for an audience to watch it happen?

Shooting New Girl was quite the experience for me. When I auditioned, the role was a co-star with no lines. But for the auditions sake, they gave us some lines. They booked me and I literally prayed for lines for days. I couldn’t sleep the night before the shoot and I got an email at midnight from FOX with an updated script and thank the lord, I got some lines!!! I was so stoked, I got no sleep, LOL. I had my own trailer, everything was nice. Jake Johnson shook my hand before the scenes started and introduced himself. Megan however, did not do so. We went straight into the scene cold! That was a first for me. Usually you at least say hello before you work with someone. But we got through it, and later ended up chatting. It was a lot of fun. When it aired, we learned some of our lines were cut. But it was still a really great scene and so incredibly happy to be a part of one of the most successful sitcoms!

And be honest….is Jake Johnson even more adorable in person? Was it terribly hard to not get lost in those puppy dog eyes of his?

Jake is the man! He is really, really a talented dude! He liked to run through our lines each time before shooting to make sure everyone was comfortable. He also threw out some improv. And very impressive- the large amount of dialog they threw at him last minute, was nooooo problem! He is FANTASTICAL!

In the long run, what would you say is your ultimate goal as an actress in the world of film and television? What are you most yearning to accomplish in your career?

Right now I am working on a project of my own with a few friends. We wrote a TV pilot. All female cast (lead), female director, and working on getting an entire female crew. We will be shooting that this year then pitching. It would be a dream for it to be picked up by a network or even some type of new media platform. But aside from that, my dream is to book a series regular on a sitcom with longevity. Think Golden Girls, one of my favorite shows of all time. They were the original Sex in the City! Every actor has a thirst for not only success, but a consistent income! The struggle is real. Look, I am not trying to be Angelina. I want to get paid for doing what I love. I LOVE comedy! I want to work on feature films as well. And guest star on SNL!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My cats. Thats right folks…crazy cat lady! HAHAHA!

Ellie Kanner [Interview]

Ellie Kanner
at the World Premiere of “For The Love of Money,” Writers Guild Theater, Beverly Hills, CA 06-05-12
David Edwards/DailyCeleb.com 818-249-4998

We are moving right along with our Women of the Present Month here folks with another fantastic interviewee who is working diligently behind the scenes! Today we are talking with the amazing director and former casting agent phenom Ellie Kanner! As we try to hit as many gears in the machine that is show business, I realized we haven’t actually featured a casting agent and was very intrigued to find out what that part of the business is all about. And it turns out that we found one of the best in business who was so kind to tell us all about it!

Kanner was a casting agent for hit series like Sex and the City and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which are obviously classic television shows, but I kept seeing her name pop up because of a couple of projects that I still love and adore like Rory Kelly’s 1994 masterpiece Sleep With Me, and the short lived but brilliant series Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place. And when she moved behind the camera as a director, even more amazing credits starting rolling in, like the highly underrated 2012 gangster flick For The Love of Money, and the 2014 comedy Authors Anonymous. And the list goes on and on.

Ellie is a woman who has staked her claim in the world of film and television, and should serve as a real inspiration as to what women can accomplish behind the scenes, if we could only move forward and give them more of a level playing field. That’s not too much to ask, right? Remember folks, it’s not about superiority, it’s about equality. Alright, jumping off the soap box, and right into the wonderful career of the amazing Ellie Kanner!

When did you realize you wanted to join the world of arts and entertainment? Was it something that started at very young age, or did you just sort of fall into it?

I grew up in CT and loved watching television and movies. Our town was so tiny we didn’t have a movie theater so when we went to the theater it was a big night. When I was 10 years old I told my family I planned to move to Los Angeles to be an actress. When I arrived here I didn’t know anyone. I cold called talent agencies and ended up as a receptionist at a small agency. My first week there I saw all of the pictures and resumes that they received and realized there were many people who wanted to be an actress more than I did. That’s when I decided to learn as much as I could as an agent and then pay attention to other people’s jobs so I could figure out what I could do. I always loved the idea of working in the entertainment industry. That was my dream.

For those of us who simply are not in the know, and very out of the loop…can you explain the responsibilities of a casting director? What are some of the most important aspects of the job, and how do you know when you have casted a film or television show perfectly? Is it an after thought of some kind?

The casting director works closely with the writer, creator, director and/or producer in helping this ’team’ to hire the best actors for their project. Each project is different in terms of their team but there is always someone the casting director is working for.

A CD suggests actors for specific roles and can be creative in changing the minds of the team by suggesting changing the gender or ethnicity of a certain role. There are many opportunities for a CD to be creative. The CD auditions actors on their own and then brings the best of the people they have seen, along with actors the CD has already worked with or is familiar with and brings them all to audition for the team. Sometimes it’s a process of elimination. You take the best from each casting session and then bring back actors to audition again to narrow it down. Sometimes you search for months for that one role that you can’t quite cast, until that one actor comes in and nails it. The CD’s job is to put together a puzzle. Making sure the actors all compliment each other, with their styles, looks, depending on the characters they are playing. The CD’s office runs these sessions and is also involved in making the deals with the agents who represent the actors and making sure everyone on the team has the appropriate information once the actor is cast. The team often wants to offer a part to a big ’name’ actor and that requires checking availabilities and talking to the agents and managers who represent them. The CD also needs to be on the lookout for new talent who could fit a role so it’s constantly watching tv, film, web series, theater, etc., and being able to spot when an actor is right for a specific role. When an actor has never done a certain type of role that you are casting you have to have good instincts as to whether they are capable of playing a part that is so different from what they have played before. Part of the CD’s job is to explore that and allow actors to show what they are capable of. I believe a well cast project can make or break it but of course, it always starts with the script. If the script is great and you cast wonderful actors to bring even more to it AND put together a team to execute it, you have a real opportunity for success.

What made you decide to jump behind the camera yourself to start directing films and television? And what sort of benefits do you believe you had in tow with so many years in casting under your proverbial belt?

My favorite parts of casting were working with the actor and then going to the set. I never wanted to leave. I watched many directors in casting sessions and while some of them were amazing, some I felt could give better direction or could communicate better with the actor. I thought I should investigate if it was something I could be good at. With that, I started studying directing. I read books, took classes, seminars, etc., but really the best experience was going out there and finding something to direct. I directed plays, sketch comedy shows and finally got an opportunity to direct a feature film. My casting experience has helped my directing in many ways. Obviously working with the actors in casting sessions helped me do the same on set. Working with the agents/managers as I did in casting has given me wonderful relationships to help my access to great talent. I love being able to direct actors who I only was able to cast in the past.

As a filmmaker, what do you believe is the most important aspect of a film? What are you most wanting to accomplish with each project you have been behind?

I believe the script/story is most important. The casting can elevate it. Truly, it’s a team effort. The director must have the vision and ability to communicate with the crew but if there is no team to implement that vision, there is no cohesive story. I always want to make a project that has an affect on its audience. If it’s a comedy, my goal is to make the audience laugh. If it’s a drama, I hope to move the audience emotionally. The best compliment I get is if an audience member tells me that the project either made them laugh or cry and stayed with them for a long time. If it also made them think differently about the subject matter or inspired some kind of change then that would be the icing on the cake.

How much progress do you feel is being made for women working behind the camera in several different fields? Do you feel like women are finally getting the respect in your business that they have always deserved? Or are some things still stuck in the past?

There has been progress but there is a long, long road to go. The awareness that has been raised is a very good start but people, both men and women, in my opinion, need to truly make change, not just talk about it. Everyone says they ‘want’ to hire women directors but sometimes they say it’s difficult to find ‘good’ ones. I don’t believe that. The only way to find out if a director is good is to give them an opportunity. Every director needs experience to grow and explore. There needs to be more programs that don’t just allow directors to meet with showrunners and don’t just have directors ‘shadow’ (observe) another director but these programs need to be restructured to allow directors to direct. There usually is a director/producer on most shows and if that person could guarantee a newer, less experienced director then there would be no risk to anyone. But, I don’t think this has happened yet and I’m not sure why.

If you were given the chance to bring the story of any influential woman in American history to the big screen, who would it be?

There are obvious women like Oprah who I think is one of the most influential women in recent history. Her story of struggle and triumph is inspirational. There are also many women who were ‘behind-the-scenes’ like the women in Hidden Figures who I would like to explore. The woman behind the successful man. I’ll have to think more about that!

What is next for you? Anything coming up that our readers should be looking forward to?

My web series, Dropping The Soap, is now airing on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play so that’s my latest. It’s a behind-the-scenes comedy about soap operas which explores the lives of the actors. We discover the actors are just as insane as the characters they play. There’s also a deeper story about having the courage to be who you are and discover and live your truth. But, it’s funny. 🙂 I worked with Jane Lynch who was hilarious and the team who created the show, Paul Witten, Kate Mines and Mandy Fabian are some of the most talented people I’ve worked with.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I smile all the time so that won’t be interesting but, the last movie I watched that made me laugh out loud was Bad Moms. Very funny!

Heather McDonald [Interview]


We are huge fans of stand up comedy here at Trainwreck’d Society. And specifically, we are huge fans of women in this world. The stereotypical “Boy’s Club” mentality is slowly breaking down in the world of stand up, and it is because of talented individuals like Heather McDonald. Much like some of the other female comedians we have had on the site, she is not funny because she is a woman, she is funny because she is FUNNY. And that is what is the most important aspect in our opinion. If you’re hilarious, you can make it if you try. The barriers put up around women in stand up are weakening, and we are so happy to watch them crumble.

So while we are celebrating Women of the Present this month, we just had to feature a female comedian to represent this world, and I believe we found the PERFECT woman to represent the world of stand up comedy in this showcase. McDonald is obsessively touring, host of a brilliant podcast, a great mom, and one of the main driving forces behind the success of the comedy talk show Chelsea Lately. She’s dynamite at her job, and we are so happy to have gotten some words from this crazy talented individual. So please enjoy a few words with the brilliant Heather McDonald!

What drew you to the world of stand up comedy? Do you have the traditional fucked up childhood that just made you naturally funny? Or was it something simpler?

I knew early on that I had a unique talent to make people laugh and was good with impersonations and imitations, but it wasn’t until a year after college graduation that I went to a class. The class taught me how to make my funny stories relatable to people who didn’t know me and that’s when I really decided to purse stand up.
I don’t think I have the traditional family story in the sense that from a very, very young age we would watch An Evening at the Improv and my Dad told me that I would be up there one day. Most stand-ups can say their parents weren’t encouraging but mine were very, very much so. They came to all my shows and brought their friends.

BUT I do ALSO have a fucked up family being that I come from a big Irish-Catholic family. I’m the youngest of five and I’m estranged from a couple of them… I get in depth about my family on my podcast Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald on episodes 35-45.

What were some of your earliest influences? Where you a fan of comedy growing up? 

Yes I was absolutely a fan growing up. I loved watching I Love Lucy reruns but I also liked more adult themed sitcoms like One Day at A Time and Alice. They were mature, depressing sitcoms for a kid but I loved them. I would stay up late to watch Joan Rivers anytime she was hosting the tonight show. I would pretend I had homework and would sneak upstairs. I also loved Roseanne.

While I know, as a fan only, stand up comedy has always had a “Boy’s Club” feel, I can’t help but feel like women are simply KILLING it lately. And you are definitely at the top of your field alongside other brilliant females like Jen Kirkman or Emma Arnold. So, basically, what are your thoughts on females in comedy? Are we ever going to be able to drop the “female comedian” label? Is the comedy world progressing?

Yes, I think the comedy world is progressing and now is the best time to be a female comic. I think we have younger men to thank for that because they aren’t seeing it like, “oh she’s female so she’s a chick comic.” Men, like women, are going to comedy shows based on whether or not they find the comedian funny; not because of their gender, color or sexuality.

People are attracted to comics they relate to. So yeah, women are going to relate to me more than they would Louis CK. I don’t think there is anything wrong with marketing yourself as a “female comedian” when that’s who you are to the people who really like your comedy.

Do you have any good heckler stories you would be willing to share with us? How do you handle them?

I have been very lucky in this respect. Where I am now, it’s never like, “you suck” because the people who pay to come to my show like my comedy. The only ones I have to deal with are what I like to call,
“The overly supportive.” It’s usually a group of women who are so excited to be at the show that they get really drunk and turn into black women in church. Every time I say something it’s “go girl”, “Tell em sistah” or “Preach” … and I’m glad they are enjoying the show but it’s disruptive to my story and it annoys the audience. I don’t want to single them out but the club staff doesn’t always catch it. Usually I’ll just say, “hey thanks for the feedback…” and they get embarrassed and leave.

Between your stand up, books, show writing, hosting, podcasting, acting, etc. you just never seem to stop! Which is great for everyone! But, if you were only allotted the ability to do only one, what would it be?

Aside from being a great mother (wink), I’d focus on my podcast Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald because I love doing it. I love how loyal my fans and listeners are. I like that I can connect with them without having to get on a plane and I can do it no matter how ugly I look or what I’m wearing. With the podcast, I get to make the decisions and create the content. With acting, the show has to be written, I have to be cast, I have to wait for a production schedule; with the podcast all of that is on me- it’s something I make happen. When I need to wait for other people to say yes, it makes it a more difficult endeavor. Third would be stand-up.


When you’re not working so diligently, what do you do for fun? How do you take advantage of your time with family when you’re off the road?

We love taking our two sons to the beach. We also like to mini golf, play scrabble and go to six flags Magic Mountain. I love hurricane harbor and all water parks. I’m that mom who goes on it all with their kids. They appreciate it. I also enjoy getting drinks and dinner with just my husband or with other couples. And of course I love a good girls night out.

Speaking of the road, what are some things you like to do to kill the time when you aren’t on stage?

I’ll often see a movie, go to a spa and get a massage. If it’s a cute city I’ll go shopping. I love to shop. I mostly only go to cute cities now because of the shopping. If there is something the town in known for, like a restaurant or museum or tour, I try to experience that. When I was in Buffalo NY I drove to Niagara Falls by myself. And other times I sleep until 12:30 in the afternoon.

So, what does the future hold for you? Anything you’d like to plug? Any shows coming up?

Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald podcast is always available on ITunes with new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.

http://wondery.com/wondery/shows/juicyscoop/

My stand up and Juicy Scoop Live touring schedule can be found at www.heathermcdonald.net.

Check often as new dates pop up all the time. Were currently developing and entertaining ways to make Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald or some version of it, into a TV show so even more people can enjoy what I do.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This morning my son put on my sunglasses and imitated me.


Heather is certain to be coming to a city near you. Check out these dates for the rest of April and May:

April 22nd – Nashville, Tennessee @ Zanie’s Comedy Club

May 3rd – Vancouver, British Columbia @ Bitmore Cabaret

May 4th – Seattle, Washington @ The Triple Door

May 5th – 6th – Portland, Oregon @ Helium Comedy Club

May 12th – Atlanta, Georgia @ City Winery

May 18th – 20th – Grand Rapids, Michigan @ Dr. Grin’s Comedy Club

Check out heathermcdonald.net for all updates and tickets!

 

Beth McCarthy-Miller [Interview]


We are continuing our unofficial Women of the Present showcase with an absolutely amazing interview with a truly inspiring female who has broken down so many barriers with her incredible skills and natural talent. This badass of a woman is the great Beth McCarthy-Miller.

For over a decade, Beth was THE director for what is arguably the greatest comedy series of all time, Saturday Night Live. Her professionalism and expertise shines through on the series, as well as the numerous television shows she has worked on to date. Seriously everyone, if there is a comedy series you love that has aired in the last 20 years or so, she has been a part of it. From shows featuring or old friends Scott Adsit and Kevin Brown like 30 Rock, to Parks and Recreation (also featuring our old friend Alison Becker!), she has been there for them all. We talk about a lot of them in our words with this fantastic director who has risen to the top of not only women in television directing, but in television directing as a whole.

Beth is an amazing and inspiring figure, and we are so honored to have her on the site today. So please enjoy some great words with the wonderful Beth McCarthy-Miller!

What initially drew you into the business you are in, and have had so much great success in? Was television always the world you wanted to be a part of, and what you aspired to excel in?

I loved TV when I was a kid, and we were not allowed to watch it too much, so I especially loved when I spent the night at a friend’s house and got to watch all the TV I wanted:) I wrote some of the assemblies we had in High School and most of them were comedic. I even wrote a spoof of Weekend Update when I was on High School. I was in plays as well, but I quickly decided I wanted nothing to do with being an actress my freshman year of college. I had grown up in a house where everyone LOVED music and I was no exception. My parents loved Big Band, crooners and loved Broadway musicals. I had 4 older brothers and 4 older sisters, so there was almost every genre of popular music being played in my house at any given time. I DJ’d all through college and majored in Radio, TV and Film, thinking I would go into hard news. I interned in news and decided it wasn’t for me. I was lucky enough to find out about an internship at MTV from my brother, Robert, and began working there in 1985, the summer I graduated from college. I was immediately hooked. It combined 2 of my favorite forms of entertainment: TV and music. I initially had no idea WHAT I wanted to do at MTV, but I just knew it was where I wanted to be. The next couple of years were happy accidents. I got a job being an assistant to the line producer at the studio that fall. I spent every day seeing the daily operations of a studio and MTV was a real factory of television. We shot every day, 5 days a week, doing everything from simple J wrap-arounds, to 1/2 hour shows and musical performances when an artist came by the studio.

I spent the next 2 years taking jobs for more money so I could stop waitressing on the weekends…no lie. MTV was a great place to get experience, but not a great place to make money :). So, when a job opened up to train as an Associate Director, I took it. When a job opened up to train to be an Associate Producer, I took it…and so on. But, when a full-time producer job opened up and I was about to take it, the 2 directors that I worked for sat me down and told me it was a mistake. They felt that I was going to make a great Director, and that I should hold out until a job opened up. They told me that I was next in line to get that job. I took their advice, and it was the best advice anyone has ever given me. My life and experience at MTV was invaluable. I learned so much from everyone I worked with and I was able to really get better at all of the mechanics of directing. I was directing all the time at MTV and I got to do so many different genres of directing. I did news shows, comedy shows, stand-up, music performances, interviews, and big live events on a regular basis. It was at MTV that I met Jon Stewart, directed his talk show and left with him when the show went into syndication. Jon is just so talented and so special, and I learned SO much about comedy from him. He is so smart and so generous and I was so blessed that our paths crossed. My time with Jon was a pivotal point in my career. I went to SNL after The Jon Stewart Show got canceled. I don’t think Lorne would have given me a 2nd look if not for the quality of the sketches that I had from The Jon Stewart Show.

Photo by Barry Goldenberg for emmys.com

You had an amazing run on Saturday Night Live that lead to some of the finest SNL moments in their history. What was it like to be a director for a show like this? I’ve only heard of the organized chaos that ensues, is this true? Basically, what does directing a live show like this entail?

It is so hard to describe the incredible honor it is when Lorne Michaels offers you a job to work on one of the longest-running, most celebrated comedy shows of all time. It was the most exciting and terrifying experiences of my life. The show had been on quite successfully for 20 years before I stepped foot on it, and a large number of staff had been there for many years already; some since the first episode. So, it is impossible not to feel like a comedically large wrench being thrown into a very well-oiled machine. The first 4 months were really hard and I really felt like I would not make the whole first season. The saving grace is that there were SO many new cast and writers that we kind of felt like we were in it together and that helped so much. The show is such an unbelievable process and it is amazing that it gets pulled off every week. Every department is literally THE BEST at what they do…it would not get on the air if they were not. The sketches get written on Monday and Tuesday and the show gets picked on Wednesday night after the table read. Remember, there are more sketches picked than what you see on the air. We go into the dress rehearsal with 3-5 more sketches than what gets on the air. So, Thursday and Friday is rehearsing, building sets, making costumes, getting wigs, props, graphs, rewrites, and all the while, maybe writing a new monologue or cold open because one didn’t get picked or you are waiting for something that is happening in current events. (like a debate). Then, Friday night, I would spend half the night marking a script with every camera shot, cue, and element of the show in it. That script is what we all would start working off of on Saturday morning. Then, we would spend Saturday doing a run-through of every sketch and continually through the day getting changes and some rewrites. The evening starts with a dress rehearsal that can last over 2 hours, which is a full show with an audience. That show is done a little after 10P and then the process begins of picking the show for air. Once the show is picked, it is a meeting with notes and changes that you get out of around 11P or so. It is then a melee of set, costume, and script changes, notes galore, audience loading and all before going on the air at 11:30. One of my favorite things that Lorne always says about SNL is that we don’t go on the air because we are ready, we go on the air because it’s 11:30. There are several changes that happen all during the show as well. Sometimes, we make set changes and the AD is counting back from 10 and the furniture is being dropped into a set and the cast sits down literally 2 seconds before we come up on the air. Not every week is like that, but there are many weeks like that! SO…organized chaos is an understatement:) But, it helps create that magnetic energy that the show has every time you tune into it. And for the host, there is nothing else out there like it except for maybe opening night of a play? So, they do opening night of a different play every week!

Photo by Dana Edelson of NBC for emmys.com


Without trying to sound to vague, I have to ask a question about something I have no idea about on several levels….What is it like to be a woman behind the scenes of television? Do you ever feel like a lone wolf in your industry?

You know, I have been extremely blessed in this industry…I have always had both male and female mentors that have always encouraged me and rooted for me. I was lucky to be at MTV during a time where everyone was figuring out what MTV was going to become. I learned so much there and my bosses, who were young themselves, were creative, and supportive and it did not feel like there was a direct hit on me for being a woman. Having said that, I was treated differently by various people, crew and bosses possibly based on being a woman and also for being young . I started directing when I was 25 and when I started directing some of the bigger shows a few years into it, I was 27 on set with several men who were older than me and had been around and were accomplished. I definitely had to prove myself and was looked at differently until they saw me work. I would also deal with most of that stuff with a sense of humor, so I think I won a lot of people over that way, but I have been blessed to have just as many supportive, wonderful people in my corner as those who were not. It is a bit strange that in 2017 there is still the discussion that there are so few women that direct. It’s crazy to me. I love that there is a conscientious effort to give more women and minorities opportunities to direct. There are so many wonderful women that are doing incredible work directing right now in comedy and drama, and I am a full-on geeked out fan of them!

In your expert opinion, how has the world of show business changed for women since you first began or now hugely successful career? Are things better?

I think that the industry has definitely opened up more doors to more positions for women over the years. I think things are better. There is also SO much more content being made that there are just more opportunities for everyone! I cannot believe how many channels make original programming now, never mind all of the streaming services as well. I think that TV has been in a bit of a renaissance. You see actors that normally do just film taking these boutique TV projects and getting incredible acclaim for them. So many creative people are thinking a bit outside the box and doing different types of programming that is allowing some exquisite talent to don TV sets and streaming devices. Binge watching has also changed the business quite a bit. It will be interesting to see what evolves over the next few years, but I am enjoying getting to see some fabulous actresses doing incredible work on TV in between their movie schedules.

You have also been the woman behind the camera for several comedy specials for some of the finest comedians in the business, from Jim Norton to Bob Saget to Dave Attell, the list goes on and on. What is it like to direct a comedy special? What are some things that go into filming a special that the average viewer may not be aware of?

Directing comedy specials are a BLAST!!! Especially when it is someone who you are a fan of or love! The real trick to directing a stand-up special is all about rhythm. Every comedian has a style and rhythm to their comedy, and if you can get into that rhythm, directing the cameras becomes almost easy. I spent a lot of time with Jon Stewart in my younger years and we did a talk show together. When I did his HBO stand-up special, I knew the rhythm to Jon’s delivery so well by then, it was easy for me to direct the special. It was a process to decide the look of it and come up with all of the aesthetics of the shoot, but once we went live on the air, it was all about rhythm. When I don’t know a stand-up’s work as well, I really love to go see them perform a few times and watch tape of them because it really helps me see the rhythm, cadence and structure of their joke telling. It also helps me get familiar with the material so I know when it’s about a facial expression, or a big physical move, or a dead stare to punctuate the joke. All of those things enhance the performance if you can nail it on camera. But, the hard thing is to not start laughing and get caught up in the show. That has happened to me more than once! You start enjoying the show so much that you lose your rhythm a little. Jon, Dave Attell, Chappelle and Wanda Sykes made me laugh so hard at certain points that I forgot I was working for awhile:) There have been so many more that made me laugh really hard during the show that it is hard to stay focused. I love seeing the different styles comedians have and how their particular delivery really enhances their jokes. Daniel Tosh was so much fun to watch how his pauses and style add to his jokes and of course Jerry Seinfeld could read a phone book and make me laugh….

In the last few years, you have managed to direct for a plethora of some of the best television shows of our time. I would love to ask you about every single one, but I know you are a very person and don’t want to hold you up, so I will just specifically ask about one…Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I adore this show, and feel like it is a true inspiration in regards to women in the world of entertainment. So, how was your experience on this show? Was the making of the show as fun as it is for us to watch it?

Well, I would follow Tina Fey into a burning building carrying Robert Carlock on my shoulders, so doing that show was a no brainer. I was such a fan of Ellie’s and she had done some stuff for me earlier in her career, so I was SO excited to work with her again. And, what can you say about Titus??? Ridiculously talented and incredibly funny. It was an absolute thrill to work with Carol Kane, a comedy legend and I love anytime I get to work with Jane. That show helped me get through mourning the loss of 30 Rock. It was a lot of the same players and crew, so that was like a bit of a reunion. That show is so brilliantly crafted…well written and superbly acted….it is easy to come along for the ride. I love getting those scripts because I literally laugh out loud while reading it. It is so much fun to shoot those episodes. I just did one for Season 3 that is terrific, written by Tina, and guest starring the fabulous Maya Rudolf. It is spectacular:)

When you look back on your amazing career thus far, what would you say you are most proud of?

I don’t know how amazing it is, but it is hard to point out one particular thing. There have been certain hurdles that I have jumped over in my career that I am amazed I got through with little scarring…the 1st SNL I directed, the live 30 Rocks, The live Sound of Music, The Superbowl Halftime Show. I am really proud of the work I did in my early years at MTV like Unplugged, The Jon Stewart Show and some of the Video Music Award shows I directed. I am really proud that I survived SNL and lived to tell the tale…I really loved the live 30 Rocks and was unbelievably honored to be asked to direct the 1 hour series finale. That meant so much to me and the show was incredible. I was really proud of the way The Sound of Music Live came together and was so thrilled to work with all of those incredible artists. I tried really hard to make that seem filmic and it was exciting that it spurred so many other live events like it. I think that the 9/11 telethon that I did just a few days after the towers fell was one of the most heartfelt and heartbreaking things I have ever been a part of….and I am proud that it was beautiful, poignant and extremely successful in raising funds for all of those lives who were affected. I am hoping my most proud moment is yet to come!

What is next for you? Anything we should be looking forward to in the near future?

I am knee-deep in pilot season. I am shooting one right now fro Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone’s company for Fox and right after, I am doing another one for ABC. So, I am REALLY tired:) Just kidding…it is all good and I am so excited about both projects. They are really funny scripts! After that, I am shooting a few other things like an episode of Divorce for HBO and The Good Place for NBC until the middle of June and then it’s summer vacation!!! My husband is a school teacher so we preserve that time to all be together.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My son’s school has a talent show every year and I asked my 11 year old if he wanted to participate. He first said no and then he said maybe. I asked him if he wanted to sing (because he actually has a great voice) and he said “no”. He told me that maybe he would tell jokes because “you know Mom, everyone at school thinks I’m pretty funny”. That made my heart happy to know that he appreciates humor like I do:)