Christopher Downie [Interview]

For several years now, I am have been following the production of a film that I have been so excited about that is finally coming to the world! If you happened to check out yesterday’s Sunday Matinee  about Vincent Pereria’s A Better Place, you will know I am talking about Shooting Clerks. If you are just joining us today as a Christopher Downie fan, well, I am still talking about Shooting Clerks, but go back and read that when you are done here! Yes, several years ago Scottish filmmaker Christopher Downie began an adventure in telling the tale of how one of the greatest films in independent cinema came to be. And this coming weekend, the world is finally going to get a glance at one of the most anticipated films of the decade.

And wouldn’t you know it, I have finally secured some wonderful words from the great Christopher Downie! He is an absolutely lovely gentleman who we are so excited to have with us today. He is a brilliant filmmaker that we will definitely be paying a lot of attention to throughout the rest of his career that is sure to flourish. Christopher Downie has been working in the world of Kevin Smith for quite some time now, but Shooting Clerks marks his first feature film based around the beautiful world that Kevin has created over the last three decades. Shooting Clerks is bound to be a brilliant experience that you certainly will not want to miss. And with a genius like Christopher behind the project, there is absolutely no way this film is not going to be one of the best films of 2017.

Shooting Clerks will premiere this weekend in the place where the whole journey began almost 25 years ago, Highlands, New Jersey. Downie and several cast and crew members will be at the event, as well as Kevin Smith himself on August 5th! Pick up your tickets to the event right HERE.

But for now, please enjoy this amazing interview with the great Christopher Downie! Enjoy!

What was your first exposure to the world of film that made you decide that this was what you wanted to do with your life? What drew you to this world?

When I was 13 years old, a friend of mine offered me a copy of Dogma; a film he had watched once and instantly took a disliking to. I eventually wore that tape out. I then saw Chasing Amy, having found out that Jay and Bob appeared in both. A shared universe like that, in a comedy, blew my mind and instantly captured my imagination. I had to have more. Luckily, there was more – a lot more.

What is your own film community like in Scotland? For those of us who may simply be ignorant Americans that can only think of Trainspotting, what is the artistic community, specifically in the world of film like in your area of Scotland, and the country as a whole?

Trainspotting is definitely the pinnacle when it comes to Scottish filmmaking, although it wasn’t directed by a Scot. Usually, there are two types of films produced back home; Gangster films or period pieces. These are the country’s bread and butter. Occasionally you’ll get filmmakers like Peter Mullen, who’ll knock out a real belter of a film about the class struggle of the nineteen seventies but usually we stick to the aforementioned fair.

What sort of research did you go into to retell the story of the making of Clerks? I know Kevin is a talker, and has probably told variations of birth of Clerks on several different formats over the years, but were there any other tools you may have used to help develop this story into a cinematic venture?

I think I started gathering material in the late 2000’s, unconsciously of course. I seem to retain dates and film facts really well so when the time came to lay out the treatment, I did it without any additional research. As I started to re-draft, I went digging. I managed to get in touch with all the main players, from Brian O’Halloran to Marilyn Ghigliotti. Everyone was very accommodating and generous with their time. Using these interviews, I managed to hack down the bloated treatment into something that resembles what we ended up with. If not for the kindness of people like Brian and Marilyn, as well as Ernie O’Donnell, Betsy Broussard and my man, Scott Schiaffo, this film would be a shadow of it’s current self.

 

It seems like a great bit of a fortune that you managed to have several cast members from the original Clerks film on set with you some of the time when filming Shooting Clerks, including our old friends like Marilyn, Scott, and Ernie. As folks who were there when the events were actually taking place, did they manage to give you any solid input during shoots? Anything specific you can tell us about?

I really don’t want to spoil it for you or your readers. That being said, my chats with Ernie helped shape the dynamic between his character (as in the character of Ernie) and that of Kevin’s.

Along with cameos and appearances from original cast mates, you even manage to film exterior shots in the original locations of Quick Stop and RST Video, and the general area of New Jersey. What was it like being on those sacred grounds, and working to set the place back in time to almost 25 years ago?

Sadly for me, I didnt shoot those sequences – the on location shoot was orchestrated by my producer and 2nd unit director, Ryan James. I did shoot one scene there, a scene we decided to add to the film when we were promoting the film back in November. That was surreal, I can tell you – it was like setting foot on the set of the Death Star. I can’t wait to go back.

Now that the film is done and about to be released upon the world, what do you believe that die hard Kevin Smith fans (i.e. those of us who genuinely love Yoga Hosers!) are really going to enjoy about this film?

Aside from the obvious nods to certain scenes and scenarios from the original film, I think the fans will get a kick out of the Easter eggs and references to Kevin’s other work. There are literally hundreds of them in there. I’m hoping the arcs of both Kevin and Bry will satisfy fans of SModco podcasts like Highlands: a Peephole History and Tell ‘Em Steve Dave.

Now that Shooting Clerks is soon to be out in the world, what is next for you? Anything else you would like to plug to our readers?

We have various productions in the works at the moment with one in particular circled for 2018. It’ll be something of a departure from Shooting Clerks – a socially charged horror film set in the 1920’s. Way to jump genres, right? Even though it’ll be a period piece with one foot in the supernatural, it’ll be a heck of lot easier to make than our first feature film outing.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I have to say that being interviewed by you is up there. These last few days, and everything that’s unfolded, have been some of the best times of my life.

Check out this amazing trailer for Shooting Clerks courtesy of Auld Reekie Media, if you find yourself in New Jersey this weekend, be sure to catch Christopher at the Atlantic Highlands Cinema 5 on August 5th with special guest Kevin Smith:

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Sunday Matinee: A Better Place [Film]

With the anticipation of the upcoming premier of Christopher Downie’s Shooting Clerks that I know we are all crazy excited for, it has been a very Kevin Smith filled week in the hearts and minds of hardcore View Askew nerds. I’m sure everyone is going back to watch Clerks for the 337th time…just in case you missed something in the last 23 years, ya know? And I was half tempted to dedicated this Sunday  Matinee to the film for all appropriate rhyme and reason. But, I thought I would try and dig a bit deeper. Not that I had to search for anything, as I have watched this wonderful piece of cinema magic several times. I wanted to talk about A Better Place, one of my favorite additions to the View Askew library that I feel deserves more recognition.

For merely casual View Askew fans, A Better Place writer/director Vincent Pereria is a critical force in the early years of the View Askewnverse. Some would argue that there wouldn’t have been a Clerks without this man’s influence and inspiration. I mean, I definitely say that, knowing the history of how this film came to light. Vincent appeared in Clerks in multiple roles, and was a key member of the crew that helped make the whole thing possible. Vince would go on to appear in and work on several other films in the View Askew world, including Kevin Smith’s seminal classics Chasing Amy and Dogma, which probably receive the majority of Kevin’s critical acclaim.

But there was a whole other brilliant chapter in the View Askew universe that simply cannot be ignored. When Smith broke out into Hollywoodland, he brought his friends with him. The late 90’s and early 2000’s saw View Askew Productions putting out some of the finest independent cinema the world has ever known, in my humble opinion. Specifically, I can call out three films individually that still make my regular rotation: Malcom Ingram’s Drawing Flies, Bryan Johnson’s Vulgar, and, you guessed….Vincent Pereria’s A Better Place. All three of these films are brilliant in their own right. Beautifully written, gritty and controversial, just all around brilliant films. And A Better Place may very well be my favorite films from the View Askew universe, and one of my favorite films in general.

Vincent Pereria, circa 1998, courtesy of view askew.com

Every review or showcase that you will find about A Better Place is bound to have some very similar statements about the film’s premise. Opinions have simply led to fact at this point, which is a rare feet in the world of cinema. It is a story about teen violence and alienation in America during a time when it wasn’t being as widely covered as it is now. The story revolves around a young boy who simply wants to exist in the world without humiliation and deterrence from society, but feels the strain of a public who doesn’t want to give him a chance. And violence ensues. Opinions have led to fact when reviewers state that Vincent “called it” long before the mainstream American media began showcasing such violence in regular news reports. No longer an opinion, it is clear facts. The infamous Columbine shooting wouldn’t occur until 2 years after this film was released, but the hatred and mistreatment of awkward teenagers had been going on for decades, and Vincent was all to well aware of the hatred and incoming violence that was sure to ensue.

Now obviously, a story of this magnitude is quite different from the whimsical adventures of Jay and Silent Bob that we were used to from the View Askewniverse. So many fans may have been deterred. But, the majority of us were enthralled. The film is beautifully shot on a modest budget, and features an absolutely amazing cast featuring Eion Bailey and Robert DiPatri as the two boys who lead us on the terrifying journey that is A Better Place. The film also stars Joseph Cassese as the character who bares the blunt force of two teenager’s rage. EDITOR’S NOTE: Be on the lookout for a TWS Interview with Mr. Cassese in the coming months! Within the cast viewer’s will also find several other regulars from the View Askew world we all know and love like David Lynch, Carmen Llywelyn, Jason Lee, Scott Mosier, Ethan Suplee, and even Vincent himself!

As per usual, we are not going to give too much away about the actual plot of the film, well, any more than we already have in the previous paragraphs. I just want to state that A Better Place is one of the finest films I have ever seen. 20 years later, I am still in love with this film. It is shot wonderfully, is brilliantly written, and as we stated before, is well ahead of its time in so many ways.

Vincent Pereia’s has announced that he will be in attendance at the premiere of Shooting Clerks this coming weekend, August 5th at the Atlantic Highlands Cinema 5 inn Highlands, New Jersey. Vincent has a cameo in the film, and will be portrayed by Dale R. Murray within the film as well. This event is one that has been thinking something I never thought I would think: “I would fucking kill to be in New Jersey this weekend!” Several cast and crew of Shooting Clerks will be in attendance, as well as Kevin Smith himself. And come back around here at TWS for a great interview with Shooting Clerks writer and director Christopher Downie. Pick up tickets to the event right HERE.

So, if you are one of those smart and fortunate souls who will be at the event, and are planning on binge watching everything from the View Askewniverse, be sure not to forget about A Better Place!

Robert Wuhl [Interview]

Today we have probably one of the most recognizable figures in the world of comedy with us here today. The great Robert Wuhl has been a staple in the world of entertainment as a comedian, writer, and actor for a few decades now. His career has been so varied and delightful it is almost unbelievable. It is definitely hard to dream up what he may be “best known” for with all the amazing work he has done. But, let’s try!

Die hard Madonna fans will recognize that handsome mug for his appearance in her greatest music video to date, “Material Girl”. Baseball fans are sure to know his work in Ron Shelton classic films like Cobb and Bull Durham, as well as his successful HBO series Arli$$, which isn’t entirely about baseball, as we will discuss further. Oh and if we want to throw basketball in there, let us not forget Blue Chips, penned by Shelton. Then of course there are is 2 Emmy’s for writing for the Oscars during their glory days when Billy Crystal reigned supreme. And that is all without even mentioning his amazing life in the world of stand up, and performances in classic films like Good Morning Vietnam, Tim Burton’s Batman, and The Bodyguard.

Or if you are just a dumb 90’s kid like me, he was that guy who wanted to flip out on Kel Mitchell in The Good Burger. Yep, that was my introduction to the genius of Robert Wuhl. Obviously I have become an actual adult and can respect Robert’s other works as well. But dammit if I don’t love me some Kenan & Kel!

With that, we are honored today to be able to share a few words with the legend himself, the great Robert Wuhl!

What lead you to the world of stand up comedy? Was it something you were always passionate about as a youth, or did you just sort of fall into it? 

I enjoyed watching stand ups growing up on TV (Ed Sullivan, Tonight Show, etc.)   I wanted to break into filmmaking and following the path of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Paul Mazursky I began putting together a stand-up act to showcase my writing and comedic talents. 

 

The stand up world has obviously changed quite a bit since when you first started. What are your thoughts on the current world of stand up comedy, compared to what it used to be in the 80’s? Are things better in some ways? Worse?  

Certainly there are many more ways to be seen because of the internet, YouTube, etc.  I think most things are generational so I couldn’t say if things are better or worse, they just are different.



Your hit HBO show Arli$$ is one of those ground breaking classic shows that really set the precedent for what television would become, in my opinion. In your own personal opinion, what was it about this show that you felt made it special? 

I was trying to do a show about a guy running a business that happened to have a very specific, unique clientele.   Fran Leibowitz, the author, once approached me at a party, saying, “I hate sports, but I love your show.”   The thing is, the show was never about sports.  It was about CHARACTERS in the world of sports which is a very different thing.

I have always had a soft spot for Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham, in which you were amazing in by the way. But, the Shelton film, that you were also in, Cobb, is the one that has always stuck with me. All of these years later, what are your thoughts on this, in my mind at least, seminal film?  

Thank you for the kind words, Cobb has a special place for me.  It was a project that Ron and I spoke about for years before it actually came to fruition.  It was a job to make, however, as I learned, it wasn’t for everyone’s taste. It’s a dark tale and about a dark subject and also about celebrity and journalism in America.

COBB, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Wuhl, 1994, (c)Warner Bros.

When you look back on your amazing career in so many different areas of the film and television world, what would you say you are most proud of?   

I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to juggle a number of different balls and stay working.  I can generally say that I’m proud of most of the body of work I’ve been a part of.  Also, that I’ve been able to work with really really good people.

And we always like to ask our statue holding friends this question: Where do you keep your Emmys, and does their physical locations hold a certain significance to you?

They’re in my office.  And not really.

So what is next for you? Anything you can plug to our readers?   

I’m putting together a follow-up to my Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl show entitled, Shistory Happens.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The thing that makes me always smile — my dogs!

David Gborie [Interview]

We have been spending a whole lot of digital time and space in the world of comedy lately, and even more specifically in the world of comedy podcasting. And god dammit if we don’t have a PERFECT interview for you lucky son of a bitches today! A few months ago we had a delightful digital conversation with one of my favorite comedians working today, the brilliant Sean Jordan. And shortly after, wouldn’t you know it …he appeared on a brand new podcast, and I felt compelled to give it a listen.

What I would hear would be the greatest podcast to emerge within the last year known as All Fantasy Everything. I would also soon be hipped to a couple new voices I was ashamed to not have already known. The first would be the show’s host and creator Ian Karmel, a man who hails from the greatest region on the planet and one of the two neighborhoods I would frequent as a youth to go dumpster diving in the rich areas (FYI, This would be the greater Portland area of the Pacific Northwest, and those neighborhoods would be Beaverton & Lake Oswego, Ian hailing from the first)….and there was that other voice. That sweet sultry and seems to only have the ability to be charming and hilarious, no matter what the topic.

I am talking about David Gborie, of course. The AMAZING David Gborie! The man who had the gull and genius to pick the theme music of a Mazda commercial as a “Summer Jam”, and another astonishingly surprising pick which he will mention below. While David is not exactly a “co-host” of All Fantasy Everything, he has appeared over half the show, and is a god damned delight on it. In fact, I can not think of another podcast where I go through the motions on the iPhone app, and become GENUINELY excited to hear that the same two “guests” will be appearing. Yes, while the world is crumbling around us, and all hope seems to be dissipating into a vast darkness of despair and misery….we can find solace in knowing that Ian, Sean, and David will be around on alternating weeks to tell us a perfect Taco Bell menu.

Seriously, if you haven’t gotten around to hearing the magic that is Ian, Sean, and David, please stop what you are doing and check out this great episode of All Fantasy Everything, also featuring the very funny Chris Carpentier, Episode 36: Band Names from the HeadGum Podcast Network.

And as per usual, David’s involvement in AFE has led me to dive in and research some of his stand up work. And wouldn’t you bloody know it, his natural off the cuff brilliance on a podcast translates brilliantly on stage! Catching every video I could on line, I can easily state that Mr. Gborie is one of the finest young comics working today. And if ever given the chance to catch a live show, you can bet your sweet ass I will be down in front getting buck with laughter as he throws out one giggle worthy line after another.

I seriously can not say enough great things about this cat. I hope you enjoy these great words from a man I truly do hold in very high regard in the comedy world. He’s one of the best and brightest in the game, and he tends to surround himself with fellow brilliant individuals. I have a sincere feeling that if you are not aware of the work of David Gborie, simply wait a week. If you are a fan of comedy, somebody is bound to throw his name out there at ya. So ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the great David Gborie!

When did you first realize you were a hilarious human being, and you owed it to the world to share your brilliance with people across the land as a stand up comedian? What were some of your earliest influences?

Ah man I don’t think I ever thought directly that I was hilarious but I know that sometime in high school I decided that humor was the most important thing to me. Probably around the first time I saw Old School, I just really liked that these kinda dumb normal looking dudes used humor to be the coolest guys in the room. I felt like that reflected how I liked living my life and the kind of people I liked to be around. As far as stand up, I never really liked it that much growing up or anything like that. I honestly kind of thought it was corny. But then after high school my main man Sam Tallent started doing it and I slowly started seeing it wasn’t lame. Then I got a dui. Then I started standup.

I’ve learned that you began your stand up career in San Francisco, but do know that you are from a city that is renowned for being great for comedy, The Mile High city of Denver. After the success and the fan base that you have created around yourself, what is it like to go back to your hometown to do stand up? Are you still getting old high school chums coming out to see what you have been doing with yourself?

Well I’ve been going back and forth to Denver at least 3 times a year for extended stays since my first year in comedy so it sort of feels like I started there too. It’s always great going back! I’m good about staying away long enough to make sure I have new stuff every time I come back so it’s always exciting. Plus you can get real high a lot there which is fun. A few friends from high school come out and get too drunk sometimes and it’s always a bunch of fun. Those guys are great. It’s always nice to have them see that I’m doing good and that I’ve gone  totally hollywood. JK I’M ALL THE WAY REAL.

Since beginning as a stand up, you have managed to work all across the land making people laugh all over. What have been some places you have performed at that some people may not realize is a brilliant city to see a stand up show? Anywhere off the wall that you can remember having a wonderful time at?

I really enjoy traveling so it’s all pretty great to me. Going to a place for 4 days with no responsibilities other than talking about your dumb dick for 45 minutes a night is probably the best way to see the world. Everyone one is usually pretty nice and excited to show you all the cool parts of their weird little town so you basically just get the hits. I’ve found that I always have a really good time in Reno if that means anything.

Last winter you busted your proverbial TV nut with one of the best Conan spots I have seen in a LONG time. It was absolutely fantastic! So how was your first experience doing a late night TV spot? What level of nervous were you before going on?

Man that shit was pretty crazy. Even after I started I’m not sure if I ever fully bought into the idea that a dude like me could get on tv. I had been sleeping on couches for a little over three years straight the year before I did Conan so it was really dope to finally feel like all that had been leading to something. I wasn’t too nervous about performing because I had been practicing the set for a few months but then they let me add an extra joke the day of and I started freaking a little. I played it pretty cool though. That’s how I get down.

I am a HUGE fan of All Things Fantasy Everything, as it is one of the finest podcasts available now. How did you manage to hook up with my former homeland’s own Ian Karmel, our old friend & past TWS interviewee, the bean burrito king himself, Sean Jordan, to become the best “Throuple” in the podcast game? How did this amazing team of hilarious superheroes form?

It was all pretty organic. I’ve known Ian for years from stand up and twitter and stuff and knew Sean tangentially through the same shit. I think it was sometime after Bridgetown that Ian told me he was starting a podcast and he wanted me to be a frequent guest on and around the same time Sean Jordan moved to LA and we all had started hanging together a lot. Then we wrote and filmed Ian’s comedy central pilot and really bonded over that and now we get too buck together on the reg.

After so many appearances on AFE, what would you say has been your best pick, in any category, thus far?

I’m definitely proud of picking the Star Spangled Banner on the one hit wonders episode. People really went nuts over that one. I think it’s because it was a very creative pick from a swashbuckling risk-taker and people tend to find that kind of thing sexy.  I think that solidified me as the bad boy of AFE.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our reader(s)?

The future holds more AFEs more standup dates and a few more tv appearances and stuff. Follow my twitter and I’ll keep you updated. I promise

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I accidentally spilled a bunch of ground up marijuana on my naked body after my shower this morning and I laughed so hard I got lightheaded, which feels kind of like being high anyways so I like to think of it as a win-win.

Check out David’s now infamous appearance on Conan, courtesy of Team CoCo right here:

Sarah Wise [Interview]

 

Today’s interview is a real combination of aspects of the world of entertainment that I seriously enjoy just so much. One of them is brilliant writing, as we have showcased several times in the past. Another would be the exhilarating television show that has developed a very unique and deserving popularity, From Dusk Till Dawn. And on a more important note: I love to hear stories of bad ass women who are killing it in the world of television writing.

And as I mentioned, today’s amazing interviewee is involved with or excellent at being ALL of these things! Sarah Wise is an amazing young woman who has paved her own way in the world of television, and is absolutely amazing at what she does. Fans of From Dusk Till Dawn will definitely know what I am talking about. And what a story she has! On a proverbial wing and a prayer, Sarah made a courageous jump to reach the level she is at now.

And I will get to letting her tell you all about it! So ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some great words from the amazing writer, Sarah Wise!

How did you get into the world of television, and more specifically, television writing? What made you want to get into this way of life?

I’ve always loved writing and television, but it wasn’t until after college that I considered writing for television as a possible career path. I was working at The Walt Disney Company in Internal Communications during the era of Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives and decided to try my hand at writing a spec script. At the time I thought I wanted to be a comedy writer, so I took a stab at writing a spec of How I Met Your Mother. Ultimately I quit my cushy, regular, old office job and took a job as an Office Production Assistant on Raising Hope.

My next job was as a Writers’ Assistant on In Plain Sight, followed by Writers’ Assistant jobs on The Client List and From Dusk Till Dawn. I wrote a pilot script that was a good sample for From Dusk Till Dawn and gave it to our showrunner, Carlos Coto, to read. He liked it and promoted me to Staff Writer the following season.

You’ve been working on the television adaptation of From Dusk Till Dawn for a while now, and it is some of the best television I have seen in quite a while as well. And to most of us, it is obviously the writing that makes it so great. What is the writer’s dynamic like on this show? What you believe it is that is happening behind the scenes that makes it work so well?

First off, I have to give an immense amount of credit to Carlos Coto for fostering a wonderful space for the writers to create and for always driving us toward brilliant character moments and storylines. The original film was so unique and engaging and it gave us a lot of material to expand into a bigger universe.  I think all the writers on the show felt passionately about the characters and the Dusky world they inhabited and we always strove to put those characters in dark, challenging, funny and fresh circumstances. It was a very open room where every writer was allowed to voice their opinion and make suggestions to improve storylines.

When you are working for/with a person like Robert Rodriguez who happens to run the network in which a show will air, does it feel a bit more freeing than working for one of the major cable networks? Is there a noticeable difference?

Robert Rodriguez is sort of the tastemaker of the El Rey Network. In a regular major cable network, I don’t think you write as much toward one person’s preference, but you write a show that hopefully fits the brand of the network, and the network executives are there to help you hit that mark. Our showrunner got notes directly from Robert so we got very specific feedback if a story we were working on jived with his sensibilities.  It definitely streamlined the process to have a direct line to Robert.

It certainly feels that although it is 2017, and times should have changed, that women are severely outnumber and underrepresented in the world of film and television when it comes to writers, directors, cinematographers, and more. In your professional opinion, as someone who is actively working in this world, what do you believe it is that is continuing to guide this old school “Boy’s Club” mentality? What needs to change?

Oh man, I wish I had a punchy, smart answer for this. I think people tend to gravitate toward people who are like them, and there seems to be a lot of older men in entertainment mentoring and hiring younger men that remind them of themselves. That’s why it’s wonderful when someone like Ava DuVernay has an opportunity to hire directors for her series, Queen Sugar, and she hires a bunch of “untested” female indie film directors. There’s a self-perpetuating cycle in Hollywood where you can’t get hired to work on a project unless you have experience, but obviously you can’t get experience unless you get hired to work on a project.

People have been aware of this underrepresentation for many years now, but clearly awareness is not moving the needle in a significant way. I think a proactive move to give more opportunities to female creators might start to nudge the door open. That doesn’t mean mandating that 50% of all films or TV shows should be written and directed by women (though that would be nice), but I’ve heard anecdotes of studios putting together potential director lists for upcoming films that don’t include a single woman. If you don’t even give a woman an opportunity to interview for a job, she’s clearly not going to get the job. That absolutely needs to change.

What is next for you? Any projects you can tell us about and that our readers should be looking forward to?

I’m shopping around a TV series concept – I can’t speak to specifics at the moment, but hopefully I will have some good news soon!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I finished the first draft of a new pilot this morning!  After many weeks of eating, breathing and dreaming in that world, it’s an incredible feeling to have a completed script.

Sunday Matinee: Mighty Ground [Film]

“The film takes an in depth look of how African American homeless people are treated in our world today and our broken system of race and economic class. The film follows homeless singer Ronald Troy Collins as he struggles throughout his days by singing to people on the streets of downtown Los Angeles and showcases his journey from the streets to uplifting people with his gift of song. This is the second documentary feature from multitalented African American female director Delila Vallot (Can You Dig This, LAFF award winner 2015).”

 

Grab the tissues folks, you are in for a wild emotional ride with The Mighty Ground. Homelessness is not a secret to anyone I am certain, but this amazing documentary shines a whole new light on a seriously dark subject matter. The story of Ronald Troy Collins is one of specificity and unique qualities, yet his situation is not uncommon and is a matter that needs to be discussed more in our common society. Director Delila Vallot does a fantastic job in combining the specificity with a true problem that affects so many people.

There are some documentaries that are able to viewed as “impactful” and “powerful” simply based around the subject matter. And Delila had the opportunity to cash in on this simplicity, but I am here now to say that she definitely DID NOT do so. Her stylized imagery and up close and uncomfortable look into the world of Collins is unprecedented and a thing of real beauty. When Ronald sings to the common passerby, you see all of him. You see his soul. You see the painful struggles of man and the beauty that lies within all of us if we are willing to look hard enough. I would be a damned liar if I didn’t say that I was choking up at moments, and finished the film feeling as though there is some good in the world knowing a piece of art like this can exist.

(SPOILERS) After a few bumps in the proverbial road, we can say full confidence that Ronald has found his stride and is now putting his talents to good use. He recently performed with the Urban Renewal Project on July 13th at The Federal Underground in Long Beach. And is only continuing to flourish in his career. I hope everybody gets a moment to check out this film, and feel the sort of hope filled joy that I experienced, and for more information on what Mr. Collins may have coming up, Like his artist page on Facebook!

Check out a nice trailer for The Mighty Ground that was created for the L.A. Film Festival right HERE:

 

 

Marc Jaffe [Interview]

 


Regular TWS readers are sure to notice that we have developed quite a fascination with the world of comedy over the last year. Especially in the world of comedy writing. It is without a doubt one of the most fascinating gigs we have invested time in and hope to continue to do so with regularity. And today is another great day for comedy fans, as we have the brilliant comedian and writer Marc Jaffe in the digital house!

Mr. Jaffe is naturally funny cat who had a great stint as a writer on a little show you may have heard of called Seinfeld. Like his TWS predecessors Peter Mehlman and Steve Skrovan, Marc is one of the geniuses who made this legendary program what it is today. Marc has also written everything from television pilots to plays to brilliant memoirs.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of Marc’s life is his work in the world of Parkinson’s research. For very personal reasons, which he will explain below, Marc Jaffe and his wife Karen have done some amazing work with their organization. They have raised a literal shit ton of money for Parkinson’s research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation. And they have a lovely event coming September 9th with Dominik Farinacci and Shenel Jones, with comedic hosting duties from the great Jimmy Dunn at the legendary Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. If you are anywhere near this event, I can not recommend this brilliant night of entertainment that supports a great cause. Check out Shaking With Laughter’s WEBSITE for details and tickets!

So without further rambling, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Marc Jaffe!

When did you first decide that you wanted to become involved in the world of comedy? Was it always a passion of yours from an early age, or did it just sort of happen?

I loved comedy as a kid. I would get comedy albums by Bill Cosby and Flip Wilson and Woody Allen. (At least one of those didn’t have scandalous sexual behavior.) I was always writing humorous poems or skits for school assignments or assemblies. Of course, I didn’t realize it could actually be a career until I was in graduate school for business and thought I wasn’t going to make it in a suit every day so it better be a viable career.

We have spoken with some of your fellow Seinfeld writers, Peter Mehlman and Steve Skrovan, and have had their take. But, how was your experience working on the show? Was it as pleasurable of an experience to work on as it was for the viewers to watch?

It was a privilege interacting with such great comedy minds as Jerry, Larry David and Larry Charles. I learned a lot and in retrospect I am humbled to look back on it and think that my work was worthy enough to be a part of theirs. When I was on staff, the very first full season, it was supposed to be a mid-season replacement show, so there wasn’t the time crunch many shows have. We were working on shows in September for January air, so it was relatively relaxed. (Larry David wouldn’t say he was ever relaxed.) There weren’t the staying up all night doing rewrites atmosphere. Larry and Jerry wrote together. That would change after the first season when new scripts were being worked on the same time as one was being produced so Jerry wouldn’t have time to write and act.

It was a great time to be there, with everyone kind of figuring out what this show was going to be. Then, most nights I would accompany Jerry to the Improv or other comedy clubs and work on and critique the stand-up bits that were going in the show. It was fun getting to hang with Jerry and meet other name comics in the clubs.

And in your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is about the show that has made it a full blown classic, and still completely relevant show today?

I think it’s about growing up and how hard that is, and how we wallow in our personal angst and our own little quirks and peccadilloes and in a way let them define us even while they keep us from having meaningful relationships. While the setting is specific and the characters are of a certain upbringing, the feeling and challenges of single 30 year olds in Western society is pretty universal, so it resonates today.

With all of the changes that have been happening in the world of comedy, with so many new arenas to enter like Netflix, podcasts, etc., what are your thoughts on the world of comedy these days? Do you believe things have worked for the better as more opportunities are brought upon those who wish to enter this world?

There is definitely more opportunity to get your stuff out there to find an audience. I have old videos and audio tape of things I did just starting out with friends who have gone on to be known comedians and directors, that we were just hoping to have as a calling card or entry to a producer somewhere. Now, that stuff would have been up on YouTube or on a podcast and we could have garnered a following and some income immediately which would have led to something else.

The downside is, much of what is put out there isn’t really ready and we benefited in the long run by being able to grow outside the public eye and without the responsibility of having to produce content. Though I would say the way it is today, because people who wouldn’t normally get an opportunity are able to, is much better.

The tough thing I can’t imagine trying to do now is keep up with the number of outlets there are. As a comedian, I used to get a video once every other year to send to producers or club bookers to get work and TV spots. When I came up with funny stuff it was for something to get paid – stand-up, magazine article, book proposal, TV show, movie. Much of what I wrote ended up going nowhere. Now, that stuff ends up on a blog or twitter and is necessary just to keep a public profile. I don’t know how people keep up. And I don’t know if it’s better to have all that output available where we have to sift through for the gems, or to have all that stuff be in the file cabinet where only the gems get out.

Can you tell us a bit about your organization Shaking with Laughter? What sort of things have you done with this noble non-profit to help with Parkinson’s research?

When someone you love is struck with a degenerative disease like Parkinson’s, you want to help, but there is little you can do to stop the progression. One thing you can do is help the research to maybe find a cure. That is done by participating in clinical trials which I have done, and by raising money for research. When my wife Karen was diagnosed about 10 years ago, I thought I could do that by putting together a show with some of my comedian and musician friends I’ve made over the years. (We kept her diagnosis a secret for 3 years so it took a while before we got it together.) I was figuring on a one-time show and thought maybe I could raise $20,000. I asked my old friend Dave Coulier if he would do it and he said yes. I also asked Wayne Cotter who I had worked with when he was the host of Comic Strip Live and he said yes, and I asked guitar great John Pizzarelli who I had met on the road, and he said yes. So it was an amazing show with two great comedians and the fabulous Pizzarelli quartet all doing it for free and we raised around $130,000! We called it Shaking With Laughter – my wife’s shaking, I’m laughter.
Once we we’re so successful we realized we had to keep doing this and on Sept. 9th we will present our 6th one and we expect it to bring us over the $1 million mark in funds raised. All our talent has been kind enough to donate their time for the performance and we are so grateful to them. Comedian-wise we have had Jake Johannsen, Wendy Liebman, Brian Regan, Moody McCarthy and this year Jimmy Dunn in addition to Dave and Wayne. It’s a really fun evening with great spirit and we really feel like great things are on the horizon in terms of a cure.
All the money we raise goes to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. They are creative, innovative and smart about leading research to the goal of a cure. Their goal is to close their doors and thus don’t have an endowment – every penny goes directly to research. Karen is on th Patient Advisory Council of the Fox Foundation.

So, what does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’ve been doing some stand-up again and will continue to do so sporadically. You can see me here Marc Jaffe, I wrote a play based on an interesting part of our journey with Parkinson’s that has had some runs, but I’m open to future opportunities with that. You can read a condensed version of it that appeared in the New York Times, Modern Love column here Finding Equilibrium in Seesawing Libidos (Updated With Podcast) And I’ve got an hysterical game show that we are trying to sell called BONK. (Doesn’t have the same meaning in the States) We call it Jeopardy meets the Three Stooges. You can learn about that here. http://www.bonkshow.com/ And, finally my book about my life with my wife before Parkinson’s, when she was a working OB/GYN is available on Amazon. It was picked up by Danny DeVito’s production company to be a sitcom but didn’t get past the pilot stage. The book is still a lot of fun though. You can find it HERE.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

With my wife in a park that had a playground. We got on the teeter-totter (see-saw). We turned into kids again. So much fun seeing her so happy.