Shelley Callahan [Interview]

Hello Folks! Welcome Part II of our showcase on the brilliant Children Incorporated. Today we have a wonderful interview with the group’s Director of Development, the brilliant Shelley Callahan! She has some more information to tell us about Children Incorporated and more, and we are so honored that she is gracing our digital pages to tell us a bit about her work with this amazing organization.

So Folks, please enjoy these amazing words from the great Shelley Callahan!

Can you tell us about how Children Incorporated came to light? What inspired you to become a part of such a noble cause?

Our founder, Jeanne Clarke Wood, started Children Incorporated in 1964 out of her home after personally witnessing the deprivation of children in Guatemala. She began by simply writing letters to seek assistance for the 95 children she met on her travels, and today, thanks our supporters around the world, we now have work with nearly 300 projects in 23 countries and have served more than 300,000 children.

I started working with Children Incorporated in 2014 after having spent eight years working with a non-profit that I founded called Books on Wheels. Books on Wheels provided free books to children living in low-income neighborhoods around the United States. I traveled around in a school bus promoting literacy. It was amazing.  Around that time, I also go involved with a few international non-profits – one that ran a medical clinic in Haiti, and another that provide clean water solutions to indigenous populations around the globe. From those experiences, I grew to learn about the importance of giving back and working hard to give the poor a voice, and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to working for an organization like Children Incorporated that did just that.

Can you share any examples of how Children Incorporated has impacted the lives and well being of children? Is there a particular event you can tell us about that people should know about?

We touch the lives of so many children every day! I just returned from a trip to visit our affiliated projects in Guatemala and met with many of our sponsored children there. Because of our work, kids from dangerous neighborhoods are getting an education in safe environments, and they are learning skills such as sewing, cooking, and computer repair that will help them get jobs when they graduate. Its more than just helping kids in the present – we work to ensure that children also have a chance at a brighter future.

I really love our On the Road blog series, where I have opportunity to share stories from children and families we support. It is incredible how we are able to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world by focusing on their individual needs – from providing them with food and clothes, to shelter and medical care, to mattresses to eyeglasses– the list just goes on and on.

https://childrenincorporated.org/category/on-the-road/

 

What is the best way that folks can help your organization succeed? 

Children Incorporated provides for the needs of impoverished children through two primary approaches: our sponsorship program and our special funds. Sponsorship provides an underprivileged child with basic and education-related necessities such as food, clothing, healthcare, school supplies, and tuition payments.

This vital support allows kids to develop to their full potential – physically, emotionally, and socially. Sponsors positively impact the lives of the children they sponsor through the simple knowledge that someone cares about their well being. This gives children in need hope, which is powerful.

Individual, one-time donations to one of our many special funds support feeding programs, income-generating projects, health and education assistance programs, as well as critical projects like school expansions, medical clinic repairs, housing improvements, and more.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Children Incorporated is located in Richmond, Virginia, and there is a great publication in our city called RVAMAG, which reports on all sorts of issues while also having fun. Today they posted a picture on their Instagram of a hedgehog pretending to be a pineapple, and it is quite literally the cutest thing I have ever seen.

 

Learn more about Children Incorporated at their website:

https://childrenincorporated.org/

 

Philanthropy Thursday: Children Incorporated [Feature]

When you think about it, charity can be a tough business.  As Larissa MacFarquhar writes in her best seller Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, “The life of a zealous do-gooder is a kind of human sublime…confronting it, you see its formidable nobility, and at the same time, you sense uncomfortably that you would not survive it for long.”

That sublime ambition is what Children Incorporated tries to bring to its donors and supporters – a sense of connecting someone who can give with someone who so desperately needs help.  Since 1964, Children Incorporated has extended its reach to over 250,000 children, spread across 23 countries and through over 300 programs and outreach projects. Operating without religious or political affiliation, and with a lean staff of 16 located at headquarters in Virginia, sponsorship donations and volunteer support are the lifeblood of the organization.

For people like Shelley Callahan, Director of Development for Children Incorporated, the everyday work of global charity relief is less of a superhuman exercise in sublime divinity than it is simply magnifying the many generous actions of donors, supporters, and others who can only give “a little.”  “Working for Children Incorporated has made me a much more considerate and patient person,” Callahan observes, “but it’s also made me realize that the most important thing anyone can do is give back. You can do something small, and make a huge difference.”

Since it was founded by Jeanne Clarke Wood in 1964, Children Incorporated has engaged in direct sponsorship of specific children.  After witnessing poverty on a trip to Guatemala, Wood began writing letters to friends and colleagues asking for donations that would specifically match them with one of the 95 children she met on her travels.  Since then, all of the organization’s work has revolved around connecting donors to individual children. As the organization reaches these children all around the world, they also find ways to engage in other local projects and relief efforts that help improve the children’s lives from the outside as well.

Direct sponsorship is behind one of Children Incorporated’s current high-profile projects, inspired by the 20th anniversary of the self-help best-seller Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.  The book proved a boom for Children Incorporated in 1997 when Carlson wrote about giving to charity, “There are many find agencies to choose from, but my personal favorite is Children Incorporated…the experience has brought tremendous joy and satisfaction to my family.”  “Dr. Carlson’s mention was one of the most meaningful things to ever happen to our organization,” says Callahan. “Thousands of impoverished children were helped as a result.” Now, Carlson’s widow Kristine is continuing that legacy, partnering with Children Incorporated to generate 2000 new sponsorships, with the Richard Carlson Memorial Foundation pledging $5000 in matching donations.  

For Callahan, working on behalf of Children Incorporated involves travel to points near (Appalachia, the inner city, and the reservation) and far (the rainforests of Bolivia and Southeast Asia).  Callahan not only manages the organization’s communications, but is the social correspondent for the web series “On the Road,” where she is able to highlight individual and community success stories and bring evidence of the effectiveness of donor support into the digital spotlight.

Her job also means celebrating the recent accomplishments of Children Incorporated’s successful community based projects, such as the recent effort to add seven classrooms to a school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  “It’s easy to see the impact of these projects on the lives of individuals,” explains Callahan, “but we also see how the entire community benefits.” The new classrooms, for example, meant that there could be adult literacy classes offered at night for the first time, and members of the community have pooled their resources to buy AC units for the new buildings.  “We can claim that our reach is more than twice as much as the individual children we directly sponsor, because it always includes siblings, family members, neighbors, and others who benefit.”

 


The same goes for another project in Bolivia, Villa Emelia, a home for women who are transitioning from living on the streets.  “It’s a place to stay, with their children, as well as a factory that makes garments and school uniforms to give them new job skills and work towards sustainable living situations.”  The Catholic nuns who have partnered with Children Incorporated in the region have also developed a program where they purchase property that the women can pay the mortgage on as they earn.  “They had eight plots of land that were ready to go, and we were able to step in with the funding needed to actually build new homes.”

Callahan explains that each new project must be carefully planned and vetted before donors are approached for support.  “We always have a general idea about what we can do, but we need to assess everything before we fundraise, and then look to our existing donor base and ask them is this what they would want to support?”  Looking towards visits to Sri Lanka and India this summer, Callahan says that recent efforts are geared towards broader environmental issues like clean water solutions, as well as the more traditional efforts of providing shelter, clothing, and basics for sponsored individual children.

While many efforts are focused overseas –such as providing growing shoes and group homes to children in Costa Rica and Nicaragua – Children Incorporated also has projects in several states, notably in the Appalachian region.  “We have a lot of coordinators in Kentucky that have made for a great partnership, but we also have programs for children in Arizona and New Mexico, and inner cities like Detroit, and locally in Richmond and Washington DC,” Callahan explains.  “Most people think of urban poverty, but rural poverty in the mountains is a real challenge. Beyond the beautiful scenery, you have kids who live miles away from their schools, where the only transportation might be the school bus, with roads that are inaccessible in the winter.  Many of these kids live with extended family, separated from their parents because of abuse or neglect.” While American children, unlike their foreign peers, are at least guaranteed some sort of education and basic health care, they still lack many of the basics. One of Children Incorporated’s more successful programs is “Backpack Feeding” – literally stuffing kids’ backpacks full of easy-to-make food on a Friday, since they might not have access to food until school resumes on Monday.  “Poverty looks different in the U.S.,” says Callahan, “but no child is better or worse off – poverty has an impact wherever it is. Our programs remind kids that someone is looking out for them when they don’t have that anywhere else in their life.”

That brings Callahan back to the central point of the mission she shares with Children Incorporated:  the life of charity isn’t at all about realizing the potential of her own goodness, but simply a way to facilitate and magnify the generosity of others.  “There’s so much that each person can do for a child’s confidence,” she reflects. “I didn’t realize how privileged I was to have parents who kept me safe and educated and encouraged me to do things, until I meet children that didn’t have that. We don’t have to be superheroes to make a difference – I don’t do anything out of the ordinary except to tell these stories and be a voice for the voiceless.  We just want people to understand that it’s very easy to give back, it’s important to do something outside of yourself, because every gesture you make in that regard, whether it’s for Children Incorporated or somewhere else, is very valuable.”

 Grammy-award winning artist Rosanne Cash who has been a supporter of Children Incorporated for 30 years sums it up perfectly:

“The personal attention to the children and programs is exceptional and rare, but what is really unique about Children Incorporated is that they know who they are. They have a vision for their best, most productive self; one that retains their uniqueness and effectiveness, and they are acting on realizing that vision. You can trust them. You will know you are truly helping real children, in real time, and you will know how every penny you give is spent.”

Learn more about Children Incorporated at their website:

https://childrenincorporated.org/

 

STAY TUNED FOR PART II ON CHILDREN INCORPORATED, COMING TOMORROW (SEPT. 14TH) WITH A WONDERFUL INTERVIEW WITH SHELLEY CALLAHAN HERSELF!!!

Dendrie Taylor [Interview]

Hello Folks! We have another incredible interview for you all today. I have to admit, this is a big one for me! And honestly, it is insane how relevant Dendrie Taylor is what we have already created here at Trainwreck’d Society. Most recently, Dendrie appeared in the wonderful indie film 1/1 that we covered earlier this year, and is still one of the finest films of the year. And then of course she was a pivotal role on our beloved Sons of Anarchy! She is our fourth SOA regular to appear on the site, and we are so honored that she wanted to talk to us a bit about the series, and so much more.

And I have to give another quick plug to the film 1/1. Dendrie is amazing in it, and so is everyone else! I can pretty much promise you that you will hear about this film again in the coming months. We do have to do a best of the year list after all, and there will have to be a LOT of wonderful films coming out in the next 3 months to push this beautiful film out of the running!

So Folks, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Dendrie Taylor!

What drew you to the world of performance? When did you first decide that this was the world in which you wanted to make a living in?

There was a show on when I was a kid called, Million Dollar Movie – every Sunday they would show a Shirley Temple movie, then a classic movie musical. I fell in love with Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Syd Charisse, and the great “Old Hollywood” Stars. I was a gymnast, but I spent an awful lot of time creating musical numbers for my teammates and myself to perform. I choreographed my gymnastic floor routine to An American in Paris. I knew by age ten that I wanted to be an actress. I love the magic and joy that all those films created for me and wanted to be a part of that world and a part of creating joy, laughter and light. Even though the world, and the world of entertainment has changed drastically,  I really have not changed – 40 years later – love of theater magic and joy compels me to keep adapting and trying.

What was your very first on screen performance that you can remember watching? Can you recall what exactly you were doing at the time?

My father was a television news director, but his first love was theater. He was a tremendously talented artist and creative person. My mother was a dancer and my life was filled with not only my parents influence, but that of all of their creative friends, dancers, writers, actors, musicians. It was a very eclectic upbringing. Two early performances come to mind as being influential.

The first was on stage when I was very young, maybe 4, I was a part of a dance my mother choreographed and performed – I remember that she was absolutely beautiful and weightless, but then, afterward when she picked me up to hug me, how sweat she was!

The second, and seminal film influence, was when may father took me to the Grauman’s Chinese Theater to see Singing In The Rain. I was about 5 years old – and again I fell in love. Both memories have to do with my parents, so I’m sure they were my greatest influence.

I was recently blown away by your performance in the film 1/1, which is one of my favorites of 2018 thus far. You had a very conflicting role that I believe you pulled off magnificently. So, what drew you to this project? What was it about Joan made you want to take on this role?

Thank you for your kind words. I was very happy to have the chance to work with Judd, and loved the complexity of Joan. The script was so interesting, deep, dark and lovely. Really a visual poem. I am always drawn to Art – and Joan was a type character that I had not played before. I really enjoyed her lack of sentimentality, but great love for her daughter at the same time. I think it’s a beautiful film.

In the past few years we have been fortunate enough to speak a few of your fellow Sons of Anarchy alum (McNally Sagal, Michael Ornstein, & Christopher Douglas Reed) about this absolutely legendary series. And the character that you brought to life, Luann Delaney, was an absolutely crucial and pivotal role that I felt so heart broken to watch being taken away. So, what was it like to portray a character like Luann in the SAMCRO universe? What did you enjoy the most about working on a show like this?

I was lucky to be a part of the show from the pilot forward and, of course, was sad about Luann’s untimely death. I loved the cast, Charlie is a true gentleman as well as wonderful actor. My take on Luann was that she had to be a very intelligent, crafty and tough women to have survived in the world she lived in – pornography and the gang. I also felt it was true love between Luann and Otto. I really loved playing her.


In more recent years, you had a brilliant role in the truly original and insanely hilarious show American Vandal on Netflix. A show like this was quite the departure from a lot of the other work I have watched you in. But in the same vein as SoA, I am curious to know what it was like to work on a project like this? What was set life like working closely with a guy like Larry Joe Campbell around?

OMG – I loved working on that show – it was like a breath of sunshine. Everyone was so incredibly talented on both sides of the camera – so detailed and committed to the show. It was a completely wonderful experience and I love so much the finished series. Proud to be in it.

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

I did a show for HBO called Room 104 – episode 6, “Voyeurs” – that I am really honored to have done. Produced by the Duplass brothers, who are absolutely incredible to work with/ for. I did a supporting part in an Indie with them called, Paddleton.  I believe it will be out next year.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My daughter.

Julie Dolan [Interview]

 


Hello Folks! We are kicking the week off with an amazing interview with the multi-faceted performer, Julie Dolan! For die hard Star Wars fans, you are going to absolutely love this one! Or if you are just a fan of genuinely talented human beings, you should definitely enjoy this one.

I initially reached out to Julie for a pretty specific purpose. Which would be the fact that she appeared in one of my favorite comedic films that is turning 20 years this year! That film would be BASEketball, in which Dolan portrayed the Beer Barrel Mascot. And as it usually happens, I learned a lot more about her incredible career, especially her work in the beloved Star Wars franchise.

And we are so damn excited that the great Julie Dolan has been kind enough to grace our digital pages! So please enjoy some wonderful words from this amazing performer! Check it out!

When did you first realize that you wanted to join the world of performance? What was it that initially drew you into this world?

I first realized I wanted to join the world of performance when I was 3 years old. I remember watching TV and I saw Shirley Temple and I pointed to the TV, looked at my mom and said “Mama that’s what I want to do.”  So at 3 years old I was in ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatic classes. When I was 9, the dance school offered an acting class and I jumped right in. Got my first agent and started going on auditions.

 
 
 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the hilarious film BASEketball, in which you appeared in as the heroes team mascot! I am curious to know what it was like to work on such a zany and hilarious project such as this? Was it as fun to work on as it was for us to watch?

Wow has it been 20 years?  I had been doing a lot of costume character work at Universal Studios, in TV shows, Feature Films  (I was in Beverly Hills Cop III dancing with Eddie Murphy as “Prescott Pig”, Thank-you-Mom-and-dad-for-the-dance-lessons haha) There was an audition looking for somebody that had experience in a costume work to be the Beer Barrel Mascot for BASEketball.  I think they hired some guy and he felt a little claustrophobic in a Beer Barrel so I got the call last minute and ended up working on the whole film. It was a joy to go to work each morning. Trey Parker is a brilliantly funny and clever guy. He kept the cast and crew entertained 24/7 . He and Matt Stone are a great team and Dian Bachar (who played Squeek) and I are still good friends to this day. I had a blast working on that film and being directed by David Zucker was the icing on the cake!

 
Recently you have done some wonderful Voice Over work, especially within a few animated series for portraying the infamous Princess turned General Leia. What was it like to take on such a pivotal character in the Star Wars franchise? Were you a die hard fan of the series prior to taking on these gigs?
 

I, of course, saw the first Star Wars movie (A New Hope) back in 1977 when it first premiered, BUT.. I was not a die-hard fan. Not like I am now. In 2010, I got a call from my Voice Over agent who asked me “Can you sound like Carrie Fisher from A New Hope?” My answer was “Ummm I have NO clue”. I was asked to record the Obi Wan Kenobi⠝ speech. Had no idea what this was for. Disney/Lucasfilms sent me the original recording so I could try and voice match her. I  worked on it . . to match her pitch, her gait, her emotion, her rhythm. and then I sent in my recording. I was called into Disney Imagineering with 2 other girls (after they had auditioned about 400 girls and even brought Carrie Fisher in to see if she could reprise her voice but it just wasn’t the right fit.) I ended up booking the job and it is the role of the Princess Leia hologram that you see and hear in the ride “Star Tours: The Adventures Continue” at Disneyland.

A couple of years later, I got a call from Dave Filoni to come in and meet with him and do a small project in-house for Lucasfilms. Then I found out he wanted to use me for Star Wars Rebels so I felt I had a lot of work to do digging deep down to find out who Princess Leia was and what her goals were and what she was all about so I watched all six of the movies over and over (there were only 6 at that time). I read everything I could find about Princess Leia because when you’re playing a character you have to know who she is, what she wants, who her parents are, what her passions are etc. After watching all of the movies, I actually started getting into all the stories and the characters and I think I am officially now a Star Wars nerd. I’m also an honorary member of the 501st which I’m very proud of. It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to reprise the role of Princess Leia for so many different Disney/Lucasfilm projects and I will be forever grateful because it’s opened up a whole new world for me. I have a whole new fan family and when I go on the road to conventions, I get to meet them and they’re absolutely fabulous.

 
 
 

Scrolling through your IMDb credits, I noticed that you were tapped on multiple occasions to portray different variations of a “Lady of the Night” if you will, on various programs hosted by Conan O’Brien. This seems like an interesting and hilarious gig. I am curious to know how that all went down for you? How has your experience been working within the world of Team Coco?

Yes, ha ha for some reason I’ve made my living playing hookers and madams. (and now Princesses hah) I actually started on The Tonight Show when Conan was the host. Then when they moved to Late Night with Conan O’Brien, they brought me along with them. For years I was their Go-to-Gal every time they needed someone to play a hooker/prostitute. It was a blast and a joy every time I got the call. They’d call me the night before (because they are writing and re-writing skits every day and have no idea what’s coming up.) Some skits make it on, some don’t. It’s very last minute. They are even re-writing jokes as the audience is filing into the studio. You get the immediate feedback from a live audience and the crew and Conan are so open to having fun and playing.

 

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

No I’m done. Ha Ha, just kidding! I just finished working on a movie called Chompy and the Girls. It’s a surrealist horror comedy with a great storyline about relationships. It should be released later this year. I start working on a movie called Tiger Within with Ed Asner in a couple of weeks directed by Rafal Zielinski & written by Gina Wendkos who wrote Coyote Ugly & The Princess Diaries among others.

I also play keyboards in a couple of working Tribute/Cover bands.

Tribute to Bryan Adams – Summer of 69: (www.summerof69tribute.com)

Tribute to INXS – INXSIVE (www.inxstributeband.com)

All Female Classic Rock Band – The Under Cover Girls (www.ucgband.com)

We play shows all over the United States and out of the country when we can.

 

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile was this question!!  But before that… It was my 11 year old, 110 pound Pitbull named Bosco running through the house shaking his new toy knocking knick-knacks off shelves.

Sunday Matinee: Revenge [Film]

“Travelling under a false identity, Rebekka sets out on a mission to confront Morten Holand whom she shares a dark secret surrounding the death of her sister. As her plan falls apart, Rebekka is forced to face the devastating consequences of her actions and must decide how far she is willing to go to seek revenge.” – October Coast PR

Folks, I have to preface this by saying that if you are even remotely thinking about watching this film….strap in! Revenge is a brilliant thriller set against a beautiful Norwegian backdrop with some absolutely amazing performances. I usually get a bit nervous when starting a film that really sets up the premise and story very early. I know from film watching experience that it takes a certain kind of talented filmmaker and/or writer to keep the momentum going until the inevitable conclusion. Even if you don’t know what exactly will happen, you know a confrontation is imminent. And I have to say that Kjersti Steinsbø absolutely nailed it, and has created one of the finest films of recent years!

While it would behoove me to mention the incredible performances by folks like Frode Winther (who is so good at being hated!), Helene Bergsholm, Trond Espen Seim, and others…the performances that really stood out to be is not only from the film’s lead, the brilliant Siren Jørgensen who is so close to perfect it’s frightening, but also the amazing Anders Baasmo Christiansen. Now to be fair, Anders was handed a wonderfully written character to work with. I was honestly worried about what direction his character, Bimbo, was going to take. But, even with the perfectly written character, execution is everything. And I believe that Mr. Christiansen executed this role absolutely perfectly. And going back to Siren, just bloody brilliant! Another greatly written character, but with obvious motives, it was a character that was obviously a bit harder to execute. And again, she crushed it!

As most of you readers know, we don’t even cover films that we aren’t fans of here at Trainwreck’d Society. So technically, we would probably recommend every film we showcase here. But this one, Folks, you absolutely HAVE to see. I was so enamored by this brilliant put together film with a Norwegian backdrop that almost seemed unfair to other films that aren’t set in such a magnificent location! I’ve enjoyed Revenge so much that I have made a mental note to check out the work of not only the filmmaker, but everyone involved with this amazing project. And I am certain that you will to after only one viewing of this incredible film. Check it out Folks! I guarantee you will not be disappointed

 

 

Justin Hunt [Interview]

Photo by Ben Chrisman

Oh hot damn, do we have a wonderful interview for you fine folks today! We have some amazing words from the brilliant filmmaker Justin Hunt! In 2007 he released one of the most compelling documentary films of all time entitled American Meth that really drove home the issues of meth addiction and the terrible consequences of falling into this world.

And beyond American Meth, Justin has only continued to put out some very amazing work, both in the feature film and documentary world. Justin’s list of credits are so delightfully varied, covering several different topics from drug addiction, to pornography, and beyond.

I am so honored that Justin was able to share a few words with us here today. He has had an amazing career that actually did not start in the world of film. He has an amazing story to tell, and we are so excited to share it with you all today! So check it out!

I understand you started your career at a very young age in the world of television broadcasting. So, what led you to the world of documentary filmmaking from your previous field? Was it a seamless transition overall?

After learning just how much I disliked the corporate structure of broadcast journalism, I started my own video production company while still anchoring for an NBC affiliate in New Mexico.  After a year or so of doing those things concurrently, I left TV and focused on my company.  In 2005, I challenged myself to take on a bigger project, a feature length documentary, which eventually became American Meth.  When we screened that film for the first time in 2007, I was hoping to get 100 people or so to come out and watch the film.  Over 2,000 people showed up and that’s when I think I realized that I was capable of a lot more than I gave myself credit for.  That’s really where the fire started burning for the documentary films.  And, in all honesty, it really was a seamless transition because what are documentary films other than just longer news stories.  Plus, with the one-man banding I was doing at NBC, making a film on my own was no different.  I shot them, wrote them, produced, financed, edited, everything.  With Absent and The Speed of Orange, I even narrated them.  It was no different than being a news man, simply on a larger scale and with a lot more eyes on them.

American Meth is without a doubt an absolute modern classic in the world of documentary filmmaking. I am curious to know what it was like to dive into such a truly disturbing world? And what are your thoughts on the impact that your film has had on the country as a whole?

First of all, thank you for that compliment. I’m not a person who reflects a lot on past accomplishments or completed projects, so I’m often surprised when someone says something like that about a film I’ve done.  Calling it a modern classic is a humbling statement, so thank you.  Whether with American Meth, or any of the other films, walking into those worlds as a filmmaker leaves a lasting impression on you, things stick to you, like the smell of smoke on curtains.  Especially spending time in the home of James and Holly in AM, you go into this subconscious reporter mode, where everything is two-dimensional because you’re seeing it all through a viewfinder.  It’s only after the fact, when you’re going through footage and editing, that you see things more realistically and you realize you were just dealing with some crazy shit.  I’ll give you a perfect example:  there is a scene in American Meth where James and Holly are arguing with each other, screaming, the kids are bouncing around the room, it’s chaos.  While they’re yelling at each other, one of the little boys, who was 6 or 7 years old at the time, walks right in between them and pretends to hold gun up to his dad’s head and shoot him. I never noticed that until two or three years after the film came out.  It’s then that you realize what a unstable, ugly situation you were actually in.

As far as the impact it’s had, I’d like to think that it’s helped people.  I can attest to hundreds if not thousands of emails and letters that I’ve received over the past decade from people whose lives have been improved by learning more about that issue through the film.  It’s still extremely popular as far as distribution is concerned, still watched a lot, so I’m hopeful that it’s still serving a positive purpose.

How did Val Kilmer become involved with the project? Were you simply old friends, or did he have some sort of vested interested in the subject matter?

I’ve always loved this question because the answer tends to throw people off.  I simply called and asked and he said yes.  That’s it.  I used some old reporter skills to track down the number to his ranch in New Mexico, called and left a message and the next day they called back and said he’d do it.  In my opinion, I think that there were a few variables that piqued his interest.  I was a fellow New Mexican, I was a young filmmaker that he wanted to help and I think he appreciated that I had the balls to call and ask.  Also, not long before that, he’d done The Salton Sea, where he portrays a meth addict, so I’m sure he’d gained an appreciation for the devastating nature of the drug and wanted to help get the word out.

In 2015 you took the subject of meth addiction to the scripted world with the film Far Too Far. When comparing a narrative film with a documentary, which would you say was the more difficult format in which to express the true terror of the world of meth addiction?

First, I have to say that the process of making Far Too Far was a dream come true for me, to a degree.  Despite the success with the documentaries, my love has always been with narratives and I have been striving my entire career to get into that marketplace.  Writing, directing, or both, would be the dream job for me.  I want to be a part of that history of film.  I’m extremely proud of the story I told with Far Too Far, I simply didn’t have the finances or the seasoned talent to tell it properly.  I challenged myself to make it and I did, but I’d love to eventually see it made right.  Having said that, I would definitely say the more difficult format to express the nature of meth addiction is the documentary.  Sure, we could go into a meth house and show people shooting up and capture all that salacious bullshit, but I think that’s irresponsible filmmaking that exploits people.  I’m not into that at all.  Case in point, look at what we did with Addicted to Porn: Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly.  There’s not a single provocative image in that film because what good does that do?  It just hurts those dealing with the issue.  In the narrative arena, you have creative control over what is said and shown.  You can tell the story in a more effective manner setting up situations and conversations in a controlled environment. Also, in a doc, you can’t control everything that people say and do, nor can you show everything that you see and hear.  If so, most documentaries would be five or six hours long.  Most people don’t know this (because most people don’t know about Far Too Far), but Far Too Far is actually a purging of what was left over in my mind from the making of American Meth.  I took some of the horrible things I was exposed to while making the documentary and turned it into a narrative script.  For example, the primary story line about the mother and daughter is a true story.  What the woman does to her ear at the party…true story.  That’s why I believe the narrative landscape actually gives you more space to create the truth of a story.

In your illustrious career thus far, you have covered a lot of different situations and events. I am curious to know how you decide what you want to showcase next? How do you choose what you want to show the world?

That’s a great question and the answer isn’t a very clear one, for you or for me.  Situations in life seem to present themselves to me and then the light comes one.  American Meth was the result of a Christian men’s retreat I was on.  Absent was spawned from a couple of different books that I’d read and the fact that I was a single father raising two kids on my own.  The Speed of Orange was brought about by my mother being diagnosed with cancer.  Addicted to Porn: Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly started with a conversation with an old friend I went to high school with.  The seeds get planted and start germinating in my brain, then I start really thinking through what kind of impact they might have, and, finally, I have to consider what it would take to make them and if they’d be marketable.  I’d love to be able to say I’m independently wealthy and I’m just making these films to take on issues that others don’t have the courage to, but I do have to consider the business side of things, as well.  As far as what’s next, I’m really not sure.  ATP took me over four years to make and was extremely taxing on me financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually.   In essence, it knocked the wind out of my documentary-making sails.  But, you never know what might come along and garner my attention.  I think I’m good at making documentaries, but I also know that, to me, each one needs to be better than the last.  If an idea comes along that I feel can do that, I might make another doc.  Otherwise, I’ll just keep doing what I do to make a living and keep looking for opportunities to write and/or direct narratives.

In your work as a documentarian and storyteller, you have covered some very dark subject matter whilst profiling real people who are living in these sad and sometimes dangerous worlds. So with that, do you ever manage to keep in touch with any of the folks you profile? Have you noticed any sort of individual impact after somebody has been featured in one of your films?

There have been a handful of people who I’ve stayed in contact with, but not a ton.  It’s just like anything else, there are some people you connect with and some you don’t.  I’ve stayed fairly close with James Hetfield, Johnny Tapia’s family, some of the folks from American Meth, a few people from ATP.  I have definitely seen some positive impact from the films on those I’ve featured, but I’ve also seen it have a negative outcome for others.  People in the public forum can be quite brutal in their comments about documentaries and the interviewees therein.  That’s why I always try to be very upfront with someone I’m going to interview about the magnitude of exposure they’re going to be getting.

Photo by Ben Chrisman

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

The future looks pretty bright for us at the moment.  I basically decided to reinvent myself and my company about six months ago.  After 16 years of being Time & Tide Productions, we changed the name of the company to White Whale Pictures, Inc., got a new logo, a new office and started focusing on new kinds of work.  Although my main focus is writing/directing feature narratives, we have just signed with an agency for an episodic television show I created, I’m working on a feature script I’ve been commissioned to write (and hopefully direct), and we’re keeping things fresh by working on a myriad of different creative projects in the corporate/commercial marketplace.  Naturally, I’d love for folks to continue watching my films when and where they can and I’m sure this interview will help.  We’re really trying to grow a bigger presence on social media with the new company, so I’d like to personally invite people reading this to come follow us on Instagram at @whitewhalepictures.  Other than that, just keep an eye out for whatever we throw out there next!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My wife and four year old have been in South Africa for the past seven weeks, so my 17 year old son and I have been bachelors for the past two months.  I’d have to say the last thing that made me smile is watching all of the little indicators that he’s becoming a man, and a good one at that.  And, naturally, the young buck has to test the alpha male, so the wrestling matches, arm punches and giving each other shit has been a ton of fun.  There’s nothing like the feeling of being a dad, which is a very noble role, and realizing you’ve done a good job.

Check out the trailer for American Meth right here:

Sarah Minnich [Interview]

Today’s guest here at Trainwreck’d Society is one of the finest young talented performers of these modern times. Sarah Minnich has had an incredible first decade of performances thus far, and her future only gets more and more bright with each passing year. Since appearing in the delightfully campy horror film, Spring Break Massacre, Sarah has gone on to have a re-occuring role on the hit series Better Call Saul, and has appeared on other amazing shows such as From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Breaking Bad, Preacher, Godless, and so many more.

As you will read below, Sarah also has some pretty amazing films and TV appearances coming soon, including a lead role in a very intriguing Lifetime film. She has so much to tell us about, so let’s just get right into it! Please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Sarah Minnich!

When did you first realize that you wanted to work in the world of acting? Was it a deep-rooted passion you have always had, or did you just find yourself in this life out of nowhere?

Interestingly enough, I both did know and didn’t know… let me explain. From an early age, I knew I wanted to be in front of the camera. My father is a photographer, and literally from the moment I was born, I was in front of the camera. For the longest time, I had it in my mind that I wanted to be a model. From the age of maybe 12 to roughly 17 I doggedly pursued modeling and was told time and time again that I was too short. Finally, at 17, I signed with an agency just outside of LA that represented both models and actors called Peak Models and Talent. Soon after, they sent me on a low budget feature film audition (or I had self submitted and got an email requesting that I audition… I don’t actually remember the details of how it happened), and somehow I booked one of the leads. After working on that film (Spring Break Massacre), I was hooked. Although 2005 was when my career technically started, it wasn’t until five years later that I actually got serious about pursuing acting.

We are huge fans of the world of horror here at TWS. And one of your earliest roles was in Michael Hoffman Jr.’s brilliant indie horror known as Spring Break Massacre. Being that the world of horror isn’t your primary focus, I am always curious to know how folks enjoy working in the world of horror occasionally? What is it about working in the world of horror that sets itself apart from other genres?

As I mentioned earlier, working on Spring Break Massacre was one of the most fun experiences in acting that I’ve ever had. I was young, gosh I was so naive, we filmed out of state in Illinois, all the cast were literally in this camp/hotel type thing (so it was actually like a big slumber party) … it was ridiculous. I think when you are young and totally not aware of what you are or aren’t supposed to be doing on set, it’s so much more fun; as we age, our experiences are clouded by ego, competition, conformity and 1,000 other terrible adult things. To answer the question though (based on my little experience working on horror), I would say that working on a horror set is like an adventure into the uncharted … it’s like playing with fire without the risk of catching aflame yourself.

You had a small role in the hit series Breaking Bad, which turned into a re-occurring role on the show’s equally amazing prequel series Better Call Saul. I am curious as to what it was like to work within the world created by the mind of someone like Vince Gilligan?

I love those people; the Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul shows respectively have been my Acting 101 and Intro to Film classes. Both Vince and Peter are like kids in a candy store when they’re in their element; it’s wonderful to work with and to watch people that love what they do. I have learned a lot watching Rhea Seehorn work, and the two or three times I’ve had the chance to work with Bob Odenkirk have really tested my professionalism. Bob’s the kind of actor that is so on top of his game, that if you don’t rise to the occasion, you die of mortification. Episode 1 for me was like being thrown into a pool having only learned to swim by reading about it … I had to swim.

Scrolling through your credits, I have noticed that you have work in the world of production on a few occasions. I am curious to know if you have had any thoughts on getting behind the camera and into the director’s chair at all? If so, what sort of projects would you like to create?

It’s interesting you ask; last week I was daydreaming about what steps I would need to take to direct something. Obviously, I would start with something small that I had written myself. My mind keeps jumping back to stories I have written about childhood experiences. There’s this one story I wrote years ago called “The Replacement Pig” about an incident that happened with a man my mother was dating after she and my father divorced… but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how to turn this into a screenplay. I’m actually looking at taking a screenwriting class this coming semester. Maybe I’ll have something to show for these aspirations sooner than later.

If you were handed the role of any historical figure from world history, who would you want it to be?

Oh man! Great question. I’d love to play a German immigrant from the 1770’s (which is roughly when my great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents immigrated here (prolly like 5 more greats needed there). Also, I’d be interested in playing Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896). She was a major anti-slavery campaigner whose writing contributed to the American Civil War. Also, in about 20 years, when movies are being made about her, I’d be interested in playing Hilary Clinton actually; what a role that would be.

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

Yes! I just did my first TV lead in a feature film called Dying for a Baby directed by Lauro Chartrand, to premiere on Lifetime sometime in the next few months… no spoilers, but I play the bad guy (evil scientist laugh). Also, coming soon, I just played Nicolas Cage’s wife in a feature called Running with the Devil directed by Jason Cabell. The last one I’ll mention here (although there are like 10 things coming out, lol) is a movie called The Wave directed by Gille Klabin, where I play the livid wife of Justin Long’s character.

I don’t have release dates on these yet, but if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, I post updates when I have them:

Instagram @sarah.minnich

Twitter @sarahaminnich

-What was the last thing that made you smile?

My dog, Max … he makes me smile every 5 minutes! Photos on Insta.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me Trainwreck’d Society!

Cheers to filmmaking!