Charlie Steeds [Interview]

Hello Folks! Welcome to the 2020 edition of our Month of Horror. It’s almost humorous that we are showcasing the motion pictured displays of horror when it seems as though we simply have to look around us to see the natural horror that is enveloping our daily lives. But nevertheless, a quick escape from the surrealism of our daily lives is often appreciated. In this vein, we honor these wonderful folks who seek to only entertain us with a good scare and a break from the actual horror that is all around us. We have assembled a wonderful batch of actors, writers, directors & beyond, who have worked on so many different projects that you know and love. I am beyond excited to share them with you all throughout the month of October. Enjoy!

Today’s guest is the wonderful filmmaker Charlie Steeds. His work includes the recently released A Werewolf in England. His other works include films previously showcased here at TWS including The House of Violent Desire, An English Haunting, Escape From Cannibal Farm, & more.

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

It was an early aspiration. I grew up loving to hear scary stories and horror stories, told to me by older children, and then later on I loved telling them to my school friends. By around age ten or eleven I was so interested in films and filmmaking that I got it in my head that I’d like to direct movies. Tim Burton was a director I idolised back then, I could see how he’d made each of his films uniquely his own, his style was clear in the costumes, make-up, music, production design, and so on. By age 14 I was writing little scripts and shooting them with friends. I made 20 short films this way, continuing on into my years at film school, and when I graduated I got a micro-budget feature made and that started things off professionally.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

My film Winterskin was the first time a company offered up funding for me to make something, and around the same time this also happened with The Barge People which was eventually shot first (with Winterskin shot only 3 months later). Oddly, it came as a surprise to me that anyone would actually give me their money to me to make a film. I was used to saving up my own funds, crowdfunding and borrowing from family and so on. But making those early lower budget features is where I learned the most. Still today, when the budget is getting tight, or I’m over-schedule, I just think back and remember how much we achieved back then, on so little money, it reminds me how fortunate I am to have the budgets I’m currently working with. I did plenty of paid videography jobs before this, but they taught me nothing really, you can only learn filmmaking by getting out and doing it, and I think the less money you have the more you learn, you’re forced to get creative.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

Horror is a unique genre because of how huge it is, the films can range from funny to terrifying, from depressing to uplifting, a whole spectrum of stories and tones which all fall under ‘horror’. It’s the most popular and most profitable genre of film too. The fanbase/community is massive for all these sub-genres; zombie movies, paranormal movies, cannibal movies, etc. A lot of people turn their nose up at horror, and I suppose it can be quite a geeky genre, but I think everyone likes horror, at least a little bit, whether they know it or not.

You bring up horror around friends or family and even if they say they hate horror films they’ll still rave about this one that scared them, maybe as a child, and recount in detail (and with glee!) all of the scariest moments. We all love the thrill of being scared. I was drawn to horror because, like many people, I’m just drawn to the darker stuff. I don’t feel comfortable and relaxed watching some cheesy rom-com, I just feel bored… Yet somehow I can watch the same horror story done again and again and always find it entertaining and enjoyable. It’s a genre that often allows for the best drama and characters too, it explores deep themes and human psychology, the things we are most afraid to discuss in everyday life.

What is your favourite scary movie?

I have many, but one I’m always coming back to is The Shining. I’m just obsessed with that film. Kubrick’s attention to detail in every frame, the filmmaking and grand style is so mesmerising that I just keep watching, trying to figure out how, how is it so bloody good?! Phantasm is another favourite, it captures the spirit of low budget movie making, but it’s truly inventive and full of wonderful imagination. Black Christmas is a movie that really scared me, and I watched it later on as a seasoned horror lover. Absolutely chilling! [REC] is another one that, just as an experience unfolding in front of you, gets so unbelievably scary… I showed it to my Mum, who enjoys most horror, and we had to turn it off in the last 10 minutes, it really is the most edge-of-your seat horror movie ever I think.

I know this year may be a bit different, but I am curious to know if you have any sort of Halloween traditions? Anything you would normally do each year?

Every Halloween I try to get to the cinema to watch a classic horror movie. The cinemas have been great with this over the past few years, I’ve seen John Carpenter’s The Fog, The Shining, but then also the Halloween remake and last year’s Doctor Sleep were great new release horror movies, all on Halloween. I carve pumpkins, usually listen to a good horror soundtrack as I do it (John Carpenter’s Halloween is an obvious choice) and I watch Halloween 4 and 5 at home with popcorn, 4 and 5 double bill every year, it’s a tradition. 4is the best one!

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

My latest film, A Werewolf in England, has just come out on DVD in the UK, and that has been my big project for most of the year and throughout lockdown. It’s a Victorian-era werewolf horror-comedy, loaded with action and carnage and 100% practical werewolf effects. I also have my 1970s- set tribute to Blaxploitation/Grindhouse movies, Death Ranch, having its world premiere at Grimmfest this month, which I can’t wait for horror fans to see! Aside from that, I’m currently writing my next movie, which as I often tend to do, is something so radically different from anything I’ve made before, trying something very new.

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

Movies/TV-wise it was The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. I think Mike Flanagan really leaped to the horror top spot with this and Doctor Sleep, he’s the most exciting director working in horror right now. I don’t really get scared by anything, aside from my fear of sharks, but that doesn’t come up very often… Some things on set scare the hell out of me, every time an actor is about to do something slightly dangerous, a fight sequence, a little stunt, that’s when I get scared. They could get badly injured, or even worse, sue me!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

After lockdown, seeing months of editing finally come together for A Werewolf in England! The film is full of humour and silly jokes (such as a werewolf taking a shit on two character’s heads) so it makes me laugh and hopefully horror fans are equally entertained and have a good time with it too. I did a premiere screening in Soho, so it was great to see it with a [socially-distanced] mini audience. I’ve not done comedy-horror before, so this was really fun, it’s very light-hearted compared to some of my other work.

Helene Udy [Interview]

Hello Folks! Welcome to the 2020 edition of our Month of Horror. It’s almost humorous that we are showcasing the motion pictured displays of horror when it seems as though we simply have to look around us to see the natural horror that is enveloping our daily lives. But nevertheless, a quick escape from the surrealism of our daily lives is often appreciated. In this vein, we honor these wonderful folks who seek to only entertain us with a good scare and a break from the actual horror that is all around us. We have assembled a wonderful batch of actors, writers, directors & beyond, who have worked on so many different projects that you know and love. I am beyond excited to share them with you all throughout the month of October. Enjoy!

Today our guest is the legendary actress & producer with over 40 years of experience in and out of the world of horror. Her projects include the recently released Evil Under the Skin, as well as work on projects like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Dead Zone, My Bloody Valentine, and many more.

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I was always attracted to creative arts. First I wanted to be a ballerina but as a child even though I was the shortest in the class the teacher started moving me to the back. That was the death knoll. Then I turned to music and formed a band with my bestie Marla Neftin, but it turned out that she was 10 times more talented and had a much better voice … Then I found acting. After watching The amazing Australian movie Galipoli and watching the whole audience in this tiny little rep theatre leave the place sobbing I knew that I had found the best way to feel in communion with humanity and exchange ideas about life & what it means to be alive. I felt connected in an inexplicable way. And so it has always been acting, for that reason. I was subsequently kicked out of theater school at the age of 16. The rest is history.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

My first paid gig was a super fun pilot of CTV in Canada called Off the Wall at the age of 15. We were treated like absolute stars. It was so much fun! There was so much money thrown at this thing. It was magical. It did not go however. It was like a Canadian version of Donnie and Marie. The lesson?… This is the best job in the world. I can do this…. So in the years to come, rejection was never a hard thing because the 1st thing I ever auditioned for I got and I never lost my confidence after that. It always reminded me that anything was possible. If I did it once I could do it again.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

Well … As an actor it is the people involved on the filmmaking. The horror genre filmmakers I have had the good fortune to work with are incredibly creative and passionate about their visions and they never let a tiny budget get in the way of their massive sense of invention. Horror movies are so fun to work on. And strangely enough I have noticed that horror movie fans are the kindest, least pretentious, most enthusiastic and lovely folks I tend to meet. I was never a horror movie fan myself. And rarely watched them until maybe the past 5 years, when Netflix became a thing and then suddenly the horror genre caught on for me. I now understand that when life gets rough there is nothing more consuming than a scary movie to take your mind off your own woes. And horror is so great for that.

Can you tell us a bit about your recent film Evil Under the Skin? What drew you work on this insane project?

I was extremely lucky to be great friends with the talented writer of the project Luc Bernier who introduced me to the Director Jeffrey Schneider. And that is how I was cast. I sort of feel that knowing Luc beforehand and knowing his intention for the movie, understanding the way he likes to write and the respect he has for actors being one himself, combined with Jeff’s seasoned indie approach made the whole project tantalizing. It’s terrific that it worked out as beautifully as I had hoped for. Sometimes they don’t. But, this was the right movie and the right team. Donna Hamblin, Timothy O’Hearn, and the rest of the cast were also incredibly excellent fun to work with. 

What is your favorite scary movie?

Hmmm…. Well the most disturbing movie I have ever seen if it fits into this category is Roman Polanski’s The Tenant. Also Rosemary’s Baby. And then of course my alma matter My Bloody Valentine directed by the iconic George Mihalka. I’m also a huge fan of the American Horror Story series especially the first 3 seasons. Just terrifying.

I know this year may be a bit different, but I am curious to know if you have any sort of Halloween traditions? Anything you would normally do each year? 

Well my Birthday is November 1st. he day after Halloween. So Halloween was always a big deal at my house. I lived in a great neighborhood for trick or treating and looked forward to it every year. My parents were not keen on candy but that was the one time they let me eat all the candy in my bag without question and normally took almost a month. I’d be sad when I worked my way from the good stuff, the chocolates, hard candies, bubble gums down to the  yucky taffies which I really hated. But you know candy is candy and by the end I would eat it all. Tradition. 🙂 

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

Well I just finished shooting a fantastic Movie in Indiana called The Embalmers directed by Sisters Rebecca Rinehart and Diane Fraker. Just before that I did just finish a sci-fi movie really fun called Bad Voices. In my mind, it is a very indie version of Men In Black. Check on IMDb for when that gets released. In Ocotber I start rehearsals for a mind bending drama called Reflections of a Broken Memory with Director Marco Bazzi that i will be shooting in December.

In between I am so excited to be shooting a crazy wonderful parody drama by the incredibly talented Israeli Performance artist Lior Shamriz. And finally in February, if all goes well, I will be shooting a wonderful atmospheric and heart rending ghost story in England with Kemal Yildrim and his team. And then another mind bending drama stretching the genres between horror and drama I think called Blood Covered Chocolate with Monte Light.

And between all of that? I produce a monthly Cabaret show in my front yard called “Was Ist Das?” were the most fantastic ,and out of this world performance artist and clowns and musicians come to perform for a very social distanced crowd that stands outside on the other side of my garden fence. And our Halloween show is planned for November 1st! You can tune in at Helene Udy Live on Facebook. Please do!!! Or just find me on Facebook at the “Was Ist Das show?” page and stay up on the news. I would be so grateful if you did!!!

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

We just had an earthquake a few days ago. It was scary actually even though it only lasted 4 seconds. With so much going on these days on California from COVID to wildfires and earthquake momentarily just felt like the end of the word. I had 4 gloriously terrifying seconds of terror. And then so much fun gathering with.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last show “Was Ist Das? show” I did last night September 20 . It was such spectacular fun!! Thanks for asking. Also my 8 dogs make me smile every moment of every day.

Keith Payson [Interview]

Hello Folks! Welcome to the 2020 edition of our Month of Horror. It’s almost humorous that we are showcasing the motion pictured displays of horror when it seems as though we simply have to look around us to see the natural horror that is enveloping our daily lives. But nevertheless, a quick escape from the surrealism of our daily lives is often appreciated. In this vein, we honor these wonderful folks who seek to only entertain us with a good scare and a break from the actual horror that is all around us. We have assembled a wonderful batch of actors, writers, directors & beyond, who have worked on so many different projects that you know and love. I am beyond excited to share them with you all throughout the month of October. Enjoy!

Today we have legendary producer & writer Keith Payson. Keith has worked on plethora of projects you know and love alongside quite a few folks we have spoken with in the past. His work includes Puppet Master 4 & 5, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys, & Trancers III.

Please enjoy some wonderful words from the great Keith Payson!

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you can  always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day? 

When I was a small boy, maybe four or five years old riding in my mother’s Chevy Bel-Air coupe  we would frequently drive from West L.A. where we lived, to Beverly Hills or some other mid-city  address and use either Pico or Olympic Boulevard as the common route of travel.

In those days when you drove on Pico or Olympic you were driving along the edge of the 20th Century Fox back-lot and at certain sections I could see the tops of western street sets popping up  above the chain link fence which was about 16 ft. high. I was enthralled because I recognized  that these wooden flats were related to what I was seeing on TV and I was so hungry to get on that  back lot that I would ask everyone I met, the grocery clerk, the bank teller, our family doctor if  they know how I could get on the other side of that fence.

The next year, having just completed the first grade, I was beginning my first summer vacation  from school and I was determined to use my three months well so I recruited a few neighborhood  kids to help me build our own western town in an empty lot up the road. My mother was a  prolific filmmaker of family documentaries and I planned to use her 8mm Bell & Howell camera  for shooting. She also had an editing table permanently staged in a corner of the dining room  where she regular sat cutting and splicing her most recent projects, so post production was  covered as well.

Between us we were certain we had everything we needed, props and wardrobe included so we  loaded our little red wagons with all the scrap wood our father’s were hoarding in the garage  along with any tools that weren’t locked up and marched the two blocks up Grandview Boulevard  to a huge empty lot where we used to build forts and play games (it’s now a collection of Little  League baseball diamonds and soccer fields) and we proceeded to lay out the design of a western  town set. Of course we didn’t even have enough wood to build half the boardwalk in front of the  entrance to the saloon, but we started nailing pieces together anyway. Then, one by one the  recruits either got hungry or bored and I was left alone with a wagon full of my Dad’s tools that I  had get back in place before he returned home from work, so we didn’t even complete a flat 8  hr./day and the show was over. I realized that day that my dream and my success would be  directly linked not just to other people, but to other people who shared the same dream I was  dreaming.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of  lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today? 

Actually the first gig was while I was still attending high school. I was so far ahead in earned  credits because I had a habit of taking every summer school class I could that I was slated to  graduate early leaving open the possibility of an off campus apprenticeship. My photography  instructor, who was very well connected in L.A. held a photo salon at the end of each academic  year and the judge’s were very established fashion, editorial and commercial photographers in the  Los Angeles area. One of them liked the images I submitted and offered me a position as his  assistant on specific photo shoots. His name was Mario Casilli. He was one of the original  Playboy Magazine photographers. I began assisting him shooting 8×10 still images for Playboy test  shots to be submitted each month in the selection process for the monthly centerfold finalist. I was  certainly elated with the opportunity I was presented at just seventeen years old and although it  was, at times, difficult to stay focused on my work, I did learn quite a bit about large format  camerawork and masterful lighting techniques.

But my real first paid gig was after I graduated high school while I was waiting for the scholarship I  had received to Rochester Institute of Technology to begin, I went to work for a TV commercial  production company as an office runner (errand boy) as well as their projectionist and from time to  time they would have me perform tasks on or around the set as well.

I was told one day to report to a particular soundstage in L.A. where the company was completing  a Schlitz Beer commercial – this was in 1973. The scene was a group of people socializing and  partying, many of them drinking, and suddenly a live bull comes crashing through the wall and the  brand name Schlitz comes up on screen in big letters?

In order to have the bull crash through the wall on queue, (no CGI in those days), the set was built  with one stunt wall up against an opening to the stage next door where the bull was kept until they  were ready to roll camera. At that point the bull would be guided by an animal wrangler to a  chute leading to the back of the stunt wall. Upon hearing action called the wrangler would count  down a prescribed number of beats the use an electric cattle prod on the bulls balls setting him  moving violently forward at full speed and crashing through the break-away wall onto the set next  door where cameras were rolling as stunt actors scattered out of the way of a really pissed off bull.

By the time I arrived at the stage the filming was completed most of the crew was gone and the set  was being dismantled by the art department. I was told promptly handed a broom and a dust pan  and instructed to report to the set next door. As a walked away I heard the entire art department  break into laughter. The stage where the bull was kept was one of the smaller soundstages at  about seventy-five feet square. For some reason the wranglers determined it was a good idea to let  the bull have the complete run of the entire stage rather than section off fifteen or twenty square  feet. The entire soundstage was littered with straw and of course, bullshit. It took four and a half  hours to sweep the entire stage clean and to this day I have a distinct ability to discern the  difference between the fragrance of horseshit and bullshit.

In 1993, you jumped into one of our favorite horror franchises, which would be the Puppet  Master franchise. I am curious to know what drew you to this world? What intrigued you most  about working on this one? 

Well I must admit this was an opportunity of proximity and happenstance. I was already head of  production of Full Moon Entertainment when this franchise was put on the slate for production.  A year or so earlier I had reluctantly agreed to help a friend who desperately wanted to get out of a  contractual obligation to continue line producing films for Charlie Band, the owner of Full Moon.  She had been engaged for a while and was anxious to get married, take a one-year honeymoon in  Ireland rent a small country cottage and write the screenplay she believed would launch her  writing and directing career. It’s not that I didn’t want to help her out, but for various reasons I  didn’t want that particular gig. In the end I relented and just couldn’t say no to helping her so I  took the job as a single project deal and as it turned out my instincts were right and it was a truly  painful experience for me. However, before that film was through editing I was asked to do  another film for the company, only this time the script was better and I had developed a better  idea how to approach the production, this time with the freedom to start from scratch rather than  an entirely inherited cast and crew.

I also had come to realize that I could use this new opportunity as a private master degree program  to learn everything about film production, writing, acting, producing, directing, running a small  film studio, even designing sound stages and related studio facilities that the world of commercial  production had not provided me.

By the end of the second film at Full Moon I was Head Of Production with a ten-picture deal at  Paramount Studios and Puppet Master IV and V soon came to me to produce. In actuality I was  supervising and running the studio, line-producing, 2nd unit directing every film, on occasion ghost  directing as well as supervising post production. I completed twelve films during my tenure at Full  Moon and Moonbeam Entertainment, the family film division I helped create.

So, while I grew up watching every genre I could get my hands on and as a young boy horror was  certainly among them, at the time I was working on Puppet Master I must be honest it was not  because I was enthralled with the horror genre it was more that I was enthralled with the process  of filmmaking as a collective mechanism. The idea that a group of creative people could come  together for a prescribed period of time around a script, agree on an interpretation of that script  and then mobilize and choose to behave each day as a synchronized mechanism, a machine that  would produce a singular piece of art yielding the highest production value possible within the  budget and schedule constraints we had all agreed to abide by – this to me was fascinating!

 

 

 

 

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special?  What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in? 

The great horror films divulge an aspect of the human condition that is generally inaccessible in its  pure form or at least not easily available in many other genres. Because these other genres exist in  a landscape where the actions unfolding are more or less commonplace to our daily experience of  the world and by contrast not uniquely extraordinary therefore we frequently are not able to fully

pull the curtain back and witness our individual existence for what it really is – a testament that all  life has meaning and all death is justified.

This is not to say that other genres do not deal with many of the same concepts, but they tend to  rely quite heavily on varying definitions of justice that are based on social, religious and moral  precepts, all of which complicate rather than clarify the art of grappling with death as it relates to  justice and seeing one’s own death as the key to a meaningful existence. As represented in a great  horror film the instinct to cling to life regardless of how monumental and incomprehensible the  attack is upon us brings us to an edge of self-awareness most other genres find difficult to  accomplish in ninety-minutes.

An earthquake, a fire, a car accident, a stray bullet – these are all things we ascribe to the will of  God and we may grieve their occurrence and forever ponder their specific meaning in our lives,  but we do not doubt the origin or the characteristic of their being born out of benign intent.  Nature is worth loving and revering even when she is cruel and relentless and deadly. To attempt  to rescue oneself from an unjustified death is the necessary struggle portrayed in the best horror  films. The seemingly meaningless or random attack is misconstrued as an act of pure evil when in  fact whether the life in jeopardy has meaning is not up to the attacker but rather it is in the  behavior and choices of the victim. Whether the life of the victim will overpower the attacker, not  necessarily by stopping the killing, although possibly, but instead from rendering the victim’s life  meaningless. To explicitly show an audience a character in the midst of discovering the meaning  of her or his life under incomprehensible circumstances gives us hope we may discover the  meaning of our life within our mundane and less critical conditions.

What is your favorite scary movie? Why? 

Let The Right One In, is a film that captures the essence of a character becoming more self-aware,  realizing that they possess the capability for expressing and manifesting both good and what they  perceive or have been taught to understand as evil. Yet upon further self-reflection they discover  that evil does not in actuality exist at all, but rather what people have come to understand as evil is  quite simply the absence of goodness or said somewhat differently what many understand as, “the  privation of goodness.”

I know this year may be a bit different, but I am curious to know if you have any sort of  Halloween traditions? Anything you would normally do each year? 

The occasional costume party is the most fun, but they are not as frequent as they used to be. The  allure of giving out candy to kids vaporized a long, long, time ago. And decorating the house has  never been my thing… I much prefer watching the neighbors get creative. So that leaves a dimly  lit room, a big bowl of ice cream, a glass of single malt scotch and a horror film I haven’t seen yet.

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

I have two films in development, each in line to produce and also direct. One is a investigative  crime drama, suspense/horror/thriller and the other a true story, bio-pic, survival drama about four  men on a thirty-five foot sail boat caught in a hurricane while transiting the Gulf of Mexico. These  two films will be full DGA productions. The first one funded will be my DGA directorial debut  and I will happily hand the line-producing responsibilities off to someone else… whew!

I have been a consultant for many years as a specialist in physical production so during the  development phase on my own projects I also work with other screenwriters, directors and  producers as a consultant and production planner preparing complete business plans and singular  components of business plans, i.e. budgets, schedules script and production analysis, etc.  [http://www.filmproductionservices.info]

A few years ago I launched a specialized consulting program for new screenwriters or anyone  really who needs help navigating through the minefield that surrounds Hollywood. There is a lot  of mythology about what can and cannot be accomplished by unknown or uncredited  screenwriters, those who have not yet sold a script or gotten something produced. So I established  a six-week program at heavily reduced consulting rates to coach them through what is and what  isn’t true about landing a literary manager or agent or about pitching and selling their scripts. My  interest is in allowing these artists to shed the burden of false assumption, gossip and mythology so  instead of wasting all that energy fighting negativity and a collection of urban legends they can  strategize a more secure path toward success, whatever that looks like to them.

The reality is that after a writer or writer/producer figures out how to write a good or great  screenplay they then face the daunting challenge of having to learn how to sell it. Well as we all  know, selling a script is easier said than done and it’s a pretty competitive and confusing  landscape you have to travel through to accomplish that task. All too many talented young writers  actually fail and walk away from writing not because they weren’t good writers but because the  business side of screenwriting became an impediment that they just couldn’t overcome in time  and felt compelled to bail out.

And lastly, I continue to pursue my oldest and original artistic passion – photography, by shooting  my own fine art and by teaching the fundamentals of photography and image capture as well as  portrait lighting to more advanced students.

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you? 

The possibility of Donald Trump, William Barr and Mitch McConnell getting four more years in  office rather than prison or in the later two cases impeachment and forced retirement.

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

My wife and I have two pet Holland lop bunnies who are a constant reservoir of behavioral and  emotional insight and delight. The sight of either one of them approaching and then standing on  their hind legs begging to be picked-up and cuddled is precious.

Dan Yeager [Interview]

Hello Folks! Welcome to the 2020 edition of our Month of Horror. It’s almost humorous that we are showcasing the motion pictured displays of horror when it seems as though we simply have to look around us to see the natural horror that is enveloping our daily lives. But nevertheless, a quick escape from the surrealism of our daily lives is often appreciated. In this vein, we honor these wonderful folks who seek to only entertain us with a good scare and a break from the actual horror that is all around us. We have assembled a wonderful batch of actors, writers, directors & beyond, who have worked on so many different projects that you know and love. I am beyond excited to share them with you all throughout the month of October. Enjoy!

Today’s guest is the wonderful actor Dan Yeagar. Dan infamously portrayed the legendary character Leatherface in 2013’s Texas Chainsaw. He is also a brilliant writer and director with projects slated for release in the near future when the world comes back together. His other work includes roles in Sharknado: The 4th Awakens and A Wakefield Project.

So please enjoy some words from the great Dan Yeagar!

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I started in infancy. I was born two feet tall, pushing twelve pounds, and a full head of curly blonde hair, so I was always used to a lot of attention. I had a Superman costume at three years old, but through the creativity of a dedicated older brother was often transformed into hideous monsters regardless of the season. My mother claimed she always knew I was an actor, primarily based on my school-avoidance deathbed plays performed almost every morning of the school year.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

I was an extra in a movie in 1984 starring Christopher Lee and a bunch of non-horror non-icons. I never mention the title out of respect for His Majesty as I’m sure he did it just because we all got bills to pay. It was a terrible film, but like every project before or since, I learned a lot and it made me want to do more.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

Horror is the only truly universal genre. Our fears are what unite us as Humans. I used to do British Pantomime on stage, which is where I really honed the craft of working in a mask. I always played the monster there, too.

You stepped into the shoes of a very renowned character in the world of horror known as Leatherface in the 2013 addition to the Texas Chainsaw legacy, the hit film Texas Chainsaw. I am curious to know what drew you to Leatherface? What made you want to hop into this role?

I first saw Leatherface at a drive-in in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1981. I never dreamed as I leaned back on the windshield of my buddy’s car that hot Summer Night watching the original TCM in a re-release that Leatherface was a ‘character’ that someone (forget about me) could ‘play.’ I wasn’t really thinking about acting at that point, but rather learning architectural drafting at the local vocational high school. I was trying to be a serious person, but when my Mom later bought a VCR, I went out and bought two videotapes that made up my entire film library for at least a year: Eraserhead and Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

It was later observed, after I had begun pursuing acting, by none other than Count Yorga himself, Robert Quarry, that I’d make a living playing monsters. He was right. And while I’d love to play Frankenstein’s Monster one day, I don’t think I am physically suited to any monster in the Horror Pantheon better than Leatherface.

Texas Chainsaw – Poster: ‘Leatherface” (Dan Yeager) ©2013 Lionsgate

What is your favorite scary movie?

The Shining, Psycho, The Wizard of Oz, or The Exorcist, depending on the season, weather, and time of day or night… There is also a short Yugoslavian film from 1975 called The Mallet that scared me so well it made me want to be a filmmaker.

I know this year may be a bit different, but I am curious to know if you have any sort of Halloween traditions? Anything you would normally do each year?

I grew up in Ohio where Halloween is better celebrated than Christmas, so I’m a devout traditionalist. Before I was always traveling for Halloween, I used to love creating Halloween themes to give the local children and their parents pause and question whether they should pass by my house on their trick-or-treat excursion. One year I carved a dozen pumpkins to represent the severed heads of my enemies and placed them on pikes along either side of the walk to my porch. Another time I sat motionless as a Leatherface-like figure on the darkened porch with a tempting bowl of big chocolate bars in my lap. Everyone discovered their limits of bravery that night.

One year I took a reciprocating saw and wired it inside a large pet carrier and placed it on the porch with a sign that said ‘Beware of Dog.’ I added sound effects and a strobe light and hooked it all to a switch. The one flaw in that plan was the peep-hole in the door was so high, I didn’t see this one kid had his three-year-old brother with him, and I flipped the switch. I know I scarred the little fella for life.

My greatest triumph was probably the year I created a porch tableau featuring the shredded costumes and blood-spattered trick-or-treat plastic candy pumpkins and their spilled contents from some beast that grabbed victims and dragged them into the bushes. I also created a little candlelight memorial for one victim, a little boy in a dollar store picture frame, including his little blood-stained teddy bear. It was particularly gratifying when I could hear the mothers with their young children express their reflexive sympathy and then realize what they were seeing and dragged their children away from the madhouse. I love giving candy to the kids, but it was strangely satisfying to know I offended the sensibilities of their parents to such a degree. The kids just thought it was cool and creepy. It was.

This year I will be at a film festival in Scranton, PA, at the Circle Drive-in, and on the Halloween Train in Stourbridge. I hope I can make it back to my lair in New York in time to at least disembowel a pumpkin or two and give out some candy.

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

I’m always working on getting movies made. We have two scripts ready for funding and two more completed waiting their turn, and a dozen more projects in various stages of development.

I mentioned the Halloween Weekend festivities above. I don’t have links to those events yet, but I’m sure they’ll be listed on numerous NEPA websites.

I also have been working on my own line of coffee. You can check that out at killerschoice.com.

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

I haven’t been really scared in a long time, but I live in an old Baptist church built in the mid-1850s. It is full of ghosts. Really… While they don’t seem to try to scare me, they do catch me off guard occasionally, and it can be disconcerting. I want to have a séance, but my wife is scared. I’m looking for local volunteers to participate.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I watched City of Lost Children the other night. It is such a sweet story, but not cloyingly so, all about those things that connect us, sometimes in such unexpected ways. No! Actually, Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan, and I did a live-stream commentary on Texas Chainsaw last week. During the Q&A afterward, Adam gushed a little over my performance as Leatherface and made me blush. I smiled at that and remembering the good times we had making that movie, and remembering the friends I made because of it, especially those who are no longer with us.

Deepfake by Sarah Darer Littman [Book]

 

“Dara Simons and Will Hochman have everything they’ve ever wanted. They are the rulers of Greenpoint High’s geekdom, overachieving in every way, and it’s an intense competition to see who will be valedictorian. One the entire school is invested in. That is, until Rumor Has It, the anonymous gossip site, posts a video of Dara accusing Will of paying someone to take the SAT for him.

When the video goes viral, suddenly Will’s being investigated, and everyone’s wondering how he pulled off cheating on the SAT. But Dara swears that she didn’t say any of those things, which seems a little hard to believe since it’s her in the video.

Did Will cheat?

Is it Dara saying he did?

Who’s lying, and who’s telling the truth?

The answer is more shocking than anyone realizes …” – sarahdarerlittman.com

 

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Hello Folks! Today we are taking some time away from our regular weekly interviews to tell you all about a wonderful new book that will be available next week that I feel as though you should all read, enjoy, and take heed to just how frightening the future can be despite all the good that technological advances can be. We will get into the latter in a minute.

For those of you who are unaware, I am the father of two teenage daughters, and a pre-teen daughter right behind them. As a 35 year old male, and probably any father of teens at any age I would imagine, it can be increasingly difficult to relate to what young adult females are interested in. That is why, a couple of years ago, I asked my then soon-to-be 13 year old daughter, Ava, who some of her favorite authors were. She immediately shot back with Sarah Darer Littman. I believe she was just off the cusp of reading one of her earlier works and was extremely intrigued by not only the story, but the way in which it was written. Thus, I decided to reach out, and to the great glee of then pre-teen Ava, Sarah was kind enough to grant us an interview. Not only that, she was even kinder to pass along a pre-release copy of her book Anything But Okay. Check the links to see what awesomeness came out of that.

And alas, here we are again, Folks. Sarah has a wonderful new book coming out that is just as shocking a revealing as anything she has written in the past. As the world advances, so does Littman’s ability to capture the youth in an honest and credible way. And on a personal level, Deepfake had be shook primarily because I had NO IDEA THIS WAS POSSIBLE. Yet, when I asked Ava, as well as her younger sister Sophia about the concept, I got the “yeah, I know” reaction that I wasn’t expecting. How terrifying is that? It’s a true clueless dad moment for sure. Yet I am fortunate that I have (somehow) raised three kids who are very self-aware of the dangers that surround them, and choose the path of enlightenment towards the greater good rather than the sometimes easier path of selfishness and evil. This is not a humble brag. It’s complete bemusement. I guess credit to my wife? As I was a terrible teenager. But, we don’t need to get into that…..

 

author of Deepfake, Sarah Darer Littman

 

Anyway, Deepfake takes us on a journey of modern teenagers who a desperate to excel academically (Fellow former terrible students, I know, it seems impossible, right?) and who also happen to have the power of technology at their disposal. And as unfortunately as we all know, the power of technology also comes with the power of anonymity. Which if you have spent any time on Twitter, you know exactly what I mean. But, we have reached an era where we can make actual videos of people saying things that are completely untrue. And quite frankly, and should be unsurprisingly, that scares me so much. And if you were as clueless to this idea as I was before going into this book, I highly recommend that not only every high schooler across the globe read Deepfake, but parents as well. The cause and effect of modern technology being used as a tool of revenge, backlash, or terror is very real and perfectly detailed in this incredible book.

I will admit, I do not partake in much reading of Young Adult fiction on a personal level. But, I have been validated by the previously mentioned young adult, Ava, that Littman’s writing is top pier in the YA world. I feel as though what makes her special is her ability to not mock the youth. She uses language that feels very real in terms of dialogue, and she uses descriptors and characterizing in a way that presents imagery that will not confuse the youth, but with intrigue adults. The YA world has become one of the most fascinating means of communicating messages to the world, especially to the youth, which are, as we are consistently told, are the future.

Check out Deepfake, Folks. It’s not just a book with a powerful message, it’s a well-written novel for the modern age, and I simply can not recommend it enough. Enjoy!

 

 

Deepfake will be released on October 6th, 2020 from Scholastic Press. Find it wherever you buy your books. For more information, visit sarahdarerlittman.com.

 

 

Sunday Matinee: The New West and the Politics of the Environment [Film]

 

“The film explores how iconic Nevada Senator Harry Reid set the foundations for a green new deal in the state using power in new ways to settle water wars with respect for Native Americans, protect endangered species and usher in a just transition to renewable energy.” – PRANA PR

“A quiet, little-known revolution is taking place in American environmental politics in a most surprising place—Nevada. In this feature-length documentary, Earth Focus tells the story of Harry Reid, a politician who grew up in an Old West mining town, saw the possibility of a New West emerging in Nevada, and rode that change to power. Reid used power in new ways to settle water wars with respect for Native Americans, protect endangered species and wilderness, and usher in a just transition to renewable energy. Could this western green new deal set an example for the nation?” – KCET

 

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In the military, at least the Air Force that is, several e-mail correspondences will begin with something called “BLUF”. It stands for “Bottom Line Up Front”. And now that I am typing this out, it may be something used in several other industries, but I really do not know. Either way, I feel as though it is an appropriate addition to this article.

BLUF: Nevada is an immaculately beautiful state, and Senator Harry Reid is a major reason that it has remained as such. But, there is so much more to be done. And this documentary will explain it all in great detail.

 

Still a bit wordy, huh? Well, I think you all get it. The New West and the Politics of the Environment attempts, and succeeds, in demonstrating just how important it is that our political structure (as crumbling as it may seem) is crucial to the idea that human kind may be able to continue to reside on this giant rock for the foreseeable future, if the right people take action. It’s literally the most important issue to date, although it seems as though it is constantly being side-stepped by issues that, while surely are important, shall remain null and void if we don’t have an earth that is functioning for humans because humans just want to screw the whole thing up. I am not the most informed person on the matter, and beyond donating a few bucks to organizations attempting to fix the situation, I could never rightfully call myself an “environmentalist”. But, I do understand that bringing a snowball into a congressional hearing does not prove that Global Warming is a hoax. And I am not lost in the irony that the most legendary “Not A Crook”, crooked Presidents of all time also agreed that saving the planet should be a bi-partisan effort. Which always leads me to wonder…were oil lobbyist just not as prevalent? How did he do that? But, I digress.

While the concept of saving the earth from shitty humans and our inhumane ways is definitely the overall concept expressed in this film, there is one character that truly needs to be addressed. And before you begin to think what I am getting to next, it’s not Harry Reid. Sorry, just had to jump out with that. Harry has done incredible things, and we will get to that later. But, it’s important to stay focused. No, the most important character in this film is actually the state of Nevada. BOOM! (Oh no, that might be inappropriate, please let me explain).

Like so many of the 300+ million Americans living in this land (and the rest of us residing outside of it), when I think of the state of Nevada, I think of one thing only: the hit Comedy Central & now Quibi show Reno 911. Alright, I kid. Yes, it’s Las Vegas. It’s “Sin City”. It’s the home state of arguably the greatest film ever made by Martin Scorsese (arguably by me, and probably no-one else, but I’m ready to argue). Which I would learn in watching this documentary, Harry Reid was a major part of taking all the fun out of, but we shall forgive him because he is making the earth better, which is cool I guess. It’s the only part of the state that I have ever been to for a 3 day stint that involved a time-share presentation that earned free money at the Luxor in which nothing was earned, a surprised topless acrobatic show, and the best Brazilian steakhouse I have ever eaten at thanks to Groupon and their 2 for 1 coupons. But, I have actually have had a couple of close relatives die in the state of Nevada. Others have had their ashes spread in the state of Nevada. And some that have moved to the state of Nevada to wait to die, and most likely have their ashes spread in the state of Nevada. So, the state is a bit more important to me personally than a topless show hosted by the 6th runner up of America’s Got Talent and the best fucking steak I’ve ever eaten in my life, seriously, I believe it’s at the Venetian with the sky on the ceiling and stuff, it was SO good.

 

 

But, it is for certainly not self-involved reasons such as I mentioned above that I have become such a Harry Reid stan. I honestly wish that Harry could watch all 4 of the Lethal Weapon films and realize that he’s “not too old for this shit”. And maybe he has? Not that he watched all of these films, although I hope he has, but that he has noticed that while he has retired from politics, he has been able to focus on the subjects that worry him the most. It’s pretty evident with The New West and the Politics of the Environment. He clearly believes in what he has said in the past as he continues to do so. We all know that there is money in politics to be made, even when they are not active in the matter. But, the idea of saving the planet has never been a factor that leeches to the untamed mind as a way to make a great deal of money. It’s possible obviously, but I truly believe that it is not foreseen in this instance.

Senator Harry Reid is, let’s face it, is an OG “one of the good ones”. Despite your possible stance on the idea of letting the mob continue to run Vegas because you are a regular dude who loves Scorsese so much, you have to admit that he is a phenomenal figure. His appreciation for the cultural traditions of the Native American tribes of Nevada are stupendous. His stance agains the nuclear testing that the USAF is doing to his native land is heroic (yes, I understand the contradictory affects of this statement because of my opening statement, but I shall continue).

While Las Vegas and a popular improvised Comedy Central series may have put the state on the map, Harry Reid has been crucial to keeping the state, and this planet, on the actual map. His work in Congress to make the the state of Nevada, the country, the world, a more sustainable place to exist upon can not be forgotten. And it is of the upmost importance that we honor him and continue to head the message he is providing. He’s still with us, Folks! Often times we seem to “treasure” the ideals of those who have come before us. Which is great. But, let’s honor the wishes of the great Senator Harry Reid while he is still living and being so damn cool amongst us! How do we do that?

Well, start by checking out The New West and the Politics of the Environment. Learn from it. And do as they suggest. Vote. Donate. Activate. That is actually one of the most fun things about this modern age. There are SO many ways that you can help out. Shit, just recycle, if you haven’t already been doing that. It feels weird to think that the latter is such a revolutionary concept, but I promise to you all living on either coast, it’s not an entirely regular practice. But, I digress.

Alright, I feel as though I have sad enough, and definitely more than I intended to say. I am just so excited about the possibilities that this film has brought to the world and the continuation of human kind residing upon this rock. Thank you so much Jaime Monez for directing this gem of a documentary that I hope gets world wide recognition.

If we can start with Nevada, we can continue moving forward with the rest of the planet.

 

 

For more information and how you can watch the film, see dates below and visit KCET.org for details.

 

AIRDATES

  • TuesdaySep29 8:00 PM PT
    KCET-HD
  • WednesdaySep30 12:00 AM PT
    KCET-HD
  • SundayOct4 6:30 PM PT
    KCET

 

 

Taking Your Violin Bowing Technique To The Next Level [Exclusive!]

 

Spicing up your bowing technique is the most fun and thrilling part of being a violinist. The long hours of practice, correct bowing, until you finally get used to the right technique are the most fulfilling part of the process.

There are a lot of bowing techniques you can do on your violin bow but we will focus on the most essential ones that can spice up the way you play. These are the sun ponticello, sul tasto, col legno, and ricochet. These said techniques have leveled up different violinists in their playing field which you can use as well to get you to the next level.

Sun Ponticello 

Moving the bow down to level with the bridge or to be right above the bridge means the Sun Ponticello. You may notice that when you execute this technique, the sound is totally different than the usual. It vibrates nicely, aiming for a higher pitch. It almost sounds like you are in some sort of horror movie. Thus, the haunting sound. You can control the volume of the sound by adjusting the pressure. 

Sul Tasto 

On the other hand, aligning your hand to the opposite side of the fingerboard creates the Sul Tasto. To achieve a serene, subtle, and rich sound, you may use this technique. This is commonly used on ethereal scenes, given the lower harmonics. Sul Tasto is the complete opposite of Sun Ponticello. 

Col legno 

The Col Legno is the Italian term for “with wood.” It is a unique bowing technique that literally means to play with wood. How do you do it? Turn your bow upside down and play using the wood or the side of the bow. 

There are different styles on how to play Col Legno. Like when doing long bowing, it is called “tratto.” Another style is similar to a percussion called “batuto.” 

Ricochet 

Similar to the percussion technique of Col Legno is another bowing style called Ricochet. It is also known as “jete.” In executing the Ricochet, you bounce the bow as it moves in a single path intentionally. You may notice that the upper part of the bow bounces more quickly while the middle part is slower. This is because of the physics part of the violin. One tip in doing the Ricochet is that the bow hair must be laid out completely flat. 

Conclusion 

If you have come to leveling up your bowing moves, then congratulations! You have come so far. From learning the basics, practicing, and sometimes failing, your journey is worth every hardship. And now that you have arrived in the advance part, we are glad to be with you every step of the way. 

These bowing techniques will deepen your commitment and passion for playing the violin. It can be difficult in some parts, but hey! Practice makes perfect. We hope that with these bowing techniques you can take your violin bowing to the next level. 

 

Visit https://fiddlershop.com/collections/violin-bows to learn more!

Mary Birdsong [Interview]

 

Hello, Folks! Well, as I am sitting here on a dreary English Saturday morning, a revolutionary figure has died, the earth is shaking, the air is unbreathable, and of course there is still this pandemic thing happening in which people are refusing to take such simple measures to prevent from spreading the globe. But, hey, let’s try our best to cheer ourselves up, shall we? Take a moment to check out this incredible interview we have from a brilliant actress that we love and adore so much. It’s Mary Birdsong, Everyone! Trust me, the sadness will come back shortly afterwards. Try to be a little bit happy?

If you can remember back into time to August in the year 2020 (I know, feels like an eternity, right?) you may remember that we had a wonderful guest from one of the greatest televised programs ever, which would be Reno 911!. That guest was Carlos Alazraqui, and he was great. Well, if you for some reason already couldn’t tell (how dare you?) we are headed back to the land of Reno again today! Mary Birdsong  jumped into the series portraying Deputy Cherisha Kimball and rocketed the show to even higher highs with her brilliant performance as the tough but maybe a bit clueless deputy amongst a whole batch of tough but maybe a bit clueless deputies.

Mary has also been involved with some other amazing work, and we are so excited to have her on the site today to tell us about what she is up to, her work on Reno 911!, singing in ice cream shops, being Judy Garland, and more. So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Mary Birdsong!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment?

It’s surprising even to me, but I had to be kind of pushed into it by other people who seemed to believe I had talent way before I ever thought I did. My best friend in highschool said we should try out for the play, so I did (it was The Mouse That Roared). And I also had a few teachers who took me aside and said “You know, you should really think about pursuing this professionally, or at least studying it in college. In acting, writing, and singing I got that kind of encouragement from very special teachers in highschool — Joseph Echle, Larry Delmasto, Michael Lorenzi, Fred Waters…

Was it something you had aspired to do since your youth?

No, not at all. I was painfully shy as a kid. I still am.  But acting and performing helped me find a way out of that shyness self-consciousness, and social anxiety. If I could make people laugh, or entertain them in some way, I think I felt like I was making myself useful to them, assigning some value to myself. And on some level- I do believe there’s an element of control involved in all of the arts. There’s an implied demand or directive (i.e., “Look at me,” “Listen to me,”) in anything one does creatively.

Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

At the urging of my best friend and my teachers and my mother, I decided to major in performing in college (initially I was going to study singing or musical theatre, but unforeseen circumstances led me to studying acting instead (acting with a capital “A!”). I found it VERY intimidating, but I hung in there– the discipline of it, and the exposure to all kinds of culture I’d never known about before were very good for me.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment?

I was as a singing waitress (does that count?) at an ice cream parlor where I grew up — on Long Beach Island (LBI), New Jersey. The parlor was sort of a “spin-off” business that grew out of the Surflight Theatre (a decades-old summer-stock theatre on the Island that put on a different musical every week, all Summer). I would’ve gone for a job at the theatre instead of the ice cream parlor, but I couldn’t AFFORD to live off the tiny salary an actor got paid for summer-stock. So I auditioned to be a singing waiter for the ice cream parlor, and I LOVED IT!!!

 

And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impacts your work to date?

I learned SO MUCH! I didn’t know it at the time, but we were basically getting paid to be in comedy boot camp all summer. It incorporated lots of improv, sketch comedy, choreography, singing, writing, etc. I am still drawing from the same well today, no matter what I’m doing.

 

We recently had the opportunity to share some words from one of your former (and current) co-stars, Carlos Alazraqui, whom you worked on the absolutely legendary series Reno 911! We said it then, and we will say it again, it’s one of the greatest of all time. So what was it that drew you to work on this project?

The same thing that draws most actors to a project— paying rent! 🙂 It’s such a luxury for an actor to be able to pick and choose which roles they say yes to and which they don’t.  I have been lucky enough to get to that stage many times in my career, but it’s a cycle of feast or famine.  At the time Reno 911 came along, I really DID need a job, and I had to audition for the role just like anyone else. I think the role opened up because Kerri Kenney was pregnant, so they needed another female deputy on hand, just in case there were things physically that Kerri might not be able to handle while pregnant. And luckily, there were LOTS of things that really did draw me to this project (even if I hadn’t needed to pay rent at the time)— the amazing talent behind it, the requirement to improvise 99% of the dialogue, the edginess that the show was able to get away with, the amazing fan base it has… I could go on and on.

 

 

And after the show was off the air for over a decade, what was it like coming back into playing around in this incredibly unique world? Was it a tough transition back, or would the bicycle analogy be a better fit for your experience?

I was a little nervous coming back for the new season on Quibi, because it had been so long, and I had hardly done any improvising in those 10 years. But I was delighted to find that I had MORE FUN THAN EVER this time around. I loved getting to work with the two actors I hadn’t worked with on Reno before (Ian Roberts and Joe LoTruglio). They’re fantastic actors and comedians, and just plain NICE, COOL GUYS. I just felt a lot more relaxed this time around, which was just a joy.

 

If you were handed the opportunity to create and/or portray in the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?

Judy Garland, hands down. Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to do just that, several times already — I even got to play Judy Garland on Broadway! Judy Garland was one of many roles I played while performing with Martin Short in the Broadway musical, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. And before that role came along I devoted a few years of my life writing and performing a one woman show about Judy that I did in NY, in LA, and in Colorado at the Aspen Comedy Festival.

But since I’’ve already checked Judy off my list, I’d love to play Jackie O’, or Loretta Lynn, or Dolly Parton. Or ANYONE that would require me to wear a bustle, a corset, and/or a powdered wig. (I’m a total history nerd, and I’m vintage-clothing/costume obsessed, so period pieces are my FAVORITE!!).

Honestly, the roles I love playing the most are people who AREN’T famous or historically significant— they’re anonymous people you encounter on a typical day (the weirder the better, too).

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

Well, there’s more Reno 911 to look forward to— Quibi just announced that we’ll be doing a second season for them! And I’m currently pitching a 1/2 hour tv show called Hot Mess — a dark comedy about my mom and me. At this moment, I’d say it has a Grey Gardens meets AbFab vibe. 🤣 

And I just finished writing a feature film with my best friend Katty Biscone that I’m very excited about and proud of— it’s an adaptation of a great novel. I wish I could say more about it, but right now I can’t.

Other than that, I hope people check out my YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/marybirdsongtv where they can see my series of characters “365 Characters in 365 Days” (which I’m STILL working on finishing!!)

Other social media:

http://twitter.com/marybirdsong

http://instagram.com/marybirdsongofficial

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Will Hines.

 

 

New Music Tuesday: Honey Gentry – H.G. [Album]

 

Hello Folks! And welcome back to our first New Music Tuesday in quite some time. We have gone away from this segment over the last few months, but today we have an album to talk about that is simply too good to pass up the chance to boast over and tell you all to rush out and get ASAP.

If you all could think way way back to the year 2019. August. A mere 13 months to the date, but feeling like a lifetime ago, we showcased a brilliant singer songwriter and their EP, Dreamlover. It was an absolutely masterpiece of an EP with tracks landing solidly on our Top 100 Songs list. Well, that singer songwriter is Honey Gentry, and it appears as though she is back to steal and/or break our hearts again with her beautiful sad pop songs that evoke just the deepest of emotions. And while escapism is always an option in your musical choices, maybe some times it is best to reflect on the chaos and how sad things can get, in order to make them better. Well, if the latter is to be believed, I can not recommend Honey Gentry’s full length album, H.G., to you enough. It’s a delicate yet impactful album filled with blissful tales of tragedy yet also triumph.

One quality of Honey Gentry’s work that seems obvious to me is her amazing voice. It’s one of those collection of vocal elements that is very familiar, yet incredibly unique, and all around pleasant. She is also one hell of a songwriter. Whether she is tackling subjects like identity, isolation, mental illness, or loss & beyond, Honey makes it an audible experience for the ages. She’ll even bring a low-key Madonna in the 80’s tone on a track like “Losing My Charm” that is beautiful! But, as we tend to lead towards the more catchy and melodic tracks around here, and I love every every song on this album, much like having multiple children….you have to chose a favorite. Sorry, this is just the truth. So for me, it’s a tie between “Valentine” and “The Bell Jar” for the stealing of my heart.

So, listen to it for yourself, Folks! It’s available today. It also happens to be Honey Gentry’s birthday! So let’s make it one that she is not surely to forget. You get to hear one of the best (if not THE best?) albums of 2020, and Honey can continue to bring her magic into the world. Everybody wins.

Seriously Folks, the sky is the limit for this incredible artist, and you are going to want to get on board now. So take a nice look back at her two previous EPs, and check out H.G. today! You truly will not regret it.

 

To grab a copy of H.G. today, head to wherever you listen to music or I would recommend heading to honeygentry.com to get it on digital or limited edition vinyl. Enjoy!

 

Chad Opitz [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! Today we have an absolutely wonderful comedian that I love and admire so damn much. It’s Chad Opitz, Everyone! I discovered the brilliant comedy of Mr. Opitz in a pretty specific way that happens to be the way I have discovered so many different comedians that I enjoy and have had the pleasure of having on the site….it was Doug Loves Movies. It’s actually incredible how almost my entire comedic enjoyment experiences are based around this one program. But, we’re not hear to talk about DLM, we are here to share some wonderful responses from Chad, who is a genuinely sweet and absolutely hilarious human being.

This COVID bullshit, for a while, has put some facets of the comedy world to an absolute halt. But the laughter has not completed ended. It just went on line. It has been a real testament to which comedic warriors will make it out of this thing, with at least another 30 minutes of material to show for it. And I firmly believe that when the world is back to “normal”, Chad Opitz will be back on track to being a household name. Hell, he already is in my house! Trembath Manor is loaded up on Opitziods (does that work? Do you get it?).

Alright Folks, I am going to shut my proverbial mouth and let you all get to this incredible interview that we are so excited to share with you all. Please enjoy some words from the brilliant, Chad Opitz!

 

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What initially drew you to the world of comedy? Was it something you have aspired to do since your youth or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I was initially drawn to the world of comedy via music. I had a one man band called Nervous Energy which I had come up with during my time at Central Washington University and many (not all) of the songs were of a comedic nature. The shows that typically worked best were when I would also be working with humor driven bands or opening for comedians. I was a fan of stand up comedy before and would go every month at college to the comedy showcase they had there just to watch. Never even really thought of doing it myself though until I moved to Santa Cruz, CA and was having difficulties getting booked to perform music more than like once a month. I needed a creative performance outlet and decided to check out a show at the Blue Lagoon and after watching it for a month or so, I asked the booker there, who goes by the name DNA, if I could do a set and there ya have it.

 

What was your first paid gig in the world of comedy? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still impact your work today?
I distinctly remember the first time I got paid to do comedy because I was like “Huhhhhh?” It was at a restaurant in Gilroy, CA. called Station 55 and Sam Meeker ran a weekly Wednesday show there. It was an old fire station so I was very amused at the fire pole you could slide down near where we performed on the second floor. I think I got $25 and a free dinner which was honestly more exciting than the money at that point. Just knowing that I didn’t have to lose money on gas and food in order to showcase my jokes made me feel great. I really learned how to appreciate a comped meal from that show.
I am curious to know about what some of the “off the beaten path” type of areas in the country are surprisingly wonderful places for comedy? So, when the world is safe again (maybe), and you hit some spots maybe not on the coasts, what are some wonderful cities out there that some people may not know are wonderful places for comedy?
I have not done NEARLY as many spots as I would like to do in comedy so far, but it’s also taken me to some really awesome places too. I was actually going to be in Oregon back in April headlining some shows in Eugene and Salem, so hopefully when things return, I can schedule that back up. All the shows I’ve done up in Tacoma, WA have been very fun and there was this spot at Tony V’s Garage in Everett that I had a blast at. Jai Thai in Seattle is very special too. Missoula, Montana was amazing when I visited there. Myself, Chris Conatser and Jeff Zamaria went on a northwest tour a couple years back that was “sponsored” by TANG. We sold small baggies of it for $1 which looked like orange cocaine. In select cities we dumped TANG in the back of toilets so when they flushed it created an orange waterfall to promote our shows in the bathrooms. WHAT A TIME.
I’ve only been to the east coast once for shows and Portland, ME stuck out to me as an awesome city. The show we did there in the top floor of this awesome bar called Bull Feeney’s was great.
Hopefully I can add to this list more soon.
We have featured quite a few comedians that have either come from or started in the Bay Area doing comedy (Amy Miller, David Gborie, etc.). In your obviously expert opinion, what do you believe it is about this area that manages to turn out such amazing comics such as yourself? What makes the Bay special, basically?
I think what makes the Bay special is the sheer amount of stage time you can get and the diversity here really makes you have to be creative in how you can stand out amongst the crowd. There are a lot of mics/showcases here and if you have a unique and interesting perspective and aren’t a total turd then you can get a lot of time to work on your stuff. The locations of shows are often really interesting too. There was a spot called Chillarious run by Mikey Walz which was a show done in a mattress store in Berkeley which was a favorite of mine where they put the beds around in a circle and people just laid down and watched. It was always packed and BYOB, but no red wine or dark beers so you didn’t stain the sheets. Spots like that that utilize interesting, unique performance spaces are another reason I love comedy.
So, I have to ask….and I hope we can still be friends…..but in your Twitter bio you state that you are blocked by Kevin Smith? I hope you don’t think less of us for featuring several people from the View Askewniverse, but I am curious to know what events may have led to this happening? What is the beef good, Sir?
Haha, don’t mind you asking at all. I don’t have any beef with Kevin Smith, but I did really dislike a couple of his movies and was cracking wise on his page about Tusk I think and he just blocked me because of that. Shit, I get it. I probably would have done the same. If somebody is giving you grief on social media, blocking them makes sense and I don’t blame him at all. But I just felt the need to flip him some shit for that one regardless of the outcome.
If you were handed the opportunity to create the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be?
I think a biopic about Harry Nilsson might be good. I think most biopics are generally awful though. They tend to focus on the least interesting stuff. I did really like the Brian Wilson one, Love and Mercy, though. I thought Paul Dano and John Cusack were both great playing that role. It got some grief for having two actors play the part, but I actually thought that was an interesting and cool choice that paid off. With Nilsson, I think delving into the life of somebody who is so talented and amazing musically and performance wise but is completely terrified of live performance is something I find fascinating. I’d love to see something done about that concept in a movie, I cant think of any off the top of my head and that could be a really effective story for a film.
What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
Well, COVID has brought stuff to a very strange place right now. I’m doing small projects here and there, solo and with friends, that are bringing me joy. I have been making little funny videos more frequently to post on my Instagram and writing a decent amount of jokes for performances over Zoom and eventually onstage. Definitely follow me on Instagram and Twitter if you’d like (@chadopitz) because I am frequently putting jokes and content out there.
I’ve also been doing a character actor retrospective thing on Facebook that has gotten a lot of good response. If I were to do a podcast, it would definitely be about underrated actors who people know but rarely got their due.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
The last thing that made me smile was waking up to a notification that I had been followed on Instagram by a PUGS page called PugsParadise. I was like “Damn, this is why I got into the damn game right here. Gimme those squish face cuties!”
Learn more about what Chad is up to at his website, chadoptiz.com . Also check out this wonderful video of Chad doing stand up last year, when the world was normal, live at The Chatterbox in West Covina, CA.