Saturday, January 21, 2017

Scoundrel Time, a fantastic new journal created by Paula Whyman and Mikhail Iossel for resistance, illumination and education in dark times









Paula Whyman

Mikhail Iossel




What do artists, actors, photographs, writers--and all of us-- do in a time of oppression? We paint, we write, we photograph, we bear witness. We never ever give up.  Scoundrel Time is a brand new journal to bring light to dark times. Please support it in any and all ways you can.  I am.



Paula Whyman is the author of You May See a Stranger, a linked story collection that won praise from The New Yorker and a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Paula’s writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly, Ploughshares, VQR, and The Washington Post, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. Paula teaches in writers-in-schools programs through the Pen/Faulkner Foundation in Washington, DC and The Hudson Review in Harlem and the Bronx, New York. She is a fellow of The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and The Studios of Key West, and a member of The MacDowell Colony Fellows Executive Committee. Paula has been awarded a 2017 Hawthornden Fellowship. A music theater piece based on a story from her book is in development with composer Scott Wheeler. Before earning her MFA, Paula edited books for the American Psychological Association on topics ranging from the study of personality to PTSD among refugees.




Mikhail Iossel, the Leningrad-born author of the story collection Every Hunter Wants to Know (W.W. Norton) and co-editor of the anthologies Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States (Dalkey Archive, 2004) and Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia (TinConcordia University in Montreal House, 2010), is a professor of English/Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and the founding director of the Summer Literary Seminars international program. Back in the Soviet Union, he worked as an electromagnetic engineer/submarine demagnetizer and as roller-coaster security guard and belonged to the organization of samizdat writers, Club-81. He came to the US in 1986 and started writing in English in 1988. Among his awards are the Guggenheim, NEA and Stegner Fellowships. His stories, in English and in translation to a number of other languages, have appeared in NewYorker.com, Guernica, The Literarian, Agni Review, The North American Review, Threepenny Review, Interia, Boulevard, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere.



I am so honored to host both Paula and Mikhail here, and to have written an essay for them. You all should, too.


What was your “why now” moment when you decided to launch this journal?

Mikhail: Because now is the ultimate “if not now, when” moment. We are all trying to make sense of the changed and still rapidly changing circumstances of our shared life as Americans, and as American writers. Writing, generally, is a solitary process, but there are times when joint free-writing feels like a necessity. It is an exercise in not being silent together, because silence is not the absence of sound, but the absence of us.

Paula: In the days after the election, like so many people, I was in shock. I couldn’t write fiction. I couldn’t sleep. Fiction requires imagining what happens next, and I was not yet prepared to do that. When Mikhail proposed a journal in which artists could address what was going on, I offered to help right away. I felt the need to do something in response to the situation. The only other thing that seemed viable was drinking heavily, and that is notably less sustainable.

What do you hope this journal will do? And how can it reach--and teach--the people it really needs to? How can it not just be "preaching to the choir?"

Mikhail: Preaching is antithetical to literature, and the choir’s essential purpose is to sing, rather than hearken to sermons in silence. Voices spread through the air, words permeate the cyberspace. Writers write, readers read, and frequently those two capacities are interchangeable, since by the act of reading reader gets transformed into a co-author. 

Paula: I’m not out to teach anyone anything. At least, we’re trying to get people thinking about the different ways our lives may be affected by what’s happening here and around the world. I want to help people to remember who they are and how interdependent we are. I want to build empathy. I want people to hold onto their humanity.

One way to get there is for more people to know about us, of course. I’m pleased to say that we are already beginning to hear from some well-known artists who want to help us reach a wider audience. Writers like you, Caroline, who have a platform, help draw attention to the talented but perhaps lesser-known artists who are telling compelling stories that we would like everyone to hear.

How do we discover and keep meaning in these dark times? Are you talking about the concrete things that people can do every week, or the things to keep us all from being so terrified we cannot move?

Mikhail: I like this quote from John Ashbery: “In the increasingly convincing darkness/ The words become palpable, like a fruit/ That is too beautiful to eat.” The condition of gathering non-freedom accelerates the mind, enhances one’s search for meaning, and elevates the role of writer as an alternative source of truth-telling in gaslighting-addled society.

Paula: My hope is that people will find something to connect with in the creative work we publish. I think meaning can be discovered through art. Many of my colleagues have expressed that it has been difficult or impossible to create since the election. I think that’s beginning to change. It’s like working through stages of grief. I have a feeling that once more artists begin working again, we are going to see a flood of exciting and innovative projects.

Also, in the days following the election, Mikhail noticed that a lot of Facebook pages had sprung up focused on organizing for marches or readings, signing petitions, responding to proposed legislation or nominees, and so on. I was at a talk where a representative from the ACLU explained that hope requires action; he quoted Cornel West: “Action leads to hope.” This is so true. We need to work together for the same primary purpose: to keep our democracy, to keep what rights we have and push for equal rights. Maybe that sounds trite and obvious, but sometimes people get lost in the weeds, or focus on searching for perfection in our allies, and forget that we’re all really talking about the same ultimate goal.

We will have an editor who runs a page we’re calling “Actions,” where current actions like those I just listed will be posted. That page will be updated frequently.

But our primary focus will be on presenting creative works from a range of voices, with, we hope, a global perspective. Our plan is to post new pieces a couple of times each week.

Will you also be giving voice to say, Trump voters, who are beginning to feel they were lied to?

Mikhail: Unlike in Trump-world, there will be no off-limits topics and non-grata categories of people in “Scoundrel Time.” 

Paula: No. They had their voice. Look what they did! They should all go stand in the corner.
Just kidding. Sort of. We would be glad to see work from people who are questioning, who have changed their minds, from former “true believers.”

Mikhail: Of course, the hateful people, the racists, those willfully wallowing in vileness, unrepentant in their ironclad ignorance, the determined scoundrels, will gain no access to our pages -- not that they would likely be interested.

What can everyone do to support this? And how can we really help one another?

Mikhail: One can support us by supporting us, in every sense of the term!

Paula: We are a 501(c)(3)—that is, a tax-exempt nonprofit. We accept donations, and your donations are tax deductible. Anyone who would like to donate, please contact us. Please consider donating! We are all volunteers. We hope donations will enable us to start paying our contributors. As a fiction writer, I feel strongly about that.

We launch on January 30th. We will accept work through the Submittable platform, and we won’t charge for submissions. Before you submit, I urge you to read the journal, of course. It will be free, and it’s online (as of Jan. 30). Couldn’t be easier. We won’t open to general essay submissions right away, but if you have an idea for an essay, please pitch me through the mailbox on our website.

Can you give us an example of the kinds of things you are looking for or that you have accepted?

Mikhail: I, for one, would be especially interested in the sheer geographic dispersal of literary voices, throughout North America and beyond.

Paula: I’m especially interested in seeing more humor writing. We have a humor piece in our launch issue that I love, along with an essay about how much demagogues hate humor. Keep it coming! I’m also interested in cartoons, comics, and graphic work in different genres.

We seek fiction, poetry, and visual art. It doesn’t have to be overtly political, but perhaps, to paraphrase our poetry editor, Mark Svenvold, work that engages with the contemporary political and cultural situation in direct and indirect ways we hadn’t anticipated, without necessarily arriving at an answer or solution. Maybe a carefully observed moment of beauty, of humor, of attention. As our fiction editor, Karen Bender explains, we look for work that humanizes, that surprises, that uses humor, that is both traditional and plays with form. We’re not opening to CNF submissions yet, but if anyone has an intriguing idea, please pitch me through the general mailbox on the site.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Who is contributing?

We have so much great work! Tremendous work! (Sorry, I can’t stand the way language is being debased these days…)

Some of the work we plan to include in the, uh, inaugural issue:
Poems by Daisy Fried, Terese Svoboda, Jim Daniels, Regie Cabico, and Bob Holman;
Fiction by Ben Greenman, Tracy O’Neill, David Ulin, Paul Lisicky, and Carolyn Ferrell.


Look for an essay about humor by South African novelist Tony Eprile; an essay about asylum by Peter Trachtenberg; a premonition by Timothy Denevi, who has followed the election for Lit Hub; a commentary on Caligula by novelist Valerie Block; an essay by none other than Caroline Leavitt about stories we tell ourselves; and a dispatch from Kenya about our election by Tony Mochama; and a dispatch from the UK by fiction writer Carole Burns. Plus photographs! And video performance art!



Mikhail: Can’t think of one. There already are too many unanswered and, at this point, unanswerable questions floating all around us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Shanthi Sekaran talks about her astonishing novel LUCKY BOY, undocumented mothers who lose their kids, difficult emotions and why we love them, and more




















"A deeply compassionate exploration of the emotional toll of infertility, the insidious ways in which class divides us, the weight of social judgment, and the explosive touch-point of todays headlines regarding illegal immigration." Booklist, starred review.


Shanthi Sekaran teaches creative writing at California College of the Arts. Her first novel, The Prayer Room, was published by the innovative MacAdam Cage. I'm so honored to have her here. Thank you so much, Shanthi!


 I always say every book starts with a yearning. What was yours?

My earliest emotional impulses around this book centered around curiosity. I’d heard about undocumented mothers having their children adopted away from them and I was intensely curious about what the actors in these situations were thinking. I suppose I yearned to get into the heads of people like Rishi and Kavya and Soli (my characters.) I wanted to get past intention—past the benevolent intentions of the adoptive parents, and understand how they came to believe that they could justifiably adopt the children of living and able mothers. I knew that their actions were driven by love, not hostility or hate, but I didn’t understand that love. I didn’t understand how their love could justify their actions.

What kind of writer are you? And did your usual process differ at all with this book?


I’d call myself an impulsive writer. I don’t wake up at 5 every morning to slog away at my desk. I admire people who can do that. I started off writing only when things came to me. That’s how I wrote my first book, in my mid twenties, before kids. It was written in small doses, based off flights of inspiration.

But eventually, when I had kids, I didn’t have that freedom with my time. So I became a writer who did have to sit down at certain times on certain days and churn out material. That was good for me. It increased my stamina as a writer. And there’s never enough time to write—not for me, anyway. I almost always have to leave my work half-finished, so I’ve gotten used to a certain level of hunger, of desperation to get back to my work. That desperation actually helps. It’s energy that I feed off of to keep plugging through a novel or an essay.

So much of this gorgeous novel is about whom we belong to and why that matters so much—and the longing for connection, to both place and to people. Can you talk about this please?

I do agree that place plays a major role in this novel, a different role for each mother. Soli finds, upon arriving in Berkeley, that her journey took her much further, psychologically speaking, from her little town in Mexico than she’d expected it to. It was an emotional as well as a physical journey. So when she starts her life in Berkeley, she wants nothing more than to feel at home. I’ve been an immigrant—I had to find my way into a new life when I moved to England for six years—and even in my relatively comfortable circumstances, I experienced this intense discomfort, this disorientation that comes with planting yourself in new soil. I wanted nothing more than to just feel at home. Kavya, on the other hand—her immigration happened a generation before her. In many ways, she’s so very Berkeley. She’s in the right place, geographically. Her migration was migration into motherhood. That’s where she had to find her comfort zone: as a mother to Ignacio.  And when she did find it, she dove in head first.

The novel also is asking what constitutes a better life? I found that incredibly profound and provocative.  What do you think the answer is?
This a question that immigrants have to grapple with—the question of whether what they find in their new home merits what they’ve given up in their old home. Whether material opportunity justifies the isolation, the danger, the uncertainty of the immigrant experience. Some immigrants, of course, don’t have the option of staying back home. For some, it’s a matter of escaping with their lives.

I think this question of the “better life”—this drive for self-improvement—is quintessentially American. It’s why the American Dream, whatever you might think of that construct, speaks so strongly to people from other countries. We take this quest for self-improvement for granted, living in America.  And to answer your question, I can’t really say what makes a better life. That answer is subjective. For a child, for Ignacio, a better life is one in which he’s loved. And he’s loved in both his possible lives.

What’s obsessing you now and why?
The direction our country is taking, the swell of activism that is growing, the importance of staying optimistic and driven in the face of nonsensical political maneuvering. What else…. My kids. Swing Time by Zadie Smith. Leonard Cohen. Doing a pull-up.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have.
Why do we read novels that yank our emotions around? I’ve always wondered that.

Anxious about the future? No matter your political bent, Gene Stone's THE TRUMP SURVIVAL GUIDE has a wealth of information on creating the America you want

Book, newspaper and magazine editor Gene Stone has written a concise, calm, and very helpful guide about what we can and should do during a Trump presidency. What's great about the guide is he not only explains how things are, he also discusses how they were with Obama, as well as suggesting ways to take action. I'm thrilled to have him here.  Thank you, Gene.





Why this book now? And why were you the person to write it?

Like many people, I was horribly dejected by the election outcome. I didn’t open the newspaper for the next two weeks. I avoided television news. I only went online to sites that might make me laugh. But after a week, I thought, someone has to sit down and write a quick book to help other people not only get through this pain, but help them rise out of it by offering advice on how to fight back. Wallowing in misery seldom solves the world’s problems.

As to why I thought I was the right person – well, I don’t have many skills… but I do think fast and write fast. In 2004, afraid that George W. Bush was going to win reelection, I wrote a book called The Bush Survival Bible in less than a week and it became a number one bestselling book. So I knew I had the experience to be able to call up a publisher and say, basically, trust me, I can write a book in less than two weeks.
       

I deeply admired your calm tone. How did that come about?

The tone was something I thought about for a long time (well, actually, a full day, which was all I had to be thinking about things like that when there are only a dozen days in a deadline). I wanted it to be measured and calm because I believe that frenzy and hysteria do not produce good results. But yes, I had to do a great deal of rewriting to rework those passages where I lost my equanimity and sounded shrill or frightened.

I don’t know many Trump supporters but I have run into a few online and their reaction is basically, I am an idiot, I am a traitor, I am a fool. Obama was the devil, Obama was the anti-Christ, Obama was a Muslim terrorist. Trump will save America, Trump will make America great again, Trump is a hero. There’s not much I can do with that. The fact is, however, that if these people read the book, they would see that this is not an anti-Trump book per se. It is an anti-Trump book if he chooses to follow a certain, dark path. I make it quite clear that we don’t know yet what kind of a president he will be. (However, his cabinet picks so far are not promising.)


When did you start writing the book and what was the process like?

I started writing this on November 19th and finished on the 29th. Luckily, I am something of a political junkie so I knew where to go to find more information. But I also hired seven friends to help write, research, fact-check, and copy-edit. I could not have written this book without them, particularly Nicholas Bromley, who has worked on other books with me and was invaluable to getting this one done.
 
I was trolled on twitter. I really do want to talk to people with different views than I have and to find something in common, but how is the best way to have a reasonable discussion?

I am terribly sorry you were trolled like that. But the moment we voice our opinions on line, we are immediately vulnerable: something about the Internet allows people to engage in their worst behavior. So it’s difficult to have reasonable discussions online, especially with people like the one you mention. Frankly, there’s probably nothing you could have said or done that would have made him or her adopt a more reasonable attitude. The only time people really seem able to do that is when they are forced by person-to-person contact to understand that we are all basically the same, humans struggling to make sense of our lives, the world, and whatever else comes up every day to confuse and baffle us. I have read some wonderful stories of people spouting bigotry and intolerance who for various reasons were put into situations where they had to interact with the objects of their hate, and after hours of honest and open discussion, did come away with a new, softer sense of what it means to be human. But that takes time, and effort, and most people simply don’t care enough. The best you can do is what you are already doing. Try to be kind and understanding, even in the face of hate. The last lines of my book are:

… more than working on an issue that concerns you, more than joining a demonstration,  more than signing a petition, perhaps the very best way to fight to keep this country a land of dignity and freedom is to show civility and support to all Americans, whatever their gender, race, creed, or color. When you buy your morning coffee from the Afghan man at the counter, or when you consult with your Estonian lawyer, or when you work with your South African accountant, tell them how much you appreciate what they do and how glad you are that they live here. Appoint yourself the ambassador for the America that you believe in.

Can microdosing with LSD help depression? Ayelet Waldman talks about A REALLY GOOD DAY, her writing life, her marriage, her moods, more










Ayelet Waldman is an Israeli-American novelist and essayist. She has written seven mystery novels, four other novels, and some controversial essays about motherhood.In A Really Good Day, she talks about turning to microdosing with LSD to help her sanity and her marriage--and the book is spectacularly fascinating.

Thank you so much for being here, Ayelet.



I always want to know why this book, why now? What did you intend to figure out while writing it, and what happened instead?

I didn't intend to write a book at all. I found myself in a very scary, very desperate place. My mood disorder, once well controlled by medication, was proving harder and harder to control. I was slipping into despair, fighting with my husband. I was in terrible pain from frozen shoulder. I was desperate and decided to try microdosing. I began keeping a faithful diary of my experience, and soon realized that I was writing a book!

How we feel, how we react, are all chemical processes, so it makes sense that the right drugs could help us to feel and act and BE better. yet so many of them have terrible side effects or are addicting. But you found micro doses of LSD incredibly helpful--and now you cannot legally get more.  How can we change the mindset of the country about this in terms of legalizing helpful drugs like weed and micro doses of LSD?

What's interesting is that compared to other drugs, cannabis and psychedelics actually have far fewer side effects and negative outcomes. No one has every overdosed on either. I know that's hard to believe. I myself believed a whole lot of stuff that turned out not to be true. I spend a lot of time talking about safety in the book because I was very worried about it. I include lots of research and references. I'm a big believer in a reality and science based approach to life!

You're known for your absolute bravery and honesty in putting your feelings and your life on the  page. There's a lot about your marriage in this book, and a lot about your feelings about who you are and how you behave and why. Did that every make you nervous to expose yourself so much?

I think whenever you write memoir you have to be very thoughtful about what you say and what you don't say. Every one draws their own line in the sand. For example, while I'm happy to reveal my own foibles and mistakes, to an unusual extent perhaps, I would never write anything negative about my husband.

What I loved about your book was the honest assessment of what drugs can and cannot do for us. How are you feeling now that you are no longer micro dosing? Are there residual effects?  And how are you managing your anxiety/depression now?

I wish I could still microdose. I'm definitely not doing as well as I was. I have to work much harder to maintain equilibrium.  I go to therapy. I try (unsuccessfully) to mediate. I use all sorts of apps and things to remind me to breath and calm down. I even got a tattoo with the word "wait" on my arm, to try to remind myself to think before I act.

What did you learn from the whole experience that you didn't expect?

That LSD is wildly misunderstood. That there are a myriad of uses for this and similar drugs that scientists are only now being allowed to explore. And that when you say "I took LSD" a surprising number of people say, "Me too!"

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Alice Hoffman talks about FAITHFUL, forgiveness, fame, the state of the world, and her dog named Shelby--and more

Portrait of the artist

The gorgeous book cover

Alice's dog Shelby


Okay, here is a truth for you. When I was in my 20s and starting out as a writer, I became obsessed with Alice Hoffman. I saw her first novel Property Of in a bookstore, and when I read that she was just 21, I felt a spark in me and I instantly bought the novel.  Plus, it had all these raves on the back cover. Plus, it was dark. Plus, the first sentence just pulled me in. That novel inspired me. It pushed me to get more serious, to write harder and better, no matter what else was going on in my life.

I'm happy to say that now, I have a bumping-into-you connection with Alice. A few years ago, I met her in person at an Algonquin party and I just felt an instant connection. A few weeks ago, while in a NPR studio waiting to be interviewed,  Alice came out from her interview and we got to hug and talk. And I am so jazzed to host her on my blog.

She's one of our most respected and prolific authors. As I mentioned, her first novel Property Of was published when she was just 21, but 22 other novels have followed, as well as 3 books of shorter fiction, and 8 books for young adults and kids. Here on Earth was an Oprah Book Club choice. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Hoffman’s advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Her other glorious titles include Blackbird House, Aquamarine, Indigo,  The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, The Ice Queen. Green Angel, The Foretelling, Incantation, The Third Angel, The Story Sisters, Green Witch, The Red Garden, The Dove Keepers, and The Marriage of Opposites.

Faithful, her latest, is about hope and belief and forgiveness--and it's remarkable.

Thank you so much for being here, Alice, and wait, wait, when are we having coffee?




I always am fascinated by how and why a writer writes a particular book at a particular time. What was the why now moment for your extraordinary Faithful?


I wrote about forgiveness as a way of learning about it -- it's such a difficult thing to practice. I think forgiveness is something that flows two ways -- what you give, you receive.

You've written so many, many different kinds of books. You write YA, you write historical novels, you write magical novels--but what is so interesting to me is that they are all Alice Hoffman novels in some way. You recognize that spark. Is there any type of novel you have no interest in doing?

 I think that all writers have a voice that is unique, like a fingerprint. No one can write the way that you can, it's something that's yours alone. And it's true, I write the way I read, and always want to try something new. I can't think of any type of novel I wouldn't want to try. At least once!

How do you handle your huge success? (You seem to do it with the utmost grace.)

Thank you! I feel very lucky. I never though I could be a writer, and certainly not a published one. I was a reader and I still think of myself that way. Although sometimes the book I want to read isn't there, so I have to write it myself.

I have a silly question, but I have to ask. I know you have or had a dog named Shelby, and there is a Shelby, of course, in this novel. How important are names to you and how do you know when you have the right one?

I think names are so important. I loved Shelby, and I guess I didn't want to give her up, and since she's such a "dog person" it seemed a fitting name for my sheepdog. Occasionally, I've changed a name of a character and it never "feels" right.

What's obsessing you now and why?

Oh, the state of the world.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?


You asked them all! Thank you! Lovely to talk writing with you!

Monday, January 2, 2017

The acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning Sceenwriter/Playwright/Producer Robert Schenkkan talks about his latest film, HACKSAW RIDGE, Mel Gibson, a soldier who won the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot, and so much more







I love talking to creative people, but being able to talk with the great Robert Schenkkan, (Thank you for the introduction, writer/director and friend Michael Medeiros) was truly like a gift from the gods for me. Pulitzer-prize winning, Tony@ Award winning, Writer's Guild Award winning, two-time Emmy nominated writer of Stage, Television, and Film, Schenkkan is the author of fourteen original full-length plays, two musicals, and a collection of one-act plays. He co-wrote the feature film, THE QUIET AMERICAN and HACKSAW RIDGE, and his television credits include: ALL THE WAY, THE PACIFIC, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and SPARTACUS.

What can I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you, Robert.

You've written critically acclaimed plays for both adults and children, written award-winning films, and worked in films like All The Way and Hacksaw Ridge. Was each new creative endeavor an outgrowth of the other? Do you find yourself bringing a different mindset to what you do? And do you have a preference? How different is the world of theater and movies?

I started Hacksaw in 2006 and worked with a number of different directors over the next ten years. I began the research on All The Way in 2010 and the world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was 2012. I imagine that the lessons (good and bad) of each  project influence the next but these two had very little to do with each other.

It’s a slightly different tool kit for each, movies and theater, and I very much enjoy moving back and forth between the two. I feel it keeps me sharper, less likely to repeat myself. The primary difference is a legal one but it makes an enormous difference. As a playwright, I retain my copyright and complete creative control. As a screenwriter I don’t own my own copyrights and am thus at the mercy of others. This is why the playwright is more respected in his field than the screenwriter in Hollywood.

I always think that creative people are somewhat haunted and they release some of that anxiety by creating. Maybe that's just me, but if it isn't, I'd love to know what drives you? What's haunting you?

I don’t think of myself as haunted at all – that seems like knee-jerk nod to the old trope that artists are all neurotics and it is their neurosis that makes their art. Van Gogh did not paint because of his depression but despite it. I love words. I love stories. I always have. There is something about writing that is deeply satisfying to me. I like this quote by Lisa Carver, “I write like putting doors on a car or solving a geometry problem – like there’s only one answer, and I keep fiddling till I find it. It’s not talent that I feel when I get it right; it’s goodness. Like I’ve buttoned down one small pocket of the world and what I put inside is safe now.”

Let's talk about Hacksaw Ridge, your newest film, which you wrote. What's so fascinating about the film is that it's about a conscientious objector who found himself in wartime, and actually saved 75 people without firing a single shot. And it's a true story. Where did you learn of this story?  And what your initial intention to do with it. What questions did you want to explore?

I was approached in 2006 by producer Bill Mechanic who had just acquired the rights. I didn’t know anything about Doss until Bill sent me a documentary. I was knocked out and said yes immediately. I think the danger here lies in making Desmond a secular saint. This would be less interesting to watch and actually not true to Desmond’s struggle to reconcile his Faith and his Patriotism. My solution was to focus not just on his external battles with the Army and with his company (although I dramatized that considerably) but also on his internal struggles – his doubts and his despair. The key to the latter was to make central to his character the mystery of why he won’t touch a gun. This is not part of his Seventh Day Adventism or necessarily being a CO. The revelation, deliberately delayed until the second act, is that Desmond doesn’t feel superior to his fellow soldiers, far from it. No, his reluctance to touch a weapon stems from his awareness of his own all-too-human urge to violence. That’s an interesting idea for a conscientious objector.

I know you cannot speak for others, but I'm interested in the way the media is calling this movie Mel Gibson's atonement as well as his comeback. You wrote this film, but he directed it. Were there choices he made that you wish he hadn't? Or were there choices he made that surprised you? I'm always curious about how much of a writer's vision makes it to the screen? 

A writer never gets everything he wants in a move unless he directs it himself but having said that, I think Mel did a terrific job, especially considering how modest the budget was (1/2 of what he shot Braveheart on 20 years earlier!) and how tight the shooting schedule. His action sequences are brilliant and what you would expect from Mel but it was the tenderness of his handling the love story that exceeded my expectations.

What are you working on now--and why?

I have two movies that I am trying to get into production in 2017: THE PROJECT to be directed by Robert Redford about the Manhattan Project and FALL OF SAIGON about America’s last days in Vietnam. We are out to directors on that. I am currently writing a movie for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Amazon about Reconstruction and I have another film project which is still being negotiated. I have a new play, HANUSSEN, which will be workshopped at the Denver Summit Theater Festival in February and another new play, BUILDING THE WALL, which I hope to have in production in 2017. I have play commissions from A.R.T. and the Geffen Theater and the Public Theater.

What questions didn't I ask that I should have?

What's your favorite quote: From the French novelist, Flaubert. “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”



Friday, December 9, 2016

Jessica Treadway talks about her stunner of a new novel How Will I Know You?, secrets, commercial verses literary and so much more







Jessica Treadway draws her characters into an impossible knot and then expertly teases it apart. Kept me up half the night." Ann Patchett

Jessica Treadway is phenomenal. Her story collection Please Come Back to me received the Flannery O'Connor Award for Best Short Fiction. She is also the author of Absent Without Leave and Give You Peace.  I am so thrilled to have her here. Thank you so much, Jessica!


I always want to know, “Why this novel? Why now?” What sparked the writing?

Many years ago, I wrote two different fragments — beginnings of something — and when I rediscovered them, it occurred to me that they might work together. One was a scene based on a horrible event that happened to a family I knew — the parents and three children all went out ice skating, and the youngest, a nine-year-old girl, fell through the ice. They all rushed to help her and also fell under, and she slipped away from them, beneath the ice, and drowned. The others survived, but I was haunted by imagining what they would remember of that event, and how it would affect them. The other fragment was about a child who saw Michelangelo's Pieta at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, then was also in the Vatican on the day in 1972 when the sculpture was attacked by a man with a hammer. I wanted that character to grow up to be an artist and art teacher. In this novel, I've changed the accidental drowning to a murder near a frozen pond, and because of historical timing, I couldn't work the Pieta piece in (I'll use it somewhere else, someday!), though the murdered girl's mother is an artist and an art teacher.

I loved Lacy Eye, and I loved the even tighter suspense in How Will I Know You? So, if you had to, what would you say the lessons were that you learned in writing Lacy Eye and applied to this new novel? Or do you feel that every novel is starting from scratch? Were there risks that you took?

Thank you, Caroline — that's a true compliment coming from you. They really were very different novels to write, for many reasons. In Lacy Eye, I was exploring the question of how much if anything the narrator might be hiding from herself, whereas How Will I Know You? contains an actual mystery about who murdered Joy. The information isn't hidden, but, rather, unknown. In that sense, it's a whodunit, but I hope it's also more than that because I was most interested in examining the effect of her death — and her manner of death -- on selected people around her, especially in the context of the search for her killer.

As for risks, I thought it was a pretty big one to tell the story from multiple points of view, which I've never done before. I worried that people would prefer one or two characters' perspectives over the others, and wish they could be back with those when I made a detour to the ones they didn't care for so much. I'm sure that will happen with some readers. But even in the time since I began this novel, I've noticed many other novels being written now using the same structure, so I take heart from that and hope that enough readers will like alternating whose mind they spend time in, throughout the book.

It also felt risky to have one of the point-of-view characters be a black man; his is the first-person narration, at that, while the others are third-person. It would be dishonest to say I didn't feel nervous about this, considering the current sensitivity about cultural appropriation and who can tell what story. But I've felt similar nervousness when writing from a maternal point of view, when I am not a mother myself. And in fact, Martin's voice — and an interior life for him -- came more easily to me than the interior life of the white male character. He appeared to me as a black character, and it would have been more wrong of me, I believe, to reject that instinct out of fear about what someone else might think or say. I know that however well or poorly I did it, I rendered him in good faith (as I do with all my characters), and the question of good faith is a primary factor in how I judge myself and others.

I loved that we get the story from four perspectives, because it’s been proven that four people can see the same thing and come up with different versions of what happened—depending on who they are. Was it hard to juggle all these perspectives?

It was actually easier than I thought it would be, probably because the four are all so different from one another. There are two male and two female point-of-view characters, and they all had distinctly different relationships to Joy, except for Tom, who doesn't know her before he becomes involved in the investigation. Other than him, we have her mother, her best friend, and the man arrested for her killing — Martin, who had been her mother's lover for a time.

Since this book is about secrets, I’m wondering if it has impacted the way you handle what to divulge and what to keep hidden?

I'm assuming you mean in terms of the stories I write, and not my personal life (in which I still try to keep hidden the things I always did). :)  As for stories, I'm always interested in how much a writer tells up front, because it clues the reader in as to what the novel will be about. In my first novel, 15 years ago (And Give You Peace), I made the deliberate decision to reveal in the early pages that two characters had died, and how, because my story was about one of the surviving family members trying to piece together the why.

But in How Will I Know You?, it was important to have the murder unsolved because I needed the tension in the small town, and among the characters who live in it. Their suspicions about who killed Joy, and the actions they take because of those suspicions, are central to who they are. And to the question of how well they know the people around them, even in the most intimate relationships.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

As you know, I received your questions before the election, and the election was obsessing me then. Answering them afterward, the election is still obsessing me, as it is so many of us. If you mean in terms of things literary, I'm having fun working on something that I have no plan for — I'm "following a whisper," to use Jayne Anne Phillips' phrase about how she writes.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have.

I don't know what the question would be (!), but the answer is that I've been thinking a lot about the "popular vs. literary fiction" debate, both in terms of my own writing and the novels and stories I read. One of my aims in writing both How Will I Know You?  and Lacy Eye was to do my best to write book that inhabited both realms — that is, well-crafted prose about full characters acting to propel a plot. As strange as it might sound, plot was something I've really only thought about with these last two novels; developing characters, and evocation of atmosphere, comes more naturally to me. I don't know how well I ultimately succeeded, but I did have to smile when I was speaking with my agent shortly after submitting the manuscript of How Will I Know You? , and she said, "I'm tempted to tell you, Less plot, please." I guess I will continue to aim for a happy medium.


Friday, November 25, 2016

And now for something different, Watch out for (and help support) the astonishingly timely new film by Michael Medeiros, 3 Minutes, about courage, loss of innocence, gun violence and community












Michael Medeiros is both a talented multi-ranged actor, a brilliant writer and director, and a friend. I first met him through his wonderful darkly comic film Tiger Lily Road, (I almost got a chance to do a voice in the film. He needed someone who sounded weird, and I fill that bill.) Recently I watched a rough cut of his new film, 3 Minutes, and by the end, I was weeping. About family, community, courage, guns and what one brave woman will do for her damaged veteran husband--the film is truly important.

I am so thrilled that he and the others responsible for the film have agreed to talk with me about it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

First, the info you need to know:

3 MINUTES  RT 12:41

Written & Directed by Michael Medeiros

Cinematographer Nils Kenaston

Produced by Ilvi Dulack; Mark Woods

Executive Producer Michael Gallis



CAST

Tommy - Adam Cole

Laurie - Inge Uys

The Kid - Jacob Leinbach

Maddy - Tiz McWilliams

Earl - Lee Spencer Osario



WEBSITE: 

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/3minutesthemovie/

Festivals pay a lot of attention to Social Media presence. Every Facebook "like" helps.

Crowdfunding page - to help cover post prod expenses and festival entry fees which are higher than ever this year. We are entering a lot of them to try to give the film as wide an exposure as possible.





And now, the interview.

This film is so different from your excellently dark comic Tiger Lily Road, which I also loved. What was haunting you that led you to 3 MINUTES?



MM:  Like many people, as so many incidents of gun violence of the last few years unfolded one after another, I developed a sort of aching wish, sincere but unfocused, that something could be done about the problem. So when producer, Mark Woods came to me and proposed that we make this film, I literally leapt at the idea. I wrote the script treatment really fast - I guess because I’d already been psychically onboard for a few years.



ID:  I come from a long line of story tellers. That was always the thing for me as long as I can remember and still is. Our talk around the table.  When my Dad calls and says " how are you whats up whats going on"  he is fishing for the story. And I usually have one, that has been on the simmer for a while waiting for the moment. If it is  an especially good one  we will revisit and review it and chew on it for a while.



3 Minutes is the story of what’s happening in our towns and cities and communities . When I read the script it was an immediate "yes" for me.  Its a powerful tale of great courage, a love for the ages and the loss of innocence.



MW:  A lack of comfortable and true self awareness that defines much of our culture. The apparently magnetic pull of group think/speak that takes all the color out of our human processes leaving us with black/white. I want to be a part of something more fluid and personally/culturally challenging than just pulling a lever for A or B. I want a different (kind of) conversation.



I am wondering if your experience as an actor help you with the incredible nuances in the performances. Can you talk about this?



MM:  Yes, absolutely. I learned from personal experience, many many times that the actor is the play or film. There is no other way for me to look at it. There is a lot that a director can add, even impose but the smart ones know that what communicates the story is the impulse that rides on the actors breath. The actor is doing it right now. And when you see a great actor going through an emotional change right before your eyes, the experience is transformative and magical. And directors had best be creating the space for that. I think my experience as an actor has also helped me to recognize what’s what’s working and what each actor can contribute. We had a great casting director, but truthfully, I was a little nervous about casting this in a smaller talent pool. I had originally spoken to Tom Pelphrey about it - he was so wonderful in Tiger Lily Road - but his career has skyrocketed and he wasn’t available. Then I watched the tapes sent in by Adam Cole and Inge Uys and I couldn’t wait to meet them and I knew I could make the film.



And to go back in time: I studied acting with one of the greats in the American theatre, Uta Hagen. She was very big on bringing your own subjective truth to the work. This wasn’t so much a moral imperative, as a practical one. Any talented actor can certainly flounce around the stage and pretend to be something, say angry, and probably convince a lot of people. But the real magic happens when the actor brings a truthful alignment of their own life experience into serving the character in the play or film. There that’s my soapbox.



What deeply impressed me was how every minute serves the story, every image is calibrated for force. Even the wife’s shirt and long hair, which made me immediately think of the 1960’s and all that hope, were on target. Was all of this mapped out beforehand or did you improvise?



MM: Ah well, the 60’s. I have a huge nostalgia for that period and because I experienced some of it as a young person, it kind of feels like home to me. Probably, unconsciously I calibrate a lot in relation to it. We did a costume parade on Laura, I knew I wanted blues for her, and the hard part was that Inge looked good in everything. But this one top was a little bit of a throwback and spoke very quietly. It seemed to say, “here is a person who is unprententious, who has natural beauty and values and who will always give you the simple truth.” And that’s Laurie. With her and with the actor who played Tommy - they’re both very attractive - but I wanted the audience feel their beauty and their potential as human beings. And we only had a couple of scenes with little dialogue to get us there. I had several great, mad, last minute sessions with costumer, Ruth Bryan working things out for all the characters. We also had Nils Kenaston who was the cinematographer on Tiger Lily Road so even though we did some things differently there was a certain approach that was definitely mapped out beforehand. For the emergency room scene we made a lot of choices on the spot because we’d never seen the location before the day of shooting. It became a controlled improvisation developed through slow rehearsals, gradually increasing the pace until we were ready to shoot. It was great fun especially because we had an enthusiastic group of background performers who essentially all became principals. 

P.S. from Caroline: Can I buy that shirt? #notkidding



What surprised you in making this film?



ID: When I realized that actors were driving 5-7 hours to be extras. That blew me away. Then that wonderful letter that actor wrote to me. He was the tall guy who was shot in the beginning. He did don't know what the film was about when he took the gig.  When he arrived on the set we selected him to be featured. And shot. Apparently the same thing happened in his town a year or two ago. the whole experience for him working on our set resonated in a deep and powerful way and he was honored to be in the film.



MM: One thing that surprised me was the support we got from so many people who I could reasonably have expected to oppose us. You can’t make a film about gun violence without the help of some pretty conscientious people who know a lot about guns. It also surprised me that in working with some of them, I began to have a better understanding of their point of view. Of course, Mark Woods, our local producer was simply a genius at making connections to people and finding the way to make them feel comfortable about what we were doing and pursuing them and not giving up and finding out who they were and what they needed. I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the visceral experience of working on set with guns and SFX. I can understand why so many films want to use them. They have a big impact and can change the atmosphere so quickly. Unfortunately, their constant use devalues the effect a great deal.



MW:  Making the film surprised me. While I have produced nearly 150 fully mounted Equity stage productions (directed many of them too), they all happened in a contained and reasonably safe, controlled environment...a theatre. Making a film is like running for your life barefoot, partially blinded and with your ass on fire. And I want to do it again. That's surprising.



The universal level-headedness, patience, stunning work ethic, inventiveness and kindness of absolutely everyone working on this film surprised me.



So many locations in a handful of days, interacting with retail and service communities without so much as a cross look from any of them, speaks volumes about the fabulous character that defines most people if you just show honest respect. More of a reassurance than a surprise, really.



 A number of people, helping to make this story, challenged our wisdom in questioning such a (growing) popular notion that everyone would be a lot safer if we all carried weapons.  I am surprised at the immediate consideration given to the prospect that our real power lies in our ability to make informed and inspired personal choices.



In this terrible political climate, it’s really brave to release a film like this. Do you anticipate any trouble?

MM: One never knows but I don’t think so. While we were filming in July we were assisted by many responsible gun advocates - because I think they honestly felt the production was not aimed at misrepresenting them, or repressing them. The owner of the pawn/gun store where we filmed one scene was incredibly generous. Here’s a man who makes his livelihood selling guns and he opened his business at 5 AM for us to film a scene. And there was the guy who took me to the shooting range so I could get some experience with the weapons we’d be using in the film. What these and so many other interactions tell me is that there are many many people who are willing to have a conversation about this but they don’t want to be belittled or scorned or invalidated.



MW:  Frankly, I don't see the point of anticipating it because making that choice will only weaken me. Furthermore, all we are asking and are likely to be asking in future projects is for our fellow travelers to participate in more conversations, too be curious and to experience the thrill of looking at ourselves and each other through a different lens



What’s obsessing you now and why?



ID: My hope is for the film to reach a wide audience, that will revisit and review it for a while and that it will play a part in the conversation for change.



MM: Yes, launching the film - getting it out to as wide an audience as possible - and at this stage that means festivals, getting the film into the right hands and making the right connections so that programmers will take a serious look at it. We went way out on a limb to make this project happen. It’s a bigger production than 99% of short films usually are. And to say that it’s straining our resources is putting it mildly. But we didn’t make the film to make money. We made it (as we keep saying in various ways) to try to stimulate a conversation. So the only real purpose in all of this is to get it out into the world and say, “let’s talk about it.” And to do that we’re looking for any kind of help along the way that people are willing to give us, whether it’s money, or a facebook like, or sharing the indiegogo page we’re about to launch, or connecting to someone who can open a door for us, it’s all helpful and good.



MW:  Right now, we are completing the work necessary to share the film with as many people as possible There is still a lot of discovery in that process. That said, the real passion is about the conversation we hope to inspire.



What question didn’t I ask that I should have?



MM: You might have asked: “What makes you want to make films?” Well, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it feels too hard. Some days you have to kick yourself in the ass a little. But with any artistic venture it’s such an enticing thing to create an alternate universe (I know you must feel this). But then there’s that old writer’s irony that says: “I don’t so much like the act of writing, but I love to have written.” I feel mostly the opposite. There are so many parts to the process of filmmaking and I’ve come to realize that I love them all. I love imagining the script. I love shooting. I love the solitary world of editing where you re-invent the film (and deal with all of your shooting mistakes). I love foley work because sound becomes music. Making a film uses and challenges all of my skills, every part of my existence up to and through the act of making it. And what you ultimately have to share is beyond description. It is the thing itself. And if you’ve done your job well, people don’t just understand what you mean, they experience what you mean.

And now for something different, Watch out for the astonishingly timely new film by Michael Medeiros, 3 Minutes, about courage, loss of innocence, gun violence and community













Michael Medeiros is both a talented multi-ranged actor, a brilliant writer and director, and a friend. I first met him through his wonderful darkly comic film Tiger Lily Road, (I almost got a chance to do a voice in the film. He needed someone who sounded weird, and I fill that bill.) Recently I watched a rough cut of his new film, 3 Minutes, and by the end, I was weeping. About family, community, courage, guns and what one brave woman will do for her damaged veteran husband--the film is truly important.

I am so thrilled that he and the others responsible for the film have agreed to talk with me about it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

First, the info you need to know:

3 MINUTES  RT 12:41

Written & Directed by Michael Medeiros

Cinematographer Nils Kenaston

Produced by Ilvi Dulack; Mark Woods

Executive Producer Michael Gallis



CAST

Tommy - Adam Cole

Laurie - Inge Uys

The Kid - Jacob Leinbach

Maddy - Tiz McWilliams

Earl - Lee Spencer Osario



WEBSITE: 

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/3minutesthemovie/

Festivals pay a lot of attention to Social Media presence. Every Facebook "like" helps.

Crowdfunding page - to help cover post prod expenses and festival entry fees which are higher than ever this year. They are entering a lot of them to try to give the film as wide an exposure as possible.

And now my review:

Art can save our souls by making us see the world differently, by calling us to action, by engaging every sense. Michael Medeiros' second film is a short but it’s long on drama, tension and importance. Three Minutes is about a damaged veteran, Tommy (Adam Cole), whose wife, Laurie (Inge Uys) is doing her best to protect and heal him in a town drenched in gun culture. The film does so much with nuance—there’s hardly any dialogue, but there’s worlds of meaning in just Laurie's glance at her husband, or how his unsettled face changes when he hears something that even sounds like a shot. But there are also the visuals. They try to escape their lives by sitting in a movie theater watching gun play on the screen, and she pulls him down to kiss him, a protection as well as desire. Every detail is shattering: There are the old couple wearing twin plaid shirts, the rifle-toting young wife who is out maneuvered by the Laurie’s finger gun. “You’d be dead,” she says. Call it many things, a love story that is both tragic and affirming, about how love doesn’t quit when there’s trouble, a call to put a stopper into the terrifying gun culture we seem to be drenched in. What I call it is a masterpiece.


And now, the interview.

This film is so different from your excellently dark comic Tiger Lily Road, which I also loved. What was haunting you that led you to 3 MINUTES?



MM:  Like many people, as so many incidents of gun violence of the last few years unfolded one after another, I developed a sort of aching wish, sincere but unfocused, that something could be done about the problem. So when producer, Mark Woods came to me and proposed that we make this film, I literally leapt at the idea. I wrote the script treatment really fast - I guess because I’d already been psychically onboard for a few years.



ID:  I come from a long line of story tellers. That was always the thing for me as long as I can remember and still is. Our talk around the table.  When my Dad calls and says " how are you whats up whats going on"  he is fishing for the story. And I usually have one, that has been on the simmer for a while waiting for the moment. If it is  an especially good one  we will revisit and review it and chew on it for a while.



3 Minutes is the story of what’s happening in our towns and cities and communities . When I read the script it was an immediate "yes" for me.  Its a powerful tale of great courage, a love for the ages and the loss of innocence.



MW:  A lack of comfortable and true self awareness that defines much of our culture. The apparently magnetic pull of group think/speak that takes all the color out of our human processes leaving us with black/white. I want to be a part of something more fluid and personally/culturally challenging than just pulling a lever for A or B. I want a different (kind of) conversation.



I am wondering if your experience as an actor help you with the incredible nuances in the performances. Can you talk about this?



MM:  Yes, absolutely. I learned from personal experience, many many times that the actor is the play or film. There is no other way for me to look at it. There is a lot that a director can add, even impose but the smart ones know that what communicates the story is the impulse that rides on the actors breath. The actor is doing it right now. And when you see a great actor going through an emotional change right before your eyes, the experience is transformative and magical. And directors had best be creating the space for that. I think my experience as an actor has also helped me to recognize what’s what’s working and what each actor can contribute. We had a great casting director, but truthfully, I was a little nervous about casting this in a smaller talent pool. I had originally spoken to Tom Pelphrey about it - he was so wonderful in Tiger Lily Road - but his career has skyrocketed and he wasn’t available. Then I watched the tapes sent in by Adam Cole and Inge Uys and I couldn’t wait to meet them and I knew I could make the film.



And to go back in time: I studied acting with one of the greats in the American theatre, Uta Hagen. She was very big on bringing your own subjective truth to the work. This wasn’t so much a moral imperative, as a practical one. Any talented actor can certainly flounce around the stage and pretend to be something, say angry, and probably convince a lot of people. But the real magic happens when the actor brings a truthful alignment of their own life experience into serving the character in the play or film. There that’s my soapbox.



What deeply impressed me was how every minute serves the story, every image is calibrated for force. Even the wife’s shirt and long hair, which made me immediately think of the 1960’s and all that hope, were on target. Was all of this mapped out beforehand or did you improvise?



MM: Ah well, the 60’s. I have a huge nostalgia for that period and because I experienced some of it as a young person, it kind of feels like home to me. Probably, unconsciously I calibrate a lot in relation to it. We did a costume parade on Laura, I knew I wanted blues for her, and the hard part was that Inge looked good in everything. But this one top was a little bit of a throwback and spoke very quietly. It seemed to say, “here is a person who is unprententious, who has natural beauty and values and who will always give you the simple truth.” And that’s Laurie. With her and with the actor who played Tommy - they’re both very attractive - but I wanted the audience feel their beauty and their potential as human beings. And we only had a couple of scenes with little dialogue to get us there. I had several great, mad, last minute sessions with costumer, Ruth Bryan working things out for all the characters. We also had Nils Kenaston who was the cinematographer on Tiger Lily Road so even though we did some things differently there was a certain approach that was definitely mapped out beforehand. For the emergency room scene we made a lot of choices on the spot because we’d never seen the location before the day of shooting. It became a controlled improvisation developed through slow rehearsals, gradually increasing the pace until we were ready to shoot. It was great fun especially because we had an enthusiastic group of background performers who essentially all became principals. 

P.S. from Caroline: Can I buy that shirt? #notkidding



What surprised you in making this film?



ID: When I realized that actors were driving 5-7 hours to be extras. That blew me away. Then that wonderful letter that actor wrote to me. He was the tall guy who was shot in the beginning. He did don't know what the film was about when he took the gig.  When he arrived on the set we selected him to be featured. And shot. Apparently the same thing happened in his town a year or two ago. the whole experience for him working on our set resonated in a deep and powerful way and he was honored to be in the film.



MM: One thing that surprised me was the support we got from so many people who I could reasonably have expected to oppose us. You can’t make a film about gun violence without the help of some pretty conscientious people who know a lot about guns. It also surprised me that in working with some of them, I began to have a better understanding of their point of view. Of course, Mark Woods, our local producer was simply a genius at making connections to people and finding the way to make them feel comfortable about what we were doing and pursuing them and not giving up and finding out who they were and what they needed. I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the visceral experience of working on set with guns and SFX. I can understand why so many films want to use them. They have a big impact and can change the atmosphere so quickly. Unfortunately, their constant use devalues the effect a great deal.



MW:  Making the film surprised me. While I have produced nearly 150 fully mounted Equity stage productions (directed many of them too), they all happened in a contained and reasonably safe, controlled environment...a theatre. Making a film is like running for your life barefoot, partially blinded and with your ass on fire. And I want to do it again. That's surprising.



The universal level-headedness, patience, stunning work ethic, inventiveness and kindness of absolutely everyone working on this film surprised me.



So many locations in a handful of days, interacting with retail and service communities without so much as a cross look from any of them, speaks volumes about the fabulous character that defines most people if you just show honest respect. More of a reassurance than a surprise, really.



 A number of people, helping to make this story, challenged our wisdom in questioning such a (growing) popular notion that everyone would be a lot safer if we all carried weapons.  I am surprised at the immediate consideration given to the prospect that our real power lies in our ability to make informed and inspired personal choices.



In this terrible political climate, it’s really brave to release a film like this. Do you anticipate any trouble?

MM: One never knows but I don’t think so. While we were filming in July we were assisted by many responsible gun advocates - because I think they honestly felt the production was not aimed at misrepresenting them, or repressing them. The owner of the pawn/gun store where we filmed one scene was incredibly generous. Here’s a man who makes his livelihood selling guns and he opened his business at 5 AM for us to film a scene. And there was the guy who took me to the shooting range so I could get some experience with the weapons we’d be using in the film. What these and so many other interactions tell me is that there are many many people who are willing to have a conversation about this but they don’t want to be belittled or scorned or invalidated.



MW:  Frankly, I don't see the point of anticipating it because making that choice will only weaken me. Furthermore, all we are asking and are likely to be asking in future projects is for our fellow travelers to participate in more conversations, too be curious and to experience the thrill of looking at ourselves and each other through a different lens



What’s obsessing you now and why?



ID: My hope is for the film to reach a wide audience, that will revisit and review it for a while and that it will play a part in the conversation for change.



MM: Yes, launching the film - getting it out to as wide an audience as possible - and at this stage that means festivals, getting the film into the right hands and making the right connections so that programmers will take a serious look at it. We went way out on a limb to make this project happen. It’s a bigger production than 99% of short films usually are. And to say that it’s straining our resources is putting it mildly. But we didn’t make the film to make money. We made it (as we keep saying in various ways) to try to stimulate a conversation. So the only real purpose in all of this is to get it out into the world and say, “let’s talk about it.” And to do that we’re looking for any kind of help along the way that people are willing to give us, whether it’s money, or a facebook like, or sharing the indiegogo page we’re about to launch, or connecting to someone who can open a door for us, it’s all helpful and good.



MW:  Right now, we are completing the work necessary to share the film with as many people as possible There is still a lot of discovery in that process. That said, the real passion is about the conversation we hope to inspire.



What question didn’t I ask that I should have?



MM: You might have asked: “What makes you want to make films?” Well, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it feels too hard. Some days you have to kick yourself in the ass a little. But with any artistic venture it’s such an enticing thing to create an alternate universe (I know you must feel this). But then there’s that old writer’s irony that says: “I don’t so much like the act of writing, but I love to have written.” I feel mostly the opposite. There are so many parts to the process of filmmaking and I’ve come to realize that I love them all. I love imagining the script. I love shooting. I love the solitary world of editing where you re-invent the film (and deal with all of your shooting mistakes). I love foley work because sound becomes music. Making a film uses and challenges all of my skills, every part of my existence up to and through the act of making it. And what you ultimately have to share is beyond description. It is the thing itself. And if you’ve done your job well, people don’t just understand what you mean, they experience what you mean.