Sunday, March 11, 2012

Author Judith Deborah

Judith Deborah is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. She grew up about forty minutes outside midtown Manhattan and was educated at Duke and Oxford. She recently published a mystery novel, A Falling Knifeand started a pop-culture website. She's passionate about good writing, good mysteries, good movies, good wine, and good food, although she's been known to take great pleasure in terrible examples of all of those things.

Judith's novel has just received a glowing notice from Kirkus Reviews, in which it is described as satisfying, witty and sophisticated. The full review can be found here.

What is the current project you are working on?

I’m weighing some ideas for another book in the Evan Adair mystery series, but am also in the early stages of a novel that’s outside the mystery genre. It’s more along the lines of a comedy of manners. I’m also putting together a collection of short stories.

How do you define success?

Doing a job you love, doing it the best you possibly can, and getting paid for it.

How do you handle rejection?

Either by shifting gears and starting a whole new project -- which tells me I wasn’t that sold on the original project myself -- or by looking for a new way to make it viable. That can mean either tweaking it or changing the approach to selling it (or both, as happened with A Falling Knife).

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes. I started writing stories when I was six. I’ve taken some pretty big detours, but writing has always been at the center of my professional life in one way or another. And I’ve known since I was a kid that ultimately I’d be writing fiction.

What inspired you to become a writer?

Two people inspired me to take the idea seriously: Laurie Colwin and Reynolds Price.

The first book of Colwin’s that I ever read was her collection of short stories, The Lone Pilgrim, which was recommended to me when I was a freshman in college. She wrote in a sunny, wry, sophisticated way about people who are very intelligent but completely confused in their personal lives -- articulate, warm, domestically inclined people who felt very familiar to me. She also did some wonderful (and very funny) food writing. I felt a certain kinship with her, with her style and personality as well as with her life choices, and she made me hopeful that if she could pull off the writing life -- make it a reality and not just wishful thinking -- maybe I could too. (I actually wrote her a fan letter once and she wrote back. She told me that she was writing a novel and having a baby, which was a combination she highly recommended. We lost her very young -- she died at 48 -- but she was a treasure.)

I studied writing with Reynolds Price while I was at Duke as a graduate student. He did a great deal for my confidence as a writer, and his example was a huge inspiration.

What is the best thing about being one?

Positive feedback from readers. I know I should hear “hey, liked the book!” with a mature, sober equanimity, but it always makes me feel like dancing on tables.

What is the worst thing about being one?

Waiting months for a response to a query and having it slowly dawn on you that the silence is itself the answer -- ugh. Not being able to see the end of a project. And of course the days when you can’t write your way out of a paper bag. We all have times when we either can’t crank anything out at all or can only seem to write garbage, and the harder we try, the more craptabulous the stuff gets. Days like that are enough to make you want to get back in bed, pull the covers over your head, and not come out for a couple of months.

Who is your favorite author?

P.G. Wodehouse. Laurie Colwin (see above). And I’m very attached to a whole roster of mystery authors, including Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Reginald Hill, and Colin Dexter. There are some individual works that mean a lot to me, too, like Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Richard Price’s novel Lush Life. All of Lush Life is amazing, but the prologue in particular is a master class.

How has your life changed since you became writer?

No more regular paycheck, which is both disorienting and highly motivating.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to be a writer?

Two things. First, prepare yourself for a lifetime of much more rejection than approbation, and consider if that’s really something you want to take on. And second, be absolutely, positively sure there isn’t something you’d rather do, or even something you’d just like to explore before committing. If there’s anything else you’re seriously considering -- furniture making or investment banking or dog breeding or marine biology -- do that other thing, because your odds of success will be better. It’ll also give you something to write about with some authority later, if you’ve still got the itch. Your writing will almost certainly be a lot more interesting.

What do you like to do besides writing?

Cook, blog, go to the movies, do crosswords, listen to audiobooks, eat, tinker with martini and gimlet proportions, listen to the Larry Miller podcast, and hang out with my kids.

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a writer?

I worked as a financial editor at investment banks in New York for a while. I also spent about a year and a half writing digests of the financial news for an online investment information resource. Nowadays, my main job is as mother to three young kids. Motherhood and writerhood segue rather neatly, I find (I have only mornings to work in because of school/activity schedules, and I’m the kind of writer who works much better with externally imposed time restrictions and deadlines).

How would you describe your education?

As an extremely lucky one. I studied English and US history at Duke with a whole lineup of great people. I also studied International Relations at Balliol College, Oxford, which was one of the best experiences of my life in pretty much every respect you can imagine.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

Oh boy -- I could go on all day with this one. Off the top of my head:

American films: Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike, Desk Set, The Philadelphia Story (detecting a pattern here?), My Favorite Year, Young Frankenstein, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (what can I tell you? I think I injured myself laughing), Best In Show,  The Rookie, 61*. Pretty much anything containing Allison Janney, Madeline Kahn, or Patricia Clarkson.

Foreign films: Diva, A Sunday in the Country, The Band’s Visit, The Lives of Others, Local Hero, Withnail & I, Mostly Martha, Strictly Ballroom, The Lion in Winter, Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers

Television shows: The West Wing, Mad Men, Northern Exposure, Inspector Morse, Sherlock Holmes (with Jeremy Brett), Columbo, The Good Neighbors (called The Good Life in Britain, a 70s-era comedy with Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers), Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister, House of Cards with Ian Richardson, Reckless with Francesca Annis and Michael Kitchen

How has social media changed the publishing industry?

Radically, and largely for the better.

You could have any first edition book. Which book would it be and why?

I actually have them already: Laurie Colwin’s novel Happy All the Time and P.G. Wodehouse’s Pigs Have Wings, which was a gift from my husband.

What's your favorite movie quote and why?

“I’m wearing a cardboard belt!” -- bellowed by Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) to Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) in The Producers, one of my favorite Mel Brooks movies. When I was a kid, my dad and I used to holler this at each other and then fall over laughing. It’s a lot to freight one sentence with, but for some reason this line evokes summer at my old house growing up, smearing a slice of rye bread around the bottom of the salad bowl to soak up the tomato juice and vinegar, and my dad laughing.

Oh, and one other one: Ruth Hussey saying “Belts will be worn tighter this year” in The Philadelphia Story, which exemplifies how terrific that script was. (Belts seem to be a theme. I have no idea why.)

What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?

Sequels can be great. Batman: The Dark Knight, for example, was an outstanding followup to Batman Begins, which had set a very high bar. I’m less sold on remakes, though. I can’t think of a single remake that was superior to, or even equal to, the original. I’m a big proponent of the American movie industry, but it has to be said that the pitiful American remake of a fabulous European movie is almost a genre unto itself. (I haven’t seen the US-made Dragon Tattoo yet, but the Swedish one was excellent. It didn’t need a remake, especially not so soon. I’m open to counterargument, though, particularly when it’s delivered by Daniel Craig.)

What is your opinion on book to movie adaptations?

They’re great if done well. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, for instance, was a terrific adaptation of a book. And that was a book I really loved, so I was apprehensive about the movie. In some ways I liked the movie better than the book.

That adaptation was pretty literal, but I also enjoy adaptations that take a whole new approach to the telling of a story -- Clueless, for example, which sets Jane Austen’s Emma in a California high school. That movie worked brilliantly.

There are certainly instances where the movie adaptation diminishes the book -- The Help comes to mind -- but in general I think they’re fine.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Only that I hope you’ll give my novel a whirl, and if you do, I hope you enjoy it! It’s called A Falling Knife and is available in paperback and for the Kindle. You’re also welcome to pop by my website,, or my Facebook page, and I’d love it if you followed me on Twitter: @JudithDeborah


Thank you for doing the interview Judith. I will  read A Falling Knife ASAP. I don't have much time to read these days.  Good luck with your short stories and other books.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Writer/Filmmaker & Expat Marco North

Why exactly are you living in forced exile in Russia?

My daughter was kidnapped here five years ago by her mother, now my ex-wife. As my daughter cannot legally leave the country until she is 14, the only way for me to actively be her father and protect her means I have to live in Moscow. I have explored every way to bring my daughter back to the US where she was born, but there is no legal precedent.

Where are you from originally?


What is the worst thing about being a single dad?

When I need to understand the nuances of a troubled six-year old girl, I often second-guess myself. Being a single parent is a complete burn-out, a marathon. It just gets very ugly sometimes. You can’t get sick. You have to come up with endless reserves of energy and positivity. You kid sees everything. If you are waking up angry and resentful, they do the same…so if you can wake up and somehow make jokes and pancakes your kid is going to be fine.

What is the best thing about being a single parent?

Doing something very difficult makes you feel like nothing can stop you.

How do you explain to your daughter what is going on between you and her mother?

She is a very intuitive child. She remembers things from when she was three. I am surprised by how much she processes all by herself. We have a lot of quiet, serious talks when I do the listening and she does the talking. I try to make the messy stuff really simple. So far, it works.

How do you balance your family life and your professional life?

I work from home, which means I am not wasting time going to and from an office. I work before my daughter wakes up. I work long after she has gone to sleep, and I take breaks in the middle to do dad stuff. My daughter loves seeing me working, and sometimes she collaborates with me. Making films in our living room feels very natural to me, and to her.

Do you and your daughter both speak fluent Russian?

My daughter speaks fluent English as well as Russian, and can communicate in four other languages. My Russian is great in restaurants, but I never try to speak Russian for anything serious. I destroy the language all the time, unintentionally. What’s funny is this – some Russians completely understand what I am trying to say, others have no idea.

How are Russia and America different, how are they similar?

You know, as many things that are different, there are just as many that are the same – the middle class in America supports the country, and the middle class in Russia barely exists. The corruption, the PR machine and the misperceptions? That’s universal. There are racist Russians and racist Americans. There are good, kind people everywhere.

I will say that lying, cheating and stealing are not frowned upon in Russia. If you get fooled, you are just seen as weak and foolish. There is a harsher morality here – one closer to survival, less about wanting to be perceived as a good, compassionate person. If you smile at someone in the street in Moscow, people think you are either on drugs or just got out of a mental institution.

What is the current project you are working on?

On a personal level - multiple ones. A book of short stories that is almost done. An art book that will combine my photographs with text – it’s a story that will eventually be a film. Creating the outline for a book inspired by my highly successful blog, Impressions of an Expat.

I just launched an independent press - Bittersweet Editions. It is an outgrowth of my longstanding “day job” an agency/design studio called Bittersweet Group. I'll spare the soapbox pitch and just say – it is very artist based, all about supporting the writer the way they wish a press would. We’re way past genres – all about the strength of honest writing in forms common and very uncommon. “Truth lies in words.” That’s our mantra.

How do you define success?

It’s personal. It’s about crossing a threshold and knowing that you have accomplished what you set out to do, and maybe surprised yourself.

How do you handle rejection?

I fully accept the fact that there are people out there that do not connect with what I want to express. If everyone liked what I do, I would probably feel like a failure. Rejection reminds me I am wasting time trying to relate to people who have other interests. I know damn well if I have good work and when I don’t.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Actually, yes. I have a third grade teacher who kept all of these wild stories I wrote and illustrated in his class. It took me a long time to develop, and as I said – pass that threshold. For me, publishing my first novel was a watershed moment.

What inspired you to become a writer?

People confess things to me. I probably could have been a priest. They trust their regrets, their dreams, their secrets to me, and I try to honor them in my writing. I have something of a photographic memory, even for dialogue. I find that writing helps me put the mess of the world in a picture frame, maybe fabricate some perspective on the madness and the joy.

What is the best thing about being one?

Well, the paper is my only real obstacle. To make a film you need money for things like lunch for the crew and locations and makeup. To write a book, the only physical limit is you and maybe a nice pen to write with.

What is the worst thing about being one?

I love writing too much to say anything bad about it.

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on? 

Large projects – six. Small projects, hundreds.

Who is your favorite author?

I am inspired by Kawabata and Rilke, but my favorite writer is John Fante.

How has your life changed since you became writer?

I would say once I really understood I could write really well, I suddenly felt like I had come home to myself. I also felt a deep responsibility to accomplish something.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to be a writer?

It’s not a vanity process. Ignore the noise. It takes a hell of a lot of hard work and brutal self-criticism to become a solid writer. Trust your instincts. Learn how to know if something works or not without begging other people to tell you.

What do you like to do besides writing?

I have a pretty successful alter-ego -  Martin Ruby. He just recorded the soundtrack to a great little film called Gone Elvis directed by David Newhoff. Martin keeps buying guitars and leaves them in my living room, and then my daughter plays them.

I also cook very seriously. Cooking is the one thing I do every single day to remain sane.

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a writer?

Circus worker. Short order cook. Welder. Cinematographer.

How would you describe your education?

Pretty freaking amazing. I went to SUNY Purchase and studied film with some top-notch professors like Tom Gunning and Mimi Arsham, critical theory with guys who were from Yale, photography with Jan Groover, Jed Devine, John Cohen. I followed my heart and mind every single day there, and it has fueled my work for twenty years without any sign of letting up.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

Badlands by Terrence Malick. Au Hazard, Bathazar by Robert Bresson. Breaking Bad created by Vince Gilligan.

 How would you describe the writing "scene" where you live?

I have no idea. I never really connected with writers this way, even when I lived in NYC.

 How has social media changed the publishing industry?

The obvious democratization is empowering. It also means there are countless books out there now that have not gone through a critical process.

How does independent differ from the mainstream?

I don’t think many independent presses or studios are really independent. They are often just fledgling versions of their mainstream counterparts. Black Sparrow press is an independent press. It always was. I don’t see many new ones like them.

 You could have any first edition book. Which book would it be and why?

Ask the Dust by John Fante. It is the one book that forced me to understand that if you can write, you better do it. No excuses.

Do you believe in life on other planets?

Why the hell not?

What's your favorite movie quote and why?

Peter Falk, in A Woman Under the Influence directed by John Cassavetes. “Here kid, have a beer. Y'll sleep like rocks.” He says this to his young son, in a devastating moment. It’s such a crude gesture – the man has no idea what to do or say – so he just blurts something out. It is just very very human.

 What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?

It’s subjective and personal, but I think they are quite foolish – just some cautious marketing people trying to make money. Make a film inspired by an old film – that’s much more interesting.

What is your opinion on book to movie adaptions?

I think it was Mailer who said you give Hollywood a cow and they come back with a cup of beef bullion and say “here, we made your book into a movie”.  Honestly, it depends on the book and the director. The End of the Road by Terry Southern was adapted to film by one of professors, Aram Avakian and I think it was remarkable. There is a film adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novella A Gentle Creature  - Une Femme Douce directed by Robert Bresson. I love both the book and the film.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Writing my blog Impressions of an Expat every Monday is extremely challenging. Writing something that is deeply personal and honest yet meaningful to an audience of strangers is a very tall order. I live a bizarre life in Moscow. I have stories to tell, about getting dragged to police stations, about falling in love, about the amazing kid I have. I am humbled by the comments and reactions I get each week from readers in over 40 countries. The blog probably saved my life.


Thank you for doing the interview Marco. I wish you all the best with your projects. I'll do what I can to spread the word about them and blog.  My thoughts/prayers are with you. I hope you'll be able to bring your daughter back to the USA with you soon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Filmmaker Ricky Tyree

Ricky Tyree was born in Buffalo,New York, and raised in Atlanta,Georgia. Growing up, his passion was in sports. He ran track, played football, and basketball. He became the editor of the school show as a freshman in high school, but it wasn't until his junior year when he discovered his passion for filmmaking.

Outside of working for the school show, he began editing highlight tapes for other athletes around the Atlanta area. He wanted to take his work to the next level, so at the age of 17, he created Sirrah Films. Sirrah is named after his grandfather James Harris who passed away in 1997. James Harris loved photography & painting, but died at a early age to cancer. After graduating from high school, Ricky attended Miles College in Birmingham,Alabama in 2008. Because of his knowledge of filmmaking, the school allowed him to take his major classes as a true freshman. His hunger to learn about filmmaking was on a very high level. There were times when he would stay in classes that he didn't have on his schedule just to learn more. At the time, his father lost his job in construction and his parents could not afford to send a lot of money to help pay for college material. So Ricky started filming events around the Birmingham area to help pay for things he needed. His name quickly around the city, much faster than he could imagined.

After couple of years of making commercials,highlight tapes, and recording events, he realized that making films is what he really wanted to do. To start a new beginning in his film career, he changed the from Sirrah Films to Shark Vision Films. After winning a couple of screenplay writing awards, he is now working on a few up coming films in hopes of reaching higher levels as a director & screenplay writer.

What is the current project your working on?

I'm currently working on the 3 short films titled Waiting On God's Message, King Of Klubs, and Reasons. I also plan to shoot my first feature film called "The Open Hill" later in 2012, which is a story about a young man who uses skateboarding to escape his troubled past. It's a very positive story , and relates to how some kids used sports to stay away from trouble in certain areas.

How do you measure success?

There are many definitions for success. Just completing the film makes me happy to be honest. But to define success as for my career, I just want to motivate & inspire. Expand people's minds with my visions. I don't measure success by awards like some people, base it off the impact it has on people.

How do you handle rejection?

Growing up, I didn't handle it very well. As I got older, I looked at rejection very differently. I look as a sign of God saying " Wrong direction, try again." I know it sounds funny to people, but thats just how I see it. If everyone was to stop after the first rejection, we would not have many great stories to talk about.

Did you always want to be a filmmaker?

I wanted to become a mechanical engineer, designing cars.

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

It wasn't until my mom told me to check out the film industry in my junior year in high school. But great people like Micheal Mann, Christopher Nolan, Spike Lee, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, and many others inspired & motivated me to make that jump into the industry.

What is the best thing about being a filmmaker?

Is having the ability to bring your imagination to life for the world to see.

What is the worst thing about being one?

The stress of getting the funds, and trying to fit everything on a short film schedule.

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?

These up coming projects are going to be my first after college. I spent time writing the films, now I'm going to bring the scripts to life for the world to see.

Who is your favorite filmmaker?

Right now, I have to say Christopher Nolan. Besides having amazing plots to his films, he puts amazing detail in each scene. For an example; In the movie Dark Knight, there is a scene before the final fight between The Joker and Batman happen. There are two cops driving through the city at night, and they see that a fire truck is on fire in the middle of the street. That small scene didn't catch a lot of other people's attention as a major scene, but in my eyes it was amazing. It helped set the tone to make people realize that what they are dealing with is beyond what they could have imagined.

How has your life changed since you became a filmmaker?

It helped me become more vocal, and take over when need to. When I was younger, I was very shy. Filmmaking helped me come out of that shell.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to become a filmmaker?

Learn the business side of filmmaking first. You might come up with the next big film, but if you don't have all the paper work done correctly, you won't get what you deserved.

What do you like to do besides filmmaking?

I'm really big on sports, I like to go out and play basketball or football when ever I get the chance to. I also like swimming. I try to stay active and try new things.

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become a filmmaker?

My last jobs were Dick Sporting Good's and Home Depot.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

Lion King, Inception, Pursuit of Happyness, Dark Knight, A lot of the Pixar films, Remember The Titans, Bronx Tale, Boyz In The Hood, Hitch and many more. I like a lot of different genres so its hard for me to name a specific on films. But my favorite TV show is The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

How would you describe your film education?

I would give myself a B- to be real with myself. I feel like there is a lot more I have to learn, I will probably always feel that way no matter how successful I become.

How would you describe the film "scene" where you live?

Atlanta is a young active city that is hard to label under a movie scene. I plan to move soon, might be heading to south Florida.

How has social media changed the film industry?

It has changed a lot. The marketing power it has is unmatched. Example; If Oprah was to retweet the name of my website ( on twitter, the millions of followers she has we see it. I could reach over a million people in one click of a button.

What's your opinion on crowdfunding?

I think its great, it gives people a opportunity to get help bringing their vision to life. Not everyone has wealthy parents to get money from, so it helps alot for those people who need the help.

How does independent film differ from the mainstream?

Indy films are more orginal, mainstream tries to stick to what they think will sale. Thats why they do all these remakes. Most of the indie films that come out are better than the mainstream films.

You could go back in time and see any film being made. Which film would it be and why?

I would have to say The Lion King. I love how they were able to control the emotions of the audience. My favorite childhood film.

What's your favorite quote and why?

I have many qoutes that I live by and create. One of them is " Spend more time preparing, instead of comparing." It means to spend more time preparing for your moment, instead of watching the next person. It's almost like running track. If you just stay focused and stay in your lane, you will succeed. If you look at the person next to you, they will fly right by you. At one point, I was watching other filmmakers succeed, wondering how come I haven't reached their level yet. Until one day, I did a music video shoot that I didn't prepare for correctly, and it killed my heart. Thats when I realized, if I would have spent more time working on my craft, I would have been successful and maybe reached their level. But instead I spent my time wondering when I should have been fixing & perfecting. That lesson is stuck with me forever.

What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?

It's not bad sometimes. Some of the sequels are good. It depends on the plot of the next story.

What is your opinion on book to movie adaptions?

I think its great. It really helps people give them a visual of what they have been reading for years.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Of course, don't forget to follow me on twitter @Director_rickyT .

Thanks for doing the interview Ricky. I wish you the best of luck with your projects. I'll following your progress via your Twitter.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Filmmaker Claire Wasmund

Claire Wasmund is a Midwest raised award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker whose written work has appeared in nationally published journals including film magazine Indie Slate Magazine. 

Claire produced the award-winning, independent feature film The Grover Complex written by, produced, and starring Fernando Noor.   The feature was an official selection of 15 film festivals, earning "Best Comedy" and "Best of Festival" awards as well as a “Filmmakers to Watch” award for Wasmund and Noor.  

Claire is the creator and writer of the web series Partners in Pretension also starring Fernando Noor and Tristan Scott-Behrends, which has over 200,000 views on Koldcast TV and appears on four other online networks. 

Claire has also directed episodes of Diary of a Wedding Planner and is currently in post-production on a fantasy short film with Longlost Pictures and Fernando Noor.

Claire lives in Los Angeles where she works as a filmmaker at T.G.C. Films with Fernando Noor.

What is the current project you’re working on?

I’m currently finishing up a fantasy short film titled, “The Tale of the Heroine and the Cad”, and then going into pre-production on another short film and a feature film.

How do you measure success?

By how many times I’ve high-fived myself.  But really more if I’m happily moving towards the bigger picture.

How do you handle rejection?

I spend a week thinking about how that person is an idiot; occasionally I’ll make a list.  The next week I spend thinking about how I’m an idiot; occasionally I’ll make a list.  The next week I combine those lists and come up with points both myself and my rejecter need to improve on.  It’s okay to be angry, but try to learn.

Did you always want to be a filmmaker?

Yeah, there are videos of me forcing my younger brothers to be in my early films.  There is one video of a My Little Pony massacre; another video of me running with my dog to catch some invisible assailant who was chasing my brother on his Big Wheel.  I dreamed big.

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

An overwhelming desire for immortality.

What is the best thing about creating a webseries?

You don’t have to wait for permission to screen it.  With a short or a feature, when you go the traditional route with them you have to wait for festival acceptance or for distribution to be finalized.  With a web series, when you’re ready to put it up, you put it up. You get faster feedback which means you can learn faster.

What is the worst thing about creating one?

I think they lack respect.  I’ve encountered some great ones who have about a feature’s worth of content and half the time no one cares because “it’s a web series”.  It does seem like you could slap together a real sub-par feature and get a lot of praise for “doing a feature”, and then take your time on a well-put-together web series with the same amount of content and have people scoff because “it will only be online”.

What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on?

Maybe 15?  Thanks for throwing the word “estimated” in there.

How has your life changed since you created your webseries?

I got to work, and continue to work, with some fantastic people who will surely improve every future project they touch.  That is invaluable.

You’re also constantly learning how to better deal with people.  I met some disappointing people on this series and it taught me a valuable lesson in when to get rid of people before they become problems.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to become create their own series?

Please spend time on your script.  Please.  One draft or two drafts doesn’t cut it.  It all begins with the script.

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to create “Partners in Pretension”?

After and during college I worked with the developmentally disabled which teaches you a whole new way to look at the world.  In Los Angeles I’ve worked with the elderly, I’ve worked as a prop master, I’ve written for a web site, and I’ve worked in reality TV.  I add all of those experiences to a list of memories I plan to use in my writing later.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

I love The Sopranos.  I like Fargo, Grosse Pointe Blank, When Harry Met Sally, Sideways, A Fish Called Wanda, and many more that escape me.

How would you describe your film education?

I went to the New York Film Academy’s one year program for screenwriting.  Before that I was in school for English.  A lot of my film education has come from trial and error and a group of supportive friends.

What's your opinion on crowdfunding?

If you can do it, you’re amazing… and please make sure you thank your contributors.

How does independent film differ from the mainstream?

I think you work harder for less applause, but at the same time you get to court your own approval more.

What's your favorite quote and why?

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.” ~Mark Twain

I think a lot of us spend time thinking, “why that person?”  Often it’s because they went for it and didn’t apologize or even think too hard.  You can question their talent, but at the end of the day they had the guts to put their work (whatever quality it was) out there for all the world to see and you didn’t because you were sitting at home mulling over the consequences.  Even if you know what could go wrong, stop thinking about what could go wrong.

What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?

I wish they wouldn’t.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Two things:

For all creators and performers of any kind: You are great and you are brave.

And finally, please watch “Partners in Pretension” at


Creator and Executive Editor of "The Entertainment Corner" MireilleMiskulin

Mireille Miskulin is the Creator and Executive Editor of The Entertainment Corner (, a website dedicated to providing film buffs the inside scoop on all things Entertainment. The Entertainment Corner features reviews, news, and interviews with various established, as well as up and coming talents within the entertainment industry. Those featured include Actors, Directors, Producers, Writers and many more. Miskulin uses social media tools such as Twitter (@EntertainCorner) and Facebook as platforms to network with industry professionals that are interested in having their projects promoted on The Entertainment Corner, and to interact with those who share her passion for entertainment.

What is the current project you are working on?

Other than The Entertainment Corner you mean? Sorry, but I learned early on that it’s best to keep projects “close to the vest”. If something doesn’t come to fruition, it’s not always possible to share why it did not pan out. Once a project is reality then I am always more than happy to discuss it with people.

How do you define success?

Simply put … accomplishing what I set out to do.

How do you handle rejection?

Depends on the situation. I base everything on levels of priority. The higher on my priority list the more self re-evaluation will take place. Everything in life happens or does not happen for a reason. The most important thing is that we learn from both our successes and failures.

How you always been interested in the entertainment industry?

Yes, most aspects of it.

What inspired you to create "The Entertainment Corner"?

The desire to help people I care about combined with my love for certain aspects of the entertainment industry. Plus, I love creating something that is truly all my own.

What is the best thing about having your website?

The opportunity it gives me to connect with people from all over the globe. To be constantly reminded that people are people everywhere and we share more in common than not. It is a wonderful learning experience!

What is the worst thing about having one?

The bad comes with the good. Even though having a website is a wonderful chance to learn and grow as a person, being connected globally also serves as a reminder that some people are capable of being cruel and truly inconsiderate of others.

Who is your favorite filmmaker?

Unable to pick just one, there are many talented filmmakers. I will choose to say the ones that are good storytellers.

How has your life changed since you started your site?

New worlds and new opportunities have opened up to me. I get to do something I love to do and meet wonderful people along the way.

What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to start their own site?

Do everything with passion, do not give-up, and believe in your self!

What do you like to do when you’re not working on your site?

In no particular order: spending time with the people I love, watching movies, listening to music, reading, cooking, traveling, day dreaming, laughing.

Have you had any other jobs before you decided to become creator of "The Entertainment Corner"?

Yes of course, I actually still have a full-time day job.

What are some of your favorite American films? Foreign films? Television shows?

It’s only within the past few years that I’ve gotten into watching foreign films, so it’s still new territory for me to explore.

Foreign: Amalie; Life is Beautiful; Cinema Paradiso; Slumdog Millionaire; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Just some of the American films I like: Some Like It Hot; the first three Indiana Jones movies; Powder; the original Star Wars trilogy; North By North West; The Method, To Catch A Thief; The Sound of Music; Saving Private Ryan; Suicide Kings, Forrest Gump; Shakespeare in Love; Planes, Trains & Automobiles; Sixteen Candles; Mr. Smith Goes To Washington; The King’s Speech; Meet Me In St. Louis; Run The Wild Fields; The Artist; Schindler’s List; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; Into The Fire; Space Balls; Princess Bride; The Apartment; Bringing Up Baby; To Kill A Mocking Bird; Back To The Future; Disney’s Beauty and the Beast … I could go on, and on.

As for Television, I watch the History Channel, various movie channels, and occasionally the Food Network.

How would you describe your entertainment education?

I would describe my entertainment education as a mix of “the school of real life” with a healthy dose of I am still in the learning process.

How do you choose what guests to have on your site?

Either I contact people and request an interview, or people/their representatives contact me for an interview.

How would you describe the creative "scene" where you live?

Despite the fact that there has been at least 100-feature films shot in and around this area, it’s very much a “cultural wasteland”. Public arts funding is low compared to similar sized cities. What creative and cultural events do occur here gets little to no mention by the local media. Things are changing very slowly and it is one of the reasons why I am happy to have social media outlets where I can connect with places that have a thriving creative “scene”.

How has social media helped "The Entertainment Corner"?

Social Media enables more people to discover “The Entertainment Corner”, and in turn gives me the opportunity to reach a larger audience. There is also the benefit of meeting more potential interviewees, arranging reviews, and generally just connecting with other people.

How has social media hindered your site?

The saying, “It’s a jungle out there!” applies. Social Media users are constantly bombarded by vast amounts of information, ways to spend/waste time, etc. Every social media outlet and website is competing for the attention of an audience. It’s not enough to establish a loyal following, the true challenge is to remain interesting and dynamic enough to maintain and build that following.

What's your opinion on crowdfunding?

First, as long as the project is worthy of making, then crowdfunding is a good way to get started. This would be one of the first mistakes I feel some people make, the inability to recognize that their project will likely not appeal to a large enough audience to be successful.

Also, a well-planned marketing strategy must be developed, and implemented. Poor marketing of their project is the second mistake I see being made by some. They potentially have a good project; yet they do not know how to effectively reach out to people.

Promotion of the funding goal should be intermixed with interacting and engaging people. Some of the most successful campaigns do this, whether it’s by making videos for their audience, to making an interactive imaginary town map based on their film.

Creativity should not stop once the director calls “that’s a wrap”, it must continue on until the movie is in front of the audience. Two examples of successful crowdfunding campaigns I recommend people study are: Director Gary King’sHow Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song” Kickstarter campaign, and Phil Holbroook/Kings A FinkTilt The Movie” campaign.

How does independent film differ from the mainstream?

Independent films, for the most part, have considerably lower film budgets. They are screened at film festivals before distribution, which usually means in the retail market.

Often the independent filmmakers must undertake many jobs in order for their film to reach audiences. It’s not uncommon to have the writer be the director and the producer, and the editor, etc.

Mainstream, or major studio, pictures have the financial resources to hire entire departments devoted to do everything from accounting, dialect coaches, to hair and make-up.

Independent filmmakers get to have more control over their projects; where as filmmakers who are backed by major studios have red tape and corporate medaling to deal with.

You could go back in time and see any film being made. Which film would it be and why?

It would have to be the first “motion picture” ever made. Eadweard Muybridge is credited with creating the first “motion picture”, The Horse In Motion (1878); if anyone before him made a “moving picture” there is no record of it. Why would I want to go back and see that you may ask, because it would be fascinating to see people’s reactions and to witness the humble birth of motion pictures!

What's your favorite quote and why?

There are many quotes that inspire and hold meaning for me, picking only one was not easy…

“The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” ~ Eden Ahbez

Love is universal; it is something every living creature needs and desires. Learning to love and accept love in return is not always easy, but it is worth it.

What is your opinion on movie remakes and sequels?

Movie remakes can be good if the following conditions are met: enough time has passed since the original version has been made, the story is still relevant to today’s audiences, the acting and directing is good quality.

Sequels rarely turn out as good as the first film, there are a few rare exceptions to this rule. Audiences have certain expectations built up, if the story, quality, etc. do not meet the standards set by the first film, the succeeding films will not be well received. Most sequels are done for money and not the love of filmmaking and good storytelling.

What is your opinion on book to movie adaptations?

When I read a book, a good book anyway, I make my own movie in my mind. No movie on the real screen could ever be exactly like the imagination. Having said that, I believe that if done properly a book to movie adaptation can turn out well. No matter how good a movie adaptation is, there will always be those who are not satisfied with the results. Just two examples of book to movie adaptations that I feel turned out well are: To Kill A Mocking Bird (1962), and Schindler’s List (1993); there certainly are more examples out there.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you. I wish you continued success.


Thank you Mireille for doing the interview.  Thank you for all you do to support film. I'll be doing what I can to spread the word about "The Entertainment Corner".  I wish you all the best. It's been  a pleasure chatting with a fellow entertainment fan.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Composer Laura Olson

Like most classically trained musicians Laura studied piano and cello as a young child and fell in love with electronic music as well as celtic harp in her later years.  Combining the three styles of music seems like a natural extension of her years as a symphonic musician and a music educator.  She resides in the central valley of California and is the owner of her recording label Blue Steer Studios    Mossflower Country and her latest score for Border Guardians of Ackernon is composed with large scale orchestrations and choir in the scope of a big-budget feature film.   Her current projects include scoring a yet untitled documentary about web series and her upcoming album Gypsy Road.

You can also follow her on Twitter!/BlueSteerStudio and


What was it like creating the soundtrack for "Border Guardians of Ackernon"?

Working on an indie project means little to no money so I try to take projects that appeal to me.   I really love fantasy books and movies so I couldn’t wait to start working on this one!  It’s an amazingly well thought out story set in a world with Russian and Mongolian influences.    I’ve had some experience with doing Asian music in previous projects but had never attempted anything of a Russian nature so this was new and fun for me.

I was going to have to work very fast once the filming was done so I started working on themes as soon as I could with the director’s input.  It was definitely a collaborative process all the way.  The director wanted music that was mature and deep to fit the characters and epic because even though they were very short episodes they were to connect together as a larger work resembling a feature film.  Again because there wasn’t a big budget I did most of the instruments myself enlisting the aid of some friends, and sweetened it with sampled sequencing.

One of the more interesting days was working on the “under-voicing” for the scene where Arges speaks telepathically to the camp counselors.  Each scene had to present his voice in a musical context corresponding to their personalities.  It was tricky and difficult to make sure his actual voice wasn’t masked and that the dialogue remained clear.
How do you define success?

When I’ve given the director absolutely what he wanted for a scene.  This can be easier said than done.  This kind of success is a result of good communication and collaboration within the team of people making the film. It also points out how important it is to ask the right questions from the director and if you need to ask questions from the art department too.   It’s so vitally important for the music to enhance the scene and not detract from it and getting just the right emotion.

I also define success in a broader sense of getting to do what I want to do with no restrictions.  (Other than my own self-imposed ones)   For that to happen I need to receive recognition that what I’m doing has value and others want it to be done by me.  I’ll be the first one to admit that usually needs be by selling CD’s, commissions, and contracts for work. If the work pays for the costs of making it then that is a success!  Awards can also be a nice way to show that your work has value.  I also like to use my work in classroom settings to turn kids onto film music and the broader realm of classical music.  That can be very rewarding.
How do you handle rejection? 

Rejection is not necessarily failure.  Art is subjective.  I’ve experienced tons of rejection and even though I’m not happy that my music wasn’t well received I can honestly say it’s made me a better composer. I don’t give up.  Rejection forces me to try to hear my music more objectively and to also address what elements are important for me to get feedback on, and which are not.   Every artist has some aspect of their art where outside opinions just don’t matter.    So, because I want to be commercially successful, I pay attention to these elements and work on trying to give the listeners what they are looking for while still retaining my own sense of style.   But my music has to always be what I want first.  If I don’t like it then it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of it.

Rejection also happens without me even knowing about it.  And it happens without really knowing why.  It’s like getting a “D” on a paper at school and not knowing what was wrong with it.  I would like to know if it was rejected for something that can be improved like mixing or recording quality or if it was rejected for a more subjective nature.

What inspired you to create Blue Steer Studios

I was starting to do more projects of a professional nature and I wanted to present a more business-like image to my clients.  It was also important to me for the community (and my peers) to see that I was taking composing seriously and that it was not just a hobby fun thing to do.  I was also starting to get more corporate and private accounts and making some money and spending it.  My accountant suggested that I start a business for tax reasons so that I could write off my expenses against my revenue.  Great advice!

I’ve worked for a number of years out of spare rooms and apartments and as anyone can tell you who works at home, it is really easy to get distracted by the mundane household chores.  A few years ago I finally purchased the house of my dreams and it came with a 2000 sf barn.  So the barn is being currently converted to my official studio space.  I will have a composing suite, a live recording space, a small dry vocal space and a mixing space. And a couch.  Can’t forget the couch!  I can handle most of what an independent film/tv producer might want including sound design and field recording.  Having my own recording label also gives me something to offer recording performers.  I can make their album for them and have it retail ready.  Now I get to seek out performers who would like to make an album but have never pursued it.
What is the estimated number of projects you have worked on? 
Somewhere around 12-15, I guess. Wait I just thought of another few… I’m only really thinking of my big projects like films or full albums that have actually been published or released. I’ve also done free projects for the experience or as favors. I’m just starting to get to a point where people are seeking me out instead of the other way around.  Of course I love doing the film style scoring the best but one of my favorite projects in the past was a composition I wrote for the Buchanan High School band, orchestra, and choir.  They were to perform the music (in a rehearsal setting) and then be filmed rehearsing it to use as the background score for an ad campaign.  I have to say it was really great to see young students playing music that I wrote just for them.
Who is your favorite composer? 

Do I get to pick only one?  If forced to choose only one it would have to be someone whose work is the most mentally and emotionally stimulating.  Johannes Brahms has got to be it for me.  His work is intriguing in so many ways.  His melodies can be incredibly complex and also simple at the same time.   There isn’t anything he’s written that I’ve heard that I don’t like.  I also like the way he incorporates folk tunes into his work.   His use of instrumentation and tone color are very advanced for the time period when he was alive and I love his orchestration ideas for blending instruments.  Every good composer can use good techniques but much of his work goes beyond that into innovation.

As I listen to a wide variety of music from many different genres I have learned to respect the ideas that go behind that kind of music.  My favorite composer for Irish Traditional Music is Ed Reavy. in electronic music I find myself listening to BT (Brian Transeau), Karl Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, and Brian Eno.  In film music I love listening to Hans Zimmer, Alan Silverstein, Brian Tyler, John Williams, and Harry Gregson-Williams and I frequently listen to the older styles of Max Steiner and Erich Korngold .  They’re a hoot.  Then of course there’s centuries of classical composers…
How has your life changed since you started Blue Steer Studios?

It has actually become more complicated and more challenging mentally.  It’s a lot to juggle and I’ve improved my discipline about working.  Part of running a business means I’m seeking out work if I don’t have any projects underway.  Many times these projects are free but my strategy is to do such a great job that I end up making some great connections with directors.  I’ve become more proficient and active with the social media as well as developing my own website.  I have to admit I’m not comfortable asking people for money so my marketing takes on a more “personality advertising” approach.

Projects have come my way that have allowed me to travel and meet new people so I’m doing a lot more traveling than I used to.  I’ve also had to learn more about the technological side of my studio.  I never realized how much my reading budget of time and money was going to increase!  I’m also finding that many of my peers and friends are coming to me to help them with their projects which I love.  I’m always happy to help and I’m glad that I can be here for them to provide advice and give out the little knowledge that I have.
What is one piece of advice you can give to someone who also wants to become a composer? 

If you’re doing a project for someone else make sure you ask enough of the right kinds of questions.  You don’t want to miss some important detail about a scene or emotion that might completely change how you approach the cue.  Many times directors need help refining what they really want.  I’ve been very fortunate to work with people that have some basic knowledge of music so it makes it easier to discuss concepts like rhythm, melody, and harmony, but so many people out there don’t really even know those terms.   They don’t understand how music works.  It’s like a mysterious magical force of nature.  They know it’s important for their show but that’s all.

Study, Study, Study, practice, practice, practice, and get feedback from as many people you can that you consider authorities on the subject.  There is so much reading that can be helpful as well as people you can interact with through the internet.   Going to a school that specializes in your type of composing is great because not only do you get the study, practice, and feedback you get connections to people in the industry.  You usually have better access to people who can (and will want to) perform your works. Also do as many students projects as you can even if for free to gain experience and insight.  That sort of goes under the “practice” category…
What do you like to do besides composing?

I love gardening and just puttering around on my “farm”.  There’s always some kind of little project that needs to be done.  Fixing fences and repairing sheep enclosures has been high on the list this year.  I’m a voracious reader of everything Science Fiction or Fantasy related.  I like outdoor walks with my doggy friends and I play combat re-enactment games (Vietnam or WWII) that use airsoft equipment with my Vietnam era veteran friends.

I’ve started spending more time volunteering at the Fresno Bully Rescue.  I love dogs (I have my own Australian Shepherd) and want to do more to help those that have made it their life’s work to rescue animals.  This group of people works really hard to rescue and shelter these dogs and get them into forever homes.  They also are great at community outreach to educate people about the bad rap this breed of dog is getting and are working to end breed specific legislation.  So I try to help them. I plan on offering to donate the sales of my newest CD to this organization and others rescues when it gets released later this year…
How would you describe your music education?

Well it was pretty typical for a middle income student growing up in a rural public school system.  My High School was fairly large so we had a good size orchestra and that’s when I started to get really serious about playing the cello.  I had been playing in the local community youth orchestras and State Honor Orchestras etc. and eventually worked my way up to section leader.   My choices, unfortunately, as a career were told to me to be education, therapy, or the performance route.   I wanted a stable career and wasn’t into healing people so I chose colleges that trained for public school music teaching.  I didn’t know you could have a career in music business or composing or even orchestration.   In college the composing majors were mysterious people lurking in the back halls of the school.  The few concerts that I attended were very avant-garde (I even performed a few…) and not at all appealing to me.    I don’t regret my education as it did indeed prepare me to be a great teacher. And now I feel like I have the ability to address being a composer to my students and plant that seed in their minds that they might not have thought of.

Later (about 10 years) I went back to school for a Masters degree in Performance.  But this time I tailored it to exactly what I wanted to study.  It became a historical ethnomusicology based line of study focusing specifically in Irish Traditional Music.  I ended up presenting an over the top, theatrically staged concert with costumes and sets and a ton of friends playing Irish music for over two hours.  It was recorded and broadcast by the local PBS station here and I’m very proud of it.  I had a large audience, somewhere around 100 people I think, and it was very well received by the community.  I was my first experience in marketing on a larger scale and I learned some very useful lessons.
What are some of your favorite American film soundtracks?

Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Last Samurai is at the top of the list.  Then comes Rocketeer, the and third Pirates of the Caribbean, the first Narnia, Constantine, the first Tomb Raider.  I confess I don’t watch too much tv unless I can catch it on hulu or Netflix.  Battlestar Galactica (the newest version), Merlin, Deadwood, The Walking Dead.   I love the music for Firefly and MI-5 and the new series Once Upon a Time is pretty good.  The theme song for Castle is really catchy.  Even though they are older series the music for West Wing, XFiles and Lost.   Its hard for me to watch a show and not pay attention to the music.
How would you describe the music "scene" where you live?

The Fresno/Clovis community is primarily agricultural area with an active sports interest.  So local interest in the arts is present but not pervasive.   We have a very good Philharmonic Orchestra, two great University Orchestras, some fabulous magnet art schools with very active teaching staffs,  youth orchestras that run from elementary to high school,  2 community wind bands, and a the standard indie band, jazz, and bluegrass ensembles that play at the local pubs and venues.   Some people say that we are a cultural “black hole” but I wouldn’t go that far. Not every place can be L.A. or the Bay Area.   This area is improving in the way it treats the arts but very slowly.  I see too many bands playing for free around town or for dinners and the like.  Really good bands, not hacks.  Many of the local venues take advantage of the eagerness and need for the musicians to play by not paying fair wages I think, but the musicians put up with it because they are so desperate to play. It’s a tough catch 22 situation that many of us are working to improve. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now…

What's your opinion on crowdfunding?

I firmly believe that art should be supported by the community.  That being said, today’s community is very global and has different ways to show support of their favorite artists.   I feel that people should get something for their money.   The best way they can show support is by purchasing the music that they like and not stealing it. That is in its essence “crowdfunding”.  But I know you’re talking about the websites that market your project to mass “crowds” for lots of little bits of money rather than one or two big investors.

I’m seeing more and more artists and directors turning to this as a source of getting their projects made and it looks like this is a marketing method that is here to stay.  I might try this someday but there are still a lot of legal financial bugs that I want worked out first.   I’m still reading too many horror stories about failed KickStarter or IndieGoGo projects and the implications.  So I’ll wait a little longer and in the meantime keep working the traditional marketing methods.  Here’s my fear…”A big pile of money from a lot of people who won't feel serious pain if it all burns up is a formula for nobody taking the investment seriously”.  Nothing speaks louder to an artist (or interested corporate sponsors) than CD sales or hits/views on a website.

You could go back in time and see any film being scored. Which film would it be and why?

Without a second thought it would be “Star Wars”.  I’m acquainted with a harpist who played for the London Symphony at the time when they got the contract to record the score.  (Although I didn’t meet her until after the fact…)  I loved hearing her stories about what it was like to be in a recording session on such a large scale.   Before this score was made, big orchestra music from the 40s and 50s had gone out of style for movies.  Star Wars brought it back in a new grander style with a vengeance!  I know John Williams said that eventually large orchestras would come back into vogue and he doesn’t want to take credit for that happening but I disagree.   It takes a creative team willing to take risks to turn the tide of fashion.   I would LOVE to witness the endless spotting sessions, team collaboration and decisions that went into the making of that particular score.   It was a huge piece of work and nothing has rivaled it until the making of the score for “Lord of the Rings” by Howard Shore.

What's your favorite movie musical quote and why?

I have a few that I’m partial to.  My favorite is If it sounds good, it is good.  Said by Duke Ellington, a very introspective composer who describes the nature of art so perfectly.   Another is the one on my website, less well known but fits my personal philosophies of life and music so I use it.  Life is like music, it must be composed by ear, feeling and instinct, not by rule.  Nevertheless one had better know the rules, for they sometimes guide in doubtful cases, though not often.  Samuel Butler.

Have you been to Ireland? 

Yes.  I have a Masters of Performance in Irish Traditional Music (Ethnomusicology) and part of my research was to study the music at its source.  I spent a week in the east and south of Ireland and Dublin and another week on the west coast and into the Belfast area of Northern Ireland.  It was very educational and informational (not to mention just plain fun) meeting people and playing in sessions in pubs and other venues.  I met so many music makers from academic historians to pub owners (who sponsor and encourage the local music scene) to just your average street musicians making music and maybe even trying to sell it to tourists.  From there I went on to England and Scotland to contrast the music scene there.  I discovered that it was very different from Ireland even though it’s so close geographically.  Even though it was a while ago that I took that trip I still try to maintain communication with some of the people I met there.  I’ve also met new friends via facebook and twitter and I have found some great online radio and tv stations to help me keep current in the “trad” Irish music scene.


Thank you Laura for doing the interview. I'm a big fan of "Border Guardians of Ackernon" as a series and soundtrack. I wish you all the best with your CD and other projects.