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Local Independent Film Spotlight: Jyoti Singh

This week’s Local Independent Film Spotlight highlights a one-of-a kind, local to  global acting, and filmmaking talent. Everyone, meet Jyoti Singh. I was drawn to Jyoti through her acting work in the short film, “Samosa”. The film was insightful, and entertaining. This led me to further discover her wider scope of talent and work, and I was drawn to her involvement with creating work here and abroad. Being a huge Bollywood fan, who has come from a tradition of watching one Bollywood movie per Sunday with my Dad, naturally I wanted to learn more about Jyoti’s current film in the works, “The Dignified Princess”. 

Jyoti thinks big, and her approach to getting the job done, and realizing her dreams is inspiring. Let’s get the conversation started.

Sit back, relax, even grab a snack if you like, and Read On to learn more about the impressive Jyoti Singh.

Hello Jyoti, I am truly excited to have this opportunity to speak with you. I have seen you in the role of actress, and loved it. However, please give us a detailed break down of your skills in the film industry.

Hi Diane, Thank you so such a wonderful opportunity. Thank you for watching “Samosa,” our short film. When I started in this industry after moving to Midtown Manhattan around 2009, I didn’t aim to perfect any single skill in particular. I was just so passionate that I enthusiastically jumped on any project that struck my fancy and boy, there were so many! My presence, accessibility and interest allowed me to explore the roles of writer, voiceover, critic, Producer/Manager, promoter, director and even, cinematographer. But most of all, I consider myself an actress. In front of the camera is where I feel most at home; portraying the emotions of a character…that’s where I get most fired up!

Where did your passion for performing, and film work begin?

My passion for being an actress goes pretty much back to the time I was a child. I started acting in school plays from nursery to about 4th grade; this was in India. Then a huge obstacle presented itself when I was asked to be partially nude in a role as Eve in “Adam and Eve,” a middle school play. In response, I opted out and actually just skipped school the day of the play. In hindsight, I guess it was my conservative upbringing and my effort to preserve my “Indian family dignity” that kept me home that day and pretty much ended my streak of acting. Until I reached college – in America, that is. I led several college dance performances (Indian folk dancing) and took part in talent shows. When asked to choose a major, I told my parents I instead wanted to move to NY and join acting school but of course, they were shocked and wanted me to focus on Academic career. It wasn’t until 10 years later that my life journey thankfully brought me to NY, where my childhood passion of acting actually started to blossom into real gigs.

What variety of projects have you been involved with up till now? What is your Bio, if you will?

I have worked mostly in Independent Cinema, student films, short films, hosting in Indian TV, some featured background work in TV shows like Gossip Girl & Monsters Inside of Me, industrials, commercials, voice-overs, theatre, Internet TV, music videos, reality chef in a cook-off TV show, supporting roles and by now 3 lead roles in feature films. Most recently, I had a Principal role (Pharmacist) in “The Slap,” the NBC mini series.

I was born in India and raised there until 1987. I have lived more of my life here in America. My father was an Army engineer and my mom an Assoc. Prof. of English Literature and also belonged to a famed royal family (daughter of King of Maihar, Estate of Madhya Pradesh).

I wanted to act when I was young, but was encouraged to more conventional career choices by my family. Since my deepest desire had always been to help people in need, I chose nursing and worked for American Red Cross, then with a psychiatrist. Meeting a man who was also dedicated to altruism and humanitarianism, I got married and moved to NY and slowly found myself in a position of complete financial freedom after my diligent husband met his career goals quicker than expected. With all the time in the world, I could do anything, go anywhere and that was about when the bad news of the 2004 tsunami hit. So I went to volunteer at a hospital in India. This facility was run at no cost to the poor by a great spiritual leader named Amma, better known in the USA as The Hugging Saint. During down time from volunteering, I started reading some of the books there and actually ended up having an unexpected, pretty profound spiritual awakening.

When I got back to NY, refreshed with a new self-knowledge, stronger sense of direction, I started singing classes, acting classes, and met a working actor who allowed me to write his scripts for his weekly TV appearance. I put my heart and soul into that every weekend and acted in a few student films. I slowly crossed the challenges of the shyness everyone feels in front of a quiet camera and the vulnerability an actor feels during an audition.

I then got a big boost when I enrolled in a course with Bollywood’s most well known acting coach Professor Taneja here in NY. That is the first time I realized acting was being true to who you really are in an imaginary situation or character. When I asked for feedback on a certain sobbing performance of mine, I was taught “It’s not about the actual crying, it’s about feeling the moment. You don’t always have to cry, your emotions will show. You can cry before you come to the scene. Give yourself time, be in the moment.” That was some valuable stuff I’d never forget. By the end of the course, Professor Taneja told me I needed to stop taking classes and now just jump into working as an actor. That surprised me but gave me tremendous confidence.

Then I auditioned for a lead role in the feature film 9 Eleven and truly did a fantastic job. But the film didn’t go far financially and remained independent and relatively unknown. I recalled the lessons I had learned: “prove yourself…know your craft.” I knew by far my best work up till that point in time had been 9 Eleven. So with my own personal money, I took the leap to submit it to as many film festivals as I could. Somewhat surprisingly, it became recognized, receiving 10 awards, and my work was applauded. This opened doors and I got numerous supporting roles as well as a lead role for feature film, On Golden Years with prominent Indian Actor, Ranjit Choudary. I played his wife, a 55 year old lady. The movie’s about immigrants who worked hard to achieve the American Dream and now find them retired, elderly, reminiscing about their country of birth.

I followed this work with my own short film Samosa and submitted it to film festivals. We ended up winning 5 awards and I won the Best Actress award at The People’s Film Festival. So in my lifetime, I have accomplished two of my major goals: one as an actress and other as a humanitarian.

Thanks for sharing your background Jyoti. I have also seen the trailer for your upcoming film; “The Dignified Princess”. Please fill us in on the full details of this film. How was this feature conceived? What is it all about? What is your specific role in the production?

Yes, that teaser of course was made by Vick Krishna himself. “The Dignified Princess” was my sister’s (Gauri Singh’s) idea. She always wanted to make a film on my grandmother’s life. It is basically a story about her journey as a woman in 1930’s and her struggles. So my sister wrote the screenplay, and then the script. All I wanted to do was act in this film. Never really intended to produce or direct or to work as a production manager. But as time went along, about a year and half, the project seemed stuck, and nothing was moving along. Since I intensely wanted to act in it, I pushed for it. So, I decided to finance it, even with a low budget.

Where is the film being shot? Is any of the film being shot in the United States?

Since this film is about an Indian royal family, to shoot in the USA was not possible. To get that palace setting here would be so expensive…the money we didn’t have. We knew a majority of the film would have to be shot in India. Since we come from Maihar, Madhya Pradesh, where my ancestors and relatives still own the palace, we decided to shoot in India. I had spoken to my cinematographer and that was it ! We jumped in & found ourselves at the palace. But one of our Uncles, whose son is a major TV producer in India, told us to come and check out his son’s shooting sets, close to Mumbai. We told him we only had limited funds, probably just enough to pay the crew. When we actually saw the sets, our mouths dropped, they were beautiful ! So our many thanks to Contiloe Entertainment for giving us access to such a wonderful royal location.

There was one particular scene, which we had planned to shoot in the US, so that scene will be shot here, otherwise the entire shoot in India is finished.

Have you had any unique challenges with this production?

Yes, it was unique indeed. Firstly, I have actually never worked in India. I am Indian, but lived more of my life in US. So of course I don’t understand the system. There is a hierarchy system present, which I learned pretty fast. So knowing I have little control as a woman and knowing how people were ripping me off, I faced obstacles everyday. Secondly, it is not easy for traditional Indian men to handle orders from a woman, often younger than themselves. Thirdly, it was a challenge to work with different teams who were simultaneously shooting other TV shows on the same sets…to arrange the schedule. We had to work around their schedule, that was a pain. Getting actors, arranging their travel, managing everything, accounting/money, directing and acting…boy, my plate was more than full !

I remember I hardly had any sleep. I am glad I had my cinematographer, Jigme Tenzing, and my sister, Gauri Singh, Vibhu Raghav who helped me immensely in this journey. Gauri did costumes and sets and was also assistant director. The crew was good, which was so helpful. They saw us struggle and saw our motivation and did their best to help us.

Can you tell that I am extremely thrilled about this? What are your plans for the release of this movie?

Well, interestingly I hardly went in with any planning besides motivation to shoot. I still have to shoot connecting scenes, which we are doing soon. After that we work on music and dubbing. It will still be few more months. Probably close to end of the year the movie will be ready. Then the hopes are to show the film to some investors, in hopes the film will be picked up. I do believe it should release in theatres. If not, there are always film festivals.

 How are you getting the word out about “The Dignified Princess” film?

We will definitely focus on marketing, once we have the product. So far what we are doing is giving out little bit of information every now and then. Some will say the movie loses steam, others will say, it keeps people interested. But yes, when the time is right, we will go all out.

What is your ultimate goal for the movie? What is the extent of the reach that you would like it to accomplish?

It is an international film. I do want to gain back the money I used for the film. At least even out. Film is a risky business, I am not a producer. Short films are easy in the sense, you know the market for it. Full features on the other hand can go either ways. God willing it will do well. At least in my mind I will never have regret, the “what if?” thought. At least I took the chance. Rest is up to the viewers to decide. Not just for me, for all the people who have worked hard on this project. It is never one person, it is the whole team together who wins when the film does well.   So good luck to all of us.

How can everyone learn more about “The Dignified Princess” today?

Well right now I have not created a website. But we do have a Facebook page where we regularly add updates as things get closer to release time and we will soon also have an IMDB page and website. Everyone can also check out “The Dignified Princess” teaser here on YouTube. 

So what’s next? What are you “cooking up” for the near future?

Well that is one thing about me. I take it as it goes. Next, is finishing “The Dignified Princess”. Wrapping up the film and then postproduction.

The other thing is I will have to join the union (SAG) soon, as I acted in a TV serial “The Slap” as principal role of Pharmacist. Since it had speaking lines, the next time I work on SAG project that is requirement.

Good for you on snagging that speaking role on a national TV show! Please share your thoughts on the Local Independent Film Industry? Do you think that it is a well-oiled machine, or can it stand some tweaking?

Well, I am from NYC, where yes things are done. I have shot stuff locally in this area for a while now. In fact my career pretty much picked up from here. I have worked with several independent film directors in this area. Of course the person I closely work in this area with is Vick Krishna. I think the industry is getting bigger in this area, with more filmmakers and fimfestivals coming up. Glad the market for independent cinema is more accessible, but being international actors, and being in independent cinema, I think what is lacking is the distribution of independent films. We have film festivals, but what after? –  that is the question!

I hear Ya! Which national and international filmmaker, and/or screenwriter, and/or actress has been an inspiration for you?

I have always looked up to Mira Nair, as I had seen her films growing up in the international market. It was inspiring. Because when I started acting, I hardly got any auditions in 2009. I think Slumdog Millionaire opened doors for Indian Actors. Then Deepa Mehta, also has made inspiring films. Water is one that stays close to my heart. And as an actor, Birdman…what an artistic work, go Alejandro González.

So, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years as it pertains to filmmaking?

Well as an actress, I feel I can play any kind of role. To me acting is a passion. Filming…I was never a filmmaker, I only intended to act. As for the future, I was never a person who planned things, I take it as things come to me. I like the balance between life and work. I believe in staying positive, but I never did this for name and fame in the first place. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to be able to accomplish my goals. Thankful for my Husband, my family, and some friends, who have supported me whole-heartedly. What I have learned is, we never know where life takes us, so best is to stay focused, positive, and hope for the best. Life is short, I rather stay humble, and hope my talent is recognized only if I deserve it. Hopefully, my work can touch people in some way or the other.

What are your long-term goals in this industry?

I just plan to act, when time permits. I have been lucky to attain what I have in such short time. Hopefully, I am able to work in projects that inspire people, touch their hearts and soul so they can laugh, cry, or feel something when they watch my work.

What advise would you give to others with a similar talent, and desire to make their mark as an actor and/or filmmaker?

Know your craft. Some people are gifted, others have to work hard. Stay positive, because challenges will come, and so will disappointments. Also, never forgot, be humble. “Never forget who you meet on your way up, because you will meet the same people on your way down.” My cousin, Chandrachur Singh, a highly respected Bollywood actor, taught me this.

Jyoti, I am inspired by your talent, creativity, and drive. What else would you like to share with us about Jyoti Singh that may surprise us?

Well, as I’ve said, my second passion is helping people, so many less fortunate, so many in need across the world. So I am a Co-founder of a non-profit we call RVP Charitable Organization. I need to spend more time in it.

As a hobby, I also train in Hindustani classical music & love to sing.

I love to cook and experiment while I cook.

That is some good stuff! Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Any final words?

First of all,  I wanted to thank you. Also want to thank my teachers, directors, My Parents, Husband & my Sisters. All the people who have supported and believed in me. Want to thank all my fans, I never thought I would have them, but I do and all the 200 people waiting n Facebook to be accepted as friends. Thank you for looking me up and for supporting my work. It takes courage to make a fool out of yourself in front of people, I have been there a lot, so all I will tell people is “never give up; there is always something better out there. Life is short, so follow your dreams if you can.”

Peace

Peace to you too Jyoti. I wish you much success with “The Dignified Princess” and everything that you put your hands to. Your non-profit work is admirable, and I hope that it makes a tremendous difference in the lives of those it impacts. Thank you for being an inspiration today. 

Everyone I hope that you enjoyed this story about yet another phenomenal talent. Thank you for viewing this article. I look forward to welcoming you back next week.

Jyoti Singh

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On Set – “The Dignified Princess” 

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Jyoti Singh 

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Local Independent Film Spotlight: Vick Krishna

Welcome back friends! This week I would like to introduce you to Vick Krishna. Once again, I am thrilled to present  another local filmmaker who is making an indelible mark on the local – and even international – film industry.

I came into contact with Vick’s stellar work on Valentine’s weekend. I had the opportunity to view his recent romantic short film “onLove: A Modern Love Story”. I was immediately impressed with the acting, the production quality, and the story telling. I was drawn into the mini-movie from the get-go. For those who haven’t seen it I don’t want to give it all away and spoil this treat for you, but there are pleasant surprises that make it all that much more enjoyable.

Furthermore, I am going to let Vick tell you more about this film, himself, and his career as a whole. So please go ahead, and read on to learn more…

Hello Vick, so I just had to talk with you after viewing your short film, “onLove: A Modern Love Story”. It was engaging, and visually appealing. Tell us how you came up with the concept.

Thank you Diane! The concept came to me noticing how we can interact with our friends and families pretty much anywhere as long we are connected. That sense of true loneliness is gone these days. We are always “in-company” despite being digital.

I thought that you did an excellent job of going from reality, to “life online”, and back — Did you have any challenges producing this short? If so, what were they?

The challenge is always time as we shot the weekend before Valentine’s and I had only 2 shoot days and about 3 days to edit in order to release before Valentine’s Day. Some of the editing techniques (transitions) used are ones I have never attempted, so it was learning and executing all at once.

For those who haven’t seen “onLove” just yet, where can they view it?

They can see the film at this link . http://youtu.be/740YHKbQ2WU .

 Let’s go on to talk about your body of work. I have seen a variety online. Please fill us in on your resume — on your work overall.

So far I’ve been avid in making short films. I’ve directed/written/produced/edited 6 short films of my own. Along with that I’ve freelanced on several projects from being a production assistant, editor, assistant director, and even acting.

Where, and when did it all begin?

I’ve always loved movies from a young age. Around high school I was part of the Morning Announcements team and that exposed me to cameras and filming. I was also active in my high-school theatre, which got me into acting. Both of these solidified my interest behind and in front of the camera and I began making videos for fun trying to learn the craft.

Do you have a favorite film that you have worked on—a “passion project” if you will?

All of the ones I’ve worked on have unforgettable experiences. It so hard to pick a favorite. Each film is an adventure for me, where I get to be part of a family with the crew and actors. They all have their special moments in my life.

What is your favorite aspect of filmmaking? Is it directing, writing — tell us more?

My favorite aspect would have to be directing. It is at that stage where you finally see everything you had in your head and envisioned, in real life. It’s a great feeling to see the words come to life and you can begin the action.

What’s the ultimate goal, that you would like to attain to in the global film industry?

My goal is to simply tell a great story. Stories can do many things. They can motivate, inspire, make you cry, make you laugh, excite, scare, teach and feel something. I want to do those things well with my stories.

That is fantastic Vick! What are your thoughts about the local independent film enterprise? – Where is there need for improvement?

I think the local independent enterprise is thriving with new talents, and it’s so great that the technology to make films is now affordable so we can participate. The need for improvement might just be to continue to learn.

Personally speaking I don’t have any film school background. I learned by watching and making films. You don’t want to rush into something you don’t know anything about so take your time to learn so you can do it right. I still have so much I want to learn about visual graphics/cgi/animation, all of which could help me tell my story better.

Well your work is a fabulous testament of what self-motivation can do. Tell us about some other local filmmakers whose work you admire.

There are several great filmmakers here and some those I would like to mention are, Mike Kravinsky (Geographically Desirable), Anthony Greene (The Henchman’s War), Venu Nakshathram (The Otherside), Cisco Davis Jr. ( Zordon of Eltar: A Power Rangers Fan Film), Manan Katohora (Public Relations).

Do you have a favorite national, and international, director and/or screenwriter?

National: Spielberg & Tarantino

International: Manirathnam & Miyazaki

Screenwriter: Tarantino

Did you have a favorite on Oscar night?

“Birdman” all the way!

Which film, and actor were you pleased won an Academy Award?

I’m very pleased with the “Birdman” and Patricia Arquette winning.

Were there any disappointments for you that night?

Perhaps for Best Sound Editing if at all anything.

I gotcha! Now back to you, and your wonderful talents…What are you working on presently?  

Presently I’m working on editing a feature-length movie currently titled “The Dignified Princess” produced by Jyoti Singh.

Oh! I can’t wait to see that, and talk to Jyoti Singh about that project. We’ll fill everyone in on that soon but, how do you usually showcase your projects. Is it mostly online?

I usually just put it online. I just want to share my story with as many people as possible.

Vick, I am so happy that I got to talk with you. Thank you very much. You are the reason, I do the “Local Independent Film Spotlight”. Any final words?

Keep making films and telling your stories. And thank you Diane and the Local Independent Film Spotlight for taking the time to appreciate the local talent. We new filmmakers thrive on your words of encouragement to keep going.

 Awe! Thank you! How can everyone keep abreast of all the imaginative, and creative work that you’re doing?

They can subscribe to my YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/user/vickkrishnafilms    

This was absolutely my pleasure Vick. The local filmmaking, and acting talent is rich…very rich. I sincerely get charged up to enlighten our community about the wealth of performance and entertainment treasure it possesses.

Thank you for joining us today. Stay tuned for another remarkable feature next Wednesday, right  here!

Vick Krishna

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“onLove: A Modern Love Story” Poster

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Local Independent Film Spotlight: Karen Elle

I know that you’re going to enjoy reading about this gifted young woman. The first time Karen Elle grabbed my attention was when she stood up at one of our church group meetings and read a monologue she had written about her real, relatable and down-to-earth interactions with God. This was not your usual religious exchange. Oh No! Instead, Karen personalized her communication in a manner that was comparable to blatantly chatting with a close friend. It was gritty…it was candid, and I loved it!

Anyway, my take-away was that Karen Elle was someone special…unique, and “outside-the-box” – in a really good way. I later learned that Karen was an actress, and that we had much in common as we pursued careers in entertainment arts.  Naturally, this drew us closer, and it is my honor to present Ms. Karen Elle…

…Read this descriptive interview to learn  everything about this show-stopping talent.

Hello Karen, it is GREAT to get to talk with you, and chat about your growing prowess as an actress in the DMV. Please tell us where it all began — How old were you, and how did you know you were destined to be an actress?

I don’t remember the exact moment, but it happened at a young age. My first love was writing. I’d always loved to write stories. But somewhere along the line the acting bug bit me, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.

What was, and where did your very first acting experience take place?

Picture it: Dayton, Ohio. Early nineties. I was huddled in a makeshift brick house, trembling in a pink turtleneck, pink jeans, and a pig mask. I was trembling not from fear of the Big Bad Wolf, but from the excitement of being in the moment. Nah, it wasn’t that deep. I was only in second grade and when I had my first stage role as Pig #2 in some school play adaptation of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. That was my first formal acting experience. But I’d had plenty of practice before then—like the times I’d break something or eat cake I wasn’t supposed to, and act like I didn’t know anything when my mom asked me about it.

You’re currently involved with a stage play at the Silver Spring Stage, and we really want to hear all the details in just a few moments, but tell us about the acting work you’ve been involved with.

Well, my most recent show was Amrika Chalo! (Destination USA) with Ajoka Theatre Company, a very reputable theatre company in Pakistan. Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics brought the company here to do two performances (another was added because it sold out like milk before a snow day). I and four other local actors had the privilege of being in this production. That experience was so enriching. I learned a lot about Pakistan, about US-Pakistani relations. I learned some Urdu, and I made some great friends.
Also, I had the opportunity to be in DC Yuppies, a web series about seven friends who live, work, and play in DC and the drama that ensues. That was a lot of fun. I’ve done mostly theatre, and the only film experience I have done a couple of short student films, so with DC Yuppies I learned more about acting on camera. including advice from my cast mates, who had more film experience. You can watch the series at www.dcyuppies.tv or on the B.E. Cre8ive channel on YouTube. New episodes drop every Wednesday.
I have been in two other productions at Silver Spring Stage: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot in 2011. I played St. Monica, Simon the Zealot, and one of the centurions. Even though St. Monica was fun, my favorite character was Simon the Zealot. I gave the character a Tinidadian accent—well, I attempted to. I met with a Trini friend who said I sounded more Antiguan, and everyone else thought I was Jamaican. But it was cool to do that. I also played Perfect Love and other characters in Arabian Nights last spring. That show was a beast. I had to dance, and I was supposed to have a solo. I ended up singing so low so the audience couldn’t hear me. Ha ha.
I was a part of the Hope Operas (2014), Capitol Fringe Festival (2010, 2012), the Delaware Fringe Festival (2011), the DC Black Theatre Festival (2011, 2012). I wrote and produced my first stage play in the 2011 DCBTF. That was awesome. I was in DC’s inaugural One Minute Play Festival that premiered at Roundhouse Theatre last summer. That was really cool. I’ve been in a couple of productions of the Vagina Monologues. The first time I did that show I felt empowered and proud to be a woman and unashamed of my lady parts. I’ve been in a few play readings.

Now please fill us in on your current project coming up at Silver Spring Stage.

The production I’m currently rehearsing for is 33 Variations. It is a very interesting show. It takes toggles between present day New York and 19th century Austria and mainly focuses on Katherine Brandt, an esteemed musicologist and Beethoven aficionado. She is struggling with a paper she is writing on him and also suffering from ALS. She has a daughter who tries to connect with her and spend time with her, but Katherine is hard to love. Then in 19th century Austria, Beethoven is experiencing the denouement of his own career and health. He grapples with his own demons and his musical genius.
I am enjoying working on this show, even though it has its challenges. The director, Natalia Gleason, has a big vision for it. A unique vision, and I think it will make the show work beautifully.
The show opens Friday, February 27th (with pay-what-you-can previews on Thursday, February 26th) and runs through March 21st. There are two Sunday matinée performances on March 8th and 15th at 2:00 p.m.

What’s your role in this on-stage drama?

I play Clara Brandt, Katherine’s daughter. She wants to love her mother, but her mother pushes her away. This role is particularly challenging because there are some moments that require me to be emotional. I haven’t really had a dramatic role before, but I appreciate the challenge, because it stretches me and helps me become a better performer.

How can we get tickets to see this enlightening performance?

Tickets are $20, and you can get them online at ssstage.org. You can also buy them at the door. Goldstar.com has discounted tickets for $10.

Moving forward, what future acting gigs are you preparing for?

I am working on a TV pilot about Capitol Hill. I’m praying for success with that. I am looking forward to Season 2 of DC Yuppies. I’d like to participate in Monologue Madness this year. I do want to go to an acting conservatory, so I’ll be preparing to apply for programs that begin next year. Other than that, I don’t have anything lined up for the moment. I’ll just keep my eyes peeled for auditions and other opportunities as they come. I want to do more film projects, so I’ll be auditioning for those. Oh, and I will prepare for the future unknown acting gigs by taking classes to help me become a better performer.

What is your dream role. What character, if it became available to you – anywhere in the country – you would just have to be there to audition for?

Well, one of my dream roles is to play Grown Nala in the Lion King on Broadway. Last year I could’ve auditioned for that, but I’m not a singer or much of a dancer, so….However, I’ll risk making someone’s ears bleed to audition for the role of Carmen Jones. I would love to have that role.
If there is a reboot of A Different World, I’d definitely be in the number for that! I’ll audition for any character—especially one like Freddie Brooks.

How do you view the local independent film industry?

I’m learning more about the industry itself, but I love independent films. I’m excited about those filmmakers who churn out masterpieces on small budgets. To me, some of the stories told seem more substantial and genuine. Also, there seems to be more opportunities to see people who doesn’t fit a particular aesthetic. I aspire to be in independent films someday.

Do you have a favorite local independent film?

Sons of the City, directed by Marcus Richardson.

You’re a very creative individual who also pens scripts for others, personal monologues, and so much more. Do you have plans to write a film, documentary, stage play or other?
There are a couple of plays I want to write, one of which I’ve been wrestling with for years. Maybe when I finally sit my hind parts down I can churn them out. I have an idea for a web series that I’m working on.
I do write some scripts and monologues for skits at my church, as you know 🙂 . I enjoy using my gift in that way.

Yes, we work on video and stage performance scripts together at The Bridge DC. Now, please share your ultimate dreams and aspirations as an actress, and writer.

I would like to win a few Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and Golden Globes, but overall, I desire to create awesome work. I want to be the best actress I can be, and bring such truth, talent, and power to the roles I have, that they resonate deeply with anyone who watches. Same with the plays I pen. I want to tell powerful stories that create a positive force in this world.
I would love to work with Ava DuVernay. I heart her work.

Now to a more national focus; as the 2015 Oscar Awards approach this coming Sunday, do you have a favorite film, or actor, or actress that you are rooting for?

Oh yes. I’m rooting for Selma. It was fantastic. I love Birdman, and I hope Michael Keaton and Emma Stone walk away with the little golden man.

There has been lots of controversy around “Selma” director, Ava DuVernay not receiving the best director nomination for this film, although the film was nominated “best film”. As a woman in “The Biz”, what is your opinion on the full matter?

I wish I could let my facial expression answer this question.
Selma was a great film. Ava is a fantastic director—I’ve seen some of her other films. While an Academy Award is a great honor, it is not the only honor one can receive.. I think her talent speaks for itself. Just because she’s not in the running for best director doesn’t mean she’s not a great director. It doesn’t mean she won’t stop making great films. There are other spaces where she can win an award like that.
Furthermore, there have been talented directors, actors, crew members, and great films that didn’t get nominated or win an Academy Award for whatever reason. They don’t need validation from the Academy to prove that their work is magnificent.

Well said! Karen you are a fascinating young woman with immense talent. It has been such a joy speaking with you. Any final words?

Thank you! I am humbled that you wanted to interview me. Even though I am not where I want to be in my acting career, I am grateful for the journey, and I look forward to what’s to come!

That is what Local Independent Film Spotlight is all about! How can we keep abreast of all the remarkable work you’re doing as an actress, and writer?

You can follow me on Twitter–@actrizkarenelle. I also am in the process of setting up a Facebook Page, Karen Elle and a Twitter account. I will launch a web site later this year.

Thanks again Karen! It’s been fun, and enlightening! 

There you have it everyone; another remarkable Local Independent Film Spotlight individual. You wouldn’t want to miss more stories about other phenomenal talent residing, and creating, right here in the DMV area. See you next Wednesday!

Karen Elle

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Local Independent Film Spotlight: Aimee Schlectman

This week  I am  excited, and  proud, to introduce you to Aimee Schlectman.  Who is  Aimee Schlectman, you asks? She is a self-driven, highly talented, quite interesting, and loads of fun to work with, kind of Gal. I worked with Aimee on the acclaimed “City of Lost Souls” crime drama. I observed as she meticulously combed over each scene in the script, cataloged each item needed to dress the film’s characters, and the indoor, and outdoor sets alike, into her huge binder.

You see Aimee was our Wardrobe and Props expert. Beyond the glamour of the lights, camera and accomplished actors, there is a person (or team) who feverishly works to pull the minute details together. Aimee led her eager team, to do just that.

Stick around to learn more about this unique movie professional…

Hello there Aimee, you have a very important role in the film industry. How do you precisely describe what you do?

I do Wardrobe/ Prop Styling for film & TV.  I interpret scripts and convey the words into the actor’s wardrobe. I assist bringing the Directors/ Writers vision to life through wardrobe.  After I break down a script, I visualize the characters wardrobe from jewelry to the handbag/brief case they carry.  From the smallest detail of name initial necklace to an Over the Top Gold Encrusted Diamond Jesus Pendant a Pimp would wear. It  becomes an extension of the characters’ persona.

Within the last 5 years, I have added Prop styling to my repertoire.  Prop styling allows me another opportunity to design scenes that are more realistic and believable.  Not only do Props assist the actors into character it is extremely creative.  From; faux ice cubes to watered down coffee (used as scotch), duffel bags filled with Cocaine and briefcases stuffed with faux Money. It is the art of making it look credible and genuine.

How long have you been fitting actors for costumes, and dressing film sets?

The film industry is my Second career.

I studied Fashion Design in college and have a Degree in it. I worked in the fashion industry after college in NY/LA. After realizing, it was not as creative as I thought it would be-I switched gears and entered corporate America. After many years of Grey business suits and smart practical shoes, I realized I was not fulfilling my creative dreams.  I began classes at FIT (In NYC). After a few classes at FIT, I landed an intern position on an indie feature film with some named talent. It was not a glamorous position. –I kept fire watch on the back of the Wardrobe truck in the middle of summer and ran errands for The Costume Designer. I saw and experienced a lot, got my first taste of movie magic – I was hooked.

Why do you love doing what you do?

This industry is not for the faint of heart. The days are long; they start early and end late. I love doing this job – I remind myself especially on days when the alarm is set for 4:00 a.m. A day on set always trumps a a day in the office.

I love being a wardrobe/prop stylist. Its SUPER artistic, I get to hang out with other misfits like myself and get opportunities to work with talented accomplished folks… No one does this job for the glamour or Money. You do it because you love making movies

Ain’t that the truth! Please describe the type of projects, you have worked on.

I have worked on Feature films, commercials, music videos, TV series, short films, training videos and a few print ads…

What has been your most memorable or favorite project thus far?

My favorite project was an 80’s period Feature Film. It was based on a female DJ starting her career out in NYC in the early 80”s. I had a crew of 3 and we did tons of extensive thrift store shopping/hunting ,borrowing from up and coming designers and creating custom made logo T-shirts.  We had a small budget and that added to the creativity. Unfortunately, shooting stopped mid-shoot because the Producer embezzled the funds, BUT the Wardrobe was amazing.

What are you working on right now? What great creations are you pulling together for the project?

Currently I am in talks with a couple different Directors about my next project… I just finished some commercial work. It was an ad for Washington Gas.  I was privileged to work on their new rebranding ad campaign. If you ride the metro, keep an eye out for the posters!

Nice! I will be sure to do that Aimee! Where does your motivation to do what you do come from?

I remind myself that I am doing exactly what I want, and love to be doing… Lawyers do not get that excited telling you about their latest case -do they?

Do you have a film whose costuming, and/or set design was particularly impressive to you?

“Casino”, “American Hustle”, the “Wrestler”, the “Sopranos”. I love the opulence and the tackiness!

Do you have a favorite film among this year’s Oscar nominated films?

“American Sniper” and “Whiplash” are my two favorites

Why are those your favorite?

I loved “American Sniper” for its superbly subtle critique, made by Mr. Eastwood. I admire our brave soldiers so much and this film salutes the honest work of all soldiers. It is also an interesting twist to see what happens to these brave men and woman when they return home.

What are your thoughts on the local independent film industry? Do you believe that it is growing…thriving?

I do not think there is enough local independent work for the DC/MD area. I know Richmond gets a fair amount, but I do not want to travel 2 hours (from Bethesda) to a film set. I wish they would shoot more local shows here. We have “VEEP” and “House of Cards” but something right here in DC would be fantastic. Perhaps “Law and Order” – DC Style. That would be awesome! Do you think Dick Wolf is reading this?

I sure hope he is! If you could adjust the independent film industry in the DMV area, so that it is a well-oiled machine, where would you make those adjustments?

My suggestions would be; to shoot more movies here and use local crew. We need the work and we are very talented.

We are indeed! What advice would you give to someone who has a desire to break into the movie business with similar gifting to your own?

It takes a long time to get a steady amount of work. You need a second job or live at home. The money ensues but not for a while. If you do not love the craft or do not love being on a film set (they are not all indoors and warm) this is not the industry for you!

Please describe yourself in three words?

Energetic, Professional and Creative. (Does not have to be in that order)

How can we keep abreast of all the fabulous work you are doing?

Most of my work is on IMDB…Just check me out HERE! 

 Aimee as usual, you have been a blast! Any final words?

 Thank you for the interview… My final last words… Stop having the Hair and Make-up crew do WARDROBE!

Loud, and clear Aimee, we – and filmmakers everywhere – hear you loud and clear.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences with us. We have learned a great deal. It only gets better from here. Onward, and Upwards. Cheers!

Well there you have it. – Another engaging story from a local talent in the film industry. Thanks for checking in, and be sure to return next Wednesday for another “Local Independent Film Spotlight”! 

 

Aimee Schlectman “Dressing” a Scene of “City of Lost Souls”

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Aimee Schlectman Hard At Work

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Local Independent Film Spotlight: David Walsh

It is great to have you back for another installment of “Local Independent Film Spotlight” (LIFS). This week I am pleased to present David Walsh.

I was very impressed with David the first time I witnessed him in action at the table read, led by filmmaker Eulonda Kay Lea, for her impending feature film. I had read the script ahead of the event, and David matched the lead character impeccably, as he brought it to life. When I met the affable gentleman following the reading performances, I said to myself; “That David Walsh is going to be a headliner someday”.

Read on to get to know David, and you will see what I mean. I can already guess, that you wouldn’t be able to help being swept up by his self-possessed charm and talent, not to mention learn a great deal from his experiences.

David, how are you doing – having a busy acting life?

I am well, not terribly busy on the acting front, but am in the process of launching a career doing voiceovers.

Voiceovers huh? That’s a special sort of performance in itself. How long have you been acting professionally?

Well there was about a 10 year gap that I wasn’t acting at all—just had a demanding day job that didn’t allow me the luxury. But I would say I have spent 10-15 years doing stage work, both paid and unpaid, professional and ‘non-professional’.

What inspired you to get involved with this craft?

I think it was a combination of a few things: 1) an affinity for foreign languages and cultures, resulting in a curiosity about people in general; 2) a love of films; 3) I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to know what it was like to “walk in someone else’s shoes”.

Where did you secure your performance training?

I took a few acting classes in college and then just started doing theater, whether it was paid or not. Work is work, experience is experience, and that’s the best training you can get. I would also say that doing as much Improv work as possible really helps free me as an artist and helps build confidence.

I agree! Nothing compares to “hands-on” training. Please fill us in a bit on your resume. 

Most of my experience has been on stage. I’ve done a lot of character parts and supporting roles, a fair amount of Shakespeare, some chorus work in musicals ( not a triple threat here, but can carry a tune, I guess ;-)) Love to do ensemble work and am a big supporter of “the supporting actor”, as I feel they have less of the script to rely on in developing character.

What is the most memorable performance of your career?

I think that’s a toss up between a comic role I had many years ago on stage as Leon in “The Wake of Jamey Foster” and a role that I performed last year in a reading of a dramedy screenplay by a local screenwriter.

Do you have a future dream role that you desire to get the part for?

That role I mentioned for the dramedy screenplay—I just feel I empathized, understood and loved the character, even though on the surface we aren’t that similar.

What is it about the local, DMV independent film industry that you absolutely love, and applaud?

I think that although that market had grown in this area, it is still fairly friendly and not cut-throat. I think more and more people are participating and this ultimately only be a good thing as far as diversity of cultures and viewpoints.

Do you have any criticism about the local film industry? Where is there room for improvement?

I think that whatever red tape can be eliminated and incentives given to production companies, while maintaining the security that many landmarks require should be encouraged.

If you had the opportunity to pack your bags today, and fulfill your acting career, for the remainder of your life without any gaps, in Hollywood, would you leave this area?

Well I’ve been in DC for half my life and have established community here. That said I am not ‘married’ to DC and would consider all options if such an opportunity arose.

Do you have a specific genre of film that you enjoy acting in the most? Comedy? Suspense? Horror? Romance? Other?

I think my favorite genre would be comedy, but good comedies are hard to come by and sometimes I feel I have the right timing, and sometimes I’m off.

What acting performance are you gearing up for these days?

I have an audition on Tuesday for a group that will be doing performances in various media—on film, voice overs, and stage.

Do you enjoy writing, and developing projects as well? If so, are you currently working on one?

I do dabble a bit, procrastinate a bit and pick up the laptop again. I have both a comedy and a dramedy love story I am working on.

What advice would you give someone just starting out as an actor in the DMV area, and has big hopes and dreams to make a name for themselves.

I would say to join The Actors Center, Women in Film and Video (not just for women!) and join any open Facebook group for actors/filmmakers that you can. To take whatever work you feel would be worth your time—paid or not. Take as many classes as you can, particularly Improv. One can never learn enough.

As we draw near to Oscar night on February 22nd, do you have a favorite film, and actors whom you are rooting for?

Of the nominated films I’ve seen, so far I really loved “The Grand Budapest Hotel”—it was my kind of quirky, and ‘everyone’ one was in it. I also loved “Birdman” and the way it was directed—Keaton and Emma Stone, and Edward Norton were great. I haven’t seen “Still Alice” yet but Julianne Moore deserves an Oscar in general. If Patricia Arquette were not in the supporting actress category, I would give the award to (Meryl) Streep for “Into the Woods”—there’s virtually nothing she can’t do.

Please describe yourself in 3 words.

Sensitive, Curious, Funny

How can readers connect with you, and keep up with your wonderful accomplishments?

As of now, Facebook, but will be relaunching my website soon.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me David. I’ve always enjoyed working with you. Any final words?

Thank you, Diane! Keep fighting the good fight and always use your creative side!

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Local Independent Film Spotlight: Alicia Beth Dawson

When I met this week’s Local Independent Film Spotlight (LIFS) candidate, Alicia Beth Dawson was reading lines with actors who were auditioning for Jason Baustin’s crime-drama “City of Lost Souls” – which I also assisted on. Little did I know then that Alicia’s talents did not stop at acting. While working on the film, Alicia was also professionally beautifying our actors with make-up. As we got to know each other further, I learned that she was also a qualified hair stylist, and had screenwriting projects in the works.

Clearly I was fascinated, and impressed. I later got an opportunity to work with Alicia on one of her short film projects, directed by her acting coach, and mentor, Manuel Poblete. It was ridiculously funny, and intelligent…but I won’t give it all away now. Read on to learn about this interesting lady, and her diverse range of skills in the independent film industry.

Who is Alicia Beth Dawson in a nutshell?

In a nutshell…a complete nut! a complete control freak! a definite workaholic!

Whoa! I can imagine. Hairstylist, Make-Up artist, Actor, Writer, you are a quadruple threat in the film production world. With respect to your goals what is your chief focus, of those disciplines, right now?

Right now my chief focus is being a mom, I have a 5 year old son. It is the hardest job I’ve ever had and the most rewarding. Hair is my main focus in the quadruple threat right now. I’m a veteran in the industry and I’ve loved every minute of it. My clients have been very supportive of all my other projects. I even run new movie ideas by them, they all volunteer to be in them! lol.

Alicia, that is very interesting, and cool! I enjoyed working with you on the short film, “Just Listen”, which you wrote, produced, and held the lead role. However,  you’ve also written an outrageously hilarious feature with Manuel Pobelte. Tell us about that.

“Just Listen” came about from a conversation I had with my parents. In my casting notices, an audition came through for “Orange is the New Black”, I’m a huge fan, so I wanted to submit for it. I was talking to my mom about it, telling her that I would have to be naked if I got the part. My mother begged me not to tell my father, as he walked in, and the rest turned into “Just Listen”.
Manuel and I have written a hysterical feature length movie that is centered around 5 friends who get themselves into tons of crazy situations…want to say more but I won’t, for now. 😉

Ok, can you at least tell us what your plans are for getting the feature produced?

My plans for getting the film produced… beg! lol. I’m hoping the story and script will draw tons of investors. Manuel already has people interested in the film just by telling them about it. I can’t wait!!!

Sounds good! What are the long term goals for the project? Wide theater release? Straight to DVD? Otherwise?

My goals for the project?..Wow, umm…I would say theater release.

What are your thoughts on film festivals? Do you have interest in taking your on-screen work the film festival route, toward notoriety?

I love film festivals! There are are so many talented filmmakers. It’s a treat to be able to see just a hand full at a festival.
I definitely have an interest in producing on-screen work. As far as notoriety, I love this industry and I love entertaining, so if one person likes my movie then I did my job and I’m a happy girl.

Do you have a specific genre of film that you enjoy writing, and creating the most? Comedy? Horror? Romance?

I love movies, all movies. What is my favorite?..depends on my mood. My dream movie would be the one that I get to incorporate horror, comedy, and romance all in one.

Now that, I can’t wait to see! What passion project are you working on right now?

The passion project I’m working on right now, is one that combines horror, comedy, and romance! lol.
This project is actually the first complete story I wrote. I am also in the middle of a horror story about a hairstylist, it’s taking me a long time to write..I keep scaring myself 😉

That’s hilarious Alicia! What advice would you give someone who has diverse skills like yourself, and wants to break into the entertainment industry?

What advice would I give someone?..Oh my!..I am a complete control freak. I write the scripts, draw the story boards, do hair and makeup, produce the project, act in the movie, and laugh at myself everyday. The only way I can do all this and be Mom is having a positive attitude. I was once at a hair show in Las Vegas. While there, Robert Cromeans made a profound statement; ‘There are no mistakes in hair just discoveries’. I dropped the ‘hair’ and added ‘life.’ I apply it to everything. Of course some discoveries are easier than others, and some are less expensive, but you get the idea…lol.

That truly is inspirational. If you could live out the rest of your life just focusing on one of your gifts, which one would it be, and why?

One gift I would focus on would be writing. I started writing when I was 11, I was fortunate as a child to travel with my Nana. In the airport before our first trip she gave me a journal and said, “this is to write down all your stories from our trip, you can add pictures to it when we get them developed.” That journal became a gateway into my imagination. I have so many journals. I’m not a huge fan of writing on the computer. I would love to be able to sit and write all day.

I can definitely relate. With regards to the local film industry – In your opinion, do you believe that it can prosper outside of L.A. or New York?

I love local independent films. If the stories are good, the acting is strong, and the film has great quality, how could it not prosper. My wish would be for more people to watch independent films, and give them the credit they deserve.

As we seek to know you more Alicia, any final words?

Oh! I’m just getting started!

Alrighty then! Well how can we learn more from you, and stay abreast of all your creativity, and “power moves”?

If you’re in the Elkton, MD area, please feel free to stop by “Envy Spa and Salon” located at 707 north bridge st. Elkton, MD 21921, for a remarkable, and unforgettable hairstyling experience. You can also communicate, and stay abreast with me on Twitter (@aliciabdawson), and/or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/aliciabeth.dawson?ref=ts&fref=ts)

Alicia, chatting with you has been fun! I don’t know how you do it all. We will delve further into that one day soon. In the interim, all the very best with achieving your goals. The good times, have only just begun. Go for the Gold!

Everyone, thanks again for checking in for another Local Independent Film Spotlight. Be sure to return next Wednesday to learn about another interesting and creative individual in our local film world.

Alicia Beth Dawson

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Local Independent Film Spotlight: Chad Eric Smith

Welcome back for another Local Independent Film Spotlight. Today I am elated to feature Chad Eric Smith. He is a talented, and brilliant local actor, as well as thrillingly imaginative story teller. After learning about, and viewing his recent short horror comedy film, “Dark Therapy”, I just had to learn more about Chad, and bring his story to you. You would understand what I mean after you’ve seen the witty “Dark Therapy”.

Stay tuned, and read on to learn more about the film, and its upcoming screening on Saturday, January 24th. I am confident that, like myself, Chad’s experiences, and drive will further inspire, and stir up your passion for theater and film.

Chad, how did you get involved with the world of acting, and filmmaking?

When I was 12, my Grandmother took me to the Arena Stage in Washington, DC to see my first play “Oak and Ivy,” which chronicled the loving but strained marriage of two early-20th-century poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore. I left the theater mesmerized by the actors’ performances. I also left determined to perform at the Arena Stage one day. A little while later, my grandmother took me to New York City to see my first Broadway musical, “Annie Get Your Gun.” I was again awestruck. While in High School, I became a member of Children’s National Medical Center’s theater troupe, Teens Against the Spread of AIDS (TASA). It combined improvisational theater, poetry, and hip hop, to educate our peers, parents, and health professionals about important teen health concerns. All these experiences made me interested in acting once I got to college, and ultimately pursuing acting professionally.
After college, I performed in several short films and at many community theaters throughout the Pittsburgh Metropolitan area. I also was an extra in the big-budget Hollywood films “She’s Out of My League,” “I Am Number Four,” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” My first big role in a feature length film was as the mild-mannered and slightly socially awkward reporter Pete Henderson in the superhero comedy “Squid Man,” by writer/director Charlie Cline.

How long have you been acting?

I have been acting for a little over 10 years. I’ve been in a total of 18 stage plays, over a dozen independent films, a couple of web series, and a music video.

Wow! What bit you first; the acting bug, or writing and telling stories?

The acting bug bit me first. The first play I performed in was “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” by Steve Martin, during my freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. The experience of performing in front of a live audience was exhilarating. So, I just kept doing it and loving it more and more. Writing and telling my own stories happened much later.

You have performed a wide range of characters. Your acting wheelhouse is pretty vast. Do you have a favorite character which you have acted? Please fill us in on your acting experiences.

In 2010, I enjoyed playing Walter Lee Younger in the Kuntu Repertory Theatre production of the musical “Raisin” and was awarded an Oynx Award for ‘Best Leading Actor in a Musical’ by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the African American Council on the Arts (AACTA). That same year, I also won an Oynx Award for ‘Best Supporting Actor in a Musical’ for my role as Wilson Pickett in the New Horizon Theater production of “I Gotcha! The Story of Joe Tex and the Soul Clan.” Those two are a couple of my favorite stage roles because, on top of acting, they both challenged me to sing and dance, things that aren’t necessarily easy or comfortable for me. In film, my favorite, most gratifying role so far was as a mysterious drifter named Ahmad in the upcoming horror feature film “The Suffering,” by LA based filmmaker Rob Hamilton. It was by far my most physically demanding, complex film role. My character is a mix of charisma, madness, and danger. Check out the trailer at http://www.thesufferingfilm.com.

Fantastic! Well, let’s delve into your recent film, “Dark Therapy”, about a vampire with an irrational fear of blood, and seeks psychiatric help as a result. How was the idea for this short horror comedy conceived?

In the summer of 2013, I met local actress Devin Nikki Thomas at a table read for a script by filmmaker Harold Jackson III. Right away, she and I clicked. I thought she was funny. We had a very similar sense of humor and I was impressed by her quick-wit. So, we did what all strangers do right away: We became Facebook friends. We then decided to collaborate creatively. For me, it was an exciting and empowering opportunity to bring to life the type of quirky character I’m attracted to as an actor, and for Devin to be executive producer of her first film through her production company, Unitivity Productions, LLC.

You possess the main role of the Vampire, which was brilliantly performed. However, what was the writing process like? Did the ideas, and dialogue flow naturally, or were there instances of struggle?

Thank you! The idea and dialogue definitely came easy and a lot of it was improvised during filming. I knew right away that I wanted to create a cinematic-looking comedic skit with an improvisational flair, similar to Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele,” which I’m a big fan of. I’m also a big fan of Johnny Depp because of his knack for playing flamboyant, eccentric characters and I had recently seen him play a vampire in Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows.” So, that was my initial inspiration. When I started brainstorming ideas for the first rough draft of the script, I first thought about a skit about 2 vampires who give up blood because they become Jehovah Witnesses. Then, the idea of a vampire with an extreme, irrational fear of blood popped in my head like a lightbulb and Devin was like, “I’m game.” I began writing it in November of 2013 and then sent it to Devin and she added to it.

Those are great places to find inspiration. How did you prepare for your role as the Vampire?

I named my vampire character “Erebus” because it is the name of the primordial deity who personifies darkness in Greek mythology. I liked the idea of his name representing something opposite of his harmless, apprehensive, and constantly mortified demeanor. I liked that juxtaposition and irony. I sent the script to Carl Randolph and Robert “Bob” Yoho Jr., who were the special effects/make-up artists for “The Suffering,” and they really liked it and came on board to help bring Erebus to life. Bob designed realistic-looking, custom-fit fangs for me and Carl did my make-up, nails, and gave me white eye contacts. Devin purchased my blousy shirt and lace front wig. Transforming into Erebus took a little over an hour in the make-up chair and really helped inform my mannerisms and voice.

In the film, it appears that the “fantasy world” collides with the “urban world”. Was this intentional?

Yes. Even the fact that my vampire character is wearing jeans in the film was a conscious choice to collide fantasy with urban. I remember seeing an interview by director John Singleton in which he said that when a filmmaker is very specific culturally, it becomes universal and special. Not to be all deep, but I really like the idea of universality being found within cultural specificity. So, I thought that having urban references, especially references that were very specific to the DMV, with a black vampire as a lead character, would be funny and relatable to many.

The role of the psychiatrist is played by Devin Nikki. She was a natural. What was the approach to this character in the planning stages?

Devin is great as Dr. Anne Rice! Her name is a nod to the popular author of the series of novels The Vampire Chronicles. Devin decided for her character to have a southern accent to make her character quirkier. She was also very meticulous about her character’s appearance, as well.

There is certainly comedy throughout the short, but the horror portion certainly does peek through, including a twist. It is a fair balance. How was this accomplished?

It was certainly a collaborative experience. The original script had a simple comedic ending. When Devin made edits to the script, she added a darker ending and I loved it. It accentuated another idea I was trying to present, the idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Omar Juarez (Bad/Splice), our awesome Director of Photography, also edited the film and did some cool color correction that really hit the nail on the head regarding my vision. He was assisted by Manuel Santos. My father, Jonathan Bey, is an Emmy award-winning producer and composed the film’s original score, making it sound simultaneously quirky and ominous. I told him to think of the music of composer Danny Elfman. Audio engineer Michael Balasia further enhanced the sound of the film and added a few really funny effects. The wonderful performances of actor Niko Tarlay and actress Honey St. Dennis definitely helped emphasize the comedic/horror balance, as well. Everyone really elevated the project superbly, in my opinion, especially considering that we shot the film in a single day.

The comedy film premiered at the West End Cinema in Washington, DC, in October 2014, and later went on to receive awards for the film work, and acting performances. Please tell us a little more about that.

Yes, it premiered at the West End Cinema as part of the 2014 Reel Independent Film Extravaganza. It was a thrilling experience and the audience loved it! There was lots of hearty laughter. The following month, at the National Press Club, the Television, Internet & Video Association of DC (TIVA-DC) awarded Unitivity Productions, LLC a Bronze Peer Award in the “Independent Short” category for “Dark Therapy” and awarded me the Gold Peer Award in the “Acting on Camera – Fiction Male” category. It was a very exciting and gratifying night!

“Dark Therapy” will also be featured at this Saturday’s (January 24th) Rosebud Film & Video Festival, at the Artisphere in Arlington, VA. What is the significance of that for you?

I’m just really happy that it’s continuing to be accepted into film festivals so that people can see it on the big screen. In fact, on that same evening, it will also screen at the Indie Night Film Festival at the world famous TCL Chinese Theatre on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame! I’ll be flying to LA, for the first time, to participate.

How can fans, and avid movie-goers get tickets to attend this weekend’s screening?

Folks in the DMV area can purchase their tickets for the Rosebud Film & Video Festival at https://www.arlingtonmedia.org/rosebud. Ticket’s are $10. If they are in the L.A. area, they can RSVP for the Indie Night Film Festival at http://www.indienightfilmfestival.com/event/3-3/.

What are the extend of your plans for “Dark Therapy”, moving forward?

We have submitted “Dark Therapy” to several film festivals all over the world and expect to get responses throughout the remainder of the year.

In your opinion, what is the forecast for the Independent Film climate in the DMV area? We’re not L.A., New York or even Toronto but do you think that the independent film industry can thrive locally?

Yes, I think the independent film industry can thrive in the DMV. There certainly are lots of talented people in the area. As a DC native, I would like to see more and more filmmakers and producers capturing the images of the diversity and historic landmarks that make the city so great. I do think, though, that DC officials need to do a better job at creating economic incentives to attract more film and TV production companies. From the things I read and hear about, I feel there’s too many jurisdictional and bureaucratic hurdles in DC, which dissuade filmmakers. That in return makes it more challenging for local actors to find high quality, paid gigs to audition for. That’s also part of the reason Devin and I decided to produce our own project.

What advice would you give to budding actors, and storytellers in this area, seeking to recognize their dream of performing and filmmaking?

I would tell actors to be selective about the type of work they choose to be part of. Don’t compromise your personal integrity just so you can add a credit to your resume. Being an actor is as much about your brand as it is about the craft. And your brand is made up of both what you choose to do and what you choose not to do. I recently saw an interview with actor David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Selma,” and he said something that really resonated with me. He said, “You erode your talent by being in things that are lesser than your talent. You are only as good as what you subject yourself to by way of the material, the people you work with, and the parts you accept.”
I, also, definitely recommend doing theatre. I believe theatre is the best training an actor can receive because it truly is the actor’s medium. It’s where the actor has the most say as to how he or she portrays the character he or she has been entrusted with. Plus, the energy one receives from a live audience is an amazing feeling. If you are a film actor, arrive on set on time, know your lines, listen and react to your scene partner, and be cognizant of continuity so the editor will love you. With regards to technique, well, as the late, great comic George Burns once said, “Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

Priceless advice! So what’s next for Chad Eric Smith?

My upcoming roles include me as a restaurateur in the feature length romance “Last Night,” by writer/director Harold Jackson III, a distraught artist in the feature length drama “Secret City Bluz” by writer/director Ambessa Jir Berhe, and a werewolf suffering with alopecia in the feature length comedy “Zombie Ted,” by writer/director Anne Wells. I’m also currently writing a new original comedic screenplay.

How can we stay abreast with your actor, and filmmaking work?

The best way to keep updated on what I’m doing is by “Liking” my Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/ActorChadEricSmith. People can also follow me on Twitter @ChadEricSmith and Instagram @Chad_Eric_Smith. In addition to being an actor, I’m also a musician. Some of my music can be heard on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/chad-eric-smith.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me Chad! I would like to wish you much success with “Dark Therapy”, and all your future endeavors. Again, your story is inspiring. I am convinced that the your limitless imagination, and purposeful drive will transport you to your goals, and even further.

To everyone, I highly recommend securing your tickets for this Saturday’s screening of “Dark Therapy”. It is a entertaining treat!
To reiterate: Tickets for the Rosebud Film & Video Festival at https://www.arlingtonmedia.org/rosebud. Ticket’s are $10. If they are in the L.A. area, they can RSVP for the Indie Night Film Festival at http:/www.indienightfilmfestival.com/event/3-3/. 

Chad Eric Smith

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Dark Therapy Poster

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