Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

By Colleen Rowe

The 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was well produced in comparison to her life-long career struggle with pleasing the critics in the entertainment industry. It’s slightly heartbreaking to watch, especially with the turmoil of Rivers’ anxieties stressing herself thin and making her seem as if she was a woman who could not filter herself. There’s a fine line between anxiety that becomes a part of a persona and carelessly offending people for the sake of comedy.

Throughout the documentary, viewers can see Joan’s self-conscious side erupting between her acts. She was angry that not enough people were coming out to see her, and within the question of a possibly falling career, she seemed to always compare herself to Kathy Griffith. Joan Rivers knew that she was a comedy icon, and she demanded the respect that the entertainment world sometimes didn’t want to give her. Her acts were brash, sometimes condescending, and rude toward the individuals who came out to see her perform. As Rivers put it, “There’s always an adjective before my name and it’s never a nice adjective.”

It isn’t completely clear whether Joan Rivers’ caustic outbursts were completely subconscious, as her daughter, Melissa Rivers, mentions at one point of the documentary. It seems that there was a mixture of both subconscious outbursts and intentional metaphorical slayings, which Joan Rivers used to cut into people maliciously. What was heartbreaking about this documentary was the explanation of Rivers’ life. How she truly wanted to be an actor, but comedy was a niche that she fell into. Joan Rivers, a comedy icon was not only disrespected, but she was also respected for “paving the way” for women in comedy. This paradoxical understanding of Joan is the only understanding that there really is: she was a complicated woman. There’s nothing wrong with perfecting a persona, but the woman who Joan Rivers was when she wasn’t performing or acting was a nervous, caring mother with a lot of heart. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work shows the business within Joan Rivers and the personal fire within herself that fueled her verbal ammo.

The documentary itself really pulls out these complications and convinces viewers that Joan Rivers was struggling and, as she began to dwindle into an elderly age gap, her career began to suffer. The term “edgy” had taken a different spin in the entertainment world.  Is this documentary worth seeing? With such a complicated comedic force, this is for you to decide on your own.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work was shown at the Gold Coast International Film Festival this past November

Women for Equality in One Room

Girl Interrupted:

Roxanne: Regarding Girl, Interrupted ‘s success as a mainstay in stylistic film, few people realize that it is also based on the actual accounts of Susanna Kaysen, a patient at McLean hospital for two years. What makes Kaysen’s memoirs so relevant is also the background story of this era. The 1960’s, can be cited as one of the most pivotal times in American feminism, as it was the brink of the radical feminist movement. Among other ideologies, feminism focused on dismantling workplace inequality, such as denial of access to better jobs and salary inequity, via anti-discrimination laws. Thus, this time period can be marked as a feat in moving away from inequality and oppression.
DSC_0060 DSC_0062

Colleen: Girl Interrupted gives a lighter shade of the mental health system during the 1960s, with Valerie (Whoopi Goldberg), a nurse, and the staff that accompanies her as mental health professionals who were, for the most part, just trying to help. Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) is sent to Claymoore, a psychiatric hospital, after a suicide attempt that is triggered by a sexual assault. DSC_0076 DSC_0120 DSC_0139Coincidentally, in Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, Ester Greenwood, is assaulted while she is living in an urban area, and is later brought to a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide. While in Claymoore, Susanna befriends another patient, Lisa Rowe (Angelina Jolie), after she first gets a taste of Lisa’s antics—Lisa is brought back to the hospital after she escapes and, after spotting Susanna in her new room within the ward, beside Georgina (Clea Duvall), proceeds to scream at Susanna “Where’s Jamie?!” She is quickly subdued by the staff, attendants that were meant to protect patients and staff from the more “violent” patients, with a syringe. Another patient, Polly (Elizabeth Moss), explains, matter-of-factly, “Jamie was Lisa’s best friend. She was sad last week when Lisa ran away, so she hung herself with a volleyball net.” To many patients, in this film, and in the real world, these were everyday occurrences within a psychiatric hospital, whether it was the extreme of suicide or another form of mental stress, instability, and/or breakdown. Feminist unedited Paige Skelly Sarah 1 Location 2Roxanne: The story focuses on wounded, ‘emotional’ young women, which perpetuated the stereotype of the teenage female in current media. The characters that Susanna meets in the institution suffer from self- harming tendencies, eating disorders, and erratic, and non-conventional behaviors. As the story progresses, the audience is able to see that many of these “illnesses” that these women suffer from began after experiencing traumatic, violent events at the hands of the men in their lives. Additionally, many of the characters began to show symptoms of psychiatric disorders as a result of not fitting in to the social systems that were so elegantly laid out for women at the time. For instance, Kaysen is diagnosed as having “borderline personality disorder,” but these symptoms also coincidentally mimic a woman resisting and reacting to harmful restrictions placed upon her. This includes, but is not limited to; impulsiveness that is potentially self-damaging , recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior and inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger, as listed by the DSM IV. Feminist  4 not yet edited feminist 2 not yet edited feminist 7 not yet editedIMG_7625IMG_7610 femme colleen rowe location 2 day 1 edit 2 femme colleen rowe location 2 day 1 edit 1 Sarina penza taken by montsy perez Colleen: While reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, one can see that the female protagonist, Jane, is apparently abused as a child, by her aunt and cousins—she is tormented in the “Red Room,” locked in by the fear of entrapment. After Jane is sent to Lowood, a school for girls, she is also subjected to unreasonable torment by the male in charge, Mr. Brocklehurst, including standing on a stool for an unreasonable amount of time, after she is unrightfully called a “liar,” as a form of punishment. She befriends Helen Burns, another orphan, who later dies of consumption in Jane’s arms. Helen teaches Jane the importance of forgiving those who have done wrong to her and prioritizing her sincere worship of God before her dedication to other human beings. In the scene before Helen passes away, Jane asks Helen if she knows where she is going to go after death. Helen replies that she is going to God and states, “I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness.” There’s a similar friendship in Gail Carson’s Levine’s book Ella Enchanted. Ella Enchanted takes readers through the life of Ella of Frell, who is an allusion to Cinderella—later in the book she is called “Cinders” by her step-sister, Hattie. Unlike Jane, Ella initially has a lot of love in her life—a mother and magical cook who love her. Her father, a merchant who is often away on business, hardly sees her, and when he does, he tries to change her, to make her more presentable for prospective suitors. After her mother dies, Ella is sent, by her father, to a finishing school that is similar to Lowood. Here, she meets Areida, who becomes a great friend to Ella of Frell. At one point in the book, Ella sits with Areida, as she cries in the courtyard. She asks Areida to watch her nose, to make sure it isn’t red, so that she isn’t embarrassed by the laughing girls who listen to her step-sister’s rule. Cursed with obedience, a spell by a fairy named Lucinda, at birth, Ella is ordered by Hattie to defriend Areida. Ella chooses to leave, with her good friend in her thoughts, on a quest to break the curse that has succumbed her to control. Ella Enchanted was later made into a movie with Anne Hathaway as Ella. It has a humorous tone that is found within the book, but Gail Carson Levine’s Ella still remains darker, and less comedic, with Ella often subjected to abuse that cannot be charmed with laughter. Gail Carson Levine, although original in her own way, was not the first person to make an allusion to The Brother’s Grimm’s fairytale Cinderella. Anne Sexton wrote Transformations (1971), with a foreword by Kurt Vonnegut, an adaptation of The Brother’s Grimm’s stories written in poetic, free-verse form, with a confessional persona. Anne Sexton wrote Transformations with the intention of modernizing traditional horrific fairytales, while simultaneously incorporating current social norms that have in the past and in her time, stereotyped women. The princess is beautiful, the witch is evil. But Anne Sexton, the witch, tells the tale—she is the teller of this story. Anne Sexton herself, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, committed suicide, a few years after her friend and colleague, Sylvia Plath, did. She explains her sadness for Sylvia’s death, the death that they tried to beat, in her poem “Sylvia’s Death.” The film, Sylvia, with Gwyneth Paltrow portraying Sylvia Plath, depicts more of the inner world, the family life of Sylvia Plath, more similar to Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical collection, Letters Home, rather than the graphic horrors Victoria Lucas described of Esther Greenwood’s life.

Roxanne: But it is unfair to critique a movie based on psychiatric medicine, without examining the scientific practices and standards during this time period. First of all, psychiatric medicine during this time was exclusionary towards women. Drug developers only used men as their test subjects in their drug trials and studies, meaning women were not evaluated equally, (and in science how on earth can you give a proper diagnosis without a fair evaluation?) This disregard for men and women’s biological differences paid no mind to how diagnoses and therapies would differ between sexes with all other variables equal. On another note, it is important to keep in mind that medicine had once coined the term “hysteria” or “hysterical.” It was derived from the word hysterectomy, which refers to a medical practice particular to women due to irregularities in the uterus. Today it is often used colloquially to dramatize people for having emotional reactions, which is a gender specific stereotype. The fact that pseudo- science (which was once thought to be factual) lays claim to a bigoted slant is just one example of how the field of medicine regards women.

Colleen: “Hysteria” was present in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. While staying at Thornfield with Mr. Rochester, a brooding, dark male, as a governess for his French “niece,” Adele, Jane notices strange activities in the night, with an unknown figure retreating to the attic. Jane later finds out, as she is about to marry Mr. Rochester, that the unknown in the attic is actually Mr. Rochester wife, Bertha. Bertha has been locked in the attic by Mr. Rochester, for she seems “unfit” to mingle with society. Her dark persona, animalistic qualities and behaviors disallow her from functioning in the real world. In 1966, Jean Rhys’ postcolonial novel, Wide Sargasso Sea was published to reveal the “truth,” as Jean Rhys saw it, about who the “Madwoman in the Attic” really was. Bertha is Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea, a female from the Caribbean who had been assigned an arranged marriage to Mr. Rochester. In love with another man, Antoinette, is resentful toward Mr. Rochester’s control and feigned interest in her, to obtain the last of her family’s land and funds—marriage isn’t important to Antoinette, or if it once was, it isn’t anymore. Her religious background was tainted at an early age. Girl, Interrupted is held highly among female movie goers, not only because it was a well-produced movie, but because women in general are highly subjected to similar experiences that are depicted in the film. Although this particular account of mental illnesses is rooted in the oppressive earlier half of the twentieth century, inequalities in assessment, treatment and access to care, biases in research and lack of education and training of health care professionals can be cited as common practices in modern medicine as well. The social implications that 1960’s psychology held dear are not quite dead, but merely a microcosm of a bigger picture which reinforces harmful stereotypes and prejudices today. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:

Roxanne: The film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is based off a novel written by Ken Kesey. The plot centers on the character McMurphy, who is institutionalized because he “fight and fucks too much.” McMurphy boasts that he was deceived into committing statutory rape, by a teenaged girl. “But Doc, she was fifteen years old, going on thirty-five, Doc, and, uh, she told me she was eighteen and she was, uh, very willing, you know what I mean.” He goes on to say, “I practically had to take to sewin’ my pants shut.” And this is definitely a good point when considering sleeping with a 17 year and 364 day old woman is plain wrong, but an 18 year old makes much more sense, (especially when your genitals do the rationalizing.

sarina penza by montsy perez

Colleen: The character of McMurphy is controversial. Not initially, because he is blatantly a sex offender who is posing as a mentally ill patient so that he can get out of jail time for his crimes. As time passes in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, we realize that he is not as sane as he thinks. Or did the hospital that contained him make him less sane? His apparent misogynistic ideologies show the sickness within him that had been generated by a male dominated society. Men ruled the world at that time, and I’m sure many who are bitter enough to disagree can disagree, but such unequal gender gaps had been prevalent even during the time of Plato, and continued to pass through time as a known fact. That men were stronger, better than women. John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, an allusion to The Bible that not only confirms its relevance in modern times, but also criticizes it heavily, brings the saddened Eve to a new world of night for women. Later, in her poem, The Moon and the Yew Tree, Sylvia Plath writes “The moon is my mother, she is not sweet like Mary.” Plath’s mother, in this poem, is the moon, and the brightness against a dark sky is the contrast of a patriarchal society, with the brightness of a mother shining against it.

Roxanne: The female characters in the story are an example of the extreme, restrictive and stereotypical dichotomies that women in film face. It seems that almost all of the female characters can fit into either one of two categories: whores or ball cutters. Whores Candy and Sandy’s aim is to pleasure men and do what they’re told, while the latter seems to be intent on dominating men by emasculating them. In the movie, emasculation is stigmatized as the ultimate sin against a man by symbolizing the loss of freedom that they endured in the institution. sarina oneColleen: The character of Nurse Ratched is important, as she is a female with a higher power role who exemplifies a “ball cutter.” She is terrible to the patients she is supposed to treat. Rather than making them feel better about themselves, she turns them into children with the way she feeds them their medication. It’s similar to how Susana Kaysen attempts to refuse her medication initially while she is locked in her own prison, but the staff seems more inclined to help her, than hurt her. She initially, just doesn’t seem to understand that she needs help. Nurse Ratched torments McMurphy until he is sick, just like he torments others. I suppose she finds that he should be punished for his outrageous behavior against women. What was the old saying? An eye for an eye (Lex Talionis), but I have to say I do agree with the one that came after: “An Eye for an Eye makes the whole world blind” Gandhi might’ve been right. Regardless of how badly a person is to another person, retaliation against them in vulgar ways can result in injuries, including mental injuries, that could be life altering and most definitely permanent if one doesn’t seek the right help. Later in the film, McMurphy realizes that he cannot leave, because a psychiatric hospital is not a prison, and the rules are different once you commit yourself and become part of the institutionalization that the mental health system reinforces. How different are they really? Exactly. Another century, because the abuse didn’t start in Kings Park. The abuse started in an attic, long before attics existed. Upon cave paintings upon walls. In rooms that were shared, not owned. The only people who were really owned were the ones who were “hysterical.” In the early 21st century, Virginia Woolf wrote her critical essay, A Room of One’s Own, and soon after women started demanding rooms. To write in, to paint in, to exist in without the bantering of a sad tale. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” published in 1899, the female speaker is locked away, at her husband’s command. The wallpaper begins to peel, and she feels trapped. Trapped in a room that is not her own. It is a room that she has been confined to. In relation to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the character of Bertha is similar. The character of Antoinette elaborates on the “madwoman” in the attic who is animalistic, but chained. It is revealed through Rhys’ story that she was actually made the way she was by the way she was used and abused, and locked away with no key but a man’s. (In Magic Trip, a documentary that includes real footage from Ken Kesey’s cross-country road trip with his friends, it is revealed that Kesey didn’t really agree to the film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest and its making. The character of Chief’s importance was somewhat downgraded in the film throughout, until the very end.)

Roxanne: For example, after group therapy, according to the novel, one of the patients, Harding, is compelled to declare; “We are victims of a matriarchy here,” which is almost as plausible as the oppression of unicorns. McMurphy quickly asserts [Nurse] “Ratched ain’t pecking at your eyes. That’s not what she’s peckin’ at.” Although Harding argues “No, that nurse ain’t some kinda monster chicken, buddy, what she is is a ball-cutter. I’ve seen a thousand of ’em, old and young, men and women. Seen ’em all over the country and in the homes — people who try to make you weak so they can get you to toe the line, to follow their rules, to live like they want you to. And the best way to do this, to get you to knuckle under, is to weaken you by gettin’ you where it hurts the worst.” Still, the movie was able to effectively polarize the battle between repression and freedom in a mental institution as a battle between negative generalizations of femininity and positive generalizations of masculinity.

Colleen: Oppression within the mental health field, specifically within large institutions did not help the mentally ill. Sure, the stories we are told are “fictional” but they are based off of real occurrences. These aren’t stories, really…they are life in a world that has dominated the sick. In Kings Park, a documentary based on real life occurrences, we see the trauma that had been put on the mentally ill patients at the psychiatric center in Kings Park. As Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s character once said: “‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.’”

Leon: The Professional.

Roxanne: The ambiguity of Leon and Mathilda’s relationship is what provides most of the contention in Leon: The Professional. During the scene where twelve year old Mathilda exclaims that she wants to play charades, the stark contrast between Mathilda’s quirky and carefree personality versus Leon’s monotone and serious exterior becomes ever present. Mathilda proceeds to play dress up in thongs and undergarments in an innocent attempt at cos playing as Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, (which doesn’t seem overtly mature for her age when compared to wielding a pistol.) But Leon is so far removed from society he doesn’t even seem to be familiar with the characters, and instead he stares uncomfortably with his jaw hanging open. On another note, although Mathilda is twelve, she has an almost infantilized stylization, clinging to a teddy bear at times, and most notably, the haircut every three year old girl had, complete with bowl cut and bangs. It is pretty clear she is fulfilling the trope of a sort of mini-“manic pixie dream girl,” which is yet another example of the lack of professional female characters in film. Moreover, the scene where Mathilda tells Leon she loves him also builds tension between the two characters. The audience has already been asking themselves throughout the whole movie what a twelve year old girl and a middle aged strange man have in common. At this point, he begins to question what their relationship is, but in the end he admits he loves her too. We are not supposed to be caged in, as humans. As humans, we should come and go as we please, as we see fit. There needs to be a perpetual option. sarina by montsy perez Continue reading

All American High REVISITED

As the mission statement makes clear, informative sense, explaining that the world before mobile phones and reality television, there was only footage to hold within storages of memory. Cardboard Boxes to be cut and ripped open, to glimpse into the past. The graduating class of 1984 at Torrance High was brilliant, arrogant, decisive, indecisive, unsure, but completely sure of who they wanted to be, or rather, become. In Keva Rosenfield’s All American High REVISITED, these individuals tell their stories.

They open up their worlds with thin wrappings from their minds, what they believe the world should be, become, or if it should stay exactly as it was meant to stay. Their worlds become yours, or perhaps, ours, because our hopes are intertwined in this film. It’s not simply a documentary, but a documentation of what is meant to be great, and falls short sometimes, and by short I mean separate stories; and then, eventually, take the lead. These students take the lead later in their lives, regardless of their shortcomings in earlier times. Life is without a doubt, a hopeless regret, until you wake up one morning and you realize you became exactly who you are meant to be.

The most notable individual within All American High REVISITED is the immigrant student, who seems to understand the world as it has been handed to her seemingly spoiled, arrogant, and sometimes, inspirational classmates. She voices herself like she is not one of the crowd, and to be honest, respect is given to her by an audience rather than her peers. Of course, it seems like she fits right in, at times, but in her own words we find an understanding of who we, as an audience, are and who we blatantly want to become. That’s who they wanted, and that’s who they will always become. It’s what we are, adults who were once teenagers, and who are meant to become, or rather, became.

The power behind this film is the students. They are loving to their football team, their fund-raisers, their hopefulness, their lack of words as they described concepts that seemed so large to themselves, but began to understand once the larger world presented itself before them. Students, with hopes, goals, achievements—some that were plagued by the unity of arrogance, some with enough arrogance to make a difference. But these students learned, quite well, that they would one day become adults who actually live those aspirations and dreams, or perhaps, have the opposite come true. By opposite I mean that their careers are based around their personalities.

The world is most definitely, a scary place, especially inside a classroom. As the students raise their hands high, they are often questioning the world, rightfully and, without meaning to, wrongfully, but it’s their obligation to learn, but life teaches you and me much better. The students are you and I, both, me and you—that’s the focus of this documentary…that high school, no matter how far away, is a place where individuals learn about the world. Once they cross over from being a group of teenagers, and enter the adult world, adults learn about themselves

Let me tell you about myself when I was in High School. I was a loud mouth know-it-all who was enrolled in AP and Honors classes (this honestly made me believe that I was smarter than everyone else even though I wasn’t) who was ignorant in a lot of ways, but I always tried to help the underdog. I was one of the editors of my high school’s literary and arts magazine, Kaleidoscope. I was a new girl who learned to be a part of the crowd, sometimes. I made idiotic comments and talked back to some of my teachers, but I respected more of them than I talked back to. To be completely honest, I haven’t changed too much. In a lot of ways I have, or I did, in recent years, but that’s all a part of growing up. When I was growing up my mother always told me, jokingly, “It’s a conspiracy” because, to be completely honest, I watched too many movies growing up. I’ve found that her sarcasm shaped who I am…because I did take life too seriously. And then I didn’t. And then I did. Sometimes I still act like this, but I tend to joke around a lot more—even when I shouldn’t be—because it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself. To cry when you have to. In this film, I saw a lot of the things that I had seen growing up.

All American High REVISITED is a brilliant understanding of the humans and their kindness. The world is destructively real in many ways. In high school it’s a time to figure out how the world works before you’re set off onto a mission for intelligence and learning expressions through meeting new souls and their remaining helpfulness. But, it’s always important to be wise with your decisions when meeting certain folks. It’s worth a second, maybe a third, most definitely a fourth watch—for it is great.

Director, Connor Williams talks about his new film, “The Spoilers”

Connor Williams is 17-years-old and is the producer/director/star of “The Spoilers”, which also stars Terry Kiser, the dead guy from Weekend at Bernie’s. Connor financed this film completely out of pocket, with money saved from acting jobs and working at Pizza Hut. Philosophia Verax was curious as to what makes this kid tick. Content produced by Film Syrup.

Connor Williams and Terry Kiser

FS: What made you get into film making?

CW: My family moved to Idaho from California when I was 7-years-old. Unpacking boxes, my parents came across a tape of a commercial I was in as a baby. They didn’t pursue acting for me. That commercial was a total fluke. When we watched the commercial together, I told them I wanted to be an actor.

FS: What was the commercial for?

CW: It was for a Soup restaurant in New York. I googled them a couple years back and they are no longer in business. I didn’t do much but lay there on a table.

FS: No soup for you?

CW: Nah.

FS: So, you were 7-years-old, an aspiring actor in Idaho, removed from California. Where did you go from there?

CW: My dad read about a 48-hour film contest, so he entered in hopes of networking with people that made films in Boise, ID. It was a disaster of a film. We had no idea what we were doing. It was finished on Wednesday, a full three days late. They still showed it in the theatre. The plan worked though, a director needed a kid my age and cast me in his feature film. I never have seen that film as it was rated R and my parents wouldn’t let me go to the premiere.

FS: What was the feature? Have you ever seen it or are you still not allowed?

CW: The feature was called  “Autumn Angel”. Yes, I’m finally officially allowed as I’m 17. That was a long wait. I never did see it, as there were some legal issues with the producers of the film so it stopped being shown.  But it was one of the few times I got my footage. What’s up with people promising footage and never delivering, by the way?

FS: Not everyone can deliver as efficiently as Pizza Hut, I suppose. How many movies have you been in?

CW: To date, I have been in 17 movies. Mostly shorts, but mostly as the lead. I have made many shorts and have won some festival awards. The truth is I only made “The Spoilers” film because I love acting. I’m now thinking differently about directing. I’m one of the leads of a movie “The UnMiracle”, which is going to Redbox in a few months. In fact, they’re  changing the ending so I’m flying back to Chicago to shoot a couple of scenes opposite Steven Baldwin and Kevin Sorbo. I also shot a couple of scenes in Jared Hess’s (Napoleon Dynamite) new comedy opposite Sam Rockwell.

Let me add that I love Pizza Hut! They have been very supportive of me with me traveling to auditions and everything that is involved in acting.

FS: How did you discover the script for “The Spoilers”?

CW: I had never met the writer, Bill Persons. Never even talked to him. I selected him from many writers off of elance. He and I were on the same page from the start. He was awesome to work with. I only had so much money to make this film, so I knew it had to have limited locations and people in the movie. I couldn’t have a scene at a concert with a thousand extras. I couldn’t blow things up, unfortunately. I had to make it all about the characters and the story.

FS: What’s it about?
CW: “The Spoilers” is a lot like The Breakfast Club, but with 2014 teen problems, not 1985. It’s a teen movie where kids are court ordered to school on the weekend for different offences and It’s their last chance to get it together. There’s social bullying, inappropriate teacher-student relations, issues pertaining to sexual consent, gang affiliation, religious beliefs etc.

FS: How did you find your Director of Photography and crew?

CW: I interviewed DP’s from a few different states. I really clicked with Andy and Korie Byrd. They made this movie. They busted their tails to get this done!

FS: How did casting work?

CW: For the actors, I put the break down on Actors Access. We had about 1,500 submissions. From that we (the crew was now involved) selected a ton to audition via tape. We selected the top ten for a callback via tape. We then invited the top 4 to Skype another callback and then top two for the last Skype callback. During that process, a couple of people googled me and discovered I was 17 and bowed out. I tried to hide my age until the end. I wanted everyone to take this seriously. Luckily, my top choices didn’t google me.

FS: It sounds like the internet provided a lot of things you needed to make this movie. Are there any other digital resources for filmmakers you utilized?

CW: Yes! I hired someone from to make the website . I hired someone off that site to write a press release and then when I’m ready to let the world know about the film I will hire someone to send it out to all the different news outlets.

FS: How long did it take to shoot?

CW: We started shooting on August 1st and wrapped on August 17th. We took the 2nd and 3rd off then worked straight through to complete it.
FS: What was it like, your first time directing?

CW: I had been on some pretty good sets, so I knew how it worked. The directors I have worked with put a lot of their faith into the DP. I did the same. I was totally prepared to let the DP know the shots I wanted and to hash things out with the actors, but I really didn’t need to. Andy made a shot list that we both agreed on and after the first day he totally took the pressure off of me. I stepped in a few times, but he knew what he was doing. He shot quickly and efficiently. I couldn’t imagine making this movie without him. He was awesome and he didn’t treat me like a kid. He treated me like a professional. When I wasn’t behind the camera, I would talk to the actors individually about the scene. They were so prepared that they took away a lot of stress. These guys will make it as actors. They are as hungry as I am. Keep your eyes on Brandon Butler, Kathryn Jurbala, Shruti Sadana and Hunter McCade. Props to them!

FS: How did you get Terry Kiser (Bernie, from Weekend at Bernie’s) in your movie?

CW: To be honest I wasn’t familiar with “Weekend at Bernies”. Another feature was being filmed in Boise, ID at the same time we were filming “The Spoilers”. There was an article in the paper about that other movie and he (Terry Kiser) was in it. My parents then told me that they had parked cars for him at his Hollywood Hills home thirty years ago, when they were in college. That same day someone heard that I was making a movie, heard about my age and wanted to represent it to sell. He asked if we had a “name” in the movie. Armed only with the valet story, I found Terry Kiser’s agent through IMDB and called her. I told her the story, we negotiated that I would pay for his flight change and two more nights at a hotel and his rate. I was shocked over how easy it was.

FS: What was it like to work with him?

CW: On set he’s all business. When he’s filming a scene, he doesn’t want chit chat. He termed it “WalMart-ing”. Like when you run into someone at the store and have to make mindless chatter. He holds a script in his hands while the camera is being repositioned. He told me later, sometimes he does that to go over lines, but mostly he doesn’t want people “WalMart-ing” him. He’s there to work. He stays focused until the scene is done, after that, he’ll talk about anything. He’s really funny, a cool dude, but very professional with everyone. We wrote four additional scenes for him. We gave him a ton of dialogue at about 4:00pm on Sunday and he knew it all by the time he was due on set at 9am Monday! He was a pro’s pro. I learned just from watching him.

FS: What’s he like as a person?

CW: He couldn’t have been more gracious with us. On the day he was shooting with us, I was throwing a “Thank You!” party for the moms and kids that came out from all across the US, later that night. I asked him if he wanted to come and I couldn’t believe it when he said “Yes!”. We got to know him on a friend level. He invited me and my parents to stay with him at his Austin, TX home if we get selected for their film festival. A couple nights before we wrapped we had a “Weekend at Bernies” viewing at my parents house. It was hilarious.

FS: So… he’s alive?

CW: Most definitely.

FS: Are you sure? No voodoo curses?

CW: … Pretty sure. I did the Bernie Dance with him so I’m 99% sure.
FS: What was the most difficult challenge in making this film?

CW: Scheduling. I was horrible at it. If schedules were changed somehow, I was the one who had to let everyone know. A couple of days, we were off by an hour. Next summer I’m hiring an “A” student from my high school just for scheduling and making sure all actors and production are on the same page. The other challenges were that it really did all rest on me. Needed lunch picked up? I went to get it. Needed a prop? I went to get it. I was the intern. I will have an intern next year. I didn’t get any down time. I worked three nights a week at Pizza Hut the entire time. I was pretty exhausted when it was over. If the cast and crew hadn’t been as prepared as they were, it could have been a disaster.

FS: How did you finance it?

CW: From my own money. 100%. I like to save money. So when I told my parents I was doing this my dad said he wasn’t putting any money in. He made that clear. So because I have been thrifty in the past I had a pretty good amount (or at least for me) saved up. I earned the money from acting and working at Pizza Hut.

FS: That’s impressive for a 17-year-old. Did you have to make a lot of sacrifices to get the movie made?

CW: Besides my wallet ? Well ,sleeping in. While my friends were waking up at noon, I had already been up and worked six hours. Recast a friend of mine, which was a long story, so maybe a friendship.

FS: What are your plans for “The Spoilers”?

CW: I want to sell it. I will submit to film festivals. The first filmfest I’m submitting is Slamdance, a film fest in Utah. I think that will tell me a lot about the movie. Slamdance is fully aware they will be the first festival that I will submit it to. I also am going to the American Film Market in Santa Monica to get in front of decision makers and try to sell my film. I think my age can help me stand out from the rest.

FS: What are your influences, film-wise?

CW: I liked Superbad and 21 Jump Street a ton. I like to be entertained. I know those aren’t the deepest of movies, but they made me laugh and they looked like fun to make.

FS: What are the qualities you look for in movies?

CW: If you’re not going to make me laugh, it better have a great story line. Entertain me. Movies are so subjective. Every element is so important from story line to production to acting. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.

FS: Where are you going from here?

CW: I want to push “The Spoilers” as much as I can. I know I can make a full length feature. I know how much it will cost and I know the mistakes I made that I won’t make again. I’m totally prepared for my next movie. Foster adoption is big in our family. My little brother and sister are foster adopted. I know all the statistics and I have heard some very sad stories. I would like to find a compelling story where I can bring awareness to the 500,000 kids in foster care. I have ideas based on facts but I’m not sure moms and dads are ready to see the truth and what’s happening to kids. It’s a sad situation.

FS: What advice do you have for people who are interested in filmmaking?

CW: If you want to direct and you haven’t yet, what the heck are you waiting for? Just do your own thing. Of course you’ll make mistakes like I did, but you won’t do that the second time around. I have never taken an acting class. Ever. I directed my own shorts (starring me) but I think if you’re honest with the people you’re working with, they will forgive you for your shortcomings. Most importantly: hire a DP that you trust. He/she is the backbone of the production.

FS: What do you have to say to people who think 17-years-old is too young to be making a movie?

CW: I guess I can say I proved myself right and them wrong. Overall, everyone has been very supportive.

FS: One last thing, can you tell me why it’s called “The Spoilers” or would that be a spoiler?

CW: Can you keep a secret? So can I!

For further updates, visit “The Spoilers” on its Facebook page: Spoilers The Movie.

If We Encapsulate Richard Attenborough in Amber, Can We Clone Him?

By Roxanne Pfaus

Just short of his 91st birthday, Richard Attenborough died whilst in home care, after his health had been reportedly declining for quite some time. Not to be confused with his brother, David Attenborough, who has solidified himself as a  legendary narrator of natural films and documentaries, both siblings hold memorable positions in historic and modern media.

“Lord” Richard Attenborough is prolific in British film as an actor and director. Many will remember his famous performance in the Box Office classic “Jurassic Park” (1993)  His portrayal of the eccentric bio-engineer (John Hammond), who gave off a grandfatherly appearance with his stark white hair and beard, will remain a cinematic feat. His works in movies such as Gandhi, Doctor Dolittle (1967), Miracle on 34th street, among others, have not only scored him 31 awards in film, but will also be celebrated and surpass his time on earth.

Robin Williams: Irreplaceable

Written by Colleen Rowe, Film Syrup Founder/Managing Editor

“It is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.” –Susan Schneider, Wife

I decided to write a tribute to honor the request of Susan Schneider, Robin Williams’ wife, from a fan’s (my) perspective.

Robin Williams was not simply an actor I watched a on a television as child, but a part of my childhood that helped me to laugh, cry, and accept life for what it was: monotonous, confusing, specific, and often, quite beautiful. I have never personally met him and I never expected I would, but he was the type of actor who made fans like me feel like they knew him. A walking enigma, sometimes sporting green tights, I felt like my life was positively altered by his presence on screen. There are many things we realize in retrospect, in a haze before sleep or during a conversation that seems monumental at the time, but this is one thing that I knew while it was happening: Robin Williams was directly responsible for a lot of my happiness at a young age.

He was and remains a man who wears women’s clothes in a conventional setting without questioning whether it is appropriate. This, his character did for his kids. By his family’s reaction to his passing, I can tell that he was the type of man who could and would really help people if he had the chance, on individual and widespread levels. Through my television screen and movie screens, I have only known Robin Williams, but with so much support from his fan base, the celebrity community, the people who knew him personally, he is an irreplaceable human being. I arranged a few public videos I found on the internet (all sources cited via links) to acknowledge my respect for him.

He was the type of guy who you could have a food fight with in the cafeteria, you know, your best friend.

He was the type of husband who would cook for you if you asked, in whatever attire you requested.

He would talk about board games with authority figures like it was no big deal.

He was the type of guy who wouldn’t feel offended if you farted in front of him. He’d make you feel comfortable about the absolutely rude noise you just made:

He was the type of guy who would grant your wishes, as long as they were reasonable:

He was the type of guy who would change your view on the world:

He was the type of guy who reached you on a personal level.

Robin Williams will be missed by his fans, friends, peers, and, most importantly, his family. Without him, my childhood wouldn’t have been the same.

Stony Brook Film Festival Photo Collection

Andrej Landin at Stony Brook Film Festival’s Q & A for his short film: “Into the Silent Sea.” Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014Andrej Landin

andrej landin 2

Don Cherel at the Q & A for his short film “Sorta’ Horny”, Tuesday, July 22, 2014

sb ff horny

Film Syrup model & contributor, Paige Skelly with Daphne Rubin-Vega (Smash, RENT [Broadway]) after the showing of “Fall to Rise.”

paige and daphne rubin vega

Cast members and director, Jayce Bartok during the “Fall to Rise” Q & A. Saturday, July 19th, 2014.

q and a fall to rise