Living Urban Culture’s Fashion Show: pre-show interviews

Film Syrup traveled to Rockaway last weekend, on Sunday, September 21st, 2014 for Living Urban Culture’s (LUC) Fashion Show. Our team presented themselves with their talents and positions: Vice President and Stylist, Roxanne Pfaus interviewed models, along with contributing writer, Jordan Danner, with our creative director, Paige Skelly and creative advisor, Sarina Penza as accompanying photographers. Phil Zorawski interviewed designers, with Tommy Stang, Grace McGovern, Shaun McMahon helping our cause. Colleen Rowe, Film Syrup’s founder and managing editor of the blog, photographed the fashion show.

Below are the interviews we performed as a collective group, because before anything else Film Syrup is a team.

 
Interviews by Jordan Danner:

Model: Denecia
Wearing: Designer, Sinead Martin
Favorite Designer: Chila 4 Fun
Favorite Film: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Her favorite thing about LUC is the unique designs and how you will never see another like them at other shows.

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Roxanne Pfaus and Jordan Danner conducting interviews with L.U.C. models.
Model: Ashley
Wearing: Creative Era, Designer Whitney
Favorite designer: herself, Crookid
Favorite Film: Eve’s Bayou

Her favorite thing about LUC is that it is a melting pot of everything that she loves artistically in film, fashion and music.

Model: Ashley
Wearing: Creative Era, Designer Whitney
Ashley does not have a favorite designer because she says everyone is different in their own unique way.
Favorite Films: Taken and The Fast and the Furious
Her favorite thing about LUC is being able to work with a variety of different cultures.

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The Ashleys: From Left to right: the second Ashley with the first Ashley interviewed.
4. Okeema (MC of the event)

Dress by Eudora of LUC and accessories by MoonGoddie
Favorite designer: Eudora of LUC because she makes and envisions all of her outfits
Her favorite films are Baggage Claim, the Twilight series, Think Like a Man and The Best Man

Her favorite thing about LUC is allowing every model to express their individuality and not discriminating based on race, gender or size.

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 Sarina Penza and Jordan Danner conducting interview with Okeema, the fashion show’s MC.
Interview by Paige Skelly:
Model’s Name: Julissa
Where are you from? The Bronx.
What brand/designer are you wearing? Creative Era
Favorite Designer? Carolina Herrera
What is your favorite movie(s)? Titanic, Avatar, The Notebook
What do you love about Living Urban Culture? Meeting people and traveling.
Interviews by Roxanne Pfaus:
In speaking with some of the show’s models and getting an up close look at the garments, I was able to gain a better understanding of the brand Creative Era, a collection that was completely hand crafted. -Roxanne Pfaus, Film Syrup Stylist

#1

What is your name? Raven Salmon

What designer are you wearing? Creative Era by designer Whitney House

Who is your favorite designer? Highly Humble

What do you love about LUC? I love that it is so unique and different

What is your favorite movie? The Exorcist

Models Raven and Denecia Raven was wearing a top made of both lace and denim, giving a sheer quality to her back. She was also wearing leopard print skinnies. Her outfit was accessorized with the designer’s signature bow tie and thick brimmed glasses, giving her a spunky look.living urban culture film syrup 2

 Models Raven and Denecia.

#2

What is your name? Joshua Smith

What designer are you wearing? Creative Era by Whitney House

Who is your favorite designer? Asher Levine

What do you love about LUC? I love the diversity, and that it is like a big family that comes together.

What is your favorite movie? Alice in Wonderland, the Tim Burton version

Joshua was sporting a plaid blue flannel, opened so that you could see his white tee underneath. He was also wearing black skinny jeans, along with his retro styled bow tie and glasses.

living urban culture film syrup 7Model, Joshua, and Film Syrup’s stylist, Roxanne Pfaus, interviewing. 

Interviews by Phil Zorawski:

Designer name: Sinead Martin

Favorite thing about fashion: “People are able to see and identify with who i am, and how people use my ideas so they can benefit themselves and others in the future.”

Designer name: Yalken Ford

Film: Blood Nightmare

Favorite designer.: “None. Mine!.” (laughs)
Inspiring designer: Kiki palmer
Inspiration for designs: My grandmother.
She says of designing: I love the joy it gives me to see others enjoying my clothes.

Sinead Martin and a friend during L.U.C’s Fashion Show at Dred Surfer Grill in Rockaway, Queens. September 21, 2014.

Sinead Martin
Stay “tuned” into Syrup for the fashion show, Part 2! With designs by Creative Era, Sinead Martin, Living Urban Culture, etc. To be released soon!
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Filmmaker Raeshelle Cooke Invites You Inside “Monae’s Room”

Interview conducted by: Colleen Rowe

Film Syrup (FS): I understand that you are currently working on a film. What made you want to make a film based on this idea?

Raeshelle Cooke: Yeah I just recently finished editing! The film stars Delea Mowatt and JD Achille with William Smyth on camera. I wanted to make a serious film about the breakup process because a lot of people relate to this topic. I relate to this and I write about my truths. I’m going to be very honest: this film is about my experiences, only I’m exaggerating and having fun with it by making it darkly humorous. I am a hopeless romantic and speak to other hopeless romantics. Everyone’s been broken up with and have been hurt. At the time I wrote this script, I was listening to a lot of Drake’s “Take Care” album, and one of the songs on it, “Marvin’s room” really stuck with me. I also had to use the writing process as therapy. Strangely though, I find the film really funny. I had a lot of fun with it. Some people handle breakups badly. They sit in their rooms and they just go crazy. A lot of people will look at Monae as crazy but you know what, many people act this way during a breakup and don’t admit to it. Many people will, in fact, relate to this film. I’m just telling the truth and having fun with it all at the same time.

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FS: What would you say the tone of the film is? Do you think people will perceive it differently depending on their own experiences with breakups?

Raeshelle Cooke: The tone is dark because the subject matter deals with dark stuff; it deals with pain and betrayal. It deals with being tired of the foolishness that is dull life and the cold people that make it all worse. It’s like, you think you find real love, and that real love makes the cold world easier to live in, you know? But then the person you trusted and found happiness with doesn’t accept you for who you are when you open up to them, they want something or someone else and forget about you. You had all these great ideas on how your future with that one man would be, and he ruins it for no good reason. That is painful and angering and that is what I wanted to convey. That is Monae’s Room.

I used the darkness of Monae’s room and wrote the explicit lyrics you will hear in this 20 minute short, to show that anger and hurt. You hear Monae’s dark and distorted voice over the music. I wrote the lyrics raw from how I was feeling at that time, but two years and yet another breakup later, I’ve found it still relates to me today. Some people will interpret it differently based on their own experiences, some will appreciate it and find it funny or intelligent, and others will complain that the film is yet another “woman pining over a man” story. And that’s okay with me.

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FS: What do you hope to accomplish with Monae’s Room?

Raeshelle Cooke: I want to create something that is distinct from most films that are shot today. I think Monae’s room is different from what we see in a lot of films today. You see the same genres and content being made over and over, and I wanted to write and shoot something about real human relationships, real human emotions, and the rawness that goes into these emotions. I am unfiltered and very honest in my writing of this film. The story and content will either make you feel uncomfortable, make you relate, or think. It will definitely hold your attention because music and lyrics dominant it. You’ll remember it…

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FS: Where are you planning to premier the film? Is there a special screening planned?

Raeshelle Cooke: I plan to enter Monae’s room into festivals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island starting this fall and going into next year. I plan to premier the film In November of this year at a screening. Details on that coming soon.

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FS: What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Raeshelle Cooke: I have things to say and a message to get across, and creating visuals with music (my style) is a fun way to say those things. Making films is a cathartic way of releasing inner tension for me, so instead of doing something crazy, making films is a positive and productive way to get everything out in the open. People relate, listen and build relationships with you just by seeing who you are through your work. It’s a great feeling and I want to feel it over and over again.

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FS: Are there past films you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

Raeshelle Cooke: I’m just starting out as a filmmaker so I’ve finished only my fourth one (plus 2 music videos), but I’m really proud of What’s the problem with Bill Winer?, Aside from Monae’s Room (and On Her Way is a good one too), but the Bill Winer film is really personal and touching. I still get goose bumps when I watch it to this day, and I mentally go back to that time. It wasn’t a good time. But I look back and am grateful it happened, because beautiful art was created from that. I appreciate pain and what it can do. The Bill Winer film is a mature and intelligent film. I can’t believe I actually wrote it but, then again, I give credit to the fact that it actually happened. I didn’t make the film up. It’s based on a real story. Monae’s room is actually a sequel to the Bill Winer film, only it’s being told in the perspective of the woman “Bill” screwed over. I think my first feature will be the feature-length version of the Bill Winer film, which is already written. All of my films are based on real situations whether literal or metaphorical, but anyway, shout out to to the real Bill. I heard that his life now, is exactly how it turned out for “Bill” in the film.

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FS: Are there any specific techniques you used to make this film special (in regards to, editing, directing, etc.)?

Raeshelle Cooke: Yes! I had a ton of fun making the film what it turned out to be, and you’ll see it when it premiers. But first and foremost Sean J. McCall composed the music for the film, and it is an inspiration from Drake’s music. The music is distorted and dark, but hip hop at the same time. I actually altered the music at points, I reversed it as I was just having fun with it. Monae’s room is a tribute to hip hop and Drake. Love that man. The lighting is varied as it has reds, blues and black and white. I wanted to show anger, the anxiousness; the unsettled way of Monae’s emotions through the varying colors…and I think it worked. I edited the film and I think the style complements the tone perfectly. I can’t explain how though. Not in words anyway. You’ll just have to see the film!

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All photos for this interview were provided by Director: Raeshelle Cooke. For more information on Monae’s room and updates from Raeshelle, you can Follow her on Twitter.

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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 fiverr.com 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.

Interview with Directors, Divya Cowasji and Shilpi Gulati, on their new documentary: “Qissa-e Parsi: The Parsi Story”

Film Syrup Founder, Colleen Rowe, interviewed directors, Shilpi Gulati and Divya Cowasji (currently based in India) on their documentary film project: Qissa-e Parsi: The Parsi Story. This film “is an attempt to understand a community which has always been numerically small, yet culturally and socially formidable.” Produced by: Public Service Broadcasting Trust & Ministry of External Affairs.

 

 shilpi and divya

1. Film Syrup: What attracted you to this particular community? Do you have a specific tie to the Parsi culture?

Divya: When I first moved to Mumbai from Delhi in 2008, I felt an inexplicable sense that I was coming home. I not only belong to the Parsi community, but have been in love with the idea of being a Parsi all my life. My research on the community at TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai) during my Masters dissertation led me to a nuanced understanding of our history and an admiration for the formidable feat of holding our own as a minority community and yet influencing the world around us in nothing short of a significant manner. As the community is plagued with anxieties over its dwindling numbers, it is important to focus on all that is good and admirable, and to note that the community has always been numerically small, yet culturally and socially formidable.

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2. Film Syrup: Do you think you took a subjective stance as the creator of this film or did you remain wholly objective to the content presented in it?

Shilpi: A documentary film can never be objective. The very process of a documentary production, which involves research, scripting and editing, makes it a subjective process for there is always an argument that the filmmakers are trying to construct for the audiences. The narrative flow of Qissa-e Parsi historically locates the Parsi community in India, delves into basic ideals of the Zoroastrian faith and tries to understand their relationship with the British and with the city of Mumbai. Additionally, we also look at contemporary debates gripping the community, especially regarding issues of women and inter-faith marriages. We have made these choices, keeping in mind that this is the first film in our larger project of documenting the community. At every critical juncture of the production process, both of us made sure that we brought in our respective subject positions into our work. In such a scenario having two directors, a Parsi and a non-Parsi, therefore proved to be rather helpful.

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3. Film Syrup: How is the history (between the 8th and 10th century) of the Parsis relevant to the community that lives in Gujarat, India today?

Divya: When the Parsis arrived at the shores of Gujarat between the 8th and the 10th Century (the exact time of arrival is widely disputed), they did not land here by accident or mere chance. Having previously fostered trade relations with India, they knew they would be coming to a friendly people, who would understand their plight and help them in whatever way possible. According to the Qissa-e Sanjan, which is the first written account of the Parsi arrival and settlement in India, the local King Jadhav Rana asked them for an explanation of their religion and customs. He granted their request for asylum and freedom to carry on their religious practices as they saw fit, provided they adopt the local language of Gujarati; that their women adopt the local dress or sari; and that they henceforth cease to bear arms. Having accepted these conditions, the Parsis formed a settlement at Sanjan and subsequently spread around several parts of Gujarat, incorporating local customs and ways of life that bear their mark on Parsi identity until today. It is only centuries later, with the advent of the British in India, that the Parsis ventured beyond Gujarat to cities like Bombay and Calcutta. Several still remain in the state that gave them much needed asylum all those centuries ago.

Shilpi and Divya

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4. Film Syrup: How is Mumbai different from the areas that surround it? Why is it particularly intriguing?

Divya: In tracing the rich history and lives of the Parsis in India, one must inevitably end up in the city of Mumbai. This influential, albeit small community, has helped shape the city of Mumbai, or more appropriately erstwhile Bombay,  into the metropolis it is today, and in turn the city itself has come to leave its mark on the Parsi identity, with over two-thirds of the world’s Parsi population calling this place home. One has only to walk down the streets of South Bombay to encounter the everlasting impression of the Parsis on the history and ethos of the place, be it architecturally, in the numerous statues that unassumingly dot the leafy lanes, in centres of cultural significance, in quaint Irani eateries, in schools, museums, hospitals, charities, and the endearing eccentric bawas (an affectionate colloquialism for Parsis) who run these establishments or offer their faithful patronage.

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5. Film Syrup: Are you/did you film from a feminist viewpoint when reviewing the issues of inter-faith marriage? If not, what was your viewpoint?

ShilpiThe community today is faced with the stark reality of its dwindling numbers and the near and very real possibility of extinction. This has given rise to anxieties over issues of conversion, intermarriage, and purity of race; the burden of which seems to be falling increasingly on the Parsi woman. In what seems a strange confluence of religion, race, law and custom, the Parsis have constructed for themselves an extremely exclusive identity, where any form of plurality appears non-negotiable. According to us, the implications of justifying the discrimination faced by women in the 21st century on the grounds that something has been a certain way for centuries and should therefore unabashedly continue to be so, will prove to be extremely detrimental for the community. We see this as a concern not just for the Parsis but for women in other Indian communities as well. So far we have dedicated a section of our film examining this debate and hope to explore it more extensively in future.

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Film Syrup: Do you think this culture/community will die out if their numbers continue to decrease?

Divya: It is estimated that under 70,000 Parsis remain in India today, and the threat of extinction seems to be a very real possibility for the community. However, it is worth noting that the worldwide Parsi population, at its peak, has never exceeded 1,50,000. We have always been a numerically small people, capable of great things. The situation today is however accelerated by increasing incidences of inter-marriage, late marriage, not marrying at all, decline in fertility and rampant emigration, to name a few. But I believe that if the community puts their heads together, and allows the panic to bring us closer together instead of tearing us further apart, this too we can overcome, as have so many things in our past.

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 All photos that are included in this interview posting have been provided by Shilpi Gulati and Divya Cowasji.

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Interview with Filmmaker, Bethany Orr, on her new feature film, Campaign titled: “ICELAND OR BUST”

Sometimes, location is everything and in Bethany Orr’s upcoming feature film,  which is untitled, but being supported by the campaign name: ICELAND OR BUST, this might prove to be true. There’s also the addition of her individualistic ideas that paint her words with originality and sass. Bethany Orr, [Agorable, ] tells Film Syrup and its viewers about her new creative Icelandic adventure and the perks those who support her are allowed.

“No one I know could execute such a bizarre idea, never mind think of it. Definitely worth supporting.” -Cinephile Stephen Les

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Project Title:

Campaign is called ICELAND OR BUST.  igg.me/at/icelandorbust

Film Syrup: Why Iceland? What draws you to its culture?

Bethany Orr: I started having visions of Iceland back in 2012 when I was studying with Werner Herzog. I had just completed my short film, Agorable, and was toying with several different story ideas for my first feature and for whatever reason, things became super clear around that time. Specifically, two of the stories I had been working on merged into one and then showed up in Iceland. And now here we are. I’ve learned you have to trust that kind of stuff when it gives itself to you.

Herzog is a fan of Icelandic mythology and was the one who introduced me to The Poetic Edda, a dense, rich volume of primordial poetry from Iceland (it was on the reading list for Rogue Film School), so that was definitely an influence. Now, I’m pretty obsessed. With everything – the Icelandic people, the economy, the history, politics, landscape. But what I have now is an intellectual and intuitive understanding of the place, being there in September will give us the chance to have a real experience with her.

Film Syrup: How did you and Patrick Kennelly start working together?

Bethany Orr: Patrick is a very exciting director. He and I collaborated on his feature film, Excess Flesh, which shot this past spring. I played the lead role. He knew I was a filmmaker as well as a performer, and the work we did together really transcended any experience I’ve ever had on a project before, my own included. We’ve become good friends since and are looking forward to expanding our creative partnership on the Iceland film. Which, by the way, doesn’t have a name yet. We’re working under “Untitled Iceland Feature.” Maybe our supporters will have a say in that down the road!

Film Syrup: You’re traveling to Iceland right now, but you said in your campaign video that shooting won’t start until 2015 or later. What are you attempting to achieve in these separate travels?

Bethany Orr: It’s a larger project than is realistic for us to crowd-fund a full budget for (we’re not Zach Braff and Veronica Mars), so we’re engaging our fan base for the development funds to help us get this thing off the ground. We have a match-funds offer from an angel investor, which is great. $10,000 will be enough to cover this scouting trip as well as the costs involved with engaging the right producer. Luckily Iceland has a pretty incredible Film Commission, and we have a number of contacts there, so we anticipate having a good experience. It’s an ambitious production no matter which way you cut it. We hope we’ll be back sooner rather than later, but there are a lot of unknowns at this point. One thing we can offer our supporters an insight into the film development process, demystifying things in a way—they will be there for the whole ride. That’s exciting to be able to share.

Film Syrup:What is your involvement with Transatlantic Talent Lab and how will it benefit your creative pursuits?

Bethany Orr: Being accepted to the Lab is a major opportunity. It was specifically set up to give highly focused support to a handful of filmmakers from Europe and the US who are making their first feature. This is my first feature, not Patrick’s, but neither of us have shot out of the country before. And since Iceland is our shooting location, it really does feel like the Lab was tailor made for me and where this project is at. I’m very excited.

Film Syrup: Where did you come up with the ideas featured in your very creative campaign?

Bethany Orr: We’re not running the typical crowd-funding campaign. We worked hard to try and distill the message down to it simplest form, but I don’t know. It’s pretty impossible to communicate this stuff inside me, and anyway that’s what the film is for. So we tried to capture the essence of the script as much as possible by using some unusual, even disturbing imagery in the campaign video. It’s weird. I’ve always had a unique take on the world, and Patrick and I share complementary points of view on a lot of things. Our most meaningful work deals with universal struggles—emotional violence, anxiety, depression, guilt, social acceptance, grief—through a kind of fucked up but visually engaging filter. But I believe audiences still truly want and need to be challenged and can take it.

Film Syrup: Tell us and our viewers more about what you’re offering your contributors in exchange for their support on this campaign.

Bethany Orr: We’ve got some pretty crazy rewards – like playfully sinister cross-stitch art, a short film made just for you, a handmade Viking tomahawk, a 3-night stay at a Hawaiian B&B (in case you’re feeling contrary). If you’re particularly well humored, we’re even offering the special opportunity to “Adopt-a-Dong.” I can’t tell you about that one, you’ll have to look it up yourself!

We’ve also got some tamer ones, like script coverage or some beautiful photographs we’ll be bringing home from Iceland. And for anyone who contributes $25 or more, we’ll make you into a superhero…

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Film Syrup: What is the basic premise of the film and who do you believe will be your most interested viewers?

Bethany Orr: The film is a psycho-sexual drama about four strangers who meet in Iceland to discover their lives are interrelated.

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It’s actually a movie about grief, although you may not be able to tell that exactly from our campaign. We decided to take a humorous approach to the presentation, but the subject matter of the film itself is dead serious. The story is filtered through an absurdist lens, but yeah, it’s about human loss… and freedom. I happen to agree with Shakespeare that the veil between comedy and tragedy is very thin, so I exploit that line an awful lot in my work.

The script uses a lot of stark, visceral imagery, things that really haven’t been seen before. I can’t say too much about the particulars of the plot, but it revolves around the central idea that the grieving inhabit a world of alternate logic. The logline is: Mourning is an island with its own set of rules. There’s nowhere else on earth I can imagine doing more justice to this film than Iceland.

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Film Syrup: What does this film mean to you?

Bethany Orr: It’s all of me. I’m very serious about it. I heard an interview with a guy awhile back who had adopted 13 children from foster care. The interviewer asked if he had a favorite. And he said, “Yes. The one I happen to be with at the moment.” I feel that way. On any given day there’s a dozen ideas screaming around in my brain and body. This is the one that’s telling me it’s ready, so it has my full attention.

In fact, I just found the mission statement I wrote to accompany Agorable in application to Rogue Film School. This will give you a good idea of my approach to creating:

In America you are twice as likely to kill yourself than to be murdered. We are– empirically– our own worst enemies, and we treat each other with emotional and physical violence as an extension of our self-loathing. As an actress I’m drawn to desperate, brutally flawed or flayed characters. As a filmmaker, for me it’s life or death every time. Well-humored, naturally. A little blood never hurt anyone.

I’m captivated by the notion that ANYONE is capable of doing ANYTHING (even committing the most heinous of acts), under the right circumstances. Doubt and fear are our great equalizers; none of us is any better or worse than any other because of what we have or have not yet been driven to do…

(Interview conducted by Film Syrup Managing Editor, Colleen Rowe)

Interview with Co-Founder & Writer/Director of Congested Cat Productions, Christina Raia

Film Syrup interviewed Co-Founder & Writer/ Director of Congested Cat Productions, Christina Raia, hoping to bring to the surface this resourceful production company’s in-progress projects and creative motives. Read the following series of questions that Film Syrup presented to this independent filmmaker. Congested Cat Productions, based in the New York City area, is made up of an inspiring team of young creatives, including Raia. 

265783_10151092273807919_62753384_oFilm Syrup (FS): Among the short films you are currently working on, which do you foresee your audiences receiving best, relating to most closely, and responding to through social media, writing, etc.?

Christina Raia (CR): I think both shorts, “Not Our Living Room” and “We Had Plans,” will appeal to our audience, but the latter may resonate more with the audience we’ve acquired from our past collaborative work, “Kelsey.” Our fan base for the series was predominately female and within that mostly comprised of lesbians. I think the “Kelsey” fans appreciated that we created a series centered on a lesbian whose sole existence was not wrapped around her sexual orientation. Yes, that was a prominent aspect of her identity, but she was an individual with experiences and emotions that all people go through, who also happened to be gay. We believe in portraying people as people, and expect our audience to look at them that way, and relate to them on an emotional level. We don’t do caricatures or stereotypes. We aim to do the same with both of these shorts. However, since “We Had Plans” is about sisters (while “Not Our Living Room” is about brothers), where one is a lesbian, I believe it’ll draw in our audience a little more.

 

FS: What are your long term creative goals in your management at CongestedCat Productions, LLC? What message do you wish to send to audiences? Do you think this message has previously been achieved?

CR: CongestedCat Productions started as a branded umbrella for me and my collaborators to produce and release our creative content. However, in the three years that we’ve been around, we’ve evolved more into a company that believes in unifying and empowering independent film and filmmakers. We believe in creating and showcasing innovative and original content, not just by ourselves but by our peers as well. This is how our free monthly film screening series, IndieWorks, got started. Ultimately, we believe in portraying and giving voices to underrepresented individuals, both in terms of the content creators and content created. I do believe that is something that sets us apart from other production companies or teams because not many that I’ve encountered have made diversity and challenging social norms a priority.

 

FS: What components of your company do you feel are very essential to the industry it is based in? Is there a gray area where film meets business that takes away from creativity, or that makes business more creative?

CR:Our company was started not as a way to profit, but as a way to create. So, for us, artistic merit and creativity comes first and then it’s a matter of figuring out our strategy in gaining funding and/or an audience for each individual project. I personally never aspired to be on the business side of film but no one was knocking on my door offering to bring my work to fruition; so I had to create that opportunity for myself. Because of this, it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve for me since founding the company three years ago. However, all the team members (we like to think of ourselves as a team rather than just a company) are under 28 years old, which I think benefits us because we’re sort of coming up in this new generation of film making and film technology. We’re very aware of the more traditional methods, but are most open to more innovative ones. Often filmmakers feel pressured to conform to mainstream expectations in terms of creative choices as well more production-based aspects like casting, even in the festival circuit. Since our team aims to make less mainstream, more diverse content, we’re much more into modern digital based distribution platforms and options. For instance, creating a web series worked well with our more youthful appeal and approach both on a creative side as well as in advancing the new-media industry reach of our company.

 

FS:Where did the name “CongestedCat” derive from? Do you think it influences your interested audiences to view your videos, website, or general media? (Cats are apparently in right now).

CR: I founded CongestedCat Productions with my childhood friend Chris Carroll (who mainly acts as resident photographer and graphic designer within the company). When trying to name the company, we knew we wanted the title to have two C’s to represent our names. We tried to think of what we had in common, and the two things that came to mind were that our zodiac sign is cancer and we both love cats. The former wasn’t so appealing name-wise, so we decided to work with the latter. Chris typed into google “C Cat” and the first thing in the drop-down menu was “congested cat.” Chris said it jokingly and we laughed about it for a while, not seriously expecting to use it. However, the more we said it, the more it grew on us. We felt that when heard, the name would likely not be forgotten by people. Additionally, since the intention was for originality with a touch of familiarity to become a bit of a company trademark, we thought it’d work well because it was offbeat in a way that would force people to presume that the content they’d be seeing from us would be anything but generic or predictable.

Because the name came before we really established the team or the content we’d produce, it has very little to do with our target audience. I suppose if people like cats, though, they may be drawn to viewing our work. Our crowdfunding campaign is under the name ‘CongestedCat Shorts’ in order to attract our already existing audience that associates our company name with the content they enjoyed and supported (most notably “Kelsey” but also my upcoming feature ‘Summit,’ past shorts films or IndieWorks).

FS:Do you think the viewership of short films are majorly different from the viewership of full feature length films? Specifically, how does this question apply to CongestedCat Productions?

CR: I think that traditionally people who enjoyed short films were exclusively filmmakers themselves or cinephile types, while feature films appealed to people across the board. However, with Youtube and Vimeo becoming the norm for how people consume media content, there’s a deeper appreciation, I think, for short form content and the ability to tell a compelling story in a short amount of time. For CongestedCat, this is beneficial because we enjoy short form content and believe it’s a useful way to reach people quickly and effectively. With that said, we do have a plethora of stories and styles we want to convey; so feature films are definitely part of our long-term plans. They’ll be more of passion projects that we’ll choose to work on very selectively, and hopefully be able to build an audience around through our future shorts.

 

FS: What is the main premise of IndieWorks? What is the viewer turnout like for the screenings at People’s Lounge & Bar?

CR:IndieWorks is a way to showcase and support local filmmakers in New York City, and create a sense of community in an environment that can often be overly competitive and about stepping on each other. Ideologically, we believe in working toward a middle class of indie film where we’re all supporting each other and rising together (while still showcasing what makes us all unique), rather than hoping to be the chosen one in a group of many. So, for us, we wanted to start an event free of the politics and capitalism that tend to overrun the festival circuit and, of course, Hollywood, and create an environment where we can see and appreciate the work of our peers and allow discussions and networking that could spark collaboration and support. We have one screening of 6 films every month and average about 45 people at each event. The weather often plays a part in the turnout. The least we’ve ever had was 30 people. The most was 120 at our 1st year ‘Best of Fest’ screening 2 months ago.

To find out more about CongestedCat Productions & Indieworks: http://www.congestedcat.com/