Category Archives: Movies and TV

A New Year Full of Things That Have Never Been

It has been an amazing year for me so far. I feel so blessed and grateful.  Here are five amazing pieces of news:

Me and Jon

Number one: I got married.  I feel like Jon is the most beautiful human being (inside and out) on the planet.  Warm and caring, sexy and funny, a great friend to all, and a true artist.  I could not have imagined a better person to be my husband.  I feel so lucky.

Cover of BookNumber two: I finally finished my book and am ready to share it with the world.  It’s a memoir about the first twenty-five years of my life.  It was very painful years to write because it’s intensely personal but it is full of things I felt needed to be said.  More news on the exact date.

New "Kelly"

Number three: I got offered a job on The Young and The Restless.  I am SO grateful for this incredible opportunity.  I have always loved the show.  Quality writing, great characters, beautiful production values…what’s not to like?  I am replacing Cynthia Watros who has to leave because she was in a pilot for MTV that got picked up to be a full series.  I feel bad that she will be losing out on the fun of Y&R, but so grateful and lucky that TPTB thought of me.  

KeynoteNumber Four: I got to be the keynote speaker at an AMAZING writer’s conference called Write The Dream, as well as teach my “Dreaming Into Art” class.  I LOVE teaching and helping people develop their creativity.  It is truly one of the great joys of my life.  I was so blessed by the people that joined us in Kansas City.  Their courage and art will always be with me.  A special thanks to Leanna Brunner, who invited me to come to Kansas, and who, through her company Studio Z Publishing, is helping me make my dream of putting my book out into the world come true.

Chris and JulieNumber Five: My short film, “Flip Fantasia,” was accepted into the Macon Film Festival.  It screened in the main theater to a full house that filled the place with laughter.  I am so happy that its two leads, Christopher Gabriel Nunez and Julie Lucas, were able to represent the film at the fest and keep me updated with all the news.  Although not an award winner, it was still a success to me because of the joy it brought to the audience.

You can watch “Flip” on Vimeo for free!  I took it down while it was at the Macon FF so people would come see it in the theater but now it’s back up.  (Warning: very strong language!)

I am so incredibly grateful for these moments in my life this year and for your continued interest and support of my work.  Thank you so much.

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The World of Film

Poster art by Dylan PierpontAs you may or may not know, I have finally completed post-production on “Flip Fantasia,” my short film that I wrote, produced, and directed.  I am so lucky that the MORE show has done some great promotion of the film, sharing some behind the scenes moments with all of you.  Now I want to share with you where I am at with releasing it into the world.

I was strongly encouraged to submit this film to film festivals, even though I refused to even consider this option while I was making the film.  I didn’t want to allow my creative process to be influenced in the slightest by the idea of what others might want or expect from a short film.  I feel like if you listen to all the “should’s” and “must’s” you can totally end up freezing your creative impulse.

However once the bloody thing was finished, I felt it was time to perhaps test the waters, so to speak, and put it out there to festivals.  I know that the festival audiences are really wonderful, true supporters of independent works of art, and that part of it I feel is really worthy.  I also know there is a business side to it, where you can meet like minded people, form relationships, and even perhaps find future funding for the next project.  So I am letting a little bit of time pass while I await hearing back from these festivals.

Therefore, I have only shared the finished film with some trusted friends and colleagues, and of course with the cast and crew.  What is AWESOME has been the response.  Here are some of them:

“Like Kafka mixed with Weekend at Bernie’s

“It’s darkly twisted and hilarious… My kind of movie!”

“Its beyond all my expectations and hopes and down inside, it matters.”

“It’s so beautifully, professionally, very creatively produced!”

“Great music, great visualizations…”

“I totally dig the way all the music fits the film and the actors did a wonderful job.”

“You’re even more twisted than I thought…..I LOVE IT!!!!”

I am so happy that these folk are “getting” the film and I hope that you will too!  Thanks for staying in touch and interested in the process.  As soon as I have more news about the next step, you KNOW I am going to be sharing it with you!

MEANWHILE, check out a little Suzy Fcking Homemaker on TOLN, where she interviews Thorsten Kaye from All My Children.  Yes, I am completely f-ing nuts.

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Flip Fantasia and Why I Can Make a Movie

photo by Alex di Suervo

photo by Alex di Suervo

Well that was just about the most exciting week of my life.  I just finished producing and directing my first short film, called “Flip Fantasia.”  It’s about four guys and a dead girl, about love and death and what happens when your heart breaks and grows three sizes that day.  It’s a love letter to NYC and an homage to all my favorite films (or as many as I could fit in there) and a peek into what I understand about suffering.

So what in the hell qualifies me to direct a film?  Basically nothing, really, except that I spent my entire young life going to every weird arty, what-I-thought worthy, edge cutting piece of gorgeousness that I could find in NY.  I sought out art in every form: whether it was going to hear Ravi Shankar at Lincoln Center, or going to see the Whirling Dervishes at Town Hall, or going to see Pina Bauch and Robert Wilson at BAM, E.L. Kirchner at the Neue Gallery,  Barbara Kruger at MOMA, some punk band at CBGB’s, Shawn Colvin at Carnegie Hall, Selected Shorts at Symphony Space, movies at Film Forum, Marlene Dumas at The New Museum, or the hundreds of other shows I saw.  NYC was my education, in a way.

In film, I was blown away by the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray when I was 25.  Watching that I was hit hard by how film could create an connective and yet transcending human experience.  I also became a huge Francois Truffaut fan, gobbling up the Alain Delain series like an animal.  In a case of “From the sublime to the ridiculous,” I also loved the timing of Blake Edwards’ SOB and Victor Victoria, the incredible comic performances in Tootsie and the hilarious surrealism of Living in Oblivion.

My favorite artist is Laurie Anderson.  Most people have never heard of her but she’s awesome. Her kind of off beat storytelling is right up my alley.  I am pretty sure I have seen every performance she brought to the states post 1997, when I discovered her.  She is hard to pin down, too.  Performance artist doesn’t really cover everything she is.  She’s a musician, a poet, a writer, a storyteller, a performer, and an artist.  Why not?

So what is “Flip Fantasia”? Well it’s kind of a combination of these influences.  It’s funny, and heart breaking, surreal, and spiritual.  It’s full of color and pain.  It’s everything I love.

It’s not like I just pulled it out of my ass.  I studied directing with the late Curt Dempster, the artistic director of Ensemble Studio Theater.  After that I wrote and directed Mona7, a performance art piece that I did in NYC which was totally my vision.  Here is a picture from when Mona becomes one with the universe.  Sadly, my co-director took my vision and got herself a grant from Dance Theater Workshop without giving me any credit.  Not cool, but water under the bridge.  It was a long time ago.  I know it was my vision and I loved making it with her.  Too bad she didn’t know how to be a friend, that’s all.

Mona7

 

 

 

 

 

I also studied painting in the late 90′s early 2000′s with Nancy Chunn at the School of Visual Arts, then International Literature at NYU, then creative art therapy and fairy tales at The New School.  As you might know I just wrote a whole book called Murdering My Youth which will come out eventually.  Who knows, I may just turn it into a movie.  So doing something like a short film isn’t really a total shock.  I guess you could say my whole life has led up to this.  I’m an artist.  I make things.

That said, I believe all the art I have done (except my postcards) is totally collaborative.  I’ve worked with the great videographer Tal Yardan for Mona7, and the amazing producer and musician George Walker Petit for my album…  frankly, every movie, play, or TV show I have ever done is a collaboration with the director, writer and other actors, whether it’s with the writer David Ives “The Red Address,” the director Richard Benjamin on “My Favorite Year,” or Michael Knight on “All My Children.”  Making a piece of art that requires more than one person requires collaboration.  I have a great love and respect for it.  All that matters is that everyone brings their passion to the table.

Eden Marryshow at Smeg

For “Flip” I had the great luck to find Alex di Suvero to be my Director of Photography.  He’s got an amazing ability to find the beauty in the awful, which was the task I set before him.  I am thrilled with what we have created together.

Here is a photo of the character “Smeg” played by Eden Marryshow, who, as you might guess, is a seeker.

That’s my arm on the left.

One thing I learned about film making is that it requires an understanding and a feel for ALL the arts.  You HAVE to know painting, and music, and literature AND film.  If you don’t, you are really missing out on what film can be.  Well, let’s not put the cart before the horse.  I still have to edit the damn thing.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget I LIVE with a filmmaker, and associate produced HIS first feature, so I’ve had a little crash course, you might say.

But I wanted you to know all this about me, so that you can see this film as something that is a part of who I am, because it is.  It is perhaps the most intimate piece of work I have ever made.  I hope you will like it.

Here I am with DP Alex di Suvero, and AC Nikita Carpenter in SOHO, NYC.

Here I am with DP Alex di Suvero, and AC Nikita Carpenter in SOHO, NYC.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Leslie Hassler

Let’s Talk About Sex

Okay. You’ve all heard the news, All My Children is going to be a bit more risqué than usual. Yep. I am not the first to mention it, but I thought I might be one of the first to put it on the table for discussion. Let’s talk about sex, and about sex in our dramatic entertainment. Too much? Not enough? Well you can bet I have an opinion.

My opinion is this: sex is a good thing, wait, scratch that, sex is a GREAT thing! It’s a healthy impulse and a wonderful way to enjoy being, well, about as close as you can get to someone. Frankly, I think we have WAY too MUCH violence and way too LITTLE love making in our entertainment. This is probably because we are a country based on a puritan ethos that doesn’t really want to admit, we ALL LIKE SEX.

Do I recommend using birth control? YOU BET. Do I recommend only having sex when you are ready with someone that you truly CARE about? ABSO-F-ING-LUTELY. Is the young generation having a sexual revolution that no one is really TALKING ABOUT? ONE MILLION TIMES YES.

On another note: do you remember when the soaps were mostly LOVE stories, all leading up to the big moment when the characters would make love? Weren’t those FUN stories to watch? It wasn’t disgusting it was beautiful. I don’t know where those moments went but I am sure happy they are coming back. Passion is important!

I think it’s just as important to remember that as everyone has a different taste in clothes, so we all have a different taste in our fantasies and our lovemaking style. You can learn a lot about a person when you learn these details. When you look at a story from a sexual point of view, these choices are as much a part of a character as their fears, hopes and dreams.

Nudity-smooditty.  So WHAT.  The human body is beautiful and I will admit that I like to look at it, whether it’s a beautiful man or a beautiful woman.  And it doesn’t matter what age they are as long as they are an appropriate age and a consenting adult.

Sexiness is beautiful.  It is something we can and should ALL enjoy, no matter what age we are. Why not let ourselves relax a little?  It might just make for a happier world!

(I swear I am hearing Barry White applauding right now!)

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Screen Shot 2012 12 17 at 9.53.23 AM

My Very Strange Newtown Experience

In 2007, I shot a film called “Home Movie” in a small town in northwestern Connecticut. The film was starring Adrian Pasdar and was to be Christopher Denham’s directorial debut. It was a big break for me. Although I knew one of the producers, Andrew can den Houten (we had worked together on a beautiful film that was never released called Alma Mater), I still had to audition and go through the agonizing process of meeting the producers and the star. When I was told I booked the part I was thrilled. It was a big and important role, with an enormous amount of dialogue which would challenge even the most facile actor.

I had two weeks to prepare the part (of course). The character was a mother of twins, both of whom had an undiagnosed mental disorder that made them seem blank and remorseless. She was also a psychiatrist. She and her husband (a pastor) made the decision to move to Connecticut from New York City to take their troubled children away from the over-stimulation of the city and into a more pastoral environment, where they believed they could also keep better eyes on them.

In the course of the film, both parents try to maintain some sense of “normal” while they diagnose and treat the children. They dress up for Halloween, they dress the kids for school plays and shop for Christmas trees, the usual. Meanwhile, the kids exhibit increasingly bizarre behaviors, such as putting goldfish in their sandwich and crucifying the family cat. It gets worse from there.

My time shooting in Newtown was very pleasant. I stayed by myself at the Dana-Holcombe House, a charming B and B on the main drag, where coffee and breakfast was served every morning by a charming couple in their late 50′s. The drive to the house was short, through a pretty wooded area to a wide piece of property that was secluded away from the road. I was told that the house had a spooky past and some of the crew who were camping out there (it was an Indie movie after all) felt ghosts. I didn’t feel any ghosts, personally. I felt plenty of mold, but no ghosts.

The kids were played by Austin and Amber Joy Williams, and I liked carrying Amber around on my back. Sometimes I thought about making a deal with her mom so I could borrow her from time to time. They were such great kids. We played board games between set ups, and joked between shots. Despite these pleasantries, it was a serious shoot. The kids were playing psychopaths who are slowly plotting to murder their parents. I had to scream at them and run through the woods fighting hysteria at night. By the end of the shoot my legs were covered in bruises. It took me a week on the sofa to emotionally recover.

In order to prepare for the film, the director suggested I read a book by Jeffery Dahmer’s father, called “A Father’s Story.” In the book, the father accounts for any and all reasons that his son might have turned out to be a mass murderer, including his own abandonment when the boy was about 15 (if I recall correctly.) The one reason that stood out the most to me, however, was that Dahmer’s mother took an inordinate amount of pills while she was pregnant, including depression, anxiety, and weight control medication. My common sense told me this was a bad concoction to be giving a fetus, and could only result in some kind of defect in the child. However it was hard to really point at any one cause that made this child kill his first grown man when he was only sixteen years old, burying him in the woods behind his house.

Before we began shooting the director told me he wanted to make this film because he knew a kid growing up who was remorseless, and in his opinion it was a condition that was not really investigated enough in our storytelling and in our culture. Again, if I recall correctly, this kid killed one of his family members and was put in jail for life. This was a kid he grew up with, and knew well. It made a deep impression on him, deep enough to want to make a film about it.

These days there is a lot of talk about evil, and what is evil. “Evil has visited Newtown” seems to be the statement on many lips. Despite all the reasons to believe this is possible, this word worries me. Once you decide that a person has absolutely no chance at redemption, that they are pure evil, there is little recourse but to want to purge that evil from your life or community. This doesn’t lead to much good, if we recall history. It tends to lead to torture, burnings, hysteria, and witch trials.

So I say, let’s not blame evil. Let’s figure out what is wrong with these kids and what we can do about it.

In the film, no good comes to the parents who try to help, I can tell you that. In life, no good came to the mother of Adam Lanza, but why was she dealing with him alone?

I don’t have any answers here. I do know there needs to be more help for parents with severely mentally ill children, especially those that exhibit violent tendencies. I don’t think Newtown is a place that draws bad people or bad situations to it. I do not think it is cursed or “evil.” It’s a sweet little Connecticut town, like most Connecticut towns. I had a house in Connecticut for over 20 years so I know there is nothing about Connecticut that radiates “let the worst mass murder in American history happen here.” Quite the opposite, unless you think cows and woods create a methane gas that makes people nuts. If you think that, then.. well I am sure there is a forum somewhere where you can enjoy your philosophy.

There are so many people with a profound personal connection to this tragedy that can help us get insight. Some people have sick kids, like the woman who wrote the article, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.”

(My links are all screwed up so while I try to fix here is the full link)  http://thebluereview.org/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother/

Some have Asperger’s themselves, like my friend Matt, who wrote this article about how it feels to have Asperger’s and why he thinks it should not be blamed for one troubled young man’s actions.

(Again, you can copy and paste this.)  http://www.policymic.com/articles/20930/my-lifelong-struggle-with-asperger-s-syndrome

I shot a movie in Newtown about a mother and father living with two remorseless children who are obsessed with killing their parents. I know it may sound silly that I comment as an actor feeling my way through a fictional mother’s horror, but I can tell you that, even just in my imagination, it was heartbreaking to experience “my kids” as cold hearted killers. No mother wants to believe their darling child is capable of terrible acts of violence.

It’s a tragedy that hits close to home for us all in our own specific ways. We pray for healing for those closest to the tragedy, we send money, we talk about gun control, mental illness, single mothers, social responsibility, how to help, why it happened and what we can do to make sure nothing ever happens like this again, but at the end of the day we cannot bring those twenty 6 and 7 year olds and those six adults back to life.

At the end of the day, those very real, very innocent people are dead. And that is what we all have to live with.

 

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Here is a quote from my latest article on Policymic.com. Click the title above to be taken directly to the site! I hope you enjoy it!

Here comes awards season. It seems you can barely turn around and fart without running into a red carpet event that celebrates the entertainment industry. Photos of celebrities in gowns stuff the gossip rags and the public seems to eat it up with a spoon.

“What did she wear? Who is he with?” Why should we care? Here are five reasons why the first award ceremony celebrating the entertainment business is worth looking up from your computer for.

To read more and comment click the title of this blog above. Thank you!

 

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The Strange Connection Between “Real Housewives” and the O.J. Simpson Trial

I am thrilled to share this blog post was chosen to be re-posted at www.policymic.com

It was January of 1995. My mother was at home, dying of cancer, but I had to work. I remember standing in the hair and makeup room at All My Children watching the O.J. trial pre-empt all the effort we had made to put a show on air that day, hard work that would not be rerun elsewhere or ever again. It was a very defeating moment. We all knew that the constant interruption of our daily story would mean the loss of viewers. I remember an actor standing next to me (I think it was Michael Nader) saying, “Well, this is it. This is the death of soaps.”

It’s taken me a long while to figure out what that person really meant, but I think I may have a grasp of it. Of course, I am only one person and one opinion. I always want to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to comment below and add whatever you think I may have missed, or share whatever thoughts you’d like.

What O.J. did that day, or rather, what the media did with O.J.’s behavior, changed our tastes in entertainment. It may be sad to say, but in that moment we became a bit more like the spectators in the Roman Coliseum, watching real gladiators fight to the death and less like the Greeks watching reenactments of killings (although they had their share of real sacrifices, or so I’ve read.) The point is, watching a real man who was once a great American hero melt down to the lowest common denominator of human experience was riveting.

The TV Networks have had a huge part to play in what some might call our “moral demise.” I would like to refer (again, for those of you who follow me on Twitter) to the movie “Network” by Paddy Chayefsky. You know, the one where they shout out the window, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”? In the film, an ambitious producer focuses on sensationalizing real stories in order to grab the audiences attention and therefore raise ratings. This movie was way, way ahead of it’s time.

The O.J. Simpson trial was the beginning of the “news” story becoming more relevant than anything a soap could deliver at that time. One major factor in it’s draw was the fact that O.J. was not only a national hero, but an African American man. The very color of his skin dragged back into the light the whole huge history of “black” men in America. This conversation was difficult to address on soap operas, although the writers tried many times to do so. To this day, issues of race dominates our American social consciousness. Trayvon Martin is a tragic example.

So O.J. was probably pissed about the prejudice he no doubt encountered in his life, but he was also a handsome, really successful man. Many men looked up to him, admired his ability and his life. Why else was he so angry?

He was getting a divorce.

I have never seen such rage as in a man who is getting divorced. It seems to shake him to the core. When a man defines himself by his role as a husband and father, this cutting of ties can bring out a lot of anger. I think the feelings of shame and failure that are brought up are difficult for most men to deal with.

I also think it’s quite possible that a lot of men at the time were not so thrilled about women demanding equal rights, equal pay, equal treatment. Add to this women’s developing sexual liberation, and you’ve got a lot of control issues that are going to have to be dealt with in the general male consciousness. O.J. became the focal point for all this emotion. Throughout O.J.’s trial the unasked questions pulsing in many people’s consciousness were not just, “did a black man kill a white woman?” but also “did a husband and father kill his wife and the mother of his children because she was leaving him for a younger man with whom she was having a sexual relationship?” and the worst, “Did Nicole bring on the violence because she demanded liberation from her husband?” which is akin to saying “She asked for it.”

Right or wrong, the tensions under the O.J. Simpson trial were so much more truthful and relevant to our current state of social awareness that, although still charming and entertaining and well made, soap operas were instantly seen as irrelevant and hopelessly out of date. This wasn’t always the case:

Check out some of the flashbacks from the 20th Anniversary and the wonderful, potent conversations between Gillian Spencer’s “Daisy” and James Mitchell’s “Palmer” in the 1970′s/early 80′s:

All My Children 20th Anniversary

It wasn’t the daytime writers fault there wasn’t as much edge cutting material in 1995 as there was in 1980. As corporations began to acquire soap operas as a product, it became more and more difficult for daytime writers to tell stories that might outrage a percentage of the audience. Every ratings point counted to the ad-centric culture of Network Television. Instead of being able to tell the more risky stories that might have kept all kinds of audiences interested, corporatized soaps were forced create more general story lines that often became ridiculous in their attempt to avoid being offensive.

No wonder people stopped watching in droves.

The story of O.J. and Nicole was also REAL. They weren’t actors with scripts, they were real people with dramas as big as any soap could manufacture. O.J.’s need for attention, even love from the media was another way in which he reflected something very true in American lives. Many people wanted a little bit of fame to experience for themselves. Others were riveted by the risk of others. Either way, the audience was becoming the star.

Next essay: “How The Internet and The Culture of Choice Killed Television”

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