An Interview with Debra Christofferson

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Debra Christofferson has appeared on shows such as NYPD Blue, The X-Files, Grey’s Anatomy, and American Horror Story to name a few. She is likely best known for her role as Lila on HBO’s hit show Carnivale. She can currently be seen on the Nickelodeon series 100 Things to Do Before High School as well as in the television film, A Deadly Adoption, and will soon appear on the Sundance Channel series Rectify.

As someone who was raised in a small town in the Midwest and had the chance to enjoy life on the farm, how do you think your early beginnings there have influenced you to be who you are today?

Actually, we lived in town; my grandma lived on the family farm and my dad farmed the land and raised cattle until recently. He has worked from dawn till dusk nearly every day of his life, which set the example of good, honest, hard work. When I see my dad’s passion for the land, I see the same passion in myself for acting, and the same work ethic. I give 110 percent to anything I do, and once I set my mind to a task, I work very hard to accomplish it to the best of my abilities.

What was it like to appear on American Horror Story when you did? Why do you think that show has such mass appeal?

American Horror Story was a terrific experience. I was so fortunate to work opposite the extraordinary Jessica Lange and with the wonderful Bryan Rasmussen, who played my husband. The scene that we did was rich with emotion, and to observe Jessica work, and interact with her was a delight. The appeal of the show comes from the fact that people just love to be scared, and the show capitalizes on that. Many of my friends are huge AHS fans, and were thrilled that I was going to be on the show, wildly speculating as to the horrors my character might commit. I rather enjoyed the fact that my storyline was normal, comparatively.

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Can you tell us a little about 100 Things To Do Before High School? Is that a role you enjoy?

100 Things is a very well-written half-hour comedy about three middle-school kids checking off their bucket list of things to do before they move on to high school. Everyone is incredibly talented, and we have a blast working together — really and truly, that’s not just “Hollywood-speak.” My character, Lunch Lady Natasha Villavovodovich, is a formidable, dour, no-nonsense Russian with a thick accent, and I adore playing her! When I first auditioned, it was for one episode, but on my second day of shooting the creator of the show, Scott Fellows, pulled me aside to tell me about a scene in an upcoming episode he was writing for my character. Talk about “welcome to the show!” I ended up doing five episodes in Season One, and it looks like the Lunch Lady will be back for Season Two. I can’t wait!

How does it feel to be able to portray a different character with every role? Do you enjoy getting to be such varied types of people?

I love being a character actor; the more varied, the better I like it. I relish the opportunity to bring life to a completely different type of person than I’ve played before. And the highest compliment I can get is that someone didn’t recognize me in the role. Then I’ve really done my job in creating something that is believable enough to have its own existence, apart from me, and yet me.

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What about A Deadly Adoption? What was it like to work with the cast in that film?

It was all very “hush, hush” initially, and I had to sign a confidentiality agreement as soon as I was cast, so I wasn’t allowed to talk about it at all until the official publicity came out. Someone actually leaked some info about it before everything was in place, and there were faux denials issued. Will (Ferrell), Kristin (Wiig) and Jessica (Lowndes) were all very personable and a treat to work with. The first scene I shot was with Kristin and Jessica, and we three immediately fell into an easy camaraderie. When Will came on set for the second and third scenes, I half-expected some silliness, but he was the consummate professional. We were on a tight shooting schedule, so there were no high jinx or messing around, we just did our jobs. They couldn’t have been nicer, and even took a few pictures with me, although personal cameras were banned from the set for confidentiality reasons.

Do you prefer working in light hearted roles or the darker ones?

Even though I’m probably best known for dramatic roles, I prefer comedy. It’s so rewarding to make people laugh, to forget their troubles, if only for a short time. I love working with the timing of things, the physicality, and the precise wording and inflection to get the biggest laugh. And, it makes me feel good. However, I also prefer complex characters, and generally the darker the role, the more complex. Truthfully, though, I’m an actor who loves to work. Make me an offer!

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Do you ever miss the stage? Any plans to work in theatre in the future?

I do miss being on stage. There’s nothing like a live audience to keep you on your toes, to encourage you, to let you know immediately if you’re not being honest. I had a chance to do a play this summer, but unfortunately my schedule didn’t allow me to do so. Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity soon.

How does it feel to see the film 1915 get such notice? For those who haven’t seen it can you tell us more about it?

I’m extremely pleased that “1915” is doing so well — it’s being seen all over the world. There is so much passion behind it, and everyone worked so very hard to get it out there. 1915 is a psychological thriller about denial — personal denial by each of the characters, and in the bigger picture, the denial of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey. The plot revolves around a theatre director staging a play to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Genocide, and the cast and crew of the play exorcising their own demons and denial in the process. I play Lillian, an American actress who suffered an onstage breakdown on Broadway as a young star, left the theatre and hasn’t been on stage in years, but comes out of retirement to play an Armenian mother. I know, who’d have believed I’d get cast as that? I shot for three weeks at the Los Angeles Theater in downtown L.A., a beautiful old movie theater that opened in 1931 with the premiere of Chaplin’s City Lights. She was the last opulent movie theater built downtown, and though fallen into some disrepair, is still a magnificent structure. It was an honor to perform on her stage.

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What can you tell us about your upcoming appearance on Rectify?

Ah, yet another confidentiality agreement was signed, so I’m afraid I can’t say much. However, I can tell you that Rectify is a brilliant character study about a man who was wrongly convicted of a tragic crime as a teenager and spent the next 20 years on death row. When new evidence comes to light, he is released and returns to his small home town. The series deals with how his family, friends and the townspeople react and relate to him coming back as a free man. It is fascinating, with exceptional acting and writing, and it was a real privilege to guest star on the show. My episode is currently slated to air August 6th on the Sundance Channel.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you aren’t working? Do you ever do much sword fighting still?

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a good sword fight in a while. Not for lack of trying — people in my neighborhood just don’t have the skills…or the equipment! I spend a lot of time in my garden and yard, some of which I recently tore out to be more water efficient. I’m now finding creative ways to reinvent my English garden to be drought tolerant. I do love a challenge!

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Do you think society today places too much emphasis on the superficial and neglects the things that matter most?

Absolutely. Living in Hollywood it’s in your face every day. But tv, film, newspapers, magazines, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc. sends that out across the planet daily, too. Part of the problem is that so many people have their noses buried in their phones/iPads/laptops, whatever, that they don’t participate in the world around them. However, using those same devices, especially through social media and the internet, there are individuals and groups that are working on bringing about a shift in that focus, but it will take time and a great deal of effort, and a planet full of people who are actually willing to make that change.

What advice would you offer the women of tomorrow and of today in regards to self image?

There’s a commercial running right now where a woman comments, “2.4 million people in this city and only one me.” I think that says it all. You are unique in the Universe. Only you can give what you have to offer, so be the best you that you can be. Every facet, every strength, every flaw, every bit that is you. Bring it!

More on Debra can also be seen in her previous interview with Van gogh’s Ear at: http://theoriginalvangoghsearanthology.com/2014/11/07/an-interview-with-debra-christofferson/

Saving Fairmount: James Dean’s Hometown, An Interview with Filmmaker Michael Mathias

James Dean & Marcus Winslow Jr. in Fairmount, 1955. Photo by Dennis Stock.

James Dean & Marcus Winslow Jr. in Fairmount, 1955. Photo by Dennis Stock.

In tribute to the town where James Dean grew to be the great man he was, documentary filmmaker Michael Mathias pays homage the small town with great soul. The film Saving Fairmount: James Dean’s Hometown gives an in-depth look into wonderfully welcoming appeal of America’s most beloved small town.

The film can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuZc1Cd8a6Q

For those would like to help preserve it with donations of any amount more information. can be found at http://www.mainstreetfairmount.org/.

Are you a native of Marion, Indiana or did you move there later on?

I’ve lived here my entire life. Small town life is something that you have to learn to love. I grew up dreaming about graduating high school and heading off to a big, hip city where everyone was a self proclaimed artist. I soon realized that wasn’t the life for me. I fell in love with the small town life. This is definitely home; I’m here for the long haul.”

What first led to your interest in filmmaking? Who were some of your earliest influences?

I’ve never really considered myself a “filmmaker”. I grew up with a father who was an art teacher. He was always encouraging me to create things. I think I got my passion for the arts from my dad. I really tried to figure out what type of artist I wanted to been seen as. A painter? A designer? A photographer? A musician? I eventually said “screw it”, and now I create whatever I feel inspired to create. I’m a musician, I’m a photographer, I’m a filmmaker, I’m a designer; in my view, these all run together.

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What led you to create Saving Fairmount? What was it like to have the chance to film the individuals you did? Do you feel honored to have had the chance to capture them on film?

The Saving Fairmount project started when I was approached by Jim Hayes, the president of Main Street Fairmount, which is an organization dedicated to the restoration and revitalization of downtown Fairmount, IN. Jim had told me their idea of having a small video explaining the importance of the upkeep of the town that would help motivate people to not only donate to the cause, but also get involved. Two years later and it evolved into the film Saving Fairmount; James Dean’s Hometown. It was such an honor to interview all the people that we did. I have hours of unused interview footage that, hopefully, I can release in the near future as smaller videos on the subject of Fairmount.

Are there any specific moments that stand out most in your mind from this piece of work?

There were so many great things said by so many great people; It’s really tough to choose a single moment. I will say that we got extremely lucky with the footage that we shot of Nicky Bazooka. He died shortly after the footage was shot.

Nicky Bazooka

Nicky Bazooka

Why do you think the town of Fairmount is so endearing to people worldwide?

There’s no doubt that James Dean plays a huge part in the popularity of Fairmount, however, Fairmount has somehow maintained its classic small town feel for all these years. It’s not “gimmicky”, there are no amusement parks, people live there, it’s a real town. You can get your haircut in Fairmount, buy your groceries, stop at the hardware store, shop for appliances, and more; the weird thing is that all of those businesses are locally owned. There are no Walmart or McDonalds. And of course all the other reasons you can see in the film.

What do you think it is that keeps the town very much alive in spite of its rather small size?

Honestly, it’s the people. Not just the people that live there, but also the people that come there from all around the world. Fairmount doesn’t just belong to the people inside the city limits, it also belongs to the hearts of all the wonderful people that make the trip there from half way around the world. Those people get it. They understand the small town appeal.

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James Dean in Fairmount, 1955. Photo by Dennis Stock.

James Dean in Fairmount, 1955. Photo by Dennis Stock.

Do you think James Dean would be amused at the whole thing?

I’m sure he’d be super cool about it. He’d probably light up a cigarette and smile.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned from this project?

I’ve learned more historical things about Fairmount than I can count. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is the importance of community. Whether an internationally known icon was born in your small town or not, make something happen. Be creative, and stay positive. If you want your town to look clean, clean it up. If you want your town to have a festival, start planning one. The smaller the town, the easier.

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The Winslow Farm

Marcus Winslow Jr.

Marcus Winslow Jr.

What do you hope the viewer takes away from this piece?

Of course, the viewer who has already made the trip to Fairmount understands the importance of the message from the film. The person that I’m hoping it really leaves an impact on are the people that are in the position that I was in. The people that live their everyday lives in a town that’s tiny and seems to have nothing to offer. I hope they wake up, like I did, and realize that life is what you make of it.

What projects are you working on at the moment? Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into being?

I’m planning a photo project involving portraits of small town individuals; Possibly printing a book. I love photographing people. Maybe some type of gallery showing?

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

It was an honor to be able to interview all the great people that I did; They’re all pieces of the puzzle. I’d also like to thank all the people who have supported this project or donated to the cause.

Michael Mathias

Michael Mathias

“For The Roses: For Joni Mitchell” by Lyn Lifshin

Portrait Of Joni Mitchell

FOR THE ROSES

For Joni Mitchell

I think of her watching the
last rose petals on a
day like today, say deep
August, browning like
an old rubber doll
she might have left
in an attic in Canada.
I think of her pressing
skin against glass, a sense
of summertime falling,
that sense of fall
that  that Sylvia Plath
wrote of. Or maybe some
freeze frame of what
is going, moving on.
I see her pale arms,
sea mist velvet jeans
hugging hips that
never will not be boyish.
In the wind, gone
voices move close
to her cheek bones. In
this frame she could be in
a fancy 30’s gown. Some
thing is raw, some thing
is broken. It has to be
a full moon
etching black water.
She has to know that
from what is torn
and scarred, some
thing almost too
exquisitely beautiful
is already stirring,
some thing dark
as coal becoming
diamond, insistent,
dying to be born

An Interview with Bob Lizarraga

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Bob Lizarraga is known for his unique take on monsters. Mixing classic horror elements and caricature in a way that appeals to fans of all ages has led to his work for such iconic companies as Warner Brothers Animation, Universal Cartoon Studio, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine to name a few.

What were you like as a child? Do you think growing up where you did gave you an advantage when it came to pursuing your interests at an early age?

I’ve always been thankful for growing up in California, and having a mother that liked horror movies! She used to watch them with me, so I think the atmosphere was “safe” for me to watch scary flicks. Plus, I found monsters and grotesqueries immensely fascinating. I wonder what I would have been interested in if it hadn’t been for TV, which had an abundance of weirdness!

Did you always have an active imagination? Do you think that comes in handy in your line of work?

Oh yes–  my siblings were much older than me so my imagination grew as I spent a good amount of time alone. I had many friends, but I also enjoyed my own company…

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What first sparked your interest in horror? What was the first movie that really spoke to you? Do you remember what your first favorite character was?

My earliest influences were the movies on TV—they always played the Universal classics, and there were horror-show hosts as well. Crime stories and lurid Mexican melodramas were always on—one of my earliest drawings was a man under a white sheet with a bloody knife sticking out his chest. I saw that in some film. Thanks for not sending me away, ma!

Why do you think monsters have always held such appeal for the masses?

In my opinion, humans are fascinated with ALL aspects of living (and dying), and monsters and dark subject matter are needed to help gauge what is “nice” or “good”. Many cultures teach only the “good”, which of course makes the “bad” a tantalizing subject matter. Plus, some creative types just can’t resist a great grotesque visage.

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Why do you think the horror films of the past seemed more substantial than the ones made today? Do you think it is fair to say that their characters had more personality than those found in today’s films?

I’m a bit biased because I grew up with the Universal monsters, for example, but yes, The Frankenstein Monster, The Hunchback, and The Wolfman all had pathos—they were trapped by their circumstances, or didn’t ask to be shunned by the villagers. Mr. Hyde, The Mummy, Dracula and even The Creature had human frailties, and were just trying to exist in much the same way a dangerous animal would.

Do you think with the passing of so many of the legends of Horror that the genre is going to suffer?

I’m not really sure- it all depends on who wants to carry the torch (heh) for what went before. I work a couple of conventions during the year, and it’s so cool to see up and coming young creators who really “get” what the old school horror was all about.

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Are illustration and animation things you took up early on or did you develop that later on?

I always drew, but I didn’t really figure out what I wanted to do (creatively) until in my late twenties.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Whoa–  it’s a LONG list! But I have to say the biggest influences on me were Basil Gogos, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, (and all the MAD artists), Comic book artists like Jack Kirby (he drew great monsters).

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When did you first know it would be your career?

What IS a career, anyway? (laughs)I love working in animation design, but not all those types of jobs allow for creative expression. So I “feed the ‘gators” by finding the time for my own brand of weirdness.

What advice would you offer others wishing to pursue the dream of working in the artworld?

Pursue your own creative expression (draw or paint whatever the hell you want) and if you’re lucky, people will hire you to do more. But we work to live, so remind yourself that the not-so-fun-jobs are there to carry you to the next chapter.

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How does it feel to see your work being used by some of the top companies in the industry?

Its an ego-stroke for sure, and a validation of my work. I am in gratitude to those who feel my work has value…

How does it feel to be able to do what you love for a living?

It feels pretty good, thanks. George Burns said to try and love what you do for a living- he couldn’t wait to get out on the stage, and the icing on the cake was the money he made doing it.

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What do you think is key to a life well lived?

What’s that saying? —“Living well is the best revenge”. I like that. Again, I try to make time for all aspects: art, entertainment, work, love, friends, fun.

What would you say is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

A wise old animation designer once told me “Don’t let the bastards get ya down”.

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Do you have a dream project you’d most like to see come to completion?

Oh, man—so many. I’d like to do some short films, giant paintings, and throw a huge Halloween party.

Anything you’d like to say in before you go?

Just a big thanks for being interested in my work! Cheers~

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For more information on the works of Bob Lizarraga, or to purchase prints or original works please see:

http://www.lizarraga.net/

http://www.boblizarraga.com/

http://boblizarraga.blogspot.com/

An Interview with Tim Minear

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Tim Minear is best known for his work as an executive producer on American Horror Story, for which he was nominated for two Emmy Awards. He has also worked on such shows as Firefly, Angel, Lois and Clark, X-Files, and Wonderfalls among others.

As someone who grew up as one of those kids who made movies with their friends, do you still enjoy seeing your creations come to life as much as you did then? What does it feel like to see your ideas come to life on screen?

When it comes close to what’s in your head, it’s amazing. Though in the last couple of years my best friend and I had all our super 8 movies preserved digitally. Going through that stuff was the most thrilling thing. Our childhoods from about 8 years old to mid twenties was all right there. It’s like having a time machine.

You also frequented Science Fiction conventions from the age of 12. How does it feel to participate in them now? How have they changed the most over the years?

Well, they’ve become big business. And I say to that — yay! The sheer weight of Comic Con is mind blowing. But I sort of love that. I won an audience award at Comic Con for one of my super 8 films when I was 16. I think the entire con fit into one screening room and one dealers room with actual comics being the main enterprise. As far as being on panels and such — so much fun. But more fun once the panel is done and I get to walk the con and be a fanboy geeking out.

How would you say you have changed most since then?

Now I can afford to buy shit. When I’m at a con, I feel almost exactly the same.

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When I first asked you what you considered to be the defining moment in your career you said you’d let me know when you get there? Do you think you have gotten there yet?

I will keep you posted. Though if I were to be honest, I’d say to this point, the defining moment was when I told Joss I wanted to direct and he said yes. But that if I failed I couldn’t get mad and quit writing the show. That was the most wonderful way of him taking every bit of pressure off of me — he was giving me permission to screw it all up, but in such a way that almost guaranteed that I wouldn’t. Screw it up, I mean.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Remember that other people are people and treating them accordingly. Also, to strive to do the things you don’t want to do. Happiness and fun are not the same thing.

How does it feel to be making a living doing what you love? What do you hope your viewers take away from various works?

I’m grateful. I hope that with what we do we can invite viewers into a world and allow them to feel some ownership in it.

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As someone who likes to read a lot, what do you think it takes to make a story a great one? Who are some of your authors?

Great characters, simply. Shakespeare is everything. But when I was a kid, Michael Moorecock, Harlin Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Twain, Fitzgerald.

What do you think of the success American Horror Story has enjoyed? What can fans look forward to in the next season?

I’m happy to once again be associated with something unusual. And I’m really proud that AHS has really been on the cutting edge of making the limited series something viable.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into existence?

Working on it now. Fingers crossed.

For a Super 8 compilation of the early works of Tim Minear please see: https://vimeo.com/103107102

“Lakes Above Thunders” by Hima Bindu Kopally

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Lakes Above Thunders

So, have you seen his reflection across the lake?
The lake of harmony fleeting with benevolence.
Did you see the glint of lightning in his eye?
A tortuous smile and a thunderous influence.

The over-the-roof heart beat only made things worse,
not knowing how to deal with the transits yet.
The lake was quite a crossing if a must.
For, it had marked a region of his personality’s fret.

Did you ever put down the phone?
Only to believe no more
And ghoul over the memoirs
Over the photographic mind place and rooms?

A mic for the night
and the silence apart shriveled anesthesia.
Shred light so much!
But the darkness overpowered the looming love of euphoria.

A moment before holding hope;
after, felt sorts of a doomed loop.
Indeed the lake had power,
Causing an arrhythmia to the tower.

For the lightning struck the eye,
the thunder met the ears
And struck the lake too
Which shocked the towering man of boon

The moon shone, like an embodiment
of raw strings of woven wool.
It had more than two Souls fighting
under and above its witnessing light’s mull.

The lake, once a stranger
Stood still with bare raw emotion.
An Icy and unfiltered harangue broker
drenched the clouds of passion.

Guess the lake, will you?
Imagine the lake, shall you?
Now, visualize it in front of you.
It’s her, adorned in the tradition red of hue.

A man and a woman?
Was it the Greek Zeus and Eurynome you thought of?
Or of Roman mythology, or wait Egyptian?
Nature and mortals, fits and sorts of?

Nevertheless!

She, the lake
Drew an aura of iconoclastic love.
She, the lake
Gave him that reflection of merging above.