An Interview with filmmaker Shane Stanley

Shane Cropped in Studio

To say Shane Stanley has had a unique childhood is an understatement. At nine months old he was appearing in national television commercials and before his fifth birthday had worked in over 100 projects sharing the screen with such Hollywood legends as June Lockhart, Lloyd Haynes, and David Arkin. The son of a working actor-turned-filmmaker, Shane had a lot the tools of the trade at his disposal and by the age ten was comfortably running a 16mm camera, flatbed-editor, and Moviola. Shane jumped from in front of the camera to behind the scenes where along with his father he co-produced The Desperate Passage Series, which was nominated for 33 Emmy Awards and won 13 statues making him the youngest to ever win a production Emmy at only 16. Shane would be nominated a total of four times and win again before graduating high school. In the TV series, five of the seven specials went #1 in the Neilson Ratings, which included A Time for Life and Gridiron Gang. A Time for Life, (created by Shane), was acquired by Disney and won the coveted Christopher Award, which is presented to the filmmakers that affirm the highest values of the human spirit. After an intense bidding war Gridiron Gang would be acquired by SONY but wouldn’t get made for another fifteen years.

Soon after, Shane wanted to venture out from underneath the family business and into the real world. He re-started at the bottom, working as a production assistant for various networks on hit shows like Seinfeld, Roseanne, Sea Quest, and Coach. He was fired twice and drove a craft service truck while working as an extra to stay ‘relevant’ before landing at Paramount as an executive assistant where he worked on everything from Entertainment Tonight to Clear and Present Danger starring Harrison Ford. In 1996, Shane met Charlie Sheen through some mutual friends and within three months became the Vice President of the movie star’s production company where life suddenly went into fast-forward.

Within the first year, Shane had a hand in co-writing and producing several motion pictures starring Marlon Brando, Mira Sorvino, Thomas Hayden Church, Donald Sutherland, Marisa Tomei and of course, Charlie and Martin Sheen. He worked closely with many top executives and developed key relationships including one with the late, great Zalman King, who brought us cult classics like 9½ Weeks, Red Shoe Diaries and Wild Orchid. Shane collaborated with Zalman until his death in 2012 and would go on to produce a handful of films including the #1 Box Office hit Gridiron Gang starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and several television specials that have taken him around the world working with stars such as Jackie Chan and Jane Seymour. He Directed his first film, A Sight for Sore Eyes starring Academy Award nominee, Gary Busey and hasn’t looked back since. In the past few years Shane has Directed or Produced hundreds of television commercials and music videos, four feature films, two television pilots and now just completed his first book entitled What You Don’t Learn in Film School: A Complete Guide to Independent Filmmaking which has landed on the required reading list at many top institutions. Fresh off of his book tour, I caught up with Shane at Anarchy Post just outside of Los Angeles, where he was overseeing final mixes to his upcoming film, The Untold Story which is due out nationwide in early in 2019.

Me and Dad

Lee & Shane Stanley

Your father Lee Stanley also works in the entertainment industry. How did his work influence you to pursue your own?

My father always did things his way. He never succumbed to what others felt he should do or tell his stories the way decision makers thought he should. He was a maverick in the documentary world and owned it from 1987-1993. It was a hell of a run. That being said, I always wanted to be in a position to tell the stories I wanted to tell and the way I wanted to tell them.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned from him in regards to working in the industry? What is the best advice he ever gave you in regards to life in general?

Work hard and do your best at whatever you set your hand to whether it’s directing a film or sweeping the floors.

Do you consider yourself lucky to have been taught so much in regards to film at such a young age?

Yes and no. I was doing things when I was eight or nine that most third-year film school students are just learning. In the eyes of many, I ‘peaked’ before I was old enough to vote, so the expectation level was high as I grew older and the pressure was pretty severe. I’m no genius. I’m just a guy who works hard and loves what he does and is comfortable doing it the way I do. I get a lot of flack from some people who question why I haven’t amounted to certain heights but I’m pleased with where I am proud that it has said “filmmaker” on my tax returns for over 30 yrs.

Do you remember what it was like to be in front of the camera at such an early age? What did you learn from all of that? At the time did you enjoy working behind the camera or in front of it more?

I just remember being incredibly bored waiting and feeling a great deal of pressure to get it right during every take. I always felt terrible if I was having an ‘off’ day and was responsible for the crew having to work longer because of my mistakes. I learned that I hated being in front of the camera (laughs) I preferred whatever got me out of school and being in front of the camera did that a lot but felt more comfortable being a worker-bee than an actor.

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“Village Blacksmith” by Frederic Stanley for Coca-Cola.

Your grandfather was the iconic artist Frederic Stanley who shared a studio with Norman Rockwell and created some of the most memorable images in Americana. Do you think having such creative minds in your ancestry has helped you see the value of creation in all forms?

I’d like to think I have some artistic talent and sensitivity that has been passed from my grandfather and my father. In fact, my great-grandfather on my dad’s side of the family was also a well-known stage actor in New England. I’m a fourth generation artist from what I understand.

Do you think in times such as these the power of escapism and solace found in both art and entertainment are as important as ever?

I absolutely do. Regardless of who or what you support, we’re always under attack and getting information overload. I always believed our job as filmmakers was to create an escape for our viewers and now, it seems people are seeking an escape more often than ever. But I also feel that we have a responsibility to leave audiences with something more than an empty box of popcorn when it’s all said and done.

Who were some of your earliest influences both in front of the camera and behind it?

Carroll Ballard, Hugh Hudson, and Mark Rydell were my favorite storytellers growing up. As far as actors, who didn’t love Harrison Ford? He was the only actor I’d make sure to see every film he was in – except Mosquito Coast. I hate mosquitoes.

What do you love most about the art of filmmaking?

Every aspect. There’s not a part of the process I do not enjoy. But it’s a love-hate kind of thing. Every time I’m in pre-production I swear it will be my last film. The pressure becomes almost unbearable. You lock in one actor but another cannot shoot a specific day. The location you landed demands otherwise, there’s never enough money and your crew always has other projects they’re working on while you’re in prep so pulling on them is often difficult. Then somehow, some way everything magically comes together and we bag our beast. When its all over and were in post-production, I realize as painful a process as it was, we all survived and I start to miss my cast and crew and start thinking about what we can work on next to bring us all together again.

Shane Directing

How does it feel to see a project come to completion on screen?

I don’t have children, so I can guess it’s the closest to creating life as I’ll ever get. An idea is conceived, its nurtured to become real, then you shape it into something that will eventually go out into the world and be its own being. It’s quite rewarding.

What would you say is the most important element needed to produce a truly moving motion picture?

What’s moving is subjective. I mean, I can’t watch Cool Runnings without crying my eyes out. 99% of the people on this planet probably don’t cry during that film but I do. The point is, you have to have a thread of emotion that will touch hearts. If you can do that then someone somewhere will relate to your art.

Why is it that so many film school graduates never end up actually making movies?

You mean never actually complete their final projects or go on to make movies in the real world? (laughs) To keep my temper in check, I’ll assume you mean the latter. I think there are great fundamentals taught in the classroom but the business of the business isn’t taught and if it is, it’s glossed over. So many of the key elements to get movies made are never touched upon in film school. It’s just not part of the curriculum. Everyone wants to learn to write, direct and frame a shot but the essentials of concept-to-delivery and all the integral parts in between in order to get it done and done right are rarely taught.

Do you think it is fair to say one must possess a certain amount of grit and determination to make it work in the entertainment industry in general?

I do. I think Paul Williams said it best in the foreword he wrote in my book, “If you’re easily discouraged, the entertainment industry is probably not a good fit for you. This is a tough and ruthless business. There are too many people lined up to take your slot in the industry so you have to be resilient and tough as nails…and never let the bastards get you down. You will never please all the people all of the time. People will go out of their way to write and say horrible things about you, usually because they’re not the ones making movies.

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Do you think one has to learn to accept failure and keep moving towards their goals in order to learn how to work more successfully?

Absolutely. I mean if we cannot learn from our mistakes, how do we grow? There is no formula for a successful film. If there were then 80% of big-budgeted and star-studded films wouldn’t fail.

Have you ever felt like just felt giving up?

At least seven times a day…

What advice would you offer people who might be dealing with such feelings in whatever area of their lives?

I was told at a very young age by Wells Root, who co-founded the Writer’s Guild of America, “If you don’t like the industry, get the hell out!” I realized instantly that if anyone died tomorrow in our business, Hollywood would march right on without them and wouldn’t miss a beat. The only advice I could give is if you truly love instability and constant judgment, this is the job for you!

Do you think it is fair to say that to be a gifted filmmaker one must continue to learn for the rest of their lives?

After being in this business my entire life, I don’t claim to know it all and I learn something new every day! We’re ever evolving as long as we open our eyes and ears as well as our hearts and our minds.

What was your very first day as a production assistant like? Were you nervous it being your first day and all or were you excited to have the chance to be learning the trade?

It was too long ago. (laughs) And I was a total nervous wreck. I knew I was at the bottom of the totem pole and needed to please my superiors to stand out so yeah, I over thought every little detail. And these nerves were coming from a PA who had already won 2 Emmy’s and been nominated 4 times beforehand as I went to work for the studios after my success as a child.

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How have you changed most since your earliest days?

I’ve learned to slow down and it’s not because of age. It’s like that cow and bull story Robert Duvall tells Sean Penn in Colors…this bull and his son were walking along the ridge and saw a whole pasture of cows. The son said, “Hey dad, lets run down and f*ck one of those cows!” The bull said, “Slow down son…let’s walk down there and f*ck them all.” What’s the rush? Take a breath and enjoy the ride – all of ‘em.

Are there any specific people you have enjoyed working with more than others over the course of your career?

There are a handful of people I enjoyed working with and quite honestly, in all my years can only think of one or two I didn’t. I take something with me with every collaboration and cherish the opportunity to work with people from all different walks of life who are all makes and models.

What led you to write What You Don’t Learn in Film School?

Honestly, I was tired of answering the same questions over and over when I mentored students or consulted with other filmmakers. I realized I was giving away hundreds of hours every year and giving the same advice like a broken record so I took three weeks and wrote the book.

How does it feel to have some of the most respected names in Hollywood today give praise for your work on this book?

It means the world. I admit a lot of what is in it is a reflection of them or are working together so it pleases me to know they feel I have taken what I learned from our experiences or life lessons and paid it forward for others to use as a roadmap.

What do participants learn in your workshops and seminars?

I try to offer them encouragement and all the ammunition I can in the hope they’ll be motivated and better prepared for a life in the industry. I explain that it’s a marathon – not a sprint – and remind them that even though we all have big dreams to write, produce and direct, there are 100’s of other jobs in our industry that pay very well (and more often) and if they could put their pride aside could make a wonderful living in our business instead of working in or around a less desired field. So many of the students believe they’re going to go from graduation to becoming the next Damien Chazelle but the fact of the matter is, that happens to one in a million and they have to lay the groundwork for a career that can last a lifetime in our industry instead of realizing six months after they graduate, when the student loans are due their only option is to get a job in an industry they never intended to work in.

Do you enjoy encouraging others to follow their dreams and pursue careers in film?

It’s by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

What is like to have the chance to teach others from your own experiences?

It’s good when they listen, (laughs). I don’t want them to have to go through some of the hell I went through. My book is 200 pages of painful trials and errors. The reason I teach is because I want their journey to be successful and if I can at all contribute to that, then I have done my part.

Are you still working on the book Why Good Actors Don’t Work?

No. I shelved it a few months ago. I didn’t think the first book would have me out teaching so much and with my production schedule, I only have so much time in the day. Eventually, I would like to pick it back up but it is going to have to wait a while.

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What projects are you looking forward to bringing into existence next?

After The Untold Story releases, I would like to just breathe for a bit. It’s been a non-stop grind for several years and I’d like to stop and just smell the roses for a bit. Director/Producer Adam Kane and I have been looking to collaborate on something. I think we’re getting close to figuring out what that might be and if it goes, it could take me away for a while so I am cramming in as many seminars and teaching engagements that I can.

You and your wife Val work with various charities. What do you enjoy most about giving back?

I think it’s important to find a cause or two and help any way you can. I believe to whom much is given, much is required. I’ve been blessed to do what I love and it is important to us to help out with causes that are in our hearts.

Do you feel particularly blessed to have a wife that shares your passion when it comes to such causes?

I couldn’t do it without her. I’m very fortunate to have a spouse who gets me – and understands the inner workings of our industry along with the inconsistency and whirlwinds that can pick up without a moments notice.

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

Leave the world a better place than you found it. Always give and when you receive, be gracious.

Is there anything you’d like to say before you go?

As always, Tina – it’s a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you for the time and interest in my career to share with your readers.

Shane and Val Premier of Gridiron

Shane & Val at the Premiere of “Gridiron Gang.”

“Neurofibrillary Tangles” by David Sahner

 

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Neurofibrillary Tangles

 

Like shimmering wings of flies
Worlds collapse into silence.
The words begin to stammer
As if they had tongues of their own.

Now he can’t remember his name.

He roams
Time’s frozen avenues
Looking for a lift
The serene order
Of wine-dark streets –

Time will soon wither
To a hand waving its empty signs
Perhaps something
Simpler even than this.

 

The poetry of David Sahner has previously appeared in Connecticut Review, The Bitter Oleander, The Sandy River Review, Catamaran, Foliate Oak, and a number of other venues.  He is also a physician/scientist.

“In the face of…” by Joanna Jeanine Schmidt

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by Howard David Johnson

 

In the face of…

In the face of
personal defeats

in this life,
do not continue

to wander the
earth, mewling,

but plan for the
future with the

fire left over from
your battle and

look out over the
horizon with the

confidence that
you have survived.

Joanna Jeanine Schmidt has been published in literary magazines such as Slipstream Magazine #33, 34thParallel Magazine #44, and several of her poems will be published in the forthcoming April issue of FreeXpresSion Magazine (Australia).

An Interview with Robert Hinkle

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From a pilot in the Air Force to the rodeo circuit and on to work both in front of and behind the camera Bob Hinkle has seen and done it all. He most notably taught James Dean, Rock Hudson, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, and others in the cast of Giant to speak like true Texans. He appeared in such films as Hud and the last film produced by Howard Hughes, The First Traveling Sales Lady, and on such iconic television series as Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, Annie Oakley, and Bonanza just to name a few. In later years he also worked in the music industry as the manager of Marty Robbins. His most impressive role being the husband of Sandra Larson, Queen of the Rodeo in Moses Lake 1950, for some sixty-six years and counting. He summed up some of his most cherished memories working alongside Mike Farris to produce the book Call Me Lucky: A Texan in Hollywood.

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Robert in “Gunsmoke.”

Tina Ayres: What was it like growing up in Texas when you did? What do you remember most about those days? How do you think those early days helped shape you into the man you would become?

Robert Hinkle: Well what I remember the most is how poor we was. I remember one Christmas we had to whitewash a tumbleweed for our Christmas tree. I am not kidding we was from a poor family and I couldn’t hardly wait to get out of school. I was in the tenth grade and a guy from the recruiting office from the Air Force came down and told, and I said well I’ll go ahead and get me a diploma because none of my other family had had diplomas. So he said, “I can get you a diploma in four months.” And I said, “How do you do that?” And he said, “Well we’ve got correspondence courses (which is now a G.E.D deal). I said, “Do you guarantee it?” He said, “Yeah.” And about three weeks later I enlisted in the Air Force. And I did get the G.E.D about four or five months later, but I just remember growing up, I was born on a ranch out there and I was on a horse by the time I was three months old riding with my dad and my uncles. It was just a lot of fun and everything. That’s one of the reasons I liked working in the movies because you are kind of re-enacting all that stuff from when you were young.

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Bob Hinkle and James Dean on the set of “Giant.”

Tina Ayres: Is that how you first came to be interested in the rodeo?

Robert Hinkle: Oh yeah, every kid there. I’d have rather been the world champion cowboy than I’d had The President of the United States. That was my mentality and what I wanted to do so while I was in the service I still did a little rodeoing on weekends you know when there was a little rodeo around where I was stationed. And then when I got out of Air Force I started rodeoing and then doing construction work so I could afford to rodeo. I got discharged when I was up in the state of Washington and I stayed up there and I got married up there. I was in a rodeo, it was in Oregon and they were shooting a movie down there called Bronco Busters (1952) and I was one of the guys they picked to do stunts and stuff like that in the movie. And then when I got married and we moved to California in 52, the Fall of 52, and that is when I got started in the movies down there.

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Tina Ayres: When you worked on Giant, which of the actors would you say was the most endearing to work with? Which offered you the greatest challenge?

Robert Hinkle: Jimmy Dean was the best you know. Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Carroll Baker, and Rock Hudson all of them, they were just a delight to work with and I really never had any problem with any of them. Well, Elizabeth Taylor didn’t learn a Texas accent. He wanted her to keep that Eastern accent. She ended up being a good friend.

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Tina Ayres: What was James Dean like as a person? Do you think who he was as a person often gets overlooked in favor of celebrity image that has been created over the years?

Robert Hinkle: Well he wasn’t really a celebrity as such when he died. Because he died so young and he only had two movies out at the time. Actually he only had one movie out. He had East of Eden and then Rebel was released after that, and that is the movie that really kicked him upstairs until when Giant came out and then it was all over he was a top star then. But he never thought of himself as a star.

He was kind of shy and laid back. You know a very nice guy and he was kind of lonesome for Fairmount, Indiana. We just became real good buddies. He spent a lot of time over at our house, eating. He liked that home cooking of my wife’s. We spent about 7 and a half months, nearly every day together. I can’t even think of a day that we missed, on weekends and everything.

Mark Kinnaman: After the work on Giant away from the set did you ever see him again?

Robert Hinkle: I did every day and night while we were on Giant but we were still shooting Giant when he got killed. He told me one time when he first met me, he said, “ I heard you’ve been hired here by Warner Brothers to work with Rock Hudson, to teach him a Texas accent.” He said, “I’d like for you make a Texan out of me where I can be a Texan twenty-four hours a day.” That is what we really tried to do. Two or three times while we were down in Texas doing Giant I had people ask me, said, “What part of Texas is he from?” and I thought that was a compliment, because he talked like a Texan down there, he wore Levi’s and boots and a hat, and rolled his own cigarettes just like them old timers did and things like that. Everybody liked him. Everybody down there in Marfa, they just thought the world of him. The other stars were kind of standoffish a little bit like Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. Now Dennis Hopper this was really his first big picture and Carroll Baker hers, but Mercedes McCambridge she won an Oscar on it and she played Rock’s sister. She was isolated, kind of stayed by herself you know.

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With Patricia Neal on the set of “Hud” 1962.

Tina Ayres: As someone who has worked both behind the camera and in front of it did you prefer one more than the other? Why?

Robert Hinkle: Yeah, I really, I guess I had more fun when I was doing extra work and then when I was doing stunts. It was kind of fun when I started doing acting but I was a little scared you know because I’d never had any training, but I found out that I had a knack for doing stuff behind the camera. I was a little more creative there than I was becoming a Broadway actor so I really enjoyed that. And then when I made the transition in about 1960, 59 because I wrote and directed and produced a picture for Universal called Ole Rex, it was kind of a Disney type of picture, that is when I got the bug and from then on I directed and produced and wrote scripts. I did a little acting here and there the last thing I did was a Walker Texas Ranger in 1995, that is when I retired up in Dallas. That was the last thing I played a two parter in that called, The Reunion with Chuck Norris.

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Tina Ayres: Was it somewhat therapeutic to work with Mike Farris on your biography Call Me Lucky: A Texan in Hollywood?

Mark Kinnaman: Did it bring back a lot of memories?

Robert Hinkle:  Oh Man it really did and the thing about it was when I first met Mike, the way that came down we was living in Dallas I had retired from my Walker Texas Ranger and the Southern Methodist up there the library had a program every year where they’d bring in about eight or ten celebrities to set at a table. Each one of them had a table and then the people paid, I think fifty dollars a piece or something like this to come in and have dinner and sit with a celebrity and discuss different things. And my table was talking about the movies being made in Texas which I was connected with Hud (1963), with Paul Newman, with Brandon De Wilde, and Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas they both won Oscars on it and with Giant. So there was a lady she was a commentary on a t.v station there in Dallas and she was sitting at my table and we got to talking and she said her husband had a table over there himself and he was the guy that when Kennedy was shot he worked for the Dallas Morning News and he saw it right there. He was right on the sidewalk when it happened and he got into the car with the policemen that finally arrested the guy over in Oak Cliff. She said, “Oh my husband said he really wanted to sit at this table.” I said, “Man I’d love to sit at his table.” When it was over we all met and she said. “Why don’t you do a book?” And I said, “Well I don’t have the education and the whatever it takes you know to put a book together.” She said, “I’ve got a good friend let me call him and see if he’d work with you.” That is how she got a hold of Mike Farris and then Mike called me.

When I met with Mike I started to tell him some of these stories, he had a kind of funny look on his face. I know he thought now this is some bullshit. I didn’t have any credentials, no World Championship or this or that, All American this or that. So he got on the internet and he started looking up some of the stuff. Then he started coming up with pictures that I was in that I’d even forgotten about. He really got interested because he said, “Hell this guy is legit.” So I’d take and put a story down. I’d just tell a story, like, “July  25, 1946, I soloed and got my pilots license and then I went on in like that and I’d record it and then he’d take it and put it into book form and he knew the way to do it. How to go from one chapter to the next and write teasers for this and that and that is how we got started and the more I worked with Mike the better I liked it and I learned an awful lot working with him.

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Robert and Mike Farris at a “Call Me Lucky” book signing.

Mark Kinnaman: How long did you work with Marty Robbins?

Robert Hinkle: I met him in about 1957 and his manager died in 68 or whatever it is, it is in the book. I was friends with him all that time and then from 1968 til the time he died which was fourteen years I was his manager.

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With Marty Robbins & Sammy Jackson during a break while filming “Country Music.”

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

Robert Hinkle: Oh I guess just being honest and not getting tied up in dope and alcohol and stuff like that. And don’t get too carried away with yourself. Don’t believe all that publicity, because it will go to your head.

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With Larry Mahan at the Rodeo Cow Palace 1976.

Tina Ayres: What are your personal feelings on life, death and what comes after? 

Robert Hinkle: Well I don’t know. If I had it to live over I’d like to do it all even the bad in along with the good. It was so much fun for all those years. I just feel blessed. I’ve been married 66 years to the same woman and had three beautiful kids and family and friends. I’m a fifty-year mason, fifty-one year mason now. I’ve hundreds of friends. I don’t smoke. I never did smoke, or drink. I never took drugs. It’s clean living, being honest, and having your word as your bond. You don’t have to have a contract with me, a handshake will do it.

Tina Ayres: How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

Bob Hinkle: I just hope to be remembered, as somebody says, “What do you think of old Bobby Hinkle? “, “ Well he was a pretty good old boy.”

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With Evel Knievel at the Los Angeles Coliseum for a big jump 1978.

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

I’ll probably live another ten years. I am in real good shape. Just tell that young lady I appreciate her doing the story. Tell Pam Crawford I said hi, she is a good friend of mine and my wife.

 

(This interview was written by Tina Ayres and conducted by Mark Kinnaman. ~ Thank you Mark.)

An Interview with & the Art of Frederick Cooper

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Frederick Cooper has worked as a conceptual artist/illustrator from 2008-2018. He currently works freelance creating portraits in both traditional and digital illustration. His works heavily feature horror icons of the silver screen. More examples of his work can be found at his ArtStation site.

What is it like living in Hickory, NC? How does it feel to see the community taking more of an interest in the arts?

I’ve seen a lot of small businesses take to local artists and give a space for people to enjoy their work. I’m happy for them, it gives life to this small town and gets us to enjoy the community around us more. I usually cloister myself away to work but over the years I have seen the town become more interconnected thanks to all the events coming about across town. It’s nice.

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Where are you from originally? What are your most fond early memories?

I’d think it would be my brothers taking me to the movies in our hometown of Danville, Virginia. I was four years old or so but we still watched a lot of sci-fi and horror flicks. I’d say some of my fondest memories come from us doing that together.

Your work features a lot of the icons from the heyday of horror films. What is it about those particular pieces of work that led you to recreate their most iconic actors in your portraits?

That goes hand and hand with the last question. I have fond memories attached to those films.

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What were some of your earliest influences in that genre?

Universal monsters mostly, Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man etc. The older I got, the more diverse and eclectic my film-viewing became.

What quality do you think the earlier horror films had that seem to be lacking in the genre today?

Atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be gothic horror like Dracula or Crimson Peak but I see a strong focus today on cheap writing: Jump scares and strong violence. Now there is nothing wrong with those strategies in film but much of early horror was bereft of it and managed to have greater impact. This was because of the atmosphere they set.

I remember reading before about the difference between terror and horror. Terror is the dread of the terrible experience and horror is the revulsion that follows the experience. I think what would be best for the horror genre today, and what would give it more staying power with people, would be less of a focus on horror and more of a focus on terror. I’m sure I’m not the first to say that though.

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When did you first know that you wanted to become an artist yourself? Who are some of your influences in the art world?

Since I was very small – around the same time I began watching those movies. My brother, Curtis taught me a few things about composition and rendering and I haven’t stopped since. My biggest inspirations would likely be Frank Frazetta, Basil Gogos, and Bernie Wrightson. I had the pleasure to meet all three actually, which fulfilled a childhood dream of mine. Outside the genre, my influences included N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker and of course Norman Rockwell. There’s just so many influences though. That’s just a few.

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Why do you think art has been a sort of comfort throughout the ages?

I’d say there is a human need for beautiful things in your life. That’s true for anyone. That might sound strange coming from someone doing primarily horror but what art does is take parts of life and make it captivating so I think it still holds firm.

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Why do you prefer to work in portraits? What is it about the human form that makes it so well suited for such things?

I’d like to get to drawing scenes as well, actually, but portraits are fine means of capturing the spirit of a scene or of a character efficiently. I’ve done only a handful of scenes in the past months and they’ve taken considerably longer. That’s hard on you when you want to draw more.

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What do you look for when deciding what subject you will use in a portrait?

It’s just a feeling. Mainly, I’m doing what I like to see in a portrait. It has to say something about the subject.

Do you have any particular pieces of work that you enjoyed creating more than others?

Not exactly. I enjoy the craft and so the subject matter doesn’t influence me much. The working conditions is what can be make or break on whether the quality of the work is good and whether I enjoy myself though.

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How do traditional illustration and digital illustration differ most? Do you enjoy one more than the other?

Both are very enjoyable once the creation begins. There’s nothing like the feeling of traditional art however. I like being hands on.

What are some the challenges an artist faces when working freelance?

Keeping your calendar filled with projects.

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What do you love most about the art of creation?

The process of creating something that didn’t exist. It’s just a joy in itself.

What do you hope the viewer takes away from your various works?

Well first I hope they like them. But moreover I want them to have a greater appreciation for the characters and movies I draw from and inspirations that influenced me and shine through in my style.

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What projects are you looking forward to working on next?

Well I recently got back to painting for the first time in over twenty years. I’m looking forward to exploring that a lot more.

What do you think it takes to be a success as an artist, money aside?

Dedication. I think it was Bob Ross that said that a talent is a pursued interest. You need to be able to not just produce works but dedicate yourself in improving your form.

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

Family and happiness.

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

I’d just like to thank everyone for reading this interview and a special thanks to you Tina for your support and patronage. It means so very much.

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An Interview with Daniel Knauf

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Daniel Knauf is best known for his work on such television series as Carnivale, Supernatural, Fear Itself, The Phantom, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Dracula, and The Blacklist as well as the comic Iron Man. Most recently he set out to bring the world a glimpse at his more poetic side with a collection of poems coming straight from the soul that speaks of both hope and angst while mixing grit and glamour as few can. The collection called NoHo Gloaming & the Curious Coda of Anthony Santos, slated for release October 30, 2018, is now available for preorder direct from Clash Books (where the first direct 200 preorders come autographed), as well as on Amazon. I recently set down with Daniel to find out what inspired him to bring this collection to life.

Have you always enjoyed poetry? Who were some of your influences in that particular genre?

When I started out writing in college I was an art major. My early work was naturally very visual, instinctive, impatient and undisciplined, so I was drawn to the form of free verse poetry. I liked the fact that I could create a finished work in one sitting, like a drawing. Poetry was like a gateway drug that led me into longer forms. It didn’t take me long to realize that “short” did not equal “easy.” Unless one has no standards whatsoever and is content vomiting random, half-formed lines absent serious intent or any degree of complexity, one learns that the shorter a form, the more unforgiving it is.

The truth is, far more people can write a good novel than a good screenplay, and almost none at all can write a good poem. And there are maybe 3 writers alive on the planet at any given time that can pull off a terrific haiku.

My early writing influences varied depending on what form in which I was working. Different influences for prose or screenwriting. For poetry, Charles Bukowski primarily, followed by the West Coast/Beyond Baroque crowd–Ron Koertge, Gerald Locklin, Dennis Cooper, John Doe—as well as Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, the English Romantics—Keats and Shelley. And Dante.

What was the very first poem you ever wrote?

I really can’t recall. Probably something when I was a child for my Mom or something. I was brought up in a California suburb, not on some windswept Scottish heath, so poetry took a back seat to Gilligan’s Island and riding our Stingrays. Seriously, the earliest poem I memorized starts with “Milk, milk, lemonade.”

But I do remember my Dad got a real kick out of reading us limericks and humorous poems. He really loved the Gentle Jane Experiences, these super-dark, martini-dry short poems written by Carolyn Wells. Things like, “In the big steamroller’s path/Gentle Jane expressed her wrath/It passed over, after that/Gentle Jane felt rather flat.” Plus, later, there were song lyrics. Those would have to be my first real introduction to verse.

What led to your writing poetry at this particular stage in your life?

Part of it was a personal transition, a way of sorting out chaos I was experiencing at that point in my life—a lot of confusion, pain and terrible, deep loss. Plus I was balancing multiple projects, and I found composing poetry an effective way to clear my mind between going back and forth between projects—a creative rinse between cycles, so to speak. I found real joy in the rigor and discipline of it, and it allowed me to work some unfamiliar muscles. In television—especially when you’re writing someone else’s show, as I was on The Blacklist—you long to create something that’s yours alone; something that just bears one set of fingerprints.

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What do you love most about the act of writing?

Starting with nothing, and finishing with something. It’s like a conjuring trick, but real. Like, “Fuck me! I made that!”

How did spilling your soul out in words in such a manner affect your outlook at the time?

It clarified things. I was able to externalize some heavy, sometimes humiliating, often devastating experiences and gain some objective wisdom rather than being dazed and punch-drunk by it. Most of all, it decisively refuted what was my biggest fear.

I’d gone through almost a decade during which the only way I could survive was by emotionally shutting down. It was a state of self-imposed anesthesia; I simply couldn’t bear the abuse to which I was being subjected. Once I was clear of it, it was hard to open up and feel again. Keep in mind, one of the most important tools a dramatist has is empathy—the ability to discern and extrapolate emotion. And if you’re numb inside, you’re done. You’ve got zero ammunition.

Those years when I wrote NoHo Gloaming was a time when I started actually feeling again—great surges of completely unexpected pain and passion. Even when it was negative or toxic, it was still so exhilarating. Life-affirming. I got drunk with it. I was like, “Yeah, bring it on! Make me hurt! Make my heart soar! Love me! Hate me! Rip me to shreds! Fuck you! I’m ALIVE, motherfucker!”

What led you to decide to put all of the various pieces together in the form of a book?

That wasn’t my idea, smartass. That was you all the way! I was just catching fireflies, putting them in jars, and floating them down my Facebook stream. You’re the one who collected them. Which was nice because, once I posted enough of them, people started asking, “When are you going to put out a book?” And I’d think, “What book?” Then you sent me all my poems in one file and said,“This book, dope!”

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Can you tell our readers a little about what this collection contains in its pages?

A lot of giddy-ass shit. An alternate title could be The Portrait of the Artist Standing in the Town Square With His Pants Down. Moments. Loss. Redemption. Stupidity. Wisdom. Epiphanies and regrets. Joy. All that stuff.

Are you excited to see how the world reacts to such a thing? What do you hope the reader takes away from this particular body of work?

It’s deeply personal, but I hope others connect with it, see themselves reflected in it.

In drama, the gold standard is to inspire the ecstasy of recognition; that is, the moment when the artist renders a moment in a very specific, unprecedented way and the audience goes,“Holy shit! I thought I was the only one who ever felt that way! I thought I was all alone in that!”But you’re not, because the writer wrote it, and the actor acted it, and the director directed it, and the crew shot it, and the entire audience is empathizing with it, comprehending it. And you feel this exultation because you thought you were all alone, but you aren’t. There’s a whole fucking army of you!

It’s hard to do. If you can pull off one scene like that in a movie or episode, people are thrilled. If you can do it twice, you win awards. If you can do it more than that, you’re fucking Shakespeare.

Do you ever get nervous about exposing so much of your self to the world through your words?

Not really. That’s why people who make art are called “public figures.” It’s part of the job description.

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I understand one of your poems was for your mother Dorothy. Can you tell us a little about her? What do you love about her most? What would you say is the most important thing she taught you?

My mom had no governor on her impulse to tell the truth—at least the way she saw the truth in that particular moment. It could be feckless and charming or cruel and thoughtless. My Dad used to tell her, “Jeez, Dorothy! Make sure your brain is engaged before your mouth is in gear!” Nevertheless, she’s still a cipher to me. I knew her as a Mom, but never as a woman—and certainly never as a girl. I regret not having more conversations with her grownup-to-grownup. I really regret only half-listening to her when she did reminisce. It was like, “Yeah, Mom. Right. Whatever…”

We’ll have a lot of catching up to do on the other side.

The best thing I think she taught me was to just be who I am.

Is there any one poem in this collection that is more deeply personal to you than all the rest?

They’re all pretty personal. My favorite is Perfection, because it’s about the person I love most in the world. My first and last great love.

Do you think you there might be second collection in years to come?

Probably, at some point. I love this book more than anything else I’ve ever done.

What projects are you currently working on?

I really can’t talk about active projects, especially since they’re based on intellectual property that doesn’t belong to me. Suffice it to say, they’re all fairly high-profile and awesome as all get out. As for projects I’ve developed over the years, they can all be found on the web at https//Knauf.TV/

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

Only a note to all those folks who avoid poetry like I avoid mimes.

There’s poetry-poetry and there’s the poetry I write, which is something else—much more approachable and relatable, I think. And perfect to keep in the bathroom in reach of the toilet. Seriously. Buy a separate copy for every bathroom in your house! Each poem has been engineered to take no longer to read than it does to evacuate your bowels. It’s all clinically tested and proven and very scientific, I swear! Except The Curious Coda of Anthony Santos. Save that one for when you’re severely impacted because that one’s an epic and it takes a while.

Oh, that. And I love you all.

 

An Interview with Leslie Jordan

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Leslie Jordan has worked on countless television series and films over the course of his career. Appearing on Sordid Lives, American Horror Story, Supernatural, Murphy Brown, Lois & Clark, Hearts Afire, Will & Grace, The Help, Jason Goes to Hell, to name just a few, he has worked in various genres across the board. As a writer he has created the scripts for the plays Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel and Rockabilly Baby, as well as Leslie Jordan: My Trip Down the Pink Carpet and Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far. He can currently be found on the FOX sitcom The Cool Kids alongside Vicki Lawrence, David Alan Grier, and Martin Mull.

Are you enjoying working on The Cool Kids? How is that going so far?

The show has been a blast from day one.We premiered Friday night (September 28, 2018) and got really good ratings. So it looks like we will be around for while. A journalist pointed out to me that this was my first series regular role since Hearts Afire went off the air in 1993. So that is 25 years! I have done really well with re-occurring roles, guest roles and movie parts but there is nothing like having a job with some security.

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What is it like to work alongside Vicki Lawrence, David Alan Grier and Martin Mull?

When I was in acting class, the first thing they taught us was that acting is not “acting” but “reacting to what we were given”. I have the deep honor of “reacting” to three of the best comedians working today. It is like verbal ping-pong. And we all genuinely get along.

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Do you have any interesting stories from the set you might be a liberty to share with our readers?

Our time on the set is like a party. Vicki told me that Carol Burnett used to call it “playing in the sandbox.” Martin and David are having a “bromance”. They sit and talk incessantly. It’s all about sports and music. Vicki and I sit together and talk about the sales at Neiman Marcus!

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Leslie with the cast and creator of Sordid Lives at the premiere of A Very Sordid Wedding

Are there any characters you have had the chance to bring to life that you hold more dear than the others?

Just about every character I have played is dear to me. Favorites are Brother Boy from the cult movie Sordid Lives and Beverley Leslie from Will and Grace. But Sid from The Cool Kids is the easiest character because it seems he is the closest to me in real life. Coming from an extremely homophobic background in the church and all, to be able at 63 years of age to play a gay man, who is perfectly comfortable with who he is and what he is, is a real joy.

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You have also worked as a writer, how does that differ most from the work you do on screen? What do you enjoy most about having the chance to create your own worlds and characters in such a way?

The life of a writer can get a bit lonesome. But when given the chance, I love to write. I have been journaling since I was 17 years old. I write every day religiously. I have found that when I write, when I put pen to paper, the scary monsters under the bed stop their low moan. It is very therapeutic. And to be able to stand on stage and relate my stories releases me from the demons of my past and childhood.

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How do you think you have changed most since your early days both as an actor and as an individual?

I am much more comfortable with myself. I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with over 20 years clean and sober. When I got sober all those years ago, I was still riddled with internal homophobia. I had just medicated for so long I didn’t realize it. The last 20 years have been a journey not only into my sobriety but into my queerdom. I am at the top of my game and in the prime of my life RIGHT NOW at 63 years of age.

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Do you think the world in general as it is these days could use a little more laughter?

Our hope on The Cool Kids is to give folks a break. Laughter is so healing. And with all that is going on in this hectic world of ours I think people will love just putting their feet up and having a belly laugh.

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

I think the key lies in proper diet, sleep and exercise. You have to work on the inside as well. But most importantly, is to be of loving service to your fellow man. You have to be “of service.” I tell the kids that I help as recovering addicts,” Go volunteer. Work at a hospice. Try telling those folks how dismal your life is! It will put your problems in proper perspective.”

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What projects are you looking forward to pursuing next?

I am giving The Cool Kids my 100% attention right now. Martin Mull said something so profound the other day. He said, “In most jobs after being there for years, you get a gold watch. I think The Cool Kids is OUR GOLD WATCH.” So I plan to enjoy the ride. I think people think that in the entertainment business the “bigger” you get, the “bigger” your life becomes.  I have found it to be the opposite.  As I have gotten more successful, my life has gotten “smaller.”  And I do not say that in a bad way.  I am going to try to slow down, smell the flowers and enjoy the success of this show.

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

Please tune in to FOX every Friday night at 8:30 p.m.(eastern) and see us in action. “A GOOD TIME WILL BE HAD BY ALL.”

Love.  Light.  Leslie

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