For Adeline Nall an Interview with her Son David

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On August 6, 1906 Anna Adeline Mart was born in Grant County , Indiana in the town of Marion to Nina Shugart and John Mart. She later became known as Adeline Nall, the speech and drama teacher at the Fairmount High School, Fairmount, Indiana who helped inspire James Dean to pursue his dreams and encourage countless others, including cartoonist Jim Davis to do the same. With her passing on November 16, 1996 the world lost one of most inspirational teachers of our time. It is with great pleasure and deep gratitude that I bring you the following in her memory from her son, David Nall.

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Did your mother ever talk much about her parents? What were they like as people?

Actually Mom and I lived with her mother, my Grandmother, Nancy Shugart Mart Mills from the age of 4 in 1937 until she, ultimately, went into a retirement community following her leaving teaching. (I called her “Grand Nina” because she was the “Grand – – what-ever” for the Knights of  Pythias Women’s Auxiliary (to learn more go to www.pythias.org) for the State of Indiana.)

An important part of mom’s early history was the fact that her father, John Mart, was a conductor on the Interurban, a passenger train that went from one small city to another in Indiana. Tragically, he was killed. I believe, at the age of 29 when attempting to get a drunken passenger off the train. This was when Mom was still a teenager. Grand Nina, who inherited the farm, re-married Edward Mills, Mom’s Step-father. She, however, was Adeline Mart. Grandpa Ed was hospitalized in the early ‘40s I believe, and I never saw him again.(I believe there was a serious mental problem.)

Mom and Dad divorced, in ’37 and she and I traveled by train to Marion and we moved in with Grand Nina.  At that time, in addition to Grand Nina and Grandpa Ed, there was a second  gentleman, Bill Hunter,  that lived there. I really don’t know why but he was there until his death, probably in the late ‘30s. Thus, as you can see, it was just the three of us until I left for collage. As you might suspect, this being during the depression, we were quite poor. The farm was only 36 acres so there really wasn’t very much income that came from it, Interestingly enough, I never thought that we were, actually, “poor”. I suspect that was because we were able to grow most of the vegetables that we ate.

Mom, originally, got a job as a reporter at the Marion Chronicle Tribune where she did quite well but her real love was teaching. Although I believe she taught, briefly, at a grade school in Marion she ultimately became a member of the teaching staff at Fairmount HS.

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Did she ever tell you much about her childhood? What was she like as a child? 

I really don’t know too much about her childhood, however, I know that she was a very bright student and extremely active in high school. She was Winner of the County Declamatory Contest ’21-’22, President Dramatic Club ’24,Year Book Staff ’24, HS School Chorus ’23-’24, Latin Club, in the Senior Play, Ukulele Club ’23. She was, also known as “The Most Popular Girl in School!” Unfortunately I don’t have anything about her collage activities, however, she did have a Masters Degree in, I assume, Speech.

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What was her life like during the time you came along? How did she come to find herself in Chicago? What led her back to Indiana?

My parents both graduated from Marion High School at the same time.  Dad’s name was Darl Otto Nall. I’m not sure when they were married and/or where both went to college but they ended up in Chicago where I was born in ’33.  It may have been because Dad graduated, I think, from the Univ. of Chicago and found work as a Social Worker for the Chicago Commons, a “Settlement  House” where we lived.  Mother got a job as a school teacher.  Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the marriage didn’t work out.

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Adeline & David Nall

What was she like as a mother?

My Mother was, literally, the most wonderful mother this world has ever known! Period! She was desperately concerned about my growing up without a “Father Figure” in my life! Living on a farm there were no men constantly around on a daily basis. (Grandpa Ed was, frankly, of NO help in that area!) Mom even re-married in hopes of “finding” a father for me. The marriage was a disaster and lasted a very short time.

Mom learned about the Cub and Boy Scouts of America organizations and quickly, at her urgency, I became a member. Why is this so important, you may ask? Well, remember, we lived on a farm which was at least 8 miles, away, from where my Cub Pack and later Boy Scout Troop met weekly. Yet, every week, 52 times a year, until I was able to drive, my Mother drove me to the weekly meetings, dropped me off and then, did something – – I have no idea what – -for the next 2 to 3 hours until the meeting was over at which time she picked me up and we drove another 8 miles back out to the farm so that I could have the “influence” of a male Cub Master and Boy Scout Leader. This is just one example.

Here is another. In High School I “tried out” and – – almost immediately – – was eliminated from the basketball team.  However, my Coach, realizing my disappointment, asked (I didn’t know the first part of this until much later) Mom and then me, if I would like a position as a “Student Manager” (This is the guy who, goes to every game – at home or away – hands out water and towels to the team during practice and the game and washes the uniforms, “jock straps” towels, et al)  She, apparently, was absolutely delighted (I learned after graduation) and thanked Coach Weaver very much for offering me the position!  The result was that, after her daily job of teaching she had to stick around school every night while the team practiced and/or played a game – in Fairmount or away – every night !  Unbelievable!  These are but two of the dozens of examples of her amazing role as both Mother and “Father”.  As I have said many times, My Mother and Wabash Collage are the two reasons of my success in life as an adult!

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What was it like growing up at the farmhouse? Can you tell us a little about that?

Well, lonely I guess!  Although I had a number of friends in Church and School, the nearest one lived about a mile and a half away from our farm.  I would see my “Best Friend” (to this day) only Sundays at Church. However, early in my life, I began to work on the farm driving tractors and trucks (I learned to drive at the age of 7) so was quite active physically.

Since both Mom and Grand Nina were members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – WCTU (Grand Nina was Indiana State President at the time for a couple of years) I was strongly encouraged by Mom to begin entering the numerous teenager WCTU sponsored local and state public speaking contests and I, as the result with Mom’s brilliant speech training, was able to win a number of times during my time on the farm – again Mom driving me to ALL.

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

Honesty — Integrity — Hard Work — Study Hard — Never Give Up — and all the other vital things that one learns from a Good Mother.  However, I think the most important thing that she taught me, and this began at an early age when I began to speak at the WMCA Loyal Temperance League (LTL) competitions, was the “Art” if you will, of Public Speaking.  There are many elements to that which is why I use the term “Art”  First, I remember her telling me that whenever I was talking to, literally, more than one person, I should always remember that I was speaking to an “audience.”  This encompasses speaking clearly with inflection, correct and precise enunciation, proper gestures when applicable, et al.  This was even more emphasized when I was a member of her class in High School.  I remember her taking me into to the auditorium and pointing to the last seat in the very last row at the back right side.  “That, David is your most important listener!” she said.  “Make sure that he or she can hear every word you say with or without a mike!”  She also emphasized the use of gestures and facial expressions.  It was much more than simply telling a crowd something.  It was, truly, an art and required a LOT of practice, practice, practice. She was an excellent teacher!  As mentioned above, I credit her, and the head of the Speech Dept. at Wabash College, with any success that I have had during my  Career!

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What led her to pursue a career as a teacher?

While I don’t know for sure, I suspect it was something that she always wanted to do. Although, as mentioned above she, briefly, worked as a reporter in Marion at the news paper, I believe her first job in Chicago was teaching.  Mom was quite intelligent and she had a distinct desire to provide information to others to assist them in their life.  As you may know, not only did she teach Speech and Drama, – – Yes, the Director of a play is ‘teaching” the actors various ideas and concepts so that they can use the “teaching” to portray the character they are playing – –  she also taught French, and Spanish.  During the summers at our farm, when immigrant Mexicans were working in our fields I remember her going to their camp sites in the evenings to spend time with them perfecting her Spanish – – every evening for a couple of hours!  (As an aside  she, Dr Brigance, my speech Prof at Wabash, and a third Prof. from Indiana Univ. I believe, were selected by the State of Indiana Educational Department to design the Speech Curriculum for all Indiana High Schools.)

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What qualities did she possess that made her so good at that?

As mentioned above, intelligence and a great desire to inform and provide “talent” and her ability to work with teenagers.

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You once told me you and James Dean got the chance to play “money changers” in the Easter Pageant over in Marion. What do you remember about that most clearly? Adeline was also often a part of those. What was it about those that she enjoyed most do you think?

You received a picture of Mom in her Easter Pageant costume in the packet I sent.  This was an annual event in Marion, IN when I was growing up.  I remember that it was presented at the very large Marion Gymnasium with a cast and chorus of, I believe, 300 to 400 folks from many churches around town.  Because of her acting ability and her beauty (she was quite attractive) she was cast many times in the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.  The show covered the entire basket ball floor which had a stage at one end where specific scenes – – The Last Supper – -A Temple etc – -., were set.  Every year, Grand Nina, Mom and I were in the show.  During HS Mom suggested that Jim sign up to be one of the members of the cast and we were both selected to portray “Money Changers”. As you know in the Bible the Money Changers were not all that honest in their work and Jesus “Cast them out of the Temple” Jim and I portrayed two of those that were chased out by him..

I think you are aware of Mom’s heavy involvement in the Marion community theater activity.  She both starred in and directed a great number of shows during her entire life – both before and after the short time she went to New York at Jim’s urging.  The Easter Pageant was just another theatrical activity in which she participated.  Theater was her Great Love!

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She seems to have inspired countless people from an early age on to pursue their dreams. What were her thoughts on that?

My Mother had a great talent with the “Art Of inspiration.”  She seemed to be able to identify individuals with almost hidden talents but who were not quite sure how, exactly, to develop those talents into a career, or a life experience, et al.  Once she noticed that element in a person, with a little probing, she seemed to be able to, gently, but firmly, nudge them along the right path.  At my age now, I can’t give you specifics but I can well remember her spending times over the dinner table when she spoke of this or that individual and what she was going to do to “push them along” the following day…

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What was it like during the time James Dean convinced her to go to New York to pursue her own? Was she nervous about the whole thing?

Unfortunately, I can’t give you much help on this since I was away at Wabash Collage from 1951 to 1955 and, during the summer, I was employed at our Boy Scout camp as their Program Director.  However, I really don’t think that she was “nervous” about going.  I do know that he was extremely influential in getting her to go and introduced her to his Agent and many other  contacts there.  As you may know, Jim had a brief but STRONG short career in NYC.  He was in plays on Broadway. He stared in The Immoralist and appeared on T.V before he went to Hollywood.  As such, his untimely death really hit her hard and she just lost interest in it.  However, as I may have mentioned, when I asked her why she returned she told me that she came to realize that she was a much better Director then she was an actress. As you know she was immediately rehired by Fairmount HS.

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What was she like on stage performing?

I did see Mom in a few of the many local productions she was in and directed, however it has been so long ago that I can’t remember any of their names. Having said that, however, I can remember that she was simply spectacular and received many, many accolades for both her performance and her directing talents. As mentioned in previous questions, Mom was very attractive in her younger years and did a great deal of acting from High School on.

How did she react to learning of Dean’s death? Was that a particularly hard time for her do you think? How did his passing affect you at the time?

When Jim was killed I was in the Army either in Basic Training or in MD or San Francisco, CA.  I simply don’t know what her reaction to Jim’s death was when she first learned of it.  She must have been in New York and I would suspect, as mentioned, that it hit her very hard.  I do think that (as I believe I mentioned) it may have really taken the heart out of her activities in New York and probably did cause her, at least partly, to return home.  As far as how did it affect me … quite frankly, while I was shocked and sorry to hear it, I was, obviously unable to attend the funeral because of the military, et al. Actually, I had the same feeling that I would have had if ANY of my High School buddies had suddenly been killed in  an automobile accident.

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Was she excited when she became a grandmother?

As you might expect, being a remarkable Mother she was, equally, a fantastic Grandmother as well. Unfortunately, since my wife(s) and I never lived near Marion (We lived in Chicago, California and Hartford, CT.) she was not really “around” if you will. Nevertheless, she never missed a birthday or Christmas with a card and/or a phone call, and we did spend a great deal of time visiting both she and Grand Nina down at the farm where she was with them constantly. They each, in turn, dearly loved their Grandmother.

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Martin Sheen visiting Adeline.

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

As I mentioned previously above, her advice was to live a Christian life, and live according to the “Law” of the Boy Scouts of America, “Be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent!”

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What was her personal approach to aging? What do you think we could all learn on aging gracefully from her?

This is an interesting question. As you know, once I graduated from collage I really left home. So individual “statements” weren’t available. However, looking back on her life I feel that she was “in control” very much of the entire period of her life from birth to her death at the age of 90 in 1996. I was with her at her death … well almost. I had arrived in Marion and was with her for quite a while that afternoon but had gone over to my motel room when I got a call that she had passed. Fortunately, we were able to spend quite a bit of “quality time” together earlier. She never lost one bit of her mental capacity to the very end. Although there were, obvious, physical difficulties, she had visitors, almost every day of retirement from Dean fans and other friends from, literally, everywhere. It was amazing! She spent time with each one of them! Young , old, it didn’t matter. She was pleasant, talkative, kind and gentle with never a word of “I’m busy now.” She was truly, an unbelievable and lovely person to the very end. While she, obviously, knew she was aging, it had NO effect on her approach to people.  I knew, and saw this throughout her entire life.  Hopefully, I am continuing down that same path!

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What were her personal thoughts on death and dying and what hopefully comes after?

Mom was a devout Christian! I’m sure that she spoke with her Father in Heaven every day of her life! Because of this she had absolutely no fear of dying and knew, without question that it was just another phase of Eternal Life … whether that started immediately or after the second Resurrection of Christ.

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What do you miss about her the most?

Her warmth, constant Motherly love, incredible ongoing training and teaching abilities long after her “formal teaching” was over and her wonderful and outspoken pride in my lifetime accomplishments.

What do you think she would have thought about how she is remembered today?

I think she would be very, very (and TOTALLY justified in being)… Proud.

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An Interview with Dan Baird

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Formed by Dan Baird of The Georgia Satellites and solo artist who brought the world the album Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired, Dan Baird & Homemade Sin offer up authentic classic rock sounds in a way seldom seen in today’s music industry. The newest album Screamer is slated for release October 10, 2018 and can be preordered now at https://www.jcplmusic.com/shop-home/.

What was it like growing up in Georgia when you did? How do you think your early days helped shape you into the man you are today?

Well, I never thought about it while it was happening, or really since, as everybody has to grow up somewhere. I was born at the end of 1953, so I’m sure I wasn’t too much different than anybody else.I grew up in Sandy Springs which wasn’t as wealthy as it would become. Pre 285 it was the sticks I guess. It’s all I knew. Our past cannot help but shape us, for good and ill. I’m not so circumspect as to divine what individual things helped me in becoming myself. It just happened all by itself.

What are some of your most fond memories of that time? Do you consider yourself lucky to have been exposed to such a vast array of musical stylings via your mother?

There were a few people that I still stay in contact with, they’re the best of what went down. My mom’s taste in music really was pretty great. Still can’t get up with Mel Tormé, but much of what she tried to get me to listen to was really excellent. Ray Charles was instant, Merle was 5 years later, Sinatra another 10.

What was it like working your way from Georgia to playing worldwide? Do you think persistence and hard work are a must in your line of work?

I thought I was ready well before I was actually ready. We all do. What sprung us to playing around the world was a mix of dedication to what we liked, the desire to be as good as we could be on our instruments, both amateurs and professionals that took an active interest in us succeeding and then pure luck. Luck cannot be overrated.

No one is ever ready for the jump. There’s a whole set of problems you can’t find the answers to without the trial and error method. The errors kinda sting. The correct solutions you get right aren’t necessarily applicable to other situations. I’ve kinda learned to trust my intuition and not be upset when that wasn’t the correct path.

You once said in regards to working in the studio versus touring that, “I like both. They are different. I like different. One is makin’ movies. One is doing a play. If you’re an actor you should like to do both.” Do you enjoy the fact that music can allow one to put on a persona that lets them step outside of who they are in their everyday lives for the time they are working on their craft?

That’s an interesting way of looking at performance.

Personally, I enjoy people giving me a piece of themselves, as I try to do when I’m up there. Find the heart of the song and bring it to the front. On nights that isn’t available, just try to remember the lyric, hit pitch and keep time. That’s for live stuff. For studio, you’d best do it until you mean it.

So I don’t rely on the “outside persona” to do a show. I just keep fighting to bring “it” to the front. That’s why I don’t use a set list. “I feel like having fun” “I could really sink my teeth into a sad song” “ooh, ooh, that one!”

I don’t care for most “pro” music with the set list. I don’t feel like there’s money on the table.

I don’t know how actors do it.

 Speaking of actors were there any that left an impression on you early on that may have helped you do what you spoke of above? What do you think are some of the traits shared by musicians and actors?

I do remember seeing Robert Mitchum early on, thinking “that’s what a badass looks like”. Thunder Road, I think. The whole idea involved in performance was summed up well by Alfred Hitchcock; getting your audience to suspend disbelief. I’m not good enough to fake it, so I try to make sure I immerse myself in the moment I wrote something, what it means now, or if it’s a cover, why it means something to me. You get the idea that I hate just connecting dots. Boring on stage is plain ugly in the audience.

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Your music has always had a sort of authentic and sincere feel to it, as opposed to the music you find on the mainstream charts at this time, what do you attribute that to? How is that accomplished?

You go ahead and combine these questions to make them fit. I honestly didn’t read ahead. Ha!

Mainstream was never what I listened to. I completely gave up 25 years ago. It’s music for young folks. Always has been. Pop music usually isn’t even interesting. That said, I love The Monkees and ABBA. Go figure.

How has the music industry changed most since you started your career in it?

Completely.

Record sales used to be a real thing.

Can you tell us a little about Homemade Sin and the members of it? What do you enjoy most about working with this particular bunch of fellows?

We became Homemade Sin when Warner joined, sometime around 2007.

Mauro Magellan and I took about a 10 year break. Long story, way too long. He’d been with me since Sats days. He came back in sometime in 2005 or so.

Sean Savacool joined last year.

Warner is a founding member of Jason and the Scorchers, and still is as far as I know. He was a true shot of adrenaline when he came on board. Always looking for a new way to say something on the guitar. He takes care of me being a crappy showman. Sargent Rock with a Les Paul on.

Mauro is the guy. He hasn’t been dependable 2 or 3 nights out of 35 years. It was always equipment failure. We know each other all too well.

I usually start the songs then turn quickly to him and ask for a tempo adjustment. All my fault, but I’ll deliver the tune better. He nudges it for me.

Sean, is the new guy, he is YOUNG. 33. He can play for a young’n. Promise ya that. Someone will poach him. He’s that good.

 What can fans expect from the new album Screamer? Are there any tracks on it that are more dear to you than others?

Part 2 First. Of course there are. Of course I won’t tell. Do you like one kid more than the other? Yes, and you’re not telling either. Not quite as riff oriented as Rollercoaster. A few more strummy and funny songs.

You also once said “Soul is better than talent.” Do you find that to be true in all aspects of life?

Not all.

See, you have to have a certain amount of talent to even be able to really try to do somethings. Hit a baseball, comprehend a contract, do calculus, bake. The list goes on. But you can always tell when that someone is doing it with soul. When that’s part of the equation, it jumps out at you.

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

Not D minor. (Spinal Tap joke)

Combo of intuition and courage. Figure out what your spirit needs, have the guts to answer the bell when it’s time.

How do you hope to be remembered when your time is up?

I hope I achieve rock and roller status. That’s not a little thing.

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An Interview with Jeff Carlson

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Potomac Records newest artist The Jeff Carlson Band recently released their newest single, the power ballad Never Be Another You. Deeply influenced by the so-called glam and hair metal bands of the 1980’s the band likes to deliver up power ballads in the same tradition.

Can you tell us a little about what first peaked your interest in music?

What peaked my first initial interest in music was my mother took me to see Kiss in 1975, as well as Black Oak Arkansas-and I got to meet Jim Dandy Mangrum- the singer. He was the guy that David Lee Roth took everything from as far as looks and stage moves go. That made a HUGE impact on me as a kid! Kiss made a HUGE impact on me as well…they were just the coolest!

Who were some of your influences?

My influences…let’s see…as a kid, like I just stated, definitely Kiss and Black Oak Arkansas, but the older I got, I really got into Elvis Presley. He started it all, and when I went to see his house in Memphis in 1984, it made a HUGE impact on me as far as influences go, for if it was not for him, I’m not sure we would’ve had Kiss, Black Oak Arkansas or anybody else, because Elvis was the world’s first rock star! I then went to see and met Bon-Jovi around 1985, when they opened for Ratt, and that made a huge impact on me as well! After that I was hooked on Bon-Jovi. Not so much anymore, because I won’t see them without Richie Sambora, but back then- they were cool as hell!

How have your own musical tastes evolved over time?

Well, my musical tastes hopefully have gotten more refined, and I’d like to think that you can never stop learning, no matter how old you are! My pitch has definitely gotten better, but that’s from years of doing it, and working with a really great producer, such as Brett Hansen!

When did you first realize you wanted make music your profession?

 I first realized I wanted to make my living as a musician at the age of 14!

As someone who likes to deliver up power ballads do you miss the days when they were the mainstream norm? Do you think that will ever happen again?

I do miss the days when Power Ballads were the norm…as far as them ever coming back, I don’t think we’ll ever see an age like it was in 1987, but on saying that I would love to be on a major playlist on FM radio! Hopefully that’ll happen! I’ve been very fortunate to have Mike Bailey believe in me and what I’m doing, so hopefully eventually something big will happen. I’m the kind of guy who really tries to look at the glass as half full, as opposed to half empty!

What do you think it is about power ballads that make them so endearing and appealing?

I think that on a Power Ballad, it has to have feeling in not only the lyrics, but in the vibe of the vocals, and the music has to complement the vocal lines. People can relate to the words- especially, so once all of those components are done correctly, it really is felt by the audience.

What are your thoughts on the music industry as it is at this time?

I think that the music industry is very clicky as far as the big labels go…I mean it doesn’t seem that they’ll sign you if you’ve not already sold 100,000 copies of your music out of the trunk of your car! They don’t want to take any chances on talent, they just look for this weeks Adam Levine, or Justin Beiber to sign you. Personally, I’m not a fan of today’s scene…but, if you want to get anywhere, then you have to tour, so I’m all for touring, but the problem with that is, that unless you either buy your way on a tour, or are in tight with either the promoter of the show, or the headliner, that seems to be the only way you can get on a bigger show.

What do you hope your listeners take away from your work?

I really hope that the listener takes away the feeling of the song, because it’s all about the vibe of the song to me…I’m a huge fan of the big vocal sounds of Steve Perry, and just 70’s and 80’s arena rock in general, so if they can relate to that kind of vibe-(that’s what I’m striving for) then that’s cool with me!

How do like working over at Potomac Records so far ?

I am very lucky to have Mike Bailey and his staff help me thus far, we’ve only released our first song Never Be Another You so far, but I am very happy to be with Potomac!

What have you learned from that experience?

What have I learned…well, honestly, it really is a building experience to get out there…it doesn’t happen overnight, and you have to be ready for anything. I’m just happy to have a label at this point!

Can you tell us a little more about the other members in your band? What does it take to make a band that works?

My guys are Robbie Wolfe-Lead Guitar and Harmony Vocals, Kyle Kelli on Drums, Cory Kay on Bass Guitar, and my Producer is Brett Hansen. It really does take a team to make it work, and I’ve got a great bunch of guys! I also have to give a shout out to Todd Turgeon, who played the drum tracks on the song in the studio, and Robbie Sherre- who played Bass on the video!

What projects do you currently have in the works?

I have 2 new songs, they are called So Long and Promise The Moon that are done being recorded, but are now currently being mixed down, as well as we shot a new full length video for my new song So Long that is going to be killer!

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

I would like to say a big thank-you to Mike Bailey, Brett Hansen, you-Tina, and most of all to the fans for their support, because without the fans, there would be no me! See you out on the road! Cheers!

An Interview with & the Art of Mariusz Kędzierski

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Mariusz Kedzierski was born in Poland. Despite being born without arms he went on to become an accomplished writer and motivational speaker, encouraging others to overcome their own personal limitations.

What were you like as a child? What are some of your most fond early memories?

My childhood was a time of happiness. I was growing up in a small town, where everyone knew that there is someone different. I used to play with my friends from kindergarten and didn’t really think about my disability. I knew I am not like everyone, but it was not a problem then.

Do you remember learning to draw at the age of the 3? What was it like to discover your own ability to create?

I wasn’t learning it then. It was just for fun. My first drawing was a task at kindergarten. We had to draw a scene from movie – The Lion King. I used to draw only when I had to do it.

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What do you love most about your craft?

It would sound general, but it has changed my life in all ways. It’s difficult to explain, but art has changed my way of thinking. I became more self-confident, it is my work now, because of art I found my girlfriend and found out a lot about myself!

Was it hard to give up your drawing at age 12? How did it feel when you were able to get back to it?

It was not hard, because in the past I didn’t want to do it. I had no idea what I would do in my life.

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Do you feel lucky to have been able to also work as a motivational speaker? How does it feel to be able to give others the gift of hope?

It is a huge pleasure and mission of my life to complete. My classmates used to play in the theater, but I preferred to keep away of stages. I didn’t want to perform. But, as I previously wrote, art changed my way of thinking, I knew that people need someone like me. I knew it when I saw Nick Vujicic for the first time. Then I decided to overcome my shame and practice speaking. And now I do it professionally.

Do you ever wish people wouldn’t put so much focus on the fact that you were born without arms? Do you enjoy having the chance to show people that sometimes there are no such things as limits?

No, I don’t. I like it, because that way I can show them that if I can do so many things without arms, then they should ask themselves the question, “What is my limitation and why it blocks me?”

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Your work focuses mostly on portraits, what is it about the human form that you find most fascinating?

People inspire me. Their faces, eyes, beauty. They are full of feelings I want to capture in art, because art without feelings doesn’t exist for me.

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

The biggest dream was my solo exhibition in NYC and it happened almost a month ago in Caelum Gallery, Manhattan. Now I want to publish my first book.

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What was it like to travel through Europe and do your work on the streets there? Do you have any interesting stories to tell from those travels?

That was amazing trip and amazing adventure. A great possibility to talk to people and motivate those who had no idea they needed it before. The possibility to find out more about their mentality. There were a lot of stories, but one was really special. That was in Paris. I met a girl and her family. She was the only one who was speaking English and French. They were afraid, because they were illegal immigrants. But when we were talking, she had tears in her eyes. She told me that was a very difficult time for them, they were running away from poverty and didn’t know what to do then. But I brought them a hope that even in the most difficult time they will survive and everything will be fine.

Are there any little known things about you that people might be surprised to learn?

Yes, there are! I am a huge fan of FC Barcelona, as I child I dreamed about playing there. As a teenager I danced salsa for two years. I have drivers license and I love luxury cars. Last weekend I was driving a Lamborghini Gallardo on Poznań Circuit, over 200km/h with only one finger.

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

I think that the key is to live a balanced life in every sphere of life. We can start doing great things only when we are satisfied with our family, work and every basic thing in our lives which are important for us. And maybe it sounds simple, but to celebrate the smallest things.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Just two words – be patient.

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

I would love to thank you for the interview. I hope it helps people to notice, that there are a lot of barriers on our way, that’s called life. But it doesn’t mean we have to stop fighting for our dreams, for better future. Focus on your goals and follow them, because time is running out and will never be back. Thank you.

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An Interview with Mike Farris

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Mike Farris is well known as a lawyer focusing on entertainment law as well as a presenter speaking on topics ranging from beginning screenwriting and cinematic storytelling to legal issues faced by writers. He has represented various university presses in regards to film rights, most notably Free State of Jones (2016) starring Matthew McConaughey and directed by Gary Ross. Mike is also an author of several titles of his own, as well as Call Me Lucky: A Texan in Hollywood were he worked alongside the iconic Bob Hinkle. His most recent book, Fifty Shades of Black and White: Anatomy of the Lawsuit behind a Publishing Phenomenon is about the case he handled involving the Fifty Shades of Grey Lawsuit.

For more information on Mike’s various books please see Amazon.

What was it like growing up in Texas? How do you think your early days have shaped you into the individual you are today?

I love being a Texan. Even though I was actually born in Louisiana, my parents are both Texans – mother born in Waco and father born in Fort Worth – so I claim being a Texan by heritage. I did get here as quickly as I could, though, arriving at the age of nine and living here ever since (nearly 54 years now). High school football is huge in Texas, and I played football at Dallas’s “Heisman High” – Woodrow Wilson High School, the first high school in the nation, and still the only public high school in the nation, to have produced two Heisman Trophy winners – neither of whom was me: Davey O’Brien (winner in 1938 at TCU) and Tim Brown (winner in 1987 at Notre Dame). I also played football in college, although size and lack of talent held me back from any higher aspirations.

My father was a Baptist preacher, and a missionary to Japan, where I lived for five years (ages two to seven), so church was also a big part of my life. I think that upbringing, as well as the discipline and camaraderie of organized sports, helped shape my life in a lot of ways. Things I learned from both at an early age still inform my life today.

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How did you come to be a lawyer? Why did entertainment law appeal to you most?

My original plan was to become a high school football coach. That changed in my last years of college, when I decided to pursue a PhD in American History and look for a college teaching job. I fell into going to law school almost by chance. One of my football teammates in college had his sights on law school so, feeling his influence, as well as my mother’s urging to pursue law, I took the LSAT (law school admittance test) just as I finished my course work on a master’s degree in History and prepared to tackle a thesis. I scored well on the LSAT, so I decided to apply to law school at Texas Tech University, where my college teammate was in school. When I was accepted, I made the decision to attend law school and not to write my master’s thesis. I don’t regret the choice, but I often wish I had finished the master’s degree just so I could say I finished what I started.

I took a job with one of Dallas’s largest firms after I graduated, and made partner in six years, specializing in commercial litigation. But I always had a passion to write so, after a lot of false starts, finally forced myself to start, and finish, a novel. My transition into entertainment law followed after that, as I started teaching myself about the business of publishing and the sister business of filmmaking. From there, the move into entertainment law seemed natural. Of course, there is not a lot of entertainment law to be done in Dallas, but I was ultimately able to carve out a small niche in that field as part of my law practice, with my focus on film and publishing.

What are some of the most daunting legal challenges in the industry that writers need to be aware of?

I think the most daunting challenges for writers are in the world of non-fiction, because of concerns about defaming living persons or infringing on the rights of others. Of course, copyright law also is challenging, but is something I believe writers need to be at least somewhat familiar with.

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What areas of the entertainment industry would you say most need to be improved upon at this time?

I don’t really have a complete answer for that, but as it becomes easier for writers to self-publish and filmmakers to make their own movies, I see problems in quality control. Just because you can publish your own book or shoot your own movie with very little assistance from anyone else, doesn’t mean you should.

How did you make the transition from lawyer to author?

I have always loved to write, even as a kid. Back in the 1990s, I had a case I worked on for 10 years – that’s right, 10 long years for one case – that involved the world of “fidelity” law, which is a form of insurance that protects financial institutions and other businesses from losses caused by such things as employee dishonesty, counterfeiting, and other actions that border on crimes, even though this is an area of civil law. That case helped inspire story ideas for me. Additionally, the world of litigation is ripe with story ideas. Not only that, but litigation – trial work – is essentially storytelling. Each side of a lawsuit is telling a story to the judge and jury, and trying to convince them that their story is the right one. It seemed like a natural transition from being a lawyer to being an author, telling stories.

Do you enjoy one more than the other, or do you enjoy both equally?

I am now retired, so this is an easy one: I enjoy writing more than practicing law.

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Bob Hinkle showing off his skills with the rope.

What was it like to work with Bob Hinkle on Call Me Lucky:  A Texan in Hollywood?  What would you say is the most important thing you learned from that experience?

I have said many times that working with Bob on Call Me Lucky was probably the most fun I ever had as a writer. I sometimes found myself so caught up in his stories that I would forget to take notes. I knew a lot of the movies and people he talked about, so it was easy to get caught up in it all.

What is Bob like as a person?

He’s exactly what you’d expect a West Texas good-ol’-boy to be like: dry wit with a great sense of humor, leisurely Texas drawl, and fascinating storyteller. Not only that, but I found him to be a “straight shooter” and imminently reliable. We actually finished the book quicker than I expected because I could always count on him to answer my questions and provide the information I needed in a timely fashion. He was a dream to work with.

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Mike Farris & Bob Hinkle.

Are there any interesting stories you have from your time spent working with him on that project?

The way we approached the book was this: I had Bob prepare a list of “events” from his life, which I then organized into a structure for the book. I broke the “events” down with questions, which I emailed to him. He then dictated answers to my questions on a cassette tape. Then we would meet at the McDonald’s in Forney, just east of Dallas, where he would deliver the tape and then talk for an hour or two about what was on the tape, and answer my questions. I would then take the tape, transcribe it, and write a chapter. I would leave blanks in the chapter with questions I would put in bold type, then I would send the chapter to him. He would dictate answers, we would meet, and the so on. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent listening to his voice on the tapes, then listening to him in person as we talked further. By the time all was said and done, I had his voice ingrained in my mind – it was almost as if I could hear him speaking as I wrote, and then as I rewrote. One of the biggest compliments I have received over the years is numerous people who know Bob and who told me it sounded as if Bob, himself, had done the writing.

Why do you think it is important to preserve for future generations the memories held by those who came before in writing, while they are still here? Do you ever worry a lot of wisdom is being lost with the passing of time?

I very much believe it is important to preserve stories for future generations. As I said before, I worked on a master’s degree in American History, and I strongly believe in the power of history to shape our futures, and in the importance of storytelling to preserve our culture. I do worry that much wisdom is being lost by the passage of time, as icons of our history pass away. I have heard about several projects in which writers or documentarians are making a point of speaking to World War II veterans to preserve their stories for posterity. I applaud those efforts.

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How did your newest book Fifty Shades of Black and White: Anatomy of the Lawsuit behind a Publishing Phenomenon come to be? What can your readers expect from this particular title?

This was one of the most interesting cases I ever worked on, not just because of the subject matter being related to a publishing blockbuster, but the underlying facts were also fascinating. There was worldwide attention paid to the case, primarily because of the subject matter, but also because of its own particular story. My client and co-writer is Jenny Pedroza. As I’m writing this, I did a Google search using “jenny pedroza fifty shades of grey lawsuit” and came up with 2,100,000 hits.

The lawsuit was about a group of women, working as a partnership, who originally published the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (Fifty Shades of Grey,Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed) with their company, The Writer’s Coffee Shop. But when it came time to sell the publishing rights to Random House, one of the women (Amanda Hayward, who lives in Australia) took the position that The Writer’s Coffee Shop was not a partnership but was, rather, solely her company. The deal with Random House ultimately paid approximately $43 million to Amanda Hayward, who did not share it with her partners. I represented Jenny Pedroza, and we filed suit in Fort Worth, Texas, and asked the court to declare that The Writer’s Coffee Shop was a partnership and that Jenny was a partner entitled to her share of the profits. After a jury trial the end result was a judgment in Jenny’s favor that totaled (including prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees) in excess of $13.2 million.

Fifty Shades of Black and White: Anatomy of the Lawsuit behind a Publishing Phenomenon is exactly what the title suggests.  It tells the story of what happened behind the scenes with The Writer’s Coffee Shop as well as what happened in the lawsuit. It is written in the form of two “stories”: Jenny’s and mine, with each of us telling things from our own perspective.

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Taken after the jury verdict in the Fifty Shades lawsuit. From left to right: Mike Farris, Jenny Pedroza, Brent Turman, and Christa Beebe. Christa was also a client; Brent was co-counsel.

What projects are you currently working on? Do you have a dream project you’d most like to accomplish before your time is up?

I have another book coming out in June, called Poor Innocent Lad: The Tragic Death of Gill Jamieson and the Execution of Myles Fukunaga. This is true crime from Hawaii, and tells the tragic story of the abduction and murder of the 10-year-old son of an executive of the Hawaiian Trust Company in 1928 Honolulu. In the pipeline are a novel about a serial killer and another non-fiction book from Hawaii, involving the world of Hotel Street, which was the red light district in World War II Honolulu, and the criminal trial of a notorious prostitute during that era.

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

I appreciate your thoughtful questions.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your world.

 

An Interview with & the Art of Mark Lewis

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Mark Lewis has had a varied career path before becoming the artist he is today. From joining the Navy to his work as an actor with appearances on the show ER and in the film Anger Management to his current works of art Lewis was always drawn towards the creative.

His vivid portraits of some of the world’s most beloved icons from the 1920’s to today are collected by patrons worldwide. Most recently he donated prints to auction off to aid the charity Visiting Angels which provided home health care of seniors out of Glendora, CA and surrounding areas. He is also involved with such charitable organizations as the Susan G. Koman Foundation, John Ritter Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Methodist Hospital Foundation, Glendora Historical Society, and the Covina Historical Society.

For more information or to purchase items please see: https://marklewisart.com

What was it like growing up in Ohio when you did? What are some of your most fond memories of that time in your life?

I was born in Akron and am an ancestor to Cy Young, the baseball hall of fame pitcher for which the Cy Young award was created. My family moved to Charter Oak, CA when I was 4 years old. My fondest memory of Ohio was my grandfather flying my kite into a tree.

The lesson I learned was that adults are not necessarily always right.

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Do you think your mother also being artistic left a lasting impression on you to embrace the art of creation in all its forms early on? What would you say is the most important thing she taught you?

My mother’s talent was passed on to me as a gift that I did not utilize until 2007 at the age of 49. The most important lesson she taught was to excel at anything I decided to do. I recall her saying “don’t half ass it.”

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Mark at a function for Habitat for Humanity.

What was it about Andy Warhol’s work that attracted you the most when you were discovering your own love of art?

Actually it was not Warhol that had the greatest influence. It was James Francis Gill. Gill was a contemporary of Andy’s. I worked with Jim for 2 years. He was one of the 20 pop artists for the 1969 Sao Paulo exhibition. Jim’s work and my work share many similarities. Did I say I love art? I think it is safe to say that it is a love hate relationship on many levels.

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Did you work as an artist much before your time in the Navy? How have the things you learned during your service there benefited you most throughout your life so far?

I have had many endeavors. I had not picked up a paint brush until I was 49. The lessons garnered from the military are many and significant. I was a mature “17” when I enlisted.

Due to my personality and abilities I was offered to become a Navy Seal. After hearing what was required if I accepted, I declined the offer. Loyalty, honor, dignity, respect (of myself and others) and determination where a few of the traits I took from my four years military service.

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The Memorial Hospital Benefit.

What led you to pursue acting? Why did you decide to give up on that? Do you think knowing when to give up on things is necessary as one goes through life and moves on to other things?

I was a Computer Training Vocational School owner from 1987 to 2000. We had 3 campuses in Southern California. Upon closure of the campuses I didn’t want a “regular job.” The following day after making that decision I was on a film shoot for Bubble Boy starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Sometime after that, my regular job became the “stand in” for Dr. Romano (Paul McCrane) on ER. After four years as a SAG extra on numerous films and television shows I was finished and ready for the next chapter in my life. My SAG card is in permanent hiatus status.

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What was it that led you to create portraits?

I spent my first 2 years painting landscapes. People’s faces draw you into a painting. It was that fact that drew me into painting portraits.

What do you find to be the most striking feature man possesses?

People’s finest quality, in my opinion, is their eyes. Someone said it is the window to the soul. I’m a believer.

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How do you decide a subject should be put down on canvas? What inspires you to preserve them in such a fashion?

When I see it, I know it. It’s in my mind’s eye. I flip through tens of thousands of photos and bingo, one catches my mind’s eye.

The composition is also in my mind’s eye. I have destroyed many a work due to it not arriving where I wanted it to go in my mind’s eye.

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What do you enjoy most about creating with own two hands?

The final product. It is always a struggle for me until it’s done. It’s the same when I am fixing something that is broken.

What advice would you offer aspiring artists of tomorrow?

Having a good inner ear and listening to your gut reaction, is essential. Knowing when to listen and when “not” to listen is important. You need to make your own way on this and all journeys.

Yes, I have advice. But it is “my advice”. As we can assume, my advice works for me. Some of my advice may work for you. Knowing when it is not the right advice for you is most important.

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Can you tell us a little more about what they do over at Visiting Angels?

They are hospice care for people with a terminal illness. I am grateful for the services they provided to those in need.

I am involved in many charity events to raise money for many causes including Visiting Angels. Each is no more important than the other. Being charitable is the right thing to do no matter who you do it for.

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Charity even for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Do you feel the elderly deserve to be treated with more dignity and respect than is usually seen in today’s modern world?

In some countries the elderly are revered. In others they are not. I think your fellow human should be treated with dignity and respect. Children, teens, adults and seniors deserve nothing less.

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What are your own personal feelings on life and death and what may come after?

Life is a gift. Death will come. Live while you can.

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

Are you happy at no expense to others? That is the key.

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

I would find a “dream project” to be limiting. Each project is a dream to me.

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

John Lennon said it best. All you need is love.

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An Interview with Derek Frey

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The World of Tim Burton, Mexico City. Photo by Leah Gallo.

Derek Frey is best known for his work with Tim Burton on such films as Big Fish, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in Wonderland, Frankenweenie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Dark Shadows, Big Eyes, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. He has worked at the helm of Tim Burton Productions since 2001 as well as running his own film banner Lazer Film Productions, which has created several award-winning films, most notably The Ballad of Sandeep and Green Lake. His most recent endeavor finds him producing the upcoming live-action Dumbo film for Disney. Slated for 2019 the film features Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Danny DeVito, and Michael Keaton.

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Poster Design by Matt Saunders.

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Green Lake behind the scenes. Photo by Leah Gallo.

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The Green Lake Mo’o. Photo by Leah Gallo.

How has life changed most for you since we spoke last (while you were working on Big Eyes)?

Daily life hasn’t changed all that much. I continue to challenge myself and stay busy. I’m now a father to a three-year-old, so that’s a fairly new addition to my life. I view my life from project to project, so after Big Eyes I executive produced Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and am currently in post production on Dumbo. Tim’s art exhibition The World of Tim Burton continues to tour, which is always exciting to help put together and visit the different cities in support of his work. It just finished its run in Mexico City and will be in Genk, Belgium later this year.

On the personal side, I’ve made a few more films and music videos since then. I think right after Big Eyes I was deep into Green Lake, which was released in 2016. With Green Lake, I was inspired by my lifelong love for B-horror films, and also the mystical setting in Hawaii really spoke to me. I’ve explored B horror before but not quite on that scale. It was a tremendous amount of work, but I was really pleased with the result and surprised it received the recognition that it did.

Last year I directed the music video God Came ‘Round for a band from the Big Island of Hawaii: Professor T and the Eastside Shredders. When I first heard their new album the track really stood out to me. It has a lot of fantastical and paranormal elements in its lyrics by Trever Veilleux and immediately Deep Roy came to mind for the lead character. Luckily enough, Deep was coming to London and I pitched the idea to him. After that the whole project came together very quickly. Deep got to play a myriad of different roles with many costume changes and it’s been a success on the festival circuit. It was great to reunite with Deep. I’ve worked with him on a number of Tim’s films tracing back to Planet of the Apes, Corpse Bride and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and then I had the opportunity to direct him in The Ballad of Sandeep. Working with him again was a great pleasure. He’s always game for whatever we throw at him… literally.

I’ve also continued to work with my friends and collaborators the Minor Prophets, with Motel Providence and Kill the Engine. I’m perpetually inspired by their writing which has been described as commentary on 21st century man. Poking fun and putting a spin on the meaning of manhood and the ridiculous things men do to sustain it. I try not to take anything too seriously and can relate to that.

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Poster design by Giulia Rivolta.

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Derek & Deep Roy on the set of God Came ‘Round. Photo by Leah Gallo.

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Deep Roy in God Came ‘Round. Photo by Leah Gallo.

How has becoming a father changed your outlook on the world and life in general? What do you love most about it?

I’d say you definitely reflect more on your own life. Seeing life through my son’s eyes, I look back and recall things from when I was young. We share a great appreciation for Godzilla movies. He knows the names of all the characters, whether they are “good guys” or “bad guys’, and he’s assembling quite a collection of vinyl figures. We have good vs. bad Toho-Kaiju smackdowns. He usually prefers the bad guys, I think because in the vast Toho universe, the good guys are unfortunately outnumbered.

Becoming a father hasn’t really change my outlook. I’ve always had a concern for the state of the world and unfortunately the times we’re living in only heighten that concern. Not only for today and tomorrow, but also the world we’re leaving for the future generations. That’s definitely something I think about more now and feel like the stakes are higher. Obviously past generations dealt with their own world threats, and personally I hoped our civilization had evolved to a point where we wouldn’t be dealing with quite as many issues. But with all the active threats and destabilizing forces at work today – the combination seems to make the future a more perilous uncertainty.

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Derek & son on location for Miss Peregrine’s. Photo by Leah Gallo.

Do you think being a parent encourages adults to revisit their own imagination?

It absolutely does, and more so it encourages me to channel it in different ways. One of the things my son enjoys most in our time together is telling stories. Each night I’m having to think up two or three thrilling tales, and while they’re not the most inventive he seems impressed by them. Ultimately what it does is allows me to revisit the things that inspired me. As I dig into the mental recesses to come up with all these sagas, I end up sharing with him the things that I was inspired by as a child.

What are you currently working on over at Lazer Film Productions?

I’m currently editing a music video, Pangea, that I filmed earlier this year in Hawaii for Professor T and the East Side Shredders. Like the title suggests we aimed to create something globally epic and I think it’s going to turn out great. I’m slowly making my way through the editing process but hope to have it finished in another month or two. I’m also developing a feature film with the Minor Prophets. We’ve had success with a number of short films over the years and are now moving forward with Awkward Endeavors which we’re planning to shoot next year.

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Filming Pangea in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo by Valery Richardson.

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On the set of Pangea. Photo by RaVani Flood.

What is the most challenging thing you face in continuing work on your personal projects and working at the helm of Tim Burton Productions?

When it comes to my projects with LFP, the greatest challenge is really finding the time. I usually find myself filming over breaks and holidays and the editing process takes a bit longer than usual. It’s always a cathartic experience but really that is the biggest challenge, just finding the time to do my own stuff. The flip side of that is because I’m involved with these projects on every level, I also have the freedom to finish on my own schedule. It’s a great thing to work without any outside pressures and to have complete control over something you call your own.

At Tim Burton Productions things are never idle. The projects are larger so the stakes are higher with many gears at work. One of my main responsibilities as a producer on Tim’s films is to help him carry out his amazing vision. It keeps me on my toes but is a welcome challenge to help him see that vision through, from development all the way to the release, through every stage of a film.

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Tim Burton conducts Dumbo. Photo by Leah Gallo.© Disney

How is the live action version of Dumbo coming along? What are some of the most daunting challenges faced with bringing Dumbo to life outside of the original animation people are familiar with?

Dumbo is going extremely well. We filmed last year and it’s a production I’m proud to be a part of. We’re in post-production now and eyeing a March of 2019 release. Every one of Tim’s films is unique and demands its own consideration. On this one, the approach was very much filming a practical movie on a grand yet intimate scale. We built the majority of the sets which enabled the cast to perform within real environments. The technology comes into play with the star of the film, Dumbo, and much of the effort in post-production is animating that character. A big goal for the character is maintaining the emotion that people love from the original film. It’s still early stages in the process but I’m confident that Tim will achieve everything he is hoping to.

Were you a fan of the film as a child? What about it stands out most in your mind?

I went to the movies often when I was a child and although I was really young, maybe four or five, I remember seeing Dumbo in the theatre. I recall feeling strong emotions, the heaviness of Dumbo being separated from his mother, and that melancholy sadness. I probably didn’t see it again until recently, when we began work on Tim’s Dumbo. I was completely taken by how potent the film is. Even at sixty-four minutes it is full of emotion and a beautiful, simple story. The impact it has is something that not only a child can experience. I think as an adult, and maybe as a new dad, I felt those feelings quite strongly again.

I also felt excitement at the prospect of Tim telling Dumbo’s story. The cornerstone being to maintain the same emotional bond between a son and his mother. Now, close to eighty years since the original was released, technology is at a point where you can believably recreate an elephant on-screen, and Tim’s expertise in animation will bring that lovable character to life. When the news first broke that Tim was directing a live-action Dumbo, people were sort of unsure about it and scratching their heads. But for me reading the screenplay for the new film, I realized that Dumbo is an outsider and an outcast. People accuse him of being a freak and he moves past those perceptions to embrace what makes him special. If you look back at Tim’s catalogue he’s a champion for these types of characters. And looking through the Disney canon of characters, I don’t think there’s a better fit for Tim to interpret than Dumbo.

Do you think traditional animated film will ever come back to forefront? 

Film is a broad art form, and there is room for stories to be told in every single form available. There may not be many films being made in traditional 2D, but there is still a place for it and I hope there will always be. It’s the same with stop motion. I know for Tim it’s a very special way of making films and he’ll continue to utilize that form. I don’t think traditional animation is dead, these things come and go. There is always interest in looking back at different storytelling mechanisms. Maybe we’re just in a lull now and we’ll see a wave of 2D crop up in a few years. Let’s hope so!

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© Twentieth Century Fox.

Will this film feature a lot of CGI or will it have more practical effects?

When Tim made Alice in Wonderland it was a virtual approach with completely green screen sets and a lot of computer-animated characters. Then fast forward to something like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which took a very practical approach, real locations and not a lot of CG at all. I think when things look so good these days people just assume that it’s a computer-generated set or environment. But Miss P was very much a practical film. I would say Dumbo sits somewhere between the two, but definitely closer to a practical approach. The sets and the world that the characters live in were all built and created, and although we did shoot on sound stages, that was mainly for the sake of controlling the light and not running into problems with weather. Dumbo needed to have a fable or storybook feel and shooting on stages helped create a heightened sense to the world.

As I spoke about before, the main character Dumbo will be computer-generated, and that is out of basic necessity. We can’t use a real elephant, nor would you be able to get the needed performance out of a real elephant. So, while Dumbo will be animated the goal is to create a truly believable elephant. An elephant who sits within this world and you don’t question it. The fantastic ability of this elephant is that he can fly, so it’s about making that believable too.

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Ella Purnell, Asa Butterfield & Derek Frey on the set of Miss Peregrine’s. Photo by Leah Gallo. ©Twentieth Century Fox

I understand this is the first time Michael Keaton has worked with Tim since the first two Batman films and DeVito since Big Fish. What is it like to have them on board for this project?

I was really excited for Tim to be working with Michael and Danny, two people that he’s had close collaborations with in the past, and I know it got him excited about the project as well. My initial thought was: Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, and Danny DeVito together… it’s like a Batman Returns reunion! But then seeing them get into their work with Tim, they have an instant shorthand on set, you realize this is not just a trip down memory lane. These guys are looking forward, creating exciting new characters, and working at the top of their game. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people. It was quite an energy on set.

Aside from Michael and Danny you have Eva Green, who Tim worked with on Dark Shadows and Miss P, who is going to light up the screen in this one. And Alan Arkin who worked with him back on Edward Scissorhands. It’s almost like a greatest hits package of these wonderful actors that Tim has worked with in the past. I remember in one of the scenes we had Michael, Danny, and Alan all together. It was an incredible moment for everybody, myself included, to see them together again with Tim. At the same time, you have the talented Colin Farrell, who is an amazing and generous presence on set, working with Tim for the first time. They gelled immediately, and their shorthand was instantaneous. To see all of this talent assembled and fitting comfortably was a joy.

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Derek Frey & Tim Burton on the set of Miss Peregrine’s. Photo by Leah Gallo.                                    © Twentieth Century Fox

What do you enjoy most about working with Tim?

After all these years and all these projects, it’s still an honor to work with him. He continues to inspire everyone around him, because he’s always pushing his own creativity. While he does work with the same people from film to film I wouldn’t say it’s ever easy or repetitious, it’s always a fresh experience. You can never guess what he’s going to do that day on set or how he’s going to approach things, he will always surprise you. And that’s what makes Tim the real deal and why he is who he is. I feel that every day working for him. As a creative person you find yourself inspired by other creative people, and he’s the most creative person I’ve ever met.

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Poster design by Holly Kempf.

As someone who is a self proclaimed introvert what have you found are some of the benefits of being less social? What do you think extroverts could learn from the less socially inclined?

I think over the years I’ve had to break out of my introverted behavior, because it’s important in my work to be an effective communicator. That is not to say that being introverted is a bad thing, it’s just for what I need to do, I can’t be like that all the time. But I will say that some of my most fruitfully creative periods were times when I could sink back into myself and explore my own brain. That’s one of the challenges of my job. Because I have to communicate with people constantly it leaves little time to do that. So, although I have broken out a bit (which I think is a good thing for me personally) I pine for my more introverted days. There are benefits of going inside yourself, becoming self-aware and nurturing your creativity. I think ideally you can find the best of both worlds.

How have you changed most as an individual since your early days?

You think about that more as you get older, about how you’ve changed or how you were in the past. I hear people say they feel different from when they were younger. But the fact is I feel very much the same. I’ve often wondered whether something was wrong with me that I don’t feel much different? I’ve always been a high energy person, so maybe I have mellowed out a little bit. I’m probably still more hyper than anyone else I know, except for my son. If anything, I am shocked at how much time has gone by, I find myself trying to make the most of every moment. I guess that’s an important thing that I didn’t think about when I was younger, trying to take advantage of every moment here for the best.

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Poster design by Holly Kempf.

What projects are you looking forward to bringing into existence?

Aside from Awkward Endeavors, I’ve been developing a project called Quiet Fire. It tells the musical relationship between Miles Davis and pianist Bill Evans, and the recording of the album Kind of Blue. That’s something I’m very excited to see happen. It’s a story about the creative process, but it also covers themes about race and substance abuse so there’s lots to chew on. It gives new insight into Kind of Blue which is considered by many to be the greatest jazz album of all time. For Tim Burton Productions, I’m developing an anthology of shorts based on characters from his 1997 book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. We’re looking to re-tell the stories using stop motion, which would be visually distinct and something for fans to get excited about.

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Derek & the Minor Prophets on the set of Kill The Engine. Photo by Brian E. Smith.

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

Thank you again for the opportunity. It’s been a pleasure to take some time out of the daily grind to reflect upon the past four years.