Interview: Meredith Dobbs

Today we’re joined by Meredith Dobbs. Meredith is a phenomenal filmmaker based in London. She specializes in narrative films, particularly improv drama. She currently works on short films and web series. Meredith hopes to get into indie features eventually. It’s very clear that she’s an incredibly passionate and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer, director, and editor of narrative films. I’m working on shorts and web series now, and I want to make indie features long term. As a writer and director, I work primarily in improv drama.

What inspires you?

I’m really interested in relationships, and I’m interested in space between reality and fiction. Films can feel so realistic, so much like life, without ever being truly real because at the end of the day, film is still an artistic medium. And that line between film and reality that you can strive for but never cross is really interesting to me. Not in terms of pushing people to that edge, but pushing the art to it. So I think my stories will always be about relationships, and my techniques will in some way explore that edge.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I always loved movies. We watched a lot of movies together as a family when I was a kid, and we still quote movies all the time.  When I went to college, I knew I wanted to take some film production classes, but I only saw them as fun electives because I felt I had to do something “serious” like biology.  So I arranged my classes to do a film degree alongside my biology degree.  But after one semester, I completely fell in love with film, and I really found myself in it.  I dropped the bio major and never, ever looked back.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I use an improv technique that I didn’t invent exactly, but I really had to work out for myself, so there isn’t anyone else that does it the way I do.  My scripts don’t have any dialogue at all — they just describe the characters’ thoughts and feelings — and the actors have to improvise their own dialogue.  I like how it requires listening and responding (the two key tenets of improv) between actors, but also between director and actor.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I think the best advice, which is also the hardest to follow, is to do whatever you want to do. If you’re interested in something, try it out.  I wanted to do this film production summer camp when I was in high school – I really, really wanted it – but I was afraid to ask my parents to pay for it, so I didn’t go.  It makes me wonder how much time I lost not doing this thing I love so much.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Demisexual.  I have a long term partner who has helped me explore my sexual interests, but I also know I would happily be on the asexual side of my spectrum if I were single.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not in my field, no. Honestly, my work has been the most accepting place for me to talk about my asexuality.  I’m currently working on a short film about a woman trying to tell her boyfriend that she’s bisexual, which was inspired by my experience telling my boyfriend that I’m demisexual.  (I hope to explore asexuality directly in a longer piece in the future.)  Everyone on the project has been nothing but engaged and accepting.

All the resistance and prejudice I’ve experienced has come from family and close friends.  I also struggle a little internally. Understanding the in-between nature of demisexuality has been hard, because I don’t fit in either camp: ace or allo.  I have to remind myself that fluid doesn’t mean unsure, because I’m certain demisexual is absolutely the right term for me.  So I work really hard to understand myself and communicate to my partner.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That it’s not a sexuality; that it’s just my opinion, or just a phase.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Just knowing that a definition existed for me made all the difference in the world.  There’s nothing wrong with who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with defining yourself differently tomorrow, or next year, or 10 years from now.  It’s all fluid.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

www.meredithdobbsfilms.com

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Thank you, Meredith, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Vic

Today we’re joined by Vic. Vic is a phenomenally talented filmmaker who specializes in narrative shorts and micro-documentaries. She’s currently raising funds for an awesome new webseries called I Don’t Give a F*ck, which promises to be absolutely hilarious (seriously, please donate if you can: fundraising page). Vic is an exciting filmmaker with an incredibly bright future ahead of her. She’s very passionate about film, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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IDGAF Cake Poster
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IDGAF Main Cast

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I make narrative shorts and micro-documentaries that often have themes surrounding family, blackness, and the mundanities of everyday life.

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Cast and Crew of “IDGAF”

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by so many things. Nature, family, friends, directors like Ava Duvernay and Hirokazu Koreeda. I love their work. I get inspired by LOTS of TV… But I can draw inspiration from almost anything really, and usually I tend to focus on overlooked details.

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Da Vinci Skit

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I think I’ve somewhat always wanted to be a storyteller. I used to write quite a lot when I was younger. Just short stories and poems, so I feel like I’ve always had that artistic blood in me, however, I didn’t start entertaining the idea of being an artist or filmmaking specifically until around high school. I saw a movie called Raise the Red Lantern by director Zhang Yimou and fell in love cinema all over again, but for a different reason, I think.

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Da Vinci Skit 2

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I don’t have signature symbol in my work that says like “hey I made this”, but I supposed I do have a bit of a specific style in the way I edit videos or create title designs.

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Got Milk Commercial
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Got Milk Commercial

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Be vulnerable. I don’t think I can stress that enough. I think many of us think that’s a given when you’re making artwork, but you’d be surprised how hard it is for many artists to get personal in their work when they know they have to show it in front of an audience or hang it in a gallery to be critiqued. But being vulnerable in your work can often produce the best pieces. So don’t be afraid to tell people who you are, what you’ve experience, and how you see the world through your work. You can’t let fear of criticism control you.

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Power Hunger Animal MV
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“Skin is Black” documentary

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I just recently realized I was demisexual about 5 months ago and as of now I’m even possibly considering that I might just be asexual all together. In the process of trying to figure that out.

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“Zamir Fantasy” Narrative

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Oh gosh, yes, it’s been a very bizarre and interesting ride ever since I started telling people in my life that I’m someone on the asexual spectrum. I remember having to pitch the idea for an upcoming web series featuring an asexual character 17 times to different colleagues! And when I pitched the idea I basically had to give a 101 crash-course on asexuality each and every single time. Some people learned something others even considered the possibility that they actually might be someone on the asexual spectrum as well. Like me, months ago, it never occurred to them that that was even an option. And seeing that sense of validation flash over in their eyes made me feel like I was doing something good and important.

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“Zamir Fantasy” Narrative

It hasn’t all been peaches and cream, however. Some of the people I know who are LGBTQ filmmakers or artists seemed to be unsure of whether asexuality is even a real thing, let alone demisexuality – which I abandoned even trying to explain at one point because I could sense the immediate invalidation when they looked at me sort of like “…Really? OK believe whatever you want.” You know, that look that kind of makes you feel like you’re a child again when people look at you so condescendingly.

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“Valid” docuseries about asexuality

For demisexuality I get a lot of “isn’t that just what everyone goes through though? Everyone takes time to connect before they actually have sex in a relationship.” But I’m like no it’s different, and it’s a bit more complicated than that, haha.

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“3C4A” docuseries

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That asexuals don’t have sex or that they don’t want to be in relationships at all (including romantic ones). Huge misconception.

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“3C4A” docuseries screencap 1

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

You are valid. Everything that you feel is valid.

You are not obligated to take on the emotional labor of trying to explain to every hard headed person why what you feel is real. So, if they ask and you’re exhausted from explaining, you don’t have to tell them. Google is their best friend OR just show them by living boldly and unapologetically asexually.

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“3C4A” docuseries screencap 2

If you’re struggling to accept that you are asexual, it’s OK. Take the time you need to grow into yourself and parts of your identity. Talk to people you trust whom you can confide in.

It’s OK.

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“3C4A” docuseries screencap 3

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

As of right now I don’t have a portfolio up, and I currently have a website that’s WIP. For now if people want to they could follow me on my Instagram at soeulcinema sometimes I post previews of my work there.

Or if they’re really curious and can’t wait they can simply ask me and I can send them a private link.

And I’m also currently in the process of creating a web series called “I Don’t Give A F*ck” that focuses on the lives of two WOC, one who is a asexual Filipina, and the other who’s a black pansexual and sexually liberated woman. As of right now we’re raising funds to get the project off the ground but if anyone is interested in following the journey of our production they can follow us on Facebook or Twitter and if they want you can support us on our Indiegogo page by donating or sharing!

All links are below:

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/soeulcinema/
TUMBLR:  http://kodacchromes.tumblr.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/idgafwebseries/
TW: https://twitter.com/idgafwebseries
INDIEGOGO: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/i-don-t-give-a-f-ck/x/15958859#/.

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“Skin is Black” docuseries
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“Skin is Black” docuseries

Thank you, Vic, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Nessie

Today we’re joined by Nessie. Nessie is a phenomenal playwright from Scotland who is also working on the first draft of her first novel. When she’s not writing, Nessie also acts and directs. Nessie also participates in a medieval re-enactment society as well. It’s very clear that she has an incredible amount of passion and dedication, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a playwright, a writer more generally, an actor, and a director. I also LARP, and I am part of a mediaeval re-enactment society. I have written eight plays so far, three of which have been performed – one of them twice, the second time under a new title, Shakespeare Syndrome, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2016 – and one of which had extracts read from it by professional actors at the Traverse Theatre, as part of my MSc Playwriting programme. I will graduate in November this year and recently received my degree award; I will be graduating ‘With Merit’!

My plays so far have most been quite dark, and often historically inspired. My two most recent scripts were inspired by the lives of mediaeval queens (Margaret of Anjou and Mary of Guelders, the wife of James II of Scotland), while my first ever script, This Breathing World, was heavily influences by Shakespeare’s Richard III and was set in space; I actually have a short lived Tumblr blog about my experience directing the show if you’re interested (http://thisbreathingworld-play.tumblr.com). Funnily enough, my play that has been performed twice, and at the Fringe no less, was my first foray into comedy; Antic Disposition, later retitled Shakespeare Syndrome, is a play in which several of Shakespeare’s characters visit a psychiatrist, and things go about as well as one might expect.

What inspires you?

Shakespeare’s History plays, actual history, books I read, people and events in my life and, more recently, situations and characters from the shared universe my friends and I have in LARP. My first book, which I plan to start working on as part of NaNoWriMo, is inspired by one of my characters and his family, but this character was in turn inspired by a number of different historical figures and events, from Pope Alexander VI to the Spanish Inquisition. He’s… he’s a bit of a mess. Although he is asexual, so he has that going for him, haha!

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I have always wanted to be a writer, since I was seven years old and ‘wrote’ my first ‘book’; basically I copied out Rapunzel and drew illustrations for it, and I specifically remember her having a triangular orange dress! I briefly swapped from wanting to be a writer to wanting to be an actor when I was in high school, but I’ve always been a writer, really; whether through writing reviews for an online publication (Broadway Baby), doing one of my degrees in English and the other in Playwriting, or making up stories with my friends when I was younger (and I still do that, to be honest)! I wrote fanfiction for a while in high school – for CATS: The Musical and Dickens books mostly, because I was, and am, a person of very niche interests. For a long time my magnum opus was a fifty-three chapter fanfic called Bill Sykes detailing the backstory of the violent thug from Oliver Twist! I started writing plays during my second year of undergrad and playwriting has been my jam ever since.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Honestly, my characters die a lot, but I wouldn’t say that’s a signature, more a worryingly frequent feature! A lot of them also tend to be quite wordy, and that’s a problem I have as a self proclaimed ‘word nerd’, having done two degrees with creative and analytical slants; my characters and I tend to use several words were only a few would do. One of the exceptions to this rule is Frank Lovell, my version of Shakespeare’s Francis Lovell, who was himself a historical figure; he tends to say very little and, when he does speak, it’s monosyllabic.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I know it’s a cliché but I would say never give up on your art, you will only get better with practice. I look back on my older scripts now and I realise how far I’ve come, especially since I was lucky enough to be able to pursue a degree in Playwriting to better understand how scripts are written and how they work. I would also say be ruthless when it comes to editing, if you’re a writer; I had a first draft of a play once that was around eighty pages long, and it was only meant to be around an hour long in performance. If it had stayed eighty pages it would have taken around two hours! I would also say, again for writers, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite; your first draft is not perfect – and don’t worry, it’s not meant to be! It doesn’t have to be, it just has to exist. As my playwriting tutor used to say, a first draft is a pile of shit with occasional nuggets of gold. She was a very unusual woman.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a biromantic asexual. It took me a long time to get to this point, from questioning my sexuality, to thinking I was bisexual; I didn’t even know what asexuality was until very recently! I am now pretty comfortable calling myself asexual, and my friend recently bought me a shirt for my birthday that says ‘Asexual pirate isn’t interested in your booty’ (Look Human is an incredible website and has a huge range of ace themed shirts, accessories and so on. They’re not paying me to say that, I just adore this website!), which I hope to debut in public sometime soon, as it’s my first piece of clothing/accessory or anything that displays pride colours.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’ve honestly been very quiet about my sexuality in public, as I feel it’s on a need to know basis, though a lot of my friends know. My family sort of knows (long story) and my Dad will sometimes make jokes about me needing to find the right person, but I know he’s joking so it’s OK. I have encountered a lot of ignorance online though, but as I haven’t encountered it personally, the ignorance being directly at the orientation and not me specifically, I can’t really say how I have handled it. I am more open about my sexuality online, and feel I’m able to be more proud of it there, as I have encountered a very loving and supportive community; in the real world, I’m not sure, and in fact I know, not everyone I know would be so understanding, sadly including some members of my immediate family.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Oh gosh, in my quest for discovering who I was/what asexuality was I encountered so many misconceptions; humans aren’t plants, that’s not a real orientation, you’re an emotionless robot, how can you not be interested in sex?, what’s wrong with you?, who hurt you? etc. No one hurt me, nothing’s wrong with me, I’m ace and that’s a-OK!

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

I would say that it’s perfectly valid to struggle with your orientation, especially when sex and sexual attraction seem to be regarded as the key to all happiness these days! No matter where you are on the spectrum and no matter your struggle, you are valid and you are loved. You don’t have to have it all figured out, now or in the future, and there is nothing wrong with you! You are not broken, or weird, or going through a phase. You are who you are and you should be proud of yourself. ❤

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I am in the process of trying to put together a website but it’s very slow going. Occasionally – very occasionally – I will say something about my work on Tumblr, so that’d be the best place to hear about my work for now. For more about some of my plays, if you Google ‘Shakespeare Syndrome Edinburgh Fringe’ you may be able to find some reviews of the last play I had performed, and I think if you search ‘This Breathing World play review’, you may come across some reviews for my first ever play, from 2014!

Thank you, Nessie, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Zach Barr

Today we’re joined by Zach Barr. Zach’s passion is the theater: he’s a director, writer, and critic. He attended my panel at C2E2 and I’m so glad he did, because he’s an incredibly enthusiastic artist. If his interview is anything to go by, Zach has an incredibly bright future ahead of him in the theater. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a theatre director, writer, and critic. My mission is to use theatre to surprise audiences – whether that be through plays and stories with unusual content or source material, or through bold and inventive reinterpretations of existent works. The world today is seen too often in a binary “good/bad” or “right/wrong” lens. By taking subjects or stories that audiences already have some conception of and presenting them in a new and inventive way, the world will look at those stories in a new light, and hopefully I’ll open a few minds along the way. This comes through in the plays I choose to direct, the subject matter I choose to write about, and the way that I structure the reviews I write.

What inspires you?

What the hell doesn’t? I don’t like putting a line between “low” art and “high” art, so even really simple things are inspiring to me. One of my favorite plays (right now) is Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns: a post-electric play, which is all based on The Simpsons. But it puts it through this crazy futuristic lens that makes the audience look at the story in a different way. Oh, and the website Zen Pencils keeps me from slacking off in my art by reminding me how easy and tragic it would be to stop working at it.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I took some classes at a youth theatre in Kirkland, WA when I was younger, and got hooked then. Naturally, I started out as an actor before I jumped more into the other three fields. But yeah, I can’t imagine not being an artist. Someone said once that theatre is such a hard business to succeed in that you should only do it if you literally would not be fulfilled by anything else. So here I am.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I don’t usually include romantic relationships in my work. Or if they’re there, they’re not the focus. That’s probably significant for the purposes of this blog. But nothing else really.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Two songs from musicals that all artists should listen to: “Die, Vampire, Die!” from [title of show] and “Finishing the Hat” from Sunday in the Park with George. Both fantastic songs about what it’s like to be an artist, how it’s so hard to put your art before everything else, and why you have to do it. Also: become an interesting person. The best artists are also the most interesting people. Go to abstract art shows downtown. Attend a concert of an artist you’ve never heard of. Take a night class in pottery. Listen to a linguistics podcast. Read books by people you disagree with. Widen your mind so you can reflect a more diverse and detailed world in your work.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual, Heteroromantic. I think. I’m still trying to figure out that romantic part. Maybe it’s Demi. I don’t know yet and I don’t need to pin it down.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

In theatre, not so much. I’ve certainly had the odd person who doesn’t know that asexuality is a thing, but once you explain it to people they generally shrug it off and just treat you normally. But that’s in the world of theatre. People are more open-minded there. In the real world the thing people usually have the most averse reaction to is my statement that I don’t want to get married. I’ve heard “you’ll meet the right person” a lot. And sure, maybe I’ll meet someone I really like spending time with and want to live with. But we’re not getting married.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The confusion between asexual and aromantic is a big one. I still have strong emotional connections with the people I work and live with – they’re just not sexual or “love-y” in nature. I love my family, my friends, my fellow theatre people, and so on. Just because I don’t have one person I can point to as “the strongest bond” doesn’t dilute the strength of the others.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Hm…I guess just know that it’s a viable option? And that there are probably more out there than you know of. I couldn’t name any before I announced I was Ace, and now that I’m out…well, I still can’t name that many, but there are still many, many more than I expected.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I’m at Northwestern University right now, so check on what the theatre groups on campus are doing and see if you see my name there. I’m directing a reading of a new musical, Last Exit, on campus (performances May 27-28, Evanston, IL), and I’ll be returning to my hometown of Eastside Seattle to direct a production of Urinetown for Studio East (performances Aug. 12-13, Kirkland, WA). After that, who knows? But I’m probably staying in the Chicagoland area after graduation.

On Twitter: (at) AdmiralZachBarr or (at) ZachBarrReviews
On Tumblr: zach-barr-reviews.tumblr.com
Online: zachbarrreviews.wordpress.com or sceneandheardonline.com

Thank you, Zach, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.