Interview: Noreen Quadir

Today we’re joined by Noreen Quadir. Noreen is a phenomenal filmmaker, actress, and writer. She has acted in stage productions and short films. Noreen also writes screenplays and has written a feature length script about an asexual character. When she’s not working on film or stage, Noreen also writes in other forms too. She has written a children’s book, which she plans to self-publish soon. Noreen is an exciting artist and definitely someone to watch in the future. 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 an actress, writer and filmmaker with a background in theater and media studies. Aside from having acted in stage productions, I have also acted in short films and did background work on TV. I have also written and produced my own projects. I wrote a feature length script which is still in works, but I’ve produced a short scene from the script. The film is about a high school girl who is discovering that she’s asexual. And as she is realizing this, she is struggling with feeling like an outsider, especially when no one around her believes that she is asexual or that asexuality is even real. In addition to screenplays, I write in other forms and have written a children’s book which I intend to self-publish soon.

What inspires you?

I get inspired by so many things. I certainly get inspired by bits and pieces of my own life, but I have never really written or produced anything that exactly mirrors my life and experiences. It’s a little too intimate for me and I value my privacy. The feature length screenplay I wrote has certainly been inspired by my experience as an asexual, but it is still a very different story. The character is a bit different and how she discovers, processes, and handles her self-discovery is extremely different than my own story. That of course made it more fun to write because I got to invent stuff and had to look for inspiration from other places. I do get inspired by other artistic works including music, books and other movies. Inspiration is something that just happens organically for me. I can’t force it, which can sometimes be frustrating because when I want to write something, I am out of ideas. But when I do get inspired, I am able to put the words down which is always a great feeling!

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

I suppose it all started when I took dance classes around the age of 5. I loved performing and being up on stage. And then as I got a little older, I developed an interest in singing and music. I sang in my school’s choir and I also played the flute. Sadly, I cannot play the flute anymore. But, I remember it was a lot of fun. I also learned a little bit of piano. So, I had a huge appreciation for the arts at a very young age. And eventually, I got interested in acting and performed in plays in high school and then decided to study theatre in college. And then from there, I wanted to create my own projects. I was also a writer from a young age. I remember I used to write a lot of short stories and poems in elementary school and my teachers would compliment me on my works. I was not getting high marks in math, but I found my skill in writing. And in fifth grade, my teacher encouraged me to become a children’s author and that always stayed with me.

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 think I have any special symbol, but I love the color pink. It’s my favorite color and it is what I wear in my headshot. My room back at my family’s home is also pink. And it is often that you will see me in that color. 🙂

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I would say to really invest in yourself and in your dreams. Whatever it is that you want to do – be it writing, filmmaking, performing, drawing, singing, etc., make sure you’re really committed to it and spend time each day on your craft. If you want it to be more than a hobby, then you have to do more than just dabbling in it here and there. It’s good to invest in adequate training, be open to feedback and learning, and exercise your artistic muscles daily.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m an aromantic ace.

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

A little bit, but not any more than I’ve encountered in other areas of life or in general. Since most of the people I meet in my field are professional contacts, my personal life isn’t much of a topic anyway. Occasionally, people have said ignorant things because sex is a big part of the film industry and it has been kind of implied that if you don’t fit in with that, you don’t fit within the industry. I suppose the only way I handle stuff like that is by calling people out on their ignorance and letting them know that despite the sexual liberation, there is still hypocritical close-mindedness when it comes to sex.

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

It’s really hard to pinpoint one, because there have been many. I think probably one of the most common ones is that asexuality is impossible or that if you claim to be asexual, you either have experienced abuse or trauma, you have a medical disorder that is causing you to feel that way or you’re repressed. Some people think it’s just a phase and that you haven’t met the right person yet. I used to get a lot of comments like that when I was a teenager and when I was in college. There’s also this view that if you dress and act very feminine, wear makeup and perfume, etc., that you can’t be an asexual. I think some people equate asexuality with unattractiveness and a neutral gender expression.

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

I would say to know that asexuality is not abnormal and that they are not the only ones in the world with this orientation. And even though it is still not widely acknowledged, it really will take people being confident with their orientation to make the difference and to change how people view asexuality. So I would say to embrace yourself and that your orientation is just one aspect of you. It doesn’t define your entire self and there are so many other interesting aspects of a person. I tend to define myself and other people by choices and how you treat and interact with others. That’s what really matters at the end of the day.

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

Here’s my YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/user/ZizzyNQ

And this is my actor’s website: https://www.noreen-quadir.com/

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

Interview: Bri Castellini

Today we’re joined by Bri Castellini. Bri is a phenomenal filmmaker who specializes in short films and webseries. She’s the creator of Sam and Pat are Depressed, a series that follows depressed roommates Sam and Pat as they help each other navigate the inherent awkwardness of therapy through profanity, humor, and take out. Bri has gotten a lot of attention from the ace community for the short film Ace and Anxious. Bri is very dedicated to own voices and in both these works, there are explicitly ace characters. It’s clear she is a dedicated and passionate filmmaker, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Bri

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer and filmmaker, based currently out of Brooklyn, New York. My first web series, Brains, has two seasons plus two extended universe projects (a miniseries and a short film), and is about a college student post-zombie apocalypse who’s obsessed with getting her 5 year plan back on track, starting with a boyfriend. I wrote, produced, and edited the series, as well as played the lead character Alison. You can find Brains at brainswebseries.com. My second web series, Sam and Pat are Depressed, is actually in the process of “airing” right now on SeekaTV (Seeka.TV/samandpat– free to view but you have to make an account). It’s about two roommates who deconstruct their therapy together in funny ways to find humor in their mental health journeys. I wrote, produced, and edited this series as well, and play the character Sam, a biromantic asexual woman. I also have a short film that’s made quite a few rounds on Tumblr- Ace and Anxious, about an asexual woman named Emma with generalized anxiety disorder who, in attempt to curb her anxiety without paying for medication, places a “free sex” ad on Craigslist, because she learned of the stress-relieving “powers” of sex and wanted to test that out. I wrote, produced, edited, and directed that film. You can watch the full film on the LGBT+ streaming service REVRY or for free on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/215587592. I’ve also produced half a dozen other web series and shorts for friends and fellow filmmakers.

What inspires you?

Tons of stuff! I’m a big fan of apocalypse fiction, people arguing, and characters put in situations at odds with their comfort zones. Sometimes a friend will make a joke and that’ll become a web series (as in the case of Sam and Pat, which is based on conversations I’ve had with my good friend Chris Cherry. He’s at truestoriesaboutme on Tumblr). In terms of people who I consider career inspirations, I really look up to multi-hyphenates like Mindy Kaling, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and the indie filmmaker Kate Hackett, all very funny women who do a little bit of everything.

Also, if I could ever direct something as snappy and stylized as Edgar Wright, I’d consider myself a success.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but up until my last year of college, I wanted to write prose. Novels, short stories, that sort of thing. It wasn’t until I listened to the podcast The Nerdist Writer’s Panel, a podcast of TV writers talking about making their shows, that I realized I wanted to get into screenwriting. I applied to exactly one grad school in New York (I was in college in Oregon at the time), got in, and moved across the country as soon as I graduated from undergrad. About eight months later we made the pilot episode for Brains for a class, and I loved independent producing so much we decided to keep going and make the whole first season. The rest is history. Indie filmmaking has made me very, very broke, but happier than ever before.

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 know if I’d say I have a signature, but I like to think I have a very distinct writing voice. I’m a fan of when characters speak in really long, unnecessarily complicated sentences at very quick paces, and I love writing arguments, because I think they’re the most fun version of human conversation. So if you’re watching a Bri Castellini project, there’s likely at least two arguments and there’s definitely a long, anxiety-ridden rant by one character who speaks very quickly like they’re afraid they’ll burst otherwise.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t wait for permission or wait for the perfect conditions- the conditions are never perfect and the only person you need permission from is yourself. Figure out what you enjoy doing, and then do that as often as possible, trying to improve a little each time. And even though doing everything yourself seems easiest and most impressive at first, asking for help is the mark of a true artist, especially in film.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a heteroromantic ace, probably whatever the step right below gray ace is. There are a lot of differing opinions on what the spectrum is and what the different labels are, but in general my opinion on sex is between “shrug” and “oh, yeah, that’s a thing people do outside of movies.” I’m in a long term monogamous relationship with an allosexual man.

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

My field is indie media right now, which is, as you can imagine, a much more progressive arena than mainstream Hollywood, so I’ve never experienced ignorance directly. I also didn’t realize I was asexual until about three years ago when I did some research and all the insecurities I had and confusion I was experiencing finally clicked. I’ve been remarkably lucky about the circles my work has ended up in, though, and I am aware of what a privilege that is.

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

That asexual people don’t have sex. I’ve been with my partner for five years now, which is the first thing people know about me in regards to my romantic life, and when they find out I’m asexual afterwards there are a lot of very awkward, personal questions I get asked as they puzzle out how to categorize me in their minds.

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

Do your research! When I was figuring out my own sexuality, I read every article I could find and watched every video available on asexuality, and eventually, I had enough information to confirm what I probably always knew, somehow. Research also helps when coming out to people closest to you, especially if you’re in a relationship (as I was when I came out). I’m a very pragmatic, analytical person though, so the takeaway for someone who doesn’t want to write themselves a sexuality dissertation (I wish this was a joke, but, well, here we are), labels aren’t written in stone. Just communicate with yourself and with your partner (if you have one) about how you’re feeling at different moments, and let the label evolve until you feel it expresses what you need it to.

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

Following me on Twitter and Tumblr (BrisOwnWorld on both) is a great place to start, because I’m very active on those sites, but you can get a complete look at what I’ve created on my website, BriCastellini.com. I’m always available if you need advice on a filmmaking or writing problem!

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

Signal Boost: Book Trailer

Hey everyone!

I have a super awesome book trailer and an announcement concerning the eBooks of my series.

BOOK TRAILER

A while back, I interviewed a fantastic up and coming filmmaker for this site, Britty Lea. I was struck by her creativity and just the fascinating visuals in her short films. I remained in touch with her (she even moderated this blog for a bit). Recently, she started doing some freelancing and mentioned wanting to get into book trailers. I can’t even begin to describe my excitement at hearing this and soon commissioned her.

And man alive, did Britty deliver! Check it out:

If you’re interested in commissioning Britty, and I cannot recommend her work highly enough, check out her personal site (https://www.brittylea.com/) or her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/brittyleafilm/). She’s a phenomenal filmmaker.

EBOOKS

I’m going to try not to swear, but no promises 🙂

Like numerous indie authors, I was selling the eBooks of my series through a site called Pronoun (which was part of MacMillan Publishing). MacMillan, without any sort of warning, decided to shut down Pronoun permanently. Thereby screwing numerous indies.

A week into marketing and I lost my rankings, which are important to indie authors, because of this. I’ve been forced to move my eBooks onto Kindle. For the foreseeable future, they’ll only be available on Kindle (I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience). The paperback distribution will be unaffected and still widely available.

However, this is a setback and a really frustrating one. People, I really, really need support in the form of reviews and signal boosts. And, of course, I need people to buy my books.

If you’re interested in physical copies, after Sunday, they’ll be available on my Square Store for convention prices (which are a little cheaper than online distributors and the money goes directly to me).

Thanks everybody! 😀

Interview: Dominique Rea Parent

Today we’re joined by Dominique Rea Parent. Dominique is a phenomenal filmmaker who edits shorts. She has had two short films screened at the Digi60 Film Festival in Ottawa, Ontario: Follow That Melody and Something Beautiful. Both are available to watch online. Dominique is an incredibly passionate artist who loves film, 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.

Well, cinema is a very collaborative art in which I participate as an editor. It’s a lot like cooking, nothing comes together until you add 3 spoonfuls of garlic or you know, a star wipe here and there. In all seriousness though, I really like making people cry and laugh and shiver with fear.

I have participated in the Ottawa Digi60 Film Festival twice. The Digi60 gives you 12 days to create a 3 minute short film based on a theme. It’s a really fun process and a very satisfying goal to achieve.

Our 2016 short Something Beautiful was shot in one night and I edited it in 4 days. I had fun playing around with masking and pacing. Delivering an emotionally complex story in 3 minutes was very tasking as well as the night shoot. Thank the film gods for the pizzeria that was open at 2am when we were wrapping production. For this year’s short Follow that Melody my co-filmmaker and I decided that we wanted to centre the plot around happy lesbians and that we wanted it to be visually sound and easy to understand without any dialogue. This short pushed me further into colour coding and 3 dimensional tracking. Not gonna lie, I awed a little while editing.

What inspires you?

Cult films about a team of ragtags coming together as a family, but honestly so many things. Comic Books for when I am storyboarding, music and musical theatre for pacing and delivery, other movies and series for when I am looking for new ways to tell stories. LGBT stories and documentaries are always inspiring. The mixed tracks and moodboards that my co-filmmaker makes for me are super inspiring when I edit. Also baths . . . whenever I am feeling unproductive and need inspiration 1 hour luxurious baths do the trick, shout out to Lush.

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

So there are three movies I can thank for getting me into cinema™ and those are Alien, School of Rock and Back to the Future. But really what got me into making movies is kind of ridiculous. I was about 10 and obsessed with Nightmare on Elm Street and I had just been introduced by my brother to Windows Movie Maker. Tiny me decided that my hyperfixation could not be satiated with the existing fan content for Nightmare on Elm Street in early YouTube, specially not after Dream Warriors. With that mindset I decided that I would rewatch every movie, mark down the usable clips and make a music video of Nightmare on Elm Street to the beat of Wake Me Up Before you GoGo. The moment I finished I knew this was my true calling.

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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?

It’s all pretty gay for the most part. Very non-sexualized relationships and horror are big parts of it. Heavy colour coding because messing around with colours is fun.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Other artists are your friends and you should always try to connect with them and treat them with respect. Much like business networking and community are very important to success. Don’t undermine your own work, exposure doesn’t pay rent so don’t work for free, especially because this also undermines the work of your peers. Volunteer opportunities and internships very rarely pay off and unless you are in a position where living expenses are paid for you I would strongly advice against them. Be presentable when meeting clients. Have a contract ready, even if you are working with friends, this protects the both of you. Practice every day, eat your veggies.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am asexual and bi

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

Not really, in my experience the few people who know I am ace were just curious and asked pretty general non-intrusive questions. My co-filmmaker is also ace so I am lucky in that way that we are always in tune.

If I did come across prejudice I would try to work it out with that person, most likely they are oblivious as to how they are being offensive or rude. If they were being malicious in any way I would bring it up to a superior or refuse to work with that person. If you are an artist in any workplace you are protected by worker rights and harassment laws protect you from prejudice.

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

I haven’t really gotten all that many misconceptions to be honest. I feel like mostly people are confused as to whether I actually want a relationship or not or if I like people romantically or not. How does it work? or How does it feel? is the most common question I get.

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

Nothing is set in stone. Labels are here to help you and if they fit that’s great you have a community here for you. If they don’t fit then that’s okay too, you really don’t have to explain anything to anyone about yourself. If you’ve perceived yourself as someone different your whole life, but this new identity seems to suit you, well there’s no one here to tell you who you are but yourself.

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

I have a Vimeo www.vimeo.com/domreapar a Twitter at DomReaPar and also an Instagram at domoonyque.

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

Interview: Fiia

Today we’re joined by Fiia. Fiia is an amazingly versatile young artist from Finland. She does a bit of everything: writing, film, and plenty of visual art. She’s marvelously passionate about the art she does and has a very creative spirit, 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 do many kinds of art, especially now that I study media. Photography, all kinds of editing (photos, videos, sound), short films, graphic design… and the list goes on. And I love it all! I also like to draw and paint and whatnot. I’m not that great, but I like it. That’s the important thing, right?

But what I absolutely love to do, is write.

So I love to write. What I write has been ranging from poetry to fanfiction, and from regular short stories to screenwriting. The last year or so I’ve been concentrating on screenwriting; TV show scripts, to be precise. The genre is usually somewhere along the lines of action drama, because I can’t bring myself to be interested in “regular” relationship love dramas.

Also, I always write in English. I’m from Finland, so English isn’t my first language (it’s actually my third, Swedish being the second) but I’ve kept it from stopping me. I was around 13 when I started writing in English, and I haven’t stopped since. Nowadays I couldn’t write in Finnish even if I tried, because everything sounds so dumb to me!

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by a lot of things. Mostly just what happens around me; regular people. I love the idea of taking a normal person and throwing them into a completely different setting, like in a story I’m currently writing. It’s the regular life and regular people who inspire me to begin a story, but it’s the adventure that inspires me to work out the plot and write it down.

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

I’ve always loved writing, ever since I knew how to hold a pen and how to write Finnish. I don’t even know where the passion comes from, because even though I have artists in my family (mom is a tattoo artist and my big brother does comics for a living), I’m the only one who enjoys writing.

It’s probably just the power to create anything that’s got me hooked on writing. Pick a word, write it down, and a couple thousand words later I could’ve created a whole different universe. This isn’t, naturally, how I saw it as a kid, but it was probably something similar even if I didn’t actually realize it. I just wanted to tell stories.

One of my earliest dream jobs was to be an author. Over the years it shifted and I dreamt of becoming a psychologist, but I still wanted to publish a book. Then I wanted to become a nurse, a teacher, a translator … and now finally I want to be in the TV/movie business. Either as a screenwriter or a cameraman/editor. Or maybe even all three.

So being an author/screenwriter wasn’t always on the top of the list, but it was always there.

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 love to explore friendships. They are important in whatever I write, because I love nothing more than a person willing to go to a great length for the sake of a close friend.

This isn’t as important as the above, but there is always (a lot of) action in my stories, and recently the stories have revolved around good and bad, as simple as it sounds. There is more often than not a criminal aspect, usually pretty important, and how the lines between good and bad are really shaky, blurry and broken sometimes.

To put it short, I have a certain style, like most artists. I try new things every now and then, but the above is what feels best to me and what I enjoy the most.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

This may be a bit cliché, but believe in what you do and work hard. It’s a sad truth that maybe it will never work out and you’ll have to settle for a job that isn’t an artist – but other people have made it, and you shouldn’t give up your dream without a fight. Get better at what you do, practice some more and never give up, and who knows? Just make sure to keep at least your other foot on the ground and remember that life goes on even if we don’t make it there.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Totally asexual, like 110%. I’m also biromantic.

Although, I must admit, I just usually call myself bisexual. I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, really, and it’s just less confusing that way.

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

No, I’m lucky and I haven’t. Asexuality hasn’t really been a problem for me in any way, and since I’m still just a student with a few close friends in a small town, I’m relatively safe from anything like that.

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

That I’ll magically like it once I try it. I’ve been trying to explain it to my mom and my best friend, and they both keep saying I can’t know whether or not I like it since I’m a virgin. I keep telling them “I know I won’t like parachuting either, even though I haven’t tried it, because I know myself and I’ve seen enough of it to have a feeling of what it’s like.”

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

Accept yourself, and understand that there’s nothing wrong with you. Sex is all over the place and we all know the pressure to have it, but just know that that’s not the case. You’re perfect just the way you are, and asexuality doesn’t define you. You can do and be whatever you want.

Also, you’ll find someone who loves you, asexual or not, and they won’t give a shred of an f. Just keep your head high, be yourself, and the right people will find you.

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

Unfortunately nowhere just yet, but who knows, maybe in some years you’ll see my TV shows on TV 😉

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Thank you, Fiia, for participating in this interview and this project. It is very much appreciated.

Interview: Kris

Today we’re joined by Kris. Kris is a phenomenal filmmaker who specializes in short films. She has done both narrative films and documentaries. Currently working on a feature length script as well as a webseries, Kris is an enthusiastic and dedicated filmmaker who has an incredibly bright future ahead of her. 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 am a filmmaker. These days that is mostly writing and directing, though when friends have projects on the go sometimes I’ll produce or be director of photography. While most of my films are fiction, I do the occasional documentary when the right story presents itself. To date I’ve done exclusively shorts. I do really enjoy the medium of short film, the challenge of getting an audience hooked, engaged, and happy with the resolution all in 10-15 minutes is very satisfying to me. Lately though I’ve been branching out. I’ve got a feature length script that I’m working on, and also a 9-episode web series that I recently started to write. I also do a bit of photography, but that is much more as a hobby to entertain myself.

What inspires you?

Life. The world. When I first started taking photographs as a teenager it was all about looking at the light, looking at the world and thinking, “wow” and wanting to capture it. When I became a storyteller, it was sort of that, but with people. I love being out in the world – at a coffee shop, at a museum, at a park – and just watching people, listening to how they talk to each other, seeing what kinds of things make them go “wow.” I love playing the what’s your story game. Seeing someone, especially when they do something unexpected, and thinking who are you, and what’s going on with you that made you do that. And because I make fiction I can just make up an answer.

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

I always wanted to be behind a camera. I can remember the first time I ever took a photograph. It was with my Dad’s big heavy SLR shooting slide film. I still have that slide in a box in my attic. There was always art going on in my family when I was a kid, but I can’t draw so it started out as a way to make a picture. But then it became a way to capture a bit of the world and share it with people. And then I went from photography to video in college because it seemed like a better way to make a living.

I have always been creative, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say I always wanted to be an artist. I loved having a camera in my hands, I loved making things. But for 20 years the things I was making professionally I didn’t consider artistic. I was making training videos and other corporate/industrial stuff. But after a while I thought, I want to tell my own stories. I started doing film as a hobby. Getting my friends together and goofing off in my back yard, or making silly videos of my dog. The more I did it the better I got until I thought, you know maybe I could do this creative stuff for real. Now I’m a professor and it’s part of my job description to keep making films. It is possibly the coolest thing ever.

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 went through many years where my dog would get a role, or at least a cameo in most of my films. Usually one of the extras would be walking her. She died while I was in film school though, so in my thesis film there’s just a photo of her. My new dog isn’t trained well enough yet, so for the time being it’s likely to still be pictures of Blue hiding among the set dressing.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Ira Glass has the best advice, which is to make a lot of work, especially if you feel like the work you’re making isn’t good enough. It will never get good enough without a boatload of practice. And that’s true no matter what kind of art you do. Also, it’s important to get out in the world and have a life. My students often ask me if they should go to film school and I always tell them not right away. Go and experience a bit of life first because that’s what’s going to give you your stories to tell.

Sarah and Esther working on the step afternoon
Sarah and Esther working on the step afternoon

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am asexual and aromantic.

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

I haven’t. On set we’re busy working and it would be unprofessional to be discussing our sex lives. And it’s really easy to be invisible as an asexual, which is both good and bad. I am unlikely to get harassed on the street because you can’t tell by looking. I’m not holding hands with the wrong person or whatever. People will assume you are like them until proven otherwise (about all sorts of things) so if I don’t bring it up it doesn’t come up.

Lately I’ve been realizing that invisibility is also bad. That it has a lot to do with why I spent decades trying to be something I’m not. Why it wasn’t obvious to me that there was nothing wrong with me. So I’ve started kind of coming out at work, identifying myself as a queer filmmaker. Universities tend to be supportive of that kind of thing though so nobody has given me a hard time about it. Maybe it would be better to battle the ignorance if I identified as an asexual filmmaker, but a) I don’t really have the energy to have to define it every time I say it, b) it’s not actually my colleagues’ business what flavor of not-straight I am, and c) I would really like to broaden the definition of queer film and queer filmmakers. We shouldn’t have to only tell coming out stories or dying of AIDS stories. I should be allowed to tell whatever stories I want and still be free to be myself.

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

The common problem is that it’s not a word your average straight person knows. We come so far down on the alphabet soup of the acronym that people give up trying to figure out what all the letters mean before they get to us. So if I use the word then I’ve got to explain it and then you get that little head tilt of “huh, I didn’t know that was a thing.” And if I don’t actively explain it then the misconception is she’s just single and eventually Mr. Right will come along and solve that problem. Or, among my sister and the rest of the lesbians in my home town, then Ms. Right will come along. But nobody ever thinks she’s single and that’s how she’s happy being.

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

There is Nothing Wrong with you. Many people won’t get it, but they don’t have to. You just be you and they can figure themselves out. For me the best part of being asexual is that nobody else really has to get it. The only people who need to understand the details of my sex life are the people involved in it, which, by definition, is nobody. All the well-meaning but annoying people who insist that there is someone out there for you, you can feel free to ignore them. Unless you actually want that, some asexuals do and that’s fine, you be you. But be unapologetically you. You don’t owe anything to anyone else.

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

If you’re interested in my work my company website (https://heronmedia.wordpress.com/ ) is the best place for that. New work has images and trailers, when things are on the festival circuit I keep that up to date on screening locations and times, and when they finish the festival run I put them up entirely.

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

Interview: James Hastings

Today we’re joined by James Hastings. James is a phenomenal filmmaker who also dabbles a bit in music and comedy. He’s a freelance cinematographer, though he has a wide range of interests (and also happens to be a fellow fan of the great Buster Keaton). James is also working on writing a feature. It’s always fantastic to see aces in film. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Oh man, I do all kinds of stuff. My main bag is my work as a freelance cinematographer, but I also do covers and write comedy music for fun. I run a sketch-comedy YouTube channel called Cinema Wagon on which I do videos with my improv and industry friends, and in addition to all of that stuff, I’m currently in the writing phase of a feature film that I hope to produce independently in 2018.

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Bagman, Production Shot 1, photo by Chris Ertman

What inspires you?

A lot of my sketch-comedy work comes from the mildly obsessive way my brain works. An idea or an interaction that I had will get stuck in my head for a while, and I’ll replay the situation that created those ideas over and over again in my mind, but with something going differently each time, and it either becomes really entertaining or I just stop thinking about it until it pops up as part of another cycle of that process. That, or I’ll see a cool shot or think of a visual, then knock out a story to fit around that shot so I have an excuse to try it out. The people that I’m friends with also bring really good, creative stuff to the table all of the time as well.

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Bagman, Production Shot 2, photo by Chris Ertman

My visual style is really informed by the works of Julian Smith, Edgar Wright, Ciaran O’Brien, the Kids In The Hall, The Coen Brothers, Charlie Chaplain, and Buster Keaton. I think the Edgar Wright and Julian Smith influences come through a bit more in my visuals than others. I’ve also been trying to look at and learn more from renaissance art and how the visual composition of those pieces worked.

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Bagman, production shot 3, photo by Chris Ertman

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

I initially wanted to be an animator. I grew up watching cartoons from the 50’s-90s, and I thought that it would be super cool to make things like them. As time went on, I got more into the theatre world, and that lead me to an interest in special effects makeup. Because of this, I found the Indie Mogul YouTube channel back when they were doing Backyard FX, and as I learned more about the rest of the filmmaking process, I went from wanting to be a special effects artist to wanting to direct my own films. Around that time, my dad gave me his old Mamiya ZE Quartz film SLR, and I started learning to take pictures with old photographic lenses, and I realized that I really love the process of working with a camera. I also finally accepted that I’m a terrible animator around that time, and my career trajectory was pretty well set.

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Bagman, production shot 4, steadicam, photo by Christina Estillore

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 have a prop zombie head named Thomas that I made in my time learning FX makeup that I like to hide in the background of the occasional shot. It’s not a consistent gag, but it pops up in most of my indie projects. There’s also a running joke amongst my peers about my propensity for shooting with wide-angle lenses. (12mm and 28mm are two of my favourites.)

On the post-production end of things, I have a set of “woosh” sounds that I recorded at the age of 14 in my bedroom that I have used in almost every project on which I have been in charge of the sound mix. Sometimes, it’s subtle, sometimes it’s very noticeable.

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Bagman, still 1

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

This one is tough since I’m still pretty young myself, but I have two pieces of advice that really helped me.

The first one is specific to cinematographers. It is not your job to make the images of a project look the way that you want them to. It is your job to help the director get what’s in their head onto the camera’s image sensor. You’ll be bringing ideas of your own to the table for sure, but at the end of the day, unless you’re also the director of a project, you don’t get the final say. The sooner you can learn to collaborate effectively, the sooner you’ll start to get called back to work on more projects.

The second one is a little more general, but it was important for me to hear. If you’re just starting out, you probably suck at what you do. That’s okay. Everybody sucks at first. The important thing is to power through that sucking and never stop trying to learn how to be better. As long as you’re trying to improve, you will. It may take a long damn time, but it will happen, and you won’t even notice until you look back at your old work and see your progression.

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Contract Killer, frame grab

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am a grey-romantic, sex-repulsed asexual.

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Dead End Town, 2012

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

It really depends on the crew that I’m working with.

Some of the older, more established people in the industry aren’t really familiar with the concept of asexuality, but it also never really comes up when I’m working with them. If it does, I tend to blow it off by saying something like, “I care more about my craft than relationships.”

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Relentless, on set, photo by Dan Chomistek

Younger crews that have been coming up at the same time as me have been far easier to explain asexuality to if it comes up, but again, it’s pretty rare. People hire me because of the way I make things look, not the way that I feel (or don’t feel) about other people.

It’s probably easier for me as a white, cisgendered man in the industry to deal with it than other groups of people, though.

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Pee Break, frame grab

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

I think the most common one that I’ve encountered has to be the idea that asexuality is just a lack of maturity. I’ve also heard a lot about it, “going against human nature” as well. Standard stuff. It got old fast.

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Realistic Musicals, frame grab

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

I actually had a pretty easy time coming to terms with my asexuality, so I don’t have much advice specific to asexuality.

I was a bit of a social outcast when I was younger, though, and when I finally did develop a group of friends in my high-school, it turned out that I had a lot of other stuff to work through. It really helped me to talk to them about those things. If you can find an outlet like that in real life, great! If not, there are all kinds of resources about asexuality for you to check out.

If all else fails, just know that you’re not broken. You’re valid, and there’s a veritable crapload of people like you. We’ve got your back. Take care of yourself.

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Recalculating, frame grab

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

I take set-photos on Instagram,
http://instagram.com/jawmsie

I tweet about all of my finished projects, as well as the occasional BTS schennanigans,
http://twitter.com/jawmsie

And I release all of my comedy sketches on the Cinema Wagon YouTube channel.
http://youtube.com/c/cinemawagonvideo

Thanks for checking out this interview, and I hope you enjoy my work if you do check it out.

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Bagman, still 2

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