Interview: Alix Ditto Au

Today we’re joined by Alix Ditto Au, also known as Acting NT. Alix is a phenomenal blogger and YouTuber, who has a couple webseries that comment on specific topics in popular culture. One is called “Autism Sins” and focuses on portrayals of Autism in media. The other is “Madness in Media” and it analyzes why some characters are labeled as mentally ill in various series. It’s clear they’re a very passionate and driven artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking part in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m creating radical explorations of art, culture, and all the social dynamics in between. I always place my focus on subjects that our society either doesn’t want to talk about, or misses the point on. On my blog, I aim to push against dominant narratives by offering new paradigms with new terminology. As radical people, we often have to build our philosophical frameworks out of stone knives and bear skins. My RedBubble store distills these new perspectives into short quips with the potential to turn heads while putting the viewer at ease with humor.

My YouTube channel is where you will find me most often these days. I currently maintain two series themes, with plans for a third. The first is “Autism Sins”, a mashup of the nonsensical “Autism Verbs” titling popularized by the notorious anti-Autistic hate group, and the video format of CinemaSins. These snarky videos focus on fictional Autistic characters and documentaries about Autistic people (and sometimes a hot mess in-between cough Vaxxed cough). Entries so far include The Good Doctor, Atypical, Autism in Love, that one episode of House, that one episode of Arthur, and the Sesame Street “See Amazing” collection.

The second series theme is “Madness in Media”, a more serious analysis of themes and characters that are often considered mad, crazy, or mentally ill. This series kicked off with a first-season recap of 13 Reasons Why, and will soon be joined by a collection of cartoon episodes where the characters are put into institutions.

What inspires you?

What inspired me to start blogging in the first place 4 years ago was searching for resources to help explain disability and especially neurodiversity, and finding that those resources simply don’t exist. I realized that being on a radical frontier of amateur sociology meant that if I wanted an article, video, quote or meme available for use by me and my community, I had to create it myself. Often when I’m sitting in front of a blank page, trying to organize my thoughts on a piece of art or news media, the question I ask myself that gets the words flowing is “how did they miss the point?” Our society makes a hundred assumptions, and I want to challenge the first ten, not the last ten.

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

My artist identity certainly started young. I’ve been a writer ever since I got my hands on a keyboard, a graphic designer ever since I taught myself to play with GIMP, and a videographer from the time some kids in my homeschool group wanted to make film reviews without numerical scores. It just took a while to find exactly what I wanted to write about. Through madness and neurodivergence, I found “my voice” as an artist. I got a bite from the acting bug in high school, and while I don’t have the time to pursue a career in television, making videos allows me to scratch that itch by letting out the more performative aspects of myself.

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?

One thing that often bothers me in other blends of comedy and criticism is a lack of follow-through. I feel as the comedy part and the criticism part were written by two different people, and the editor is simply switching back and forth. I prefer to develop content holistically, with criticisms that set up the jokes, and jokes that double as criticisms. I also draw from my improvisational acting background, by accepting every comment as a foundation that becomes absolute truth as soon as it is uttered.

An example of how this increases follow-through is in my Atypical video, when I point out that the main character Sam Gardner looks like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory (because apparently that is now the default look of an Autistic character) and refer to him as “Teen Sheldon” as if this story takes place between Young Sheldon and the Big Bang Theory. I then refer to him exclusively as Teen Sheldon for not only the remainder of that video, but for the entire series. Because That Is Him Name Now.

Callbacks aren’t inherently more funny or more insightful, but they add an aesthetic quality that makes the audience feel an air of importance, as each component is part of a greater whole.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Make mistakes, share your mistakes, embarrass yourself, and fail.

I once came across an inspirational Tumblr post for more paper-based artists, showing a pen filled with “bad art” fluid near the tip and “good art” further back. The author explained that good art near the tip oxidizes into bad art overnight, and that you need to get the bad art out by drawing with it before you can access the good art.

That metaphor applies just as well to any artistic medium you can think of. You need to make a lot of things you won’t be super proud of later before you get the hang of it and improve. You shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes, because they’re not a sign of failure. Mistakes are an inevitable and important part of the process, just as integral as things like planning and editing.

Plus, let me tell you as an actor, embarrassing yourself on purpose is actually not that embarrassing. I dare say it’s kind of fun.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m part of a median system, so while individually I think I would be completely asexual, my other half who I can most closely describe as an aporagender demigirl lesbian bleeds through and the overall result is gray ace. I originally got pointed to an asexual support group on the advice that someone looking for a “low libido support group” will fit right in. Now the way I usually explain it is that I have attraction but not desire. I’m also considering adopting the label of fraysexual because I seem to lean more towards allo the longer I’m not in a relationship.

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

My orientation tends not to come up much in media analysis because there isn’t a lot of ace visibility or representation. I’ve been lucky enough not to have anyone actively trying to “cure” me, but have had allosexual (former) friends assume that my ace identity means never ever ever and then accuse me of faking due to their own ignorance of gray sexuality.

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

As with most of the minorities I belong to, the idea that it’s a medical condition that needs to be cured. Some people may lose their libido as a result of prescriptions drugs, but even in those cases it’s perfectly acceptable to take on asexual identity and just live your life with it.

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

Don’t worry if you don’t exactly match every Asexuality 101 definition you read. Those are written for a general allosexual audience, not for people who are questioning, and are incredibly oversimplified. If you personally feel like you don’t perform sexual-ness the way society expects you to, then you’re probably somewhere on the ace spectrum, which is ace enough.

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

ActingNT.blogspot.com
RedBubble.com/people/ActingNT
YouTube.com/c/ActingNT.

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

Interview: Shannen Michaelsen

Today we’re joined by Shannen Michaelsen. Shannen is a phenomenal filmmaker and podcaster who has a number of projects. As a filmmaker, they specialize in webseries, which are produced through RSC, an affiliate of ParaFable. As a co-founder of RSC, Shannen has been able to produce four webseries and two podcasts. They have a few podcasts that they participate in, including a Dungeons & Dragons one. It’s clear they’re a passionate and talented artist who loves what they do, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a co-founder of Remarkable, Singular, Curious Productions, and an affiliate of the collective ParaFable. Through RSC and ParaFable, I have produced four webseries and two podcasts.

My first webseries was “The Adventures of Jamie Watson (and Sherlock Holmes)”, a literary-inspired webseries based on Sherlock Holmes. I co-wrote the series and played our aroace Sherlock Holmes, and was therefore the first Holmes in film to be canonically aroace. After two years of “TAJWASH”, I decided to work on a few short-form shows. I wrote, produced, and starred in “Hamlet the Dame.” I then co-wrote and co-produced “Eddy Rex” (Oedipus Rex) and “Dear Natalie” (A Christmas Carol).

With ParaFable, I produce and DM the dungeons & dragons podcast, Daring Fables. And with RSC, my sister and I occasionally host Pop Culture Pie. I’m also a host of MuggleNet.com’s Fantastic Beasts podcast, SpeakBeasty.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by classic literature, obviously. Sherlock Holmes has always been a particularly important character to me. I’ve identified with him as both an asexual and autistic person, and that’s why making “TAJWASH” was so important to me. In Daring Fables, I take a lot of inspiration from old fairytales and myths. I’m also inspired by all the music I listen to, and like to create playlists for different stories and characters.

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

I have always been creative. My dad has worked in TV news my entire life, so I was always interested in filming. My friends and I made music videos and vlogs when I was a kid. I’ve been writing stories since elementary school. Webseries have been a great way to combine both art-forms. I got interested in literary-inspired webseries specifically after watching “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, and then working on “Notes By Christine.” As for podcasts, I joined SpeakBeasty when it first started and never looked back. Podcasts are an entirely different kind of art, but I’ve found them to be a great way to just talk to friends every couple weeks.

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?

Well, almost all of my main characters are asexual, and most of my stories are about friendship. Most of my webseries have a reference to another one of my shows or one of my friends’ shows, either with a line of dialogue or some kind of imagery.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep consuming the kind of art that you want to create. Keep reading, watching, listening, and admiring. The more you understand how other people create their art, the better you’ll understand how you can create your own. And just remember that everybody’s process is different, so don’t worry if you’re going about it in a different way.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aromantic and asexual.

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

I haven’t encountered prejudice, but I have encountered a lack of representation. That is part of the reason it has been so important for me to create shows with ace characters. Not only am I creating representation for myself and others, but I’m showing other creators that ace characters can have great, engaging stories.

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

The most common misconception I’ve encountered is that asexuality means not having sex. Of course many ace people have sex or want sex, and many ace people don’t. Many ace people are uncomfortable hearing about sex, many ace people aren’t. We’re just like everybody else, with our own individual needs and desires!

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

Ignore the discourse. Remember that there are people who accept you. Don’t feel the need to come out if you don’t want to. Focus on yourself and not everybody else.

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

They can visit remarkablesingularcurious.tumblr.com, theadventuresofjamiewatson.tumblr.com, or parafable.tumblr.com. Or they can search on YouTube for my various webseries, and iTunes for my podcasts.

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

Interview: Elaina Lee

Today we’re joined by Elaina Lee. Elaina is a wonderful up and coming filmmaker. They’re currently writing a webseries entitled Nyte’s Edge, which is a fascinating spin on the superhero genre. It sounds intriguing and I’m definitely going to check it out when it’s released. Elaina is a passionate and talented artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I mainly describe myself as a writer. I went from attempting novels, to writing and completing screenplays for film. My favorite genres are sci-fi, action, suspense, adventure, and I mostly write in those categories as well.

I’m currently working Nyte’s Edge, a webseries about a superhero who must save his alcoholic ex-boyfriend from the grips of an elite crime organization that has taken over their city. It explores good verses bad, and the grey area between. It also explores forgiveness and redemption.

What inspires you?

In the least cheesy sense possible, people inspire me. My favorite part of the writing process is probably creating realistic characters that people can empathize with. I love listening to people’s stories, big or small.

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

I originally wanted to write novels, but I didn’t have time patience to sit down and write over 50,000 words. Instead, I turned to film. It’s funny because it turns out that I don’t have enough words to fill a novel, but I have too many words to fill a script so these last few months working on Nyte’s Edge has also been about finding some kind of happy medium between the two.

But I’ve always known that I was going to create and be creative. Nothing else stuck, especially in school. I thought I was doing something wrong in not picking a “practical” career, until I chose a creative field. Since then, I’ve never felt more on-track in my life, and that brings so much peace of mind to 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?

Not currently, no.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Stay true to yourself, and don’t follow a path that’s going to make you dread waking up each day.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual, somewhere between sex-neutral and sex-repulsed.

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

Thankfully I haven’t yet. It’s not necessarily something that you just bring up on set at any time, but the people who work closely with me know about me being ace. I’m not necessarily “out”, but I’m also not hiding it and am fairly open about it.

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

That I can’t be asexual because it’s not scientifically correct. Or that I just haven’t found the right person yet, so I can’t be asexual.

I did have some guy tell how I had a kind of superiority over allosexual people because my mind isn’t focused on sex, and therefore able to focus on other things more acutely. Still, I couldn’t help but laugh, and be kind of weirded out.

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

I think what’s helped me the most is knowing that I identify as I do for myself, not for anyone else. Keep allowing yourself to grow, and if you grow out of one identity and into a new one that you feel is a fuller explanation of yourself, then embrace it.

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

I’ve got an official Facebook page, which is where you can find updates about Nyte’s Edge. I share all my film endeavors on there, so if you’re interested in seeing the short films I’ve been involved in, that would be the place to look. I’ve also got my film Instagram that anyone and everyone can follow. As for Tumblrs, I’ve got my film one at raggedybun, and a specific one for at nytesedge, but neither of them are particularly active currently.

Thank you, Elaina, 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: IDGAF Shareable

(Shared on Tumblr originally. Please visit there to see the accompanying video)

IDGAF is currently having a Weekend Pitch Party. Here’s the information:

Hi guys!

So IDGAF has just entered be in Stareable’s weekend pitch party! Winning gives us a chance to be featured in their newsletter which gives us a chance at having even MORE exposure and donors. All you have to do to help us accomplish this is go to the link provided below and LIKE the video! If you plan to share it with other friends and family make sure they like the original video as well and not the post that you share it on. It’s the only way the votes can count!

https://www.facebook.com/stareable/videos/792613157592700/

We’d really appreciate you guys helping us do this! Thank you thank you thank you!

Please log onto Facebook, signal boost, and show this webseries some love.

Also, they extended their fundraising deadline, so you can still contribute to getting this webseries made. Here’s the IndieGogo link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/i-don-t-give-a-f-ck

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Signal Boost: IDGAF Webseries

Hello all!

A future interviewee has an IndieGoGo Campaign that just opened and is looking to raise funds for a comedy series, created by ace POC and featuring ace POC.

Here’s the description of the series from the campaign page:

“I Don’t Give a F*ck is a dramatic comedy web series that centers on the perspective of two women of color who are trying to figure out how to navigate life and relationships from an asexual and sex-positive lense. It is a show that will not only further the already lacking visibility of asexual characters in mainstream media, but highlight other sexual and romantic spectrums that are often not discussed candidly. Crowdfunding this series will create the opportunity for these stories to be told.”

It’s no secret that the ace community has a real problem when it comes to centering white narratives. What little coverage of asexuality is in the mainstream tends to focus entirely on white asexual people. The community needs to do a better job boosting the voices of ace POC and supporting their work. Supporting a series like this is so important and it helps examine asexuality through a more intersectional lens. Plus, the series just sounds awesome and funny in general. It’s definitely something I’m going to watch.

Bottom line: getting this series funded is super important! So go there, donate, and signal boost the hell out of them! They deserve it 🙂

The campaign link, again: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/i-don-t-give-a-f-ck#/

Thanks, everybody!