Author Archives: fordhampr

BRILIANT STAND-UP COMEDIAN AL VAL CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL TO BREAK DOWN COMEDY GENDER BARRIERS

Over the past few years, mainstream media and audiences have been introduced to many talented and exciting transgender performers, actors, artists, musicians….all the while learning about their challenges and life experiences. I have a number of friends who have transitioned but I’ve never sat down to ask questions or even just listen to their stories, there’s so much to learn and understand, and to celebrate their achievements in life, career and day-to-day living whilst experiencing bullying and a lack of compassion.

I was recently introduced to a very funny comedian – Al Val – who not only talks about her path taken from male to female, but she also pokes fun at the journey and those she’s encountered along the way. The award-winning funny lady believes if you can laugh at something that scares or mystifies you, then you’ll realize there is nothing to be shocked or afraid of. There are too many misconceptions and judgements about people’s sexualities; I personally believe it’s none of anyone’s damned business. And I must admit, I learnt a lot when Al Val recently shared her thoughts with me in an online interview.

Over the past couple of years, you’ve taken very brave steps by becoming the real you – what prompted you to evolve into Al Val?  So my gender identity was something I’d been struggling with since I was a teen, and over the years I’d developed an admittedly pretty sophisticated compartmentalizing pattern; any form of ‘feminine’ expression was kept completely secret to the outside world, while on the outside I presented as this dreadlock-wearing ladies’ man frat boy, mostly as a projection, a form of self-protection… But eventually the weight of performing a lie became more and more unbearable, especially when it was rotting my intimate relationships from the inside – this ‘terrible secret’ I thought I’d take to the grave with me. My personal life and my mental health had reached somewhat of a breaking point, and I decided I didn’t want to look back at the end of my life ashamed at how effectively I’d hidden from everyone. However, I’ve gone by ‘Al Val’ since the start of my comedy career and well before (it’s an abbreviated form of my full name, Algis Valiulis, which is obviously a branding/marketing nightmare). I like to think that there are elements of my delivery and an essence to my personality that have always remained constant – an ‘Al Val’ that hasn’t and won’t change no matter what – but the ‘new me’ is much more vulnerable, honest, and liberated… And that’s pretty special.

2 years ago, you won Male Break-out Comic of the Year and now you’re aiming to challenge for the Best Female – has the comedy community embraced you in your new identity or have you experienced painful push-backs or prejudices when moving forward as a trans-female artist?  I’m extremely proud of the comedy community in Toronto where I live (and Canada in general!) and how generously and open-heartedly they have supported me! I count myself fortunate. Surely there are subcultures, as there would be in any community, that are perplexed and offended by who I am and what I stand for. I’ve even heard whispers of some comics spitefully convinced that I’ve “doing all of this for the clout” which is… baffling. Sure bud, I’ve subscribed to a lifetime of having puffy little marshmallow nipples and getting weird looks in the women’s washroom, but it’s all worth it when 4 people comment that they like my wig on TikTok!

However, those people tend to make up a small population of background noise compared to the outpouring of support I’ve received from the broader comedy community. Honestly, the ‘male’ part of that breakout award was never out of malice; at that point I was still dancing all over the line between male and female, and a lot of people thought that what I was doing was a kind of drag act. I hadn’t openly been identifying as a female at that point. I’m sure moving forward that any awards I get nominated for will be for a ‘female’ category; otherwise I’m going to get those four TikTok fans of mine to ‘cancel’ whoever organizes them.

Your act includes many references to the challenges you’ve experienced as a trans woman, both in showbiz and your life in general. Do you find that by sharing these situations, you not only make people laugh, but also make them think?  I believe that I do! I’ve always subscribed to the idea that prejudice is really a side effect of ignorance, and ignorance can easily be overcome by exposure. On several occasions I’ve been approached by audience members after a show who will tell me that they’ve never met a trans person before, and that my act not only made them laugh but had given them something to relate to. My act is deliberately relatable – I illustrate my faults and insecurities with (sometimes painful) honesty. As a result, people essentially get to ‘meet’ a trans woman and get to connect on that human level: to learn that human universals like insecurity, shame, pride, embarrassment, triumph and failure – we all feel them. This is the human experience. It certainly helps that comedy is one hell of a bonding force between folks, and is also a warm and fuzzy way to process some terrifying and painful feelings and experiences. I do also think that my act explores traditional gender and sexual dynamics that maybe people don’t notice! Moving from one ‘polar end of the gender spectrum’ to the other has granted some interesting insights into how people are expected to behave, how they’re treated, and how they process the world depending on their sexuality and gender.In addition, the fact that I’m ‘new to womanhood’ from my bro-ey, masculine origins allows me to almost speak a sort of common universal language to both men and women, from the perspective of an underdog who’s struggling to fit in, get her shit together and to figure it all out. How can you not cheer for me and maybe take something from the experience? I’m a goddamn pioneer!

Did going through the Second City improv classes & Conservatory Program help you think quickly on your feet when responding to any negative reactions from audiences or people you just run into in day-to-day life?  It’s interesting – I find that the improv training I received from Second City, while profoundly valuable in its own way, wasn’t as directly ‘translatable’ as the years’ experience I’ve had touring Canada and performing at all kinds of places, in some often uncomfortable (and maybe even vaguely dangerous) scenarios. In my opinion, Second City is excellent at training you to build funny and relatable scenes with a team of cooperative mates; however, there is a distinct ‘crowd work’ skill that you can effectively develop through trial and error: getting your teeth metaphorically kicked in by a drunk, hostile crowd at a bowling alley in Red Deer; fighting for the attention of a handful of Leafs fans at an open mic during a playoff game in Oshawa; doing an hour of squeaky-clean material during intermission at a provincial bible quoting competition in Muskoka; performing onstage between a dying Ficus plant and a massive portrait of the queen at a legion in Milton…..but I digress. (Sorry, just got caught up reliving some war stories there…) My point is that personally for me, thinking quickly on my feet is a skill I developed in part through training, but in much larger part through experience on the road. Second City did teach me some crucial skills though, like saying ‘yes, and-’ in all social interactions (onstage and off) to build rapport with people, and to mime starting a lawn mower with astounding realism.As for any hostility I might meet in day-to-day life, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid anything significantly threatening; but if I do, I know my paralyzing fear of conflict and lack of any offstage self-confidence would probably freeze me in place and make me a defenseless target. Funny how a microphone and a stage can change things so significantly…

You currently host a weekly podcast, PodGis…do you present virtual performances, tell stories or chat with guests?  My podcast has become my fun little corner of the universe that is unrestricted by any sort of parameters of the stage and any expectations to be ‘on’ all the time. Yes, it is a comedy podcast in which I tell stories and wing premises as I go, but I do get personal on a level even deeper than I do onstage, and sometimes do some deep, personal dives into how I’m coping, how I’m living, and what my transition experience is like during that given week. It’s an excellent extra insight into my disorganized, imaginative brain… Aside from the occasional special appearance of a friend as a guest, it’s a solo project for now. It’s my interesting, lively little corner of spontaneous self-expression, done my way. I suppose I’m being guarded in how much outside engagement I invite, knowing that there are plenty of people who would troll me and antagonize me for a lark. It’s a level of emotional bullet proofing that I’m working on.With these damned Covid restrictions that prevent live performances, are you creating any online or YouTube content that fans can watch?  I’m considering adding a video component to “PodGis” and posting the full videos on my YouTube channel (“Al Val”) to accompany the audio (available everywhere podcasts are broadcasted!), but in the meantime, am using this lockdown period to revitalize my Twitch channel “ALVALTheEmotionalGamer”, where I will be regularly streaming live makeup tutorials/ transformations, playing video games and basically hanging out with whoever wants to laugh and engage with me!

And how can we follow your comedy journey – do you have a website or social media? My website www.alvalcomedian.com is up and running, and as soon as these pesky restrictions lift I will have more booked shows to post on my event calendar there, as a single place you can continue to visit to stay up to date on all my live appearances!  Otherwise, I post content regularly on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, all under the account name @alvalcomedy  Add me and check out the cute, silly things I’m out there doing.

Any advice or thoughts for young comics or fellow transgender people looking for direction with their lives?  To young comics, or comics of any age starting out: there is no standard timeline of progression, nor any standardized measure of ‘success’ in comedy; these are often illusions that we use to beat ourselves up that we’re not doing enough, or that we are somehow inadequate. Your primary focuses in my opinion should be self-exploration, self-expression, and self-improvement; the rest is just noise. In fussing about how well you’re competing with others and where you ‘should’ be in your career, you’re suffocating your art. Focus on the things you find funny and with time and practice and a collection of defeats (lots of them – be prepared to suck for at least a while!), you’ll develop an inspired, authentic voice that your audience will naturally be attracted to. Be you, take the pressure off yourself and stay in touch with the reasons you pursued comedy in the first place: it’s fun! Have fun and play; you only really truly fail when you give up completely.

I suppose my advice to transgender people would be similar in regards to failure: every step you take and every aspect of yourself that you explore is a courageous victory, and the only ‘failure’ that exists would be to give up completely on yourself. Yours is the unfortunate challenge of navigating an identity that doesn’t fall comfortably into the norm, so treat yourself with patience and love, lean on the support of the ones who love you and practice gratefulness toward the qualities of yourself that make you such a resilient, special little badass!

I guess what I’m trying to say is whether you’re embarking on a comedy career or a revelation regarding your gender identity or even both, art is an imitation of life and life is really a journey of exploration. You cannot fail if you’re exploring, learning, discovering, growing. Be patient. Be brave. And don’t take bathroom graffiti personally; I wouldn’t trust anyone who thinks that something worth saying is something said with a poop and a sharpie.

Al Val has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the Canadian comedy scene. Since 2018 when Al came out as trans, she has made appearances at Just For Laughs New Faces showcase, JFL NorthWest, Off-JFL/Zoofest, and has taped stand-up sets for CBC Gem (New Wave of Standup), Crave TV (The Stand-Up Show with Jon Dore), and JFL Originals. Host of her own weekly solo stream-of-consciousness podcast PodGis, a graduate of Second City’s Conservatory Program, and one part of improv-rock musical duo “OverDude”, there’s no wonder this multitalented whirlwind was voted by her peers as 2020’s “Breakout Comic of the Year” (in the ‘male’ category, no less – really stickin’ it to the fellas!).

I can’t wait until we get back to post-Covid live shows so I, too, can join comedy fans watching Al Val’s exciting career arc…maybe her own tv special? A Vegas residency? A movie? Anything is possible and Al Val proves that every day.

MY BIRTHDAY WISH THIS YEAR IS FOR FRIENDS TO DONATE TO BIRDSONG NEW MUSIC FOUNDATION

I’ve never asked for anything at birthday time, you see it falls on Boxing Day (Dec.26) and even as a child none of my friends and school chums were around ‘coz in Australia, Christmas and Boxing Day mark the beginning of our summer holidays so everyone takes off. As an adult, I know that everyone is out at the Boxing Day sales and if anyone does remember my birthday, I usually get the left-over Christmas pressies that nobody wants (ugly socks or boxes of jellied fruit)…LOLThis year, just for a change, I hope you’ll consider donating to my little Facebook fundraiser for the newly registered national charity BIRDSONG NEW MUSIC FOUNDATION that benefits Canadian songwriters and musicians struggling with mental health issues and substance use disorder. It was founded by my longtime friend Margaret Konopacki who lost her beloved son, David Martin, to just such an illness. Please donate any amount, no matter how modest, here: https://www.facebook.com/donate/417109276761124/ 

You can learn more by visiting www.BirdsongFoundation.com and see how they support Canadian songwriters and musicians by publishing their songs (artists retain all copyrights) as well as recording their songs and creating videos for them – all fully funded! Their first compilation album, BIRDSONG: FIRST FLIGHT, comes out May 1st, 2022, and features artists from across the country.

Bravo, Margaret, and I hope my birthday fundraiser attracts new fans and supporters for Birdsong. With much love to Margaret and David (below)

OSCAR-WINNING DIRECTOR GUILLERMO DEL TORO CALLS ON THE EVASONS FOR ADVICE FOR HIS LATEST FILM “NIGHTMARE ALLEY”.

Over the past few weeks, my TV has been dominated by ads for an exciting new feature film, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro’s noir-themed “Nightmare Alley” which opens this Friday, December 17th. The film stars Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara along with an outstanding cast of A-listers including my fave Aussie ladies, Cate Blanchett and Toni Collette. I was thrilled, then, to receive a message from the world’s leading mentalist duo, Tessa and Jeff Evason, telling me about their participation in the film, too.When del Toro was going over the script, he wanted to ensure authenticity for the various scenes showing how mentalists work with their audiences. So after a few international phones calls and emails, he was introduced to the Evasons who are considered the best working mentalists in the world!I met Tessa and Jeff several years ago and they told me that one day we would work together – yes, they nailed that one for sure…now here we are.  I spoke with them 2 days ago and asked them to share the experience of getting the phone call that has brought them into a whole new circle of friends and business opportunities.

Tessa & Jeff, tell me how you became specialist consultants on Guillermo del Toro’s latest Hollywood blockbuster, Nightmare Alley – how did he find you?  It was the summer of 2019, we were at our cottage in Canada. We got a phone call from the office of producer Miles Dale. He said Guillermo del Toro was on the other line and he would like to chat with us about his upcoming film, Nightmare Alley. We looked at each other, wondered if it was a prank call, but it really was Guillermo on the line. OMG! He was just so friendly and warm, and incredibly nice. He told us we had some mutual friends, Teller (from Penn & Teller) and Derren Brown (mentalist from England), and that when he asked them if there was two-person mentalism team that he should speak with, they both said we were the ones.Without giving anything away, what did the Oscar-winning director ask of you?  Guillermo said that he was a huge fan of magic, and a member of the Magic Castle (private club in Hollywood, which we are also members of). He felt it was important that he remain true to the original story, and to also be respectful of magic history. Our task was to read the script (and every revision that followed) to provide notes about any scenes that pertained to methods, psychology and the performance of mentalism. On the first phone call, Guillermo  told us about his love and respect for magic. He was sensitive about exposure of secret methods, and he didn’t want to reveal any more than necessary in his movie, while keeping the storyline as authentic as possible. He wanted our perspective, as experts in the field of two-person mentalism, to advise and give insight line by line, scene by scene. Anyone who hasn’t studied what we have studied, to the depth and degree that we have studied and performed, has no idea what is possible with two-person telepathy. Some things in his original script sounded great and made for an interesting story, but just weren’t practical for a mentalism team to actually perform on stage during the era when the story takes place. Nightmare Alley was originally a novel by William Lindsay Gresham published in 1946. It has always had a degree of controversy among magicians and mentalists, yet it’s a film that we all love because we can relate to it in so many ways.

Del Toro is a big fan of magic and mind-reading – did you find him open to suggestions for certain scenes?  Oh yes! He was quite receptive to the many notes and ideas we contributed. We read quite a few revisions of the script. We had a blast doing it! You know for us it was really about keeping the scenes that involved mind reading and mentalism as realistic as possible, while at the same time remembering Nightmare Alley is a movie, not a documentary, and therefore it had license to bend the truth. Production had an unfortunate major delay due to the pandemic, and we imagine they had to make quite a few changes along the way because of that. We’re very keen to see the finished product.

You have created a great reputation in the corporate events world for presenting astounding feats of mentalism – have you been able to sustain work throughout the pandemic? Did you adapt by conducting events online?  We’re so fortunate to be working with some of the best entertainment agents and bureaus in the business. The agent who represents us, also represents many of the best magicians and mentalists on the planet. His name is Bill, and more than a business associate, he is a friend. He has given us so much encouragement and guidance before and during the pandemic. At first we were like everyone else, thinking life would soon get back to normal. As time went on, we resisted doing virtual shows. But then we tried doing a few guest spots on virtual charity events and we found that what we did worked really well virtually – sometimes even more unbelievable than live performances. Since then, we’ve been doing virtual shows regularly and we love it! Today, for example, we woke up early to do an 8:00am show for an audience in the UK, then later in the day we did a show for a North American group, and at 3:00am we performed for a group in Japan! We literally travel around the world to do 3 shows in less than 24 hours – how amazing is that?!

Do you think virtual shows may be the way of the future for corporate events and public shows?  We have no doubt that virtual meetings and events are here to stay. And fortunately for us, magic and mentalism is one of the best forms of entertainment for online platforms. Attendees become active participants, and the more interactive the show is, the more engaged the audience becomes. It’s not just about watching the performer, a big part of the appeal for attendees is watching each other, so Zoom shows work really well. Many of the groups we have performed for tell us they plan to continue doing virtual events even after they return to doing live events. During these strange times, we’ve thought a lot about the performers who successfully transitioned from Vaudeville theaters to film, and later to radio and TV. Who knows where we’re headed with virtual shows, but we do know this is a time where we need to embrace change. In many ways it’s an exciting era and we’re thrilled to be part of it!

“They turned a roomful of arms-folded skeptics into intrigued believers.” – Toronto Star

“They left audiences aghast with their abilities” – Carte Blanche, South Africa

“Their mind-reading act was one of the most incredible displays this reviewer has ever witnessed.” – Evening Chronicle, Newcastle Upon Tyne  What is the most exciting thing about being involved with Nightmare Alley? Would you like to be the go-to experts for other films or tv shows?  Nightmare Alley is one of our favorite movies of all time, and Guillermo del Toro is such a legend. What an honor to be involved on any level! The most exciting thing about it is probably just to have had the opportunity and to be able to include it on our resume. Life is all about variety and having as many amazing experiences as possible. This certainly has been a significant highlight for us, and yes, we definitely would love to be the “go-to experts” for this genre for other films or tv shows or media appearances.

As 2022 is fast approaching, are you and your US booking agent planning any live events, corporate or public, next year or are you simply working on a day-by-day basis?  Yes, we are planning live events and have quite a few dates booked on our calendar. In fact, we’ve already done a lot of live events. Our first show back after a year and a half hiatus was in August at Lilly Dale in upstate New York. It’s a beautiful little town, actually a hamlet, where psychics and mediums live and work. It’s known as the world’s largest spiritualist community. Working there was another highlight for us. Since then, we’ve also done colleges and corporate events in the US and in Canada. Next month (January, 2022) we are excited to be appearing nightly for ticketed public shows at Liberty Magic, a lovely intimate theatre in Pittsburgh, PA.To book a live or virtual show, corporate event, or learn more about Tessa and Jeff Evason and their amazing skills, visit: www.evason.com and be sure to check out Nightmare Alley when it opens in a cinema near you.

HELP BIRDSONG SOAR ON #GIVINGTUESDAYCA NOVEMBER 30th

My dear friend MARGARET KONOPACKI recently launched BIRDSONG New Music Foundation, a new national Canadian charity supporting songwriters/musicians living with mental health issues and substance use disorders in tribute to her late son, David Martin (pictured below with Margaret), a songwriter and singer who struggled with these problems throughout his life.Margaret has spent the past 3 years creating the foundation that publishes, records and promotes songs written by Canadian musicians who would otherwise not be supported by mainstream record labels, and next Tuesday November 30th marks the first fundraising initiative Birdsong has launched, participating in the annual global charitable event, www.givingtuesday.caIt is with great excitement and anticipation that Birdsong New Music Foundation is participating in this year’s #GivingTuesdayCa fundraising event – the very first outreach for our new national music charity. As thanks for your donation, we will be releasing the first 3 songs & videos from our upcoming compilation album Birdsong: First Flight 101 (due for release in 2022) as thanks for supporting musicians living with a mental health diagnosis or substance use disorder. Donations will also help to create the change necessary for people living with mental illness. BirdsongFoundation.com is the voice for change through music and art. – Margaret Konopacki, Founder & CEO of Birdsong New Music Foundation Canadian Charitable Organization No.: 777564873RR0001 

Money raised on Giving Tuesday goes to production costs for recordings as well as towards next year’s cross-country tour supporting the album release and shows featuring the Birdsong artists. Artists retain all copyrights and Birdsong hopes to launch it’s own record label by 2023.  Birdsong Foundation works with people who have chosen to share their vision by composing and performing songs, not only as a form of expression but often as a means of survival. All of our composers/musicians agree that music has saved their lives. Lyrics are the story – new music is the method!

So don’t forget….next Tuesday November 30th, help Canadian songwriters soar….please visit the official donation page: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/giv3/119679  and please share using #GivingTuesdayCa on your social media.

 

AUDIENCES WELCOMED BACK TO LIVE MUSIC SHOWS – JIM GELCER CELEBRATED WITH HIS SHOW AT TORONTO’S JAZZ BISTRO!

Toronto-based musician and composer, JIM GELCER, was thrilled to play his first LIVE public performance on Thursday November 4 at the venerable Jazz Bistro in downtown Toronto.  Covid had caused all music venues to shut down over the past 20 months and we were certainly anxious to see musicians return to the stage – Jim was joined by Rob Piltch (guitar), Ross MacIntyre (bass), Rob Neal Christian (sax, flute, piano)…..pictured belowI sat down with Jim at the Aroma Café on Bloor St East a few days prior to his show, and asked a few questions about surviving the Covid lockdown, what it feels like to be back performing LIVE, and his new side gig teaching students from around the world via an online learning academy.

Jim, you had a great gig November 4th at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro – was that your first live show since Covid restrictions eased and audience capacities increased?   Yes and no. I had a couple of shows last summer when they first eased the restrictions a bit, and there have been a few private events as well, but this is really my first club date as a band leader in 18 months.

You performed with 3 other great musicians: Rob Christian on sax, flute & piano; Rob Piltch on guitar and Ross MacIntyre on bass. Were you looking fwd to working with your fellow musicians after all this time?   Absolutely! Especially this killer band. I’m a connector. And one of the things I like to do is bring people together who I think should know each other and would enjoy playing or working together. I’ve worked with each of these musicians individually, but never all three together and I think it’s a wonderful combination of talent.

 

Has the Covid isolation period offered any positive opportunities such as time to compose or arrange, listening to other musicians’ work?   Yes, indeed! I was quite busy during Covid with film scores, production, and songwriting collaborations. In fact, I’ve just finished co-writing three Christmas songs with Jon Mullane, a songwriter from Nova Scotia, that will be released on his upcoming Christmas album (look for it on his Spotify, or wherever you listen to music).

 

You studied music as well as philosophy, so has a serious music education helped you with your career? So many new/young musicians have never picked up an actual instrument or learnt how to sight-read music – do you think there is still a need for traditional learning or do you feel music’s future lies with computers?   A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to teach music at the Toronto District School Board. I am so grateful for that, as it sustained me during Covid, and got me into teaching, which I had not done much of previously. During the pandemic I also started teaching privately, and have had students from as far and wide as Germany, Ukraine, Hawaii, and all over North America. So, yes, I believe that there is still a need for traditional learning.

If people want to learn more about you and your music, do you have a website or social media they could follow?  Yes, I’m on Facebook (facebook.com/jgelcer). I’m also on Instagram and Twitter as @jimgelcer. And I’m even on Wikipedia! My website is www.gelcer.com

I’m so glad you had an enthusiastic audience at Jazz Bistro, must have been so great to play live again. And continued success with your music students around the world. (www.outschool.com)

CANADIAN INT’L FAITH & FAMILY FILM FEST STARTS TODAY!

Just as the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) closes, the 5th annual Canadian Int’l Faith & Family Film Festival opens! My dear film industry friends BRIAN KAULBACK (CIFF Ambassador and member of judging panel) and festival Co-Founder & Exec. Director JASON BARBECK invited me down the the exclusive Hotel X on Toronto’s waterfront today to talk about this unique family and faith-focused festival that runs online for an entire month, and features films, shorts, documentaries, even animated films that are suitable for ALL the family. Jason graciously offered to share information about CIFF with me via a series of video chats so I encourage you to click on and learn about the cool content and activities at this year’s festival.

Every year, the CIFF Film Festival exhibits and celebrates the most outstanding faith and family content produced from every part of the world. Films are selected and nominated by a panel of judges on the basis of content, quality and originality.  CIFF is one of the fastest growing segments of the international film festival markets, and the only one of its kind in Canada.audience Film lovers, industry professionals and media outlets will celebrate the best in new faith and family cinema from established and emerging filmmakers and talent. This year, CIFF will be showing films from 22 countries around the world via their website: www.cifflix.com  Get your online passes there NOW. The festival runs until mid-October so you can catch all the films as well as tonight’s Awards Gala from the comfort of your home.

And there will be lots of celebrities and stars in virtual attendance, too….

colmCIFF Film Fest welcomes submissions from filmmakers around the world so come on all my Aussie movie making mates…here’s how YOU can submit your latest production and access a growing audience of film lovers who appreciate inspiring, family-oriented and faith-based content……

I encourage you to visit the festival’s official website: www.cifflix.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.logo

AUSTRALIAN FILM ACTOR DEAN KYRWOOD ON VERGE OF INT’L BREAKTHROUGH!

Late last year, I attended online screenings and director/cast discussions of Australian films that were part of the annual NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week  that shines a spotlight on Indigenous Australian culture and communities, as well as history and arts. One exciting indie film I was eager to see was The Flood which, based on so many sad facts, tells the story of post-WWII Australia and how the white population mistreated and abused the native population of this distant outpost of British colonial power. There were so many fantastic performances but one (or should I say two) stood out – that of DEAN KYRWOOD (pictured below on set), a stunningly handsome actor who reveled in his dual roles of portraying twins – one brutal and sadistic, the other a weakly coward. After the online screening held in the wee small hours here in Toronto (we’re about 12-14hrs behind Australia), I asked a few questions and then connected directly with director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre for a blog interview. Through her, I connected with Dean whose work I’ve followed ever since.  floodI reached out to Dean to share his acting journey with my readers, just in time for TIFF (Toronto Int’l Film Festival) which opened a few days ago. With the lack of glamourous galas, swanky industry soirees and public red carpets this year due to Covid restrictions, here’s a great way to celebrate film – sharing stories from the sets and learning about actors from around the world.

Dean, not only are you an actor but also an accomplished musician & singer, a fashion & photographic model, and more recently youve been doing a lot of weight training and building your body to super hero status. Do you consider yourself a driven person?  First and foremost, I consider myself an actor and a musician, and the modelling thing (I’m showing my age) I retired from a couple of decades ago. I consider myself very driven and tenacious and have always been drawn to the arts. Every time I have ventured into one arena I’m told a lot of “no’s” and I’m fueled by these “no’s”. “You’re too short to be a model” (I’m 6ft tall) I’ve had singing booking agents tell me in the beginning “You’ll only ever be able to do this part time” (I’ve been living off full time singing for close to 20 years). In acting you’re constantly told no but you have to (like Arnold Schwarzenegger says) ignore the naysayers. It only takes a few “believers” to champion you for you to succeed along with hard work and I have a mental list of naysayers in my mind that I look forward to saying “I told you so” to when they’re suddenly supporters of mine. I’m not naturally talented at much, but I’ll outwork anyone!158909586_10159207131602673_3907553845166363361_nStarting out as a model, you shot print ads and promo images – how did that help build your confidence and comfort in front of cameras?  Being a painfully shy kid, it certainly did help build my confidence and it was a necessary baby step towards me going into singing/playing in front of large crowds and, in turn, performing for years as a musician also became a necessary step in the scheme of things for me to feel confident enough to embrace and take the plunge of being in front of people as an actor.

I gather you were a popular musician in and around Newcastle, playing the best venues and at corporate functions – were you torn between pursuing music and acting or did you already have a plan to move into film and television?  These days I mostly perform in and around Newcastle, but also did long stints in Sydney and Melbourne. No, to be honest I’ve never been torn between the two. I mostly play cover songs these days (with some of my own thrown in) but I don’t have the fire in my belly to “make it” as a musician that I had in my 20’s/30’s. That fire has been very much directed at my acting career and it’s my main focus, but I feel equally gratified in the doing of both.

You and I first met (online) when you starred in last years hit feature film The Flood where you played dual roles critical to the story line – you portrayed twins, one of whom was extremely cruel. How did you find the humanity in such a character and how easy was it to slip between the two brothers in different scenes?  It was lovely to meet you!! I really appreciate all your support. It was certainly challenging in a good way to play twins who are both very different to me. To find the humanity in both, I had to look hard at the back story of their childhood and upbringings and that the “cruel” twin just like the more empathic twin were how they were as a result of pain and abuse from a young age. Obviously, the cruel twin’s actions are horrific and abhorrent, but in his mind in the particular circumstances of the film his actions seem justified to him, considering what was taken from him. At times it was extremely draining as a real empath to embody such cruelty, but I remember a conversation I had with actor Mark Coles Smith (when I was filming a short called Miro with him, with the same director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre) where we discussed not letting my natural empathy get in the way of really going there and being completely truthful in the moment so as to not water down the mistreatment and horrific things inflicted on indigenous people in Australia in our past. It was also difficult to play the seemingly weak/cowardly twin because he somewhat resembled that painfully shy teenager that I was. Surprisingly, I found it relatively easy and am realizing I tend to work from the outside in as an actor a lot, meaning with the expertise of hair and make-up and wardrobe, I feel my inner life/demeanor/body language shift the moment that wardrobe and hair and makeup are on me. Pictured below, with Alexis Lane and Shaka Cook, then in B&W with Brendan Bacon.the-flood-cinema-australia-2Brendan and DeanThe Flood was writer/director Victoria Wharfe McIntyres debut feature and she did an amazing job with the large cast – did you feel like you were part of something very special and was there anything you learned from that gig that you can apply to future roles?  I feel incredibly grateful to Victoria and producer Armi Marquez-Perez for giving me the opportunity and the belief they bestowed upon me in giving me a lead role in such a special film when they could have easily gone with a big name actor. That is an example of what I said in an earlier question in regards to only needing a few “believers”. Something I can take forward into future roles is that playing a lead doesn’t have to be a big scary proposition, when you have so much time to just take each day as a new day and break it down into small sections and not look at it as a huge whole that’s intimidating or overwhelming. Another thing I learnt being able to act almost every day for 7 weeks, was that there’s dramatic power in the silence in a scene and being in the moment and not rushing through a scene and to take risks within them.poster for social mediaYou also appeared in Moon Rock for Monday (2019), a popular film that actually made it up here to N. America – did you have any scenes with David Field, one of Australias great actors known especially for playing twitchy bad guys?  It’s so nice seeing “Moon Rock For Monday” getting out into the world. It’s a gorgeous story and the most family friendly film I’ve done so far. No, unfortunately I didn’t have any scenes with the incredible David Field. I’ve been a huge fan of his since seeing him in “Two Hands” with Heath Ledger, Rose Byrne and Bryan Brown and I feel so blessed to be in the same cast as David all these years later.MoonRockforMondayWebPoster2Youre currently starring in the horror short Mask of the Evil Apparition” by director Alex Proyas, which is getting lots of buzz on social media as well as the festival circuit. Tell us about your role and how much you enjoyed the horror film experience.  I was pinching myself when Alex offered me the roles of Angelo 1 and Angelo 2 (twins again!!) in “Mask of the Evil Apparition” or as we affectionately call it MOTEA, but I quickly became aware upon chatting to/meeting Alex, that he’s a really humble, intelligent and fun guy and the entire experience was an absolute pleasure, and following the experience of “The Flood” I felt more than ready to give it my all with confidence. It certainly is getting a lot of festival love and for anyone interested in seeing it, it will available on a new exciting/innovative new streaming platform that Alex is creating called Vidiverse which will be a platform for indie filmmakers. I can’t say a lot more than the characters are psychic twins at this point and it was such a pleasure to play in this film opposite the three other incredible actors Bonnie Ferguson (Lead), Goran D Kleut and Alex King. I just approach the Horror genre like any other and was seeking being truthful in each moment. It was the first time for me working in a completely green screen environment, but acting is suspension of disbelief and imagination in any environment and I loved it and would do it again with bells on!mask_of_the_evil_apparition_s-148570621-largewith Alex Proyas and Bonnie FergusonYou were co-lead in another thriller/horror feature film called Water Horse (directed by Jennifer Van Gessel) that was shot last year and is due for Australian release soon (and hopefully in N. America, too) – what sort of character did you play in that and how did you approach the role?  I’m really excited about the impending release of Water Horse with it being my second lead role in a feature film and was a great experience to make with two of my best friends in super talented writer/director Jennifer Van Gessel and the real star of the film, Lauren Grimson. I play a character called Osmond (Oz) Shaw who is probably a character closest to my real self that I’ve played. That said, there are enough differences between the character and myself that it didn’t feel too revealing. I guess I mostly approached the character in a way of “How would I feel/react in this situation myself”. Oz works with Dianne Wilson (Lauren Grimson) a paranormal investigator who links a bizarre string of seemingly unrelated events to the disappearance of her mother.

Well soon get to see you in a cool cameo in the upcoming Zombie film Wyrmwood: Apocalypse (due out in 2022) – any special training you had to undergo for the role? And are you a fan of The Walking Dead?  Being such a huge fan of Kiah Roache-Turner and Tristan Roache-Turner’s first Wyrmwood film I jumped at the chance to do a memorable cameo in the second one!! I didn’t really require any training as I’m constantly training with weights and doing cardio in my daily life and I have played quite a few roles that involved military type training and stunt work. I’m excited to see it and yes, I’m a massive fan of the first 4 or 5 seasons of The Walking Dead but haven’t had a chance to catch up on the last few. WyrmwoodDean K July 21 (2)I gather youre embarking on writing your own script – can you give us a hint what its about?  Yes I have!! I haven’t decided upon a title as yet, but I guess it would be in the psychological thriller/sci-fi/horror genre and I’m looking for the right producer/director to get it from page to screen. I would describe it as a story that puts you into the kind of uncomfortable place that directors like Darren Aronofsky, Ari Aster and Jennifer Kent put you in.

Dean, how can film fans follow your career? Do you have a website yet or should people follow you on social media?  You can follow me on Instagram at @deankyrwoodofficial or Dean Kyrwood on Facebook. I also have a YouTube channel that has some of my songs and covers at it if you search Dean Kyrwood. Thanks so much for the interview and all the best with the blog, Glenda!!

You’re very welcome, Dean, and I’m thrilled to be able to share your story with other actors, filmmakers and movie fans.

 

Director/writer TRICIA LEE is ready for her own close-up at this year’s Toronto Int’l Film Festival

Back in October of 2013, I was thrilled to work with Canadian writer/director TRICIA LEE, promoting her horror feature film Silent Retreat which made its World Premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival that year. The film did very well with both audiences and critics and since then, Lee has been on an upward career trajectory.

The accomplished and versatile filmmaker earned her US Green Card as an “artist of extraordinary ability” with Canadian and British citizenship, and has directed 11 shorts and 3 award-winning features since starting out in 2004. And she directed newly-minted superhero star Simu Liu in her 2017 short film Meeting Mommy.

Tricia has been recognized as one of Hollywood’s Top New Writers on the 2020 Black List, CAPE List, Young & Hungry List, Athena List, and the BitchList.  Her script pitch for Good Chance was an Academy Nicholl Fellowship semi-finalist, Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition grand prize winner, Cinequest Best Feature Screenplay winner, WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Features winner, Sundance Lab second-rounder and selected for the prestigious Producers Guild of America Power of Diversity Master Workshop. Attached are Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, Janet Yang (Joy Luck Club) as producers and Kheng Tan Hua (Crazy Rich Asians, Kung Fu Series) as lead actress – BRAVO, TRICIA!
Currently, Tricia’s script for her next feature titled IDOL is part of this year’s “Breaking Through the Lens” program at the Toronto International Film Festival that just opened on September 9th so I was excited to chat with Tricia about that and her other achievements since we worked together in 2013.TIFF
Tricia, you’ve worked consistently and successfully for more than a decade, creating some of the most innovative and exciting genre films why is becoming a finalist in this years Breaking Through the Lens TIFF so important to you personally and for your career?   Looking back on my career, it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come, but also how far I still want to go.  In order to continue a long-lasting career, I have to keep innovating and creating new projects and telling new stories.  Breaking Through the Lens choosing my new project, IDOL, to be showcased during TIFF is this project’s first walk outside!  The opportunity to share the pitch with financiers and distributors is a great way to share this script with people who can potentially help make the film.  I want to take my career to the next level and I hope that we can bring this film to the screen and touch, move and inspire people.

For a number of years, you were one of only a few female directors working in the horror genre what attracted you to horror stories and did you have a different perspective that your male counterparts?  What I love about genre, is that we can speak about deeper issues through metaphor.  With entertainment, I always want to hide the pill in peanut butter, as they say.  Is that how you get dogs to eat medicine? I thought peanut butter was bad for dogs, or maybe that’s chocolate… anyways…
I don’t know that my perspective was more female than my male counterparts.  My perspective is simply… my perspective.  It comes from the intersection of who I am, how I grew up, where I’m from, how my parents treated me, the significant others I’ve chosen, etc.  And also what I wanted to talk about at that time in my life.   My second feature Silent Retreat, which pre-dated the #MeToo movement, was about women being silenced.  I wanted to make a film about women standing up and using their voices.  And I collaborated with a male, Corey Brown, to make that film.  That film was a combination our creative perspectives.

You’ve spent a great deal of time undertaking shadowing mentorshipsfrom Jeff Woolnough on SyFys The Expanse, Erik Canuel, producing director on CBSRansom, Peter DeLuise on Freeforms Shadowhunters and most recently, the highly-regarded powerhouse – Nancy Meyers on the Walmart BoxOscars® commercial. How has this benefited you as a story-teller as well as working with actors?  This career is all about learning.  I think life is about learning.  I am so grateful for having been given the opportunities to watch these talented, experienced directors work.  Everyone has a different style and approach, and in my own directing, I get to take tidbits from each shadowing experience to create my own process. IMG_7986.1I’m a person who makes a lot of lists, so I literally write down my process and anytime I learn something new from one of my mentors, I add it to my list.  Being a director, I don’t get to practice my craft every day, so these lists help me remember what I’ve learned for when I do have the chance to get on set and work the directing muscle.  Also, I practice working with actors to implement what I’ve learned.  I work actors on their auditions, break down the beats, give them direction and help shape a performance.IMG_7121You have also worked on more family-friendly projects like Meeting Mommy starring Simu Liu (Marvels latest superhero Shang-Chi) and have been developing diverse and inclusive projects what are your immediate goals and/or future projects?  Layered, vulnerable dramas that are heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time, with a sprinkle of comedy is where my natural intuition lies.  I only started writing about 4 years ago, when I moved to Los Angeles.  I asked myself, would I rather go through the pain of reading scripts or the pain of writing scripts.  And I just found that people weren’t writing the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell.  So I took on the pain of writing! And I’m glad, because it has been a way for me to explore my own voice I have been developing more stories that star Asian characters and have taken a deep look within myself to put my truth onto the page.  I want to make films that give a voice to under-represented communities, not because it’s the fad right now, but because it breaks my heart that someone can hate or commit violence against someone else just because they are different.  I will never run for president, so this is my way of reaching people, to touch, unite and inspire them and create powerful change in our culture.  I want to tell stories that resonate deeply with audiences and unforgettably pierce their hearts.
Immediate goals are to secure financing for my scripts IDOL, a music biopic about William Hung (from American Idol – see below) and GOOD CHANCE (starring Kheng Tan Hua from Crazy Rich Asians) which was on the 2020 Black List.william hungYou and your husband Mark own a number of condos that you operate as AirBnBs, plus youve previously worked as a piano teacher and an experiential marketer.is there anything else you want to try, apart from making movies?  No. Film is my life.  I will not retire from this career.  All the other things I’ve done in my life were side gigs, which allowed me the freedom and time to make my films.  I took part-time flexible jobs so that I never had to ask for vacation or permission to make my films.  When I was on set, I would just tell them that I couldn’t work that month.  I have a crazy resume, but it has always been towards one goal: being a filmmaker.

Any advice youd like to offer to aspiring filmmakers, especial women, and on the various career paths they can take to achieve success, life balance and happiness?  Honestly, I’m not great at life balance.  I definitely focus on career too much and am working on finding balance myself.  I find that the scripts and movies that I’ve made that resonate with people the most are the ones where I dig into myself and tell my truth.  I encourage all of you to take the time to sit with yourself.  Think about why is it you want to make this film, what do you want to say with it, how do you want the audience to feel when they walk out?  And make sure that every scene wraps around that nugget.  When you put something of yourself on the page, it shines through.  Those are the films that pierce people’s hearts and will help you take the next step in your career.  It can be slow and long, or it can be a quick rise to the top.  But never give up if telling stories through this medium is really what you want to do.DSC_0014Thanks for sharing your insights and advice, Tricia, and I can’t wait to see how your script faired at TIFF this year. Looking forward to seeing Idol when it hits cinema screens and the festival circuit. You can all follow Tricia on all her social media platforms linked on her website: www.tricialeedirector.com

 

ACTOR KRISTA BARZSO PRODUCES AN EMOTIONAL & VERY PERSONAL FILM “PERSISTENCE” BASED ON HER OWN SCRIPT

Some time ago, I had one of those great phone conversations with local actor, KRISTA BARZSO, talking about how I might be able to help her career, how a publicity and promo campaign could support her and hints of her upcoming project – her debut as producer and screenwriter of “Persistence”, a short film based on her own personal experiences. Krista’s passion and enthusiasm intrigued me and to borrow from another film…she had me at “hello”!

Skip ahead to just a few weeks ago when I again heard her voice on the phone, this time even more excited and focused – her film was ready to roll and she had just launched an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign in order to underwrite the pending production costs. So I hope you enjoy this virtual meet-n-greet with Krista and if you would like to offer this exciting emerging Canadian filmmaker a hand-up, here’s the link where you can donate to her film’s budget: https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW

Persistence is a story about what happens when romantic intentions cross over into stalking. The film explores what happens when trusts are broken but laws aren’t, and just how much damage can be done to someone’s life in that space between.

You’ve acted for many years on stage, screen and tv – what has inspired you to now write and produce?  I love acting and the exploration of the characters that you get to bring to life, but I wanted to try writing to get to explore another aspect of storytelling that would allow me to create my own story completely from the ground-up, and producing has allowed me to get to see this project all the way through from concept to fruition.

You have an exciting new film project titled “Persistence” that you’ve written and considering the subject matter (possessiveness, stalking, emotional control) I have to ask…have you experienced this in real life? 

You’ve assembled a great cast and crew, and are now going thru the funding process – apart from securing financial support, I bet you’re all looking forward to working after the long pandemic lockdown and quarantine period – what did you do during the lockdown?  I am always looking forward to getting back on set! But you’re right, that feeling is definitely amplified after going through such a long lockdown period.  I was really lucky and did have the opportunity to work on a few projects even during quarantine, but for the rest of the time my main focus was on finding ways to constantly be growing my skills. It was really important to me to know that I was going to come out of lockdown with more tools in my toolbox than when it began.

One of the plus sides to all of this is that a lot of acting teachers/schools around the world, found ways to work in a digital space. This has opened opportunities to train with companies around the world that I might not have had access to before. I signed on with an acting coach Neil Schell who has been working with me all the way from Kenya to hone my auditioning skills and career trajectory, and I’ve been training my improv skills with the renowned Groundlings School in LA. in addition to writing and producing my first screenplay, of course!

You’ve enjoyed much success with previous short films on the festival circuit – with Persistence, do you have plans to submit to Canadian and int’l festivals or do you want to secure immediate showcasing opportunities on one of the many online platforms?

You’ve become quite the expert in stage combat, weaponry and screen fight & martial arts skills – are you aiming to become the next superhero like Black Widow or any of the Marvel/DC Comics super heroes? Please share some of your training stories. I would love that so much! It is definitely a dream of mine. I love portraying intense, complicated, bad-ass women and a lot of those stories involve some kind of physicality. The major action sequences often come at critical points in the story, so it is important to me to be able to do those scenes justice so that it is believable that my character is actually going through the turmoil that you are seeing on screen.behind the scenes as an Archer in an undisclosed TV pilotI originally started this training so that I would have a better handle on how to approach these scenes safely and ended up completely falling in love with the art form; it’s like really violent dancing. I still have so much to learn, but I have had so much fun in the past training how to work safely with various weapon systems for stage and screen at Rapier Wit. One of my favourites was found weapon, where you take everyday objects and try to turn them into weapons in a fight sequence.
Obviously in-person training has been difficult during quarantine, but I was lucky enough to find Taz Garcia who is an amazing actor/director and who has worked Jackie Chan and the Jackie Chan stunt team, and I have been doing some virtual Action for Film training with him. It’s a little tricky to find the space in my house and I think my family thinks I’m nuts sometimes with all the sound effects I make while training, but that is the price we pay!

Do you see your career continuing with a focus on acting or doing more writing and directing?

 Who has been your industry inspiration or who has helped you the most with your career aspirations?   There are so many people who have helped me and who continue to help me along the way. Teachers who have taught and encouraged me and colleagues who’s drive and ambition has inspired me. Most recently, my coach Neil Schell has pushed me to try things outside my comfort zone and has really helped me view my career and believe in my talents in a different way. He is also going to be directing my short next month. Here’s Krista in some of her many acting roles…BeFunky Collage (1)Any advice to others wanting to develop their directing and/or writing skills?  Do your research. Read lots of books, lots of screenplays, watch lots of movies, see the differences between the screenplay and the movie and how the director went about brining it to life – then stop doing research and just do it.  There is no magic book that is going to fully prepare you ahead of time. There is no teacher like experience, and you will learn more through the act of attempting it yourself than you ever will by just reading about it. Try it and get feedback from people who know what they are talking about, then try it again. You will learn a ton, and your next one will be better.

More about Krista:  Krista has had a passion for acting from a very young age. Over the years she has had the good fortune to work on a wide range of stage productions including The Liar, Stepping Out, Nana’s Naughty Knickers, There Goes the Bride, Glengarry Glen Ross, Love Virtually, and Les Miserables as well as some independent films such as Soul Mates, A Great Guy, Still Life, Signing Off and Grey Zone. Constantly striving to learn, Krista has studied at The Robyn Kay Studio, The Lighthouse, Rapier Wit and The Second City to name a few.

Again, here is the IndieGoGo campaign link so please help support the Canadian film industry by donating to Krista and her film production. Thank you.   https://bit.ly/2VgcqtW As Eden in Whitehorn's Love Virtually

LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR NORMAN JEWISON GETS BIO TREATMENT FROM AUTHOR IRA WELLS

Last week, I was honoured to attend an online gathering of film critics, writers, film directors and industry insiders to hear author IRA WELLS discuss his new book NORMAN JEWISON: A DIRECTOR’S LIFE published by Sutherland House Books (Founded in 2017 by Canadian author and publishing executive Kenneth Whyte). As a long-time fan of the Canadian director’s films, this was a dream Zoom meeting! Ever since my first viewing of The Thomas Crown Affair starring the king of cool, Steve McQueen, and the gorgeous sophisticated Faye Dunaway, I was hooked on Jewison’s style and on-screen “rhythm” – that chess scene from Thomas Crown stands as one of the most erotic scenes ever committed to film…and they kept their clothes on!! From 1965 thru ’68 he served us some of the era’s (and film history’s) most iconic films: In the Heat of the Night presents southern racism in all its brutal ugliness and features that slap heard around the world, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming is a hilarious look at how the cold war affects small town America, and McQueen’s earlier cinematic outing with Jewison, The Cincinnati Kid takes us into the shady but exciting world of high stakes poker. Fiddler on the Roof, The Hurricane, Moonstruck, F.I.S.T., Rollerball, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Soldier’s Story…going all the way back to the beloved Canadian tv series, The Wayne & Shuster Show, Jewison has delivered provocative, compassionate, engaging and hilarious content for his audiences to devour. This new book is now on my Christmas list for Santa…and the fat man better show up early with this present!th (6)About the man, the book and the author:

NORMAN JEWISON directed some of the most iconic and beloved films from the 60s through the 21st century, from In the Heat of the Night and The Thomas Crown Affair to Jesus Christ Superstar and Moonstruck. But despite being what his friend, award-winning screenwriter William Goldman called “a giant of the industry,” Jewison could also walk the streets of any city in the world and go unrecognized. Jewison was a man of contradictions: he cared more about telling great stories than gaining fame and fortune by showcasing movie stars, but generations of Hollywood’s marquee actors—Judy Garland, Sidney Poitier, Faye Dunaway, Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Denzel Washington—trusted him at crucial moments in their careers. Yet, for all his talent and the passionate support of his actors, Jewison suffered heartbreaking rejection from the executives who refused to believe in his dreams.t crown heat of the night th (7)Norman Jewison: A Director’s Life is a story of artistic survival and reinvention, and about the fate of original cinematic ideas in an industry increasingly captive to corporate greed. Drawing upon exhaustive archival research and dozens of interviews, biographer IRA WELLS (pictured below) provides a soulful portrait of an idealist who had to fight for every frame of his legacy. Here are Norman’s legendary collaborators— Hal Ashby, William Rose, Steve McQueen, and more—brought to vivid life in original letters, telegrams, and revealing, unpublished interviews. A clear-eyed reassessment of Hollywood’s final golden age, Norman Jewison: A Director’s Life is both the intimate portrait of an artist and a rallying cry for anyone who has had to fight for their creative vision.Ira headshot (1)Author IRA WELLS is an assistant professor in English and Academic Programs at Victoria College in the University of Toronto. His writing has appeared in many publications, including The Guardian, The New Republic, The Walrus, Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Review of Books, and American Quarterly.  Advance reviews and kudos are pouring in for Ira’s book….

“Renowned filmmaker Norman Jewison is a contradiction in terms: one of the great purveyors of classical Hollywood storytelling and an outsider at the same time. Finally, with Ira Wells’s rewarding biography, Jewison receives the attention he richly deserves. Wells’ vibrant, well-written chronicle is one of those indispensable film books that illuminates the times and life of one of film’s major practitioners.”Michael Barker, Co-President and Co-Founder, Sony Pictures Classics

“This is a terrific book and a fun read. Norman Jewison directed some of the most enjoyable films of our time. I thank Norman for his films and applaud Ira Wells for capturing both Norman’s legendary feistiness and his great generosity of spirit, both of which I experienced first-hand.”Joe Eszterhas, writer of Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and Hollywood Animal

“Ira Wells, wonderful storyteller and master stylist, takes us to the movies, then behind the scenes, then beyond, bringing new life to films and stars we thought we knew.  This is a book you will never want to put down.”David Yaffe, author of Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell th (2) th (3) th (5)NORMAN JEWISON: A DIRECTOR’S LIFE
ISBN [hardcover]: 978-1-989555-38-5
Price: $28.95 USD / $34.95 CAD
Page count: 490
Available NOW from Amazon and in-stores or direct from the publisher: https://sutherlandhousebooks.square.site/product/norman-jewison/61?cs=true&cst=customth (4)