Author - Gabrielle Alexandra Smith

Mona Marshall Talks America’s Pre-Sexual Revolution Era

Mona Marshall plays Shelia Broflovski, Kyle’s mother, on Comedy Central’s South Park. She is currently working on her new web comic The Adventures of Puss N’ Dick: A Survivor’s Guide to Relationships. With this new web comic, Mona speaks about life before the American Sexual Revolution.

ATM: The Greek Mythology characters were more expressive with their sexuality. Some took on more opposite traits of what was expected of their gender. They seemed more comfortable with their body and sexuality. They were very close to nature.

MM: We do not live close to nature anymore. I am not trying to suggest anything is right or wrong. I am trying to say the more we can understand each other, then the more harmony there is and the better off we are. We are all experiencing this human condition whether you are living here or in India or China. This is why art and music are important because you can enjoy art and music. You do not need to know the language. You do not need to know the background of this, all you have to do is be present and experience it. Not to say it is ritually that we know the background because it is. You can experience the piece of artwork and just enjoy the artwork at this moment. You experience the music at this moment and just allow your heart and soul to be filled by the music.

ATM: Gender studies started during the 80s leading into the 90s, so how did people during your time of the 60 and 70s perceive gender and sexuality?

MM: I was lucky in this. Once the pill happened things changed. When I was a little girl someone had written “Fuck you” on the wall somewhere. I had no idea what this was at nine or ten. Kids today know what this word means. I went home to ask my mother and she said “Oh, honey come here. I want to explain something to you.” She explained to me the truth about sexual intercourse. I thought back during these days as an eight or nine-year-old “Oh, my gosh. Who would want to do this? This was awful.” She said something to me that was extremely wise.

“When two people love one another, it is a beautiful thing to do.” I have only known two men in my life. I married both, but not at the same time. My sexuality and expressing it has always been safe. It has always been surrounded by love. Not to say this is the only way to get this experience. I will say when you have feelings behind your sexuality it becomes even greater. It is a wonderful gift we have been given. Sometimes we spend it in a way that is detrimental to our health. When people use it as manipulation or as a weapon to gain favor. So much of our actions have to do with our emotions. We are highly sensitive about how women are talked to by men. My husband is one of those men if he sees someone who has a great smile either male or female, he will compliment them.

Today with everyone being a little paranoid about how you talk to people this could be very taboo. Sexuality is one of the greatest gifts we have. With this gift I want to use it wisely. I do not want to use it frivolously. I want it to be a part of something that is meaningful. This was the good part of these more innocent things. They are both valid. Some of my women friends’ love screwing around and have a lot of fun. However, there are some who got damaged. Once again it is what is it that you want. Most women because we are wired differently, I am talking about straight men and women. Most women want to be loved.

Men are wired differently. They need to “get off” sort of speak. The greatest combination is when men have sensitivity. This is why it is a great idea when a girl is drunk and a real guy in my opinion who is a gentleman is not going to take advantage of this situation. This is just an idea that I have and this to me is about being civil. Women have a responsibility not to tease and tease a guy. “Yeah, he wants it.” She manipulates him by saying no. This will be an episode we will deal with. We are given gifts. It is in our best interest not to squander them. These gifts could be intellect and friendship. If your motivation is to be a good friend, then this sometimes means letting people find their way.

ATM: There is a sense of art when a person uses their sexuality to the fullest.

MM: What does this mean? To the fullest to me means it is a relationship of the mind, body, and spirit. It is connected to deep spirituality. I have been blessed. These are the words my mother told me. I did not have her for very long. She was a working mom. She worked from the time she was 13 ½ years old until the day she died. This was a great gift she gave me. No one knew the sexual revolution was going to happen a couple of years later. Because of this, I have not had any sexual hang-ups. When you grow up a heavy child, an obese child, and have dealt with your weight and body issues your whole life, having the feeling that this is a safe place being with this man and he loves you is an incredible gift. I feel like I have been blessed twice.

ATM: How did losing weight influence the ways you connected with love?  

MM: In a way, it was the universe protecting me. We all have challenges in our life. I never used to know this, but pretty people have challenges too. A lot of very attractive people are never called upon to using anything but their attractiveness. I found this out from a model a long time ago. She was approaching 30 and she was gorgeous. She was concerned about her looks. We all age even if we do not take care of ourselves. It was said that her value was based on her looks. A lot of times people think very attractive people do not have any problems and why do they have to know this. The bottom line is the gifts we must develop.

This means our brains, bodies, our ability to be passionate, and care about other people. We all have stuff. I have friends that grew up with a lot of abuse. They have worked through this and have done things despite this. This is adding a resonation to people that we can be uplifting. “I do not want to say I was a bad kid, so I missed a lot of opportunities.” Even with the obesity, I still was a part of the school drama, worked behind the scenes, and in the choir. Sometimes the things that look like they are negative force us to be positive. We make the most of what we have. I would not have found what I have in life if I did not go through some of the trials in life.

ATM: While you were going through the trials you did not know it would be used in the future. You needed this knowledge to get through what you had to go through in the future.

MM: Exactly. You do not know this as a kid. I had some good mentors as teachers. I have been blessed even though my first husband had a lot of troubles. I think I married my father not realizing this until well into the marriage. I learned a lot in this marriage. All joking aside, I felt loved in this relationship.  There came a point where I got tired of taking care of him. It became enabling. He was not willing to change, and I wanted to change. I had to let go of the marriage. I knew enough about being a good and loving wife because of this I was in the position to meet the man I am married to now. You never know fate. The episode that I am using for the pitch has a lot to do with fate.

As humankind, this is what it is, honey. It is a big classroom and we are learning every time if we are willing. Our lives get bigger and have more joy in them when our hearts open. As long as we are prejudice against things, we do not know our lives get very small. I am not talking about the ability to travel in the world. I am talking about the ability to travel the emotional world. Look around and you see it all the time

ATM: Why did you decide not to take care of your previous husband?

MM: When I said take care, I did not mean anything about cooking. I love to cook. Two people need to take care of each other. I was not tired of being a wife, but tired of the fact I was working two jobs struggling and taking care of stuff at home. He was still after 10 years of marriage trying to find himself. When I said I thought I married my father, I am pretty sure I married someone who was undiagnosed with bipolar. It is interesting in our family that my father was bipolar. My mother was very artistic. I got the artistic gene. My sister, her children, and her grandchildren got the bipolar gene. Back in my day and even when I was first married to my husband Dennis, you could never diagnose someone as bipolar.

They never thought about it. You would just have these terrible depressions and then become manic. After a while if someone refuses to get help, you have a decision accepting it is never going to change and you have to move on. He had found someone else and was living with her in months’ time.

Geo Santini on his New Satire Film ‘Like’

Filmmaker Geo Santini talks about his new indie film Like. This film is about the character Lil Tito he plays who must undergo a moment of seeking validation, losing himself, and rediscovering his path in life. This character is a mirror to the constant problem on how social media influences pop culture for this generation and for the younger generations.

Interviewer: Gabrielle Alexandra Smith

ATM: “Like” has one syllable and four letters, so how has this word tremendously shaped social media and American pop culture?

GS: We are in a time where everything is created through likes, especially while being in Hollywood and in the music business and after seeing everyone chasing likes and clicks. These ‘likes’ have actually become more of a currency for some people. Many people wake up and shape their day exactly in the pursuit of how many likes, or of how many pictures they are going to post and what attention they are going to get. This movie touches on this from the perspective of what is going on today in music, social media, and the actual consequences of putting everything on the line just for attention.

ATM: “Like” is considered a positive word. However, it seems today in society it creates an innate dislike for someone.

GS: The thing about it is that we have become addicted to these “likes”. It is a positive word that has developed into having a very dark undertone. Everything starts out as positive, but when you seep into the culture and getting more attached to a phone, an artist becomes more dependent on what is going online instead of the art itself. It has created an underbelly that is darker… an obsession and an addiction. It’s bad.

Now we are addicted to this constant need for attention. What is it doing to our psyche and even to young women? This movie is a satire that takes all these funny situations that happen in music and the need for attention. We have fun with it, but the context is very serious.

The movie is a hybrid that starts with a comedy but has a serious message at the end. It shows you that we are in a generation where we can say and do whatever we want online, but we do not see the consequences. Now we are starting to see younger people getting in trouble online, especially in Hip-Hop and in music. It used to be: You leave your certain standards behind because it was a positive thing to get your career going. Now, you cannot leave your career behind because it starts online. It is like you constantly have this need for attention.

Some of these kids are willing to do whatever it takes and keep crossing boundaries. The movie is a look at one artist who puts everything on the line for attention and what overcoming this means. How does this word ‘like’ relate to everything? How does this word relate to fashion, or dating, or Instagram? The validation of a ‘like’ is a kind of merit for this generation and us at the beginning of it are starting to see the consequences of it. We are getting ready to see how long all of this will play out and what will happen in the next two decades with technology and the generations we are raising.

ATM: How does the noun validation move through your series?

GS: It is interesting to see because when you look at music and study artist going back to Madonna, Pop, and even in Hip-Hop, you see there was a long time of development. There used to be a cliché saying stating that that it took five-to-ten years to become an overnight success. Now this is not even a situation. You have kids making a song or someone doing something overnight and they can be instantly famous. This “overnight success” that previously took so long now really doeshappenovernight. Currently, you have a situation where there are artists, vloggers, or entertainers who have immediate success and have never struggled for it. They have instant validation. They are constantly addicted to validation. The minute they do not have it – what happens to them?

I have seen YouTubers that I know and social media people I know personally go through this. They came in a generation about six or seven years ago. Now the generation that was watching them has gotten older and don’t know that stuff anymore. Their numbers are slipping. They do not know how to go on because they had never taken a loss before. They had never had to grind or struggle because success was instant for them. Then, what happens when you take a loss from this former instant reward? You do not even know how to deal with it. This is the scary part. This is the character study we see in the film to know where this goes. We start out with comedy. Our movie is a comedy. It’s silly, and over the top, but there is a real message and context to it.

ATM: As soon as a person gets addicted and obsessed with the term “like”, do you agree this starts the process of them losing their sense of self?

GS: Yes. My generation and my culture are transitioning into this world. I have friends and you see they are posting how great their lives are. They are putting more attention and emphasis in living their avatar vs. their real life. Their avatar seems to be a mess. It is the message we are sending. I know girls, Instagram models and YouTubers who live or portray this fantasy. People are looking at this and think everything looks so good. This person’s life looks perfect.

 The message that is presented to followers makes them compare what they see posted with their own lives and think their own life is not that great in comparison. These people who post are not that great either. They are not showing you their struggle.  Followers will not see that their rent is due, or that they did not book the job this month, or a sponsorship for this month, or even that their sponsorship numbers are down. Everything that they portray reflects a false positivity.

If you do not tell these kids that there are negative aspects to certain situations and struggles, that we are all the same, and that there are ups and downs to life, then they are going to feel less about themselves. While developing this project, I knew people who said they hated going on Instagram because it upset their day. Meanwhile they were still logging on and liking the content. Then I asked: “Why does it upset your day?” The response was that they feel all these other people are living better lives than they are. This in itself is a social problem that we are going to have to start dealing with.

ATM: Many people have witnessed the downfall of those who are in the limelight. This meaning that when they get into an emotional situation, these situations make them get into drugs, addicted to alcohol, and sometimes go as far as to commit suicide. So, if the non-entertainment viewers are receiving this information, why do people still want it? In addition, how did you work to show this in your character Lil Tito?

GS: It is a simple story of every musician, but now it is on the Internet. It shows someone who gets instant gratification and instant success. At the same time, he gets manipulated, he is not himself and he indulges into an image. The image he becomes takes over everything. The same beats that created him came to get him and he could not deal with it. You see these struggles. The moral of the movie touches on a lot of basics. Everything that shines is not what it seems at first.

We are in a world where everything is not as it appears for it to be seen. Sometimes you just be yourself. It might be cool to read these stories that show that an artist you liked had a rough day. This way people can relate to these stories. The Lil Tito character shows flawlessness in making decisions and choosing attention all the time while putting so much emphasis on the audience’s attention.

There is also a moral for artists. For them to work on their craft, to forget about just trying to seek influence, power and attention, or to seek being on the top of the trend. Work in your craft. The quality of element, of music and entertainment is also getting lost with a lot of artists. We are in this fast-paced world that just keeps requesting content. It is saved and heard, but then audiences immediately ask: Ok. What’s next? This alone is very tiring for an artist. We are not in a day and age when an artist drops albums every two years. Now, especially in Hip-Hop, when you drop your album, you need to have another album or people will lose interest in you.

ATM: Artists are on contract. A lot of their contracts require a certain about of albums. Some fans are not aware of this. Typically, when putting out the album people listen to it, then three weeks later the fans want more.

GS: This is exhausting for an artist. This culture also creates this aspect of an artist who now says they are going to record every day. They are going to out whatever they record. This does not have any development. Before, artists used to play a song, work on it, tweak it, and redo the verses. Now artists are in a situation where they record in the afternoon and pop it out in the evening. This is what the monster of the Internet wants. We are feeding it. There are old traditions from the music industry about the manipulation of an artists and how they make them change who they are.

The story is about being yourself and the consequences of losing yourself.  It all deals with the Internet and with the classic issues in our society. Young kids are so impressionable. We need to understand that image does not mean anything. I would love to see artists say it is okay to have a tough day, but after it’s all done, you get up the next day. It is okay to lose your money because now, as a result, you have learned a lesson: When you get the check, you invest.

Instead, we just see splurging. “I got this Lamborghini. I got these jewels. I just bought my dog $150, 000.00 dog collar.” This is not tangible or real. It is tough when you sell this image.

ATM: Some artists skip steps to live for the fans or live for what is out there. They do not want to become scared to think no one is going to like them or that they are not staying up to date. This strips the authenticity and the substance. All you really are doing is putting out a beat.

GS: This is what we are talking about. We talked with producers. I have a lot of music guys in the movie. We are picking up a lot of stuff with DJ’s in New York. We touched base on it. The movie is very fun, but we do have a serious message that we do address in it. We are in a day and age where we constantly have to produce. I always believed on following one’s dreams and passions. Put your content out there, hustle and grind. Do not lose sight of the content or lose sight of who you are. We should never lose sight of who we are. We should not be scared to be ourselves. We should not pretend that if you are from this neighborhood you will get more shout outs, or you will get more influence and dominance. We have to shoot the effects of this and the effects of how you get so far.

We are in a culture where everybody believes that whatever you say is fine. You can say anything on the Internet and that is fine. We are also starting to see that there are consequences and that your actions do have consequences. There are a lot of artist that brag about what they have and all of a sudden, they get their houses robbed. This is an example of a true consequence, because you have to be knowledgeable about being in entertainment and having a show to put on. You also have to be real when you talk to people. To tell them: “This is sometimes not all of what it seems. We worked really hard to get this and have had to constantly promote on the Internet to move forward.”

My character Lil Tito loses himself. An avatar is what he perceived to be his identity. All he did was work for this avatar and eventually these decisions have consequences and he have to face them.

ATM: Have you ever lost yourself subconsciously and embodied a fake persona?

GS: Yes. I came young to Los Angeles. I had a three-picture-deal with Paradigm by age 26. You do lose perspective because you get caught up in it. You get sad when you lose everything. You do not know how to cope with it. You see your friends moving forward and you feel like a loser. This starts building these insecurities in you. You start valuing yourself differently. You have to learn that everyone’s path is different. I learned that, and I am going to take these loses and make myself stronger. It has made me stronger with everything I have done. It has taught me new lessons. It has opened my heart to artistically be free and love the art of what I am doing. What people perceive it, or how much money this product makes, or how many views it gets is not under my control. My job is to do the best that I can; to put the message out there and have the fun I want to have with it. I did lose sight of myself. Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself. This is what happened for me.  

ATM: I just had an epiphany. When a person is infused into the limelight, embodying this fake persona, do they see this fake persona? Or do they see their real life when looking at their reflection?

GS: I believe there is a person that we know that is our complete 100% truth. We hide a piece of ourselves. There is something about us that we do not want to let out. A lot of people dealing with entertainment now are more guarded and hiding this thing in themselves. When they start, people take it out. I am not talking about everyone, but everyone is different. I am just showing a trend. I know artists that are very secure in what they are doing. It comes from experience. Some people are just naturals. We all must deal with identity issues and insecurities. Look at how many memes are out there. “Love yourself.” There is truth to this. Instead of just saying this, you need to really analyze what this means.

There is going to be a point in time when everyone must face this. You will eventually face it as an artist. You will eventually face it as a human being. The problem is that we are not teaching this to the culture. We post this picture, take a selfie; we get some ‘likes’, look sexy, then check to see how many ‘likes’ and views we get. The record labels do not care if the music is soulful. Someone like Jill Scott or The Roots could not get a record deal today. It would be impossible because we are looking at the streams and the internet. When looking at streams and clicks the numbers are what get signed.

You start losing a little bit of the soul. Decisions are being made on this. It is a catch 22 that we are dealing with. I think they see themselves and a little bit of what they morphed into. They are changing their appearances. They are tattooing their face now. This is cool while you are young, but what happens when you are 40 with tattoos on your face? You don’t think when you are young. I did not think either as a teenager. You do not think far ahead into your future like you might reach 29 or 30. “I am going to put some tattoos on my face. This is the image. This is cool.”

When we were shooting this character on Hollywood Boulevard there were so many young kids coming up to me saying: “I like your look. I feel your look.” It is crazy. I felt like I dressed up in this character and with so much element. People rocked to it because it is all image. There are certain artists out there who are more accepting of who they are. There are more people chasing an idea of an image or who they want to be.

ATM: Everyone in any entity in entertainment goes through this stage. This could even be the business side. Some do not come out of it. If you look very close, then you can almost put a partition to see the ones who have come out of it versus the ones who have not. You came out of it, but some do not get this.

GS: I agree with you. There is so much fun and crazy stuff happening on the Internet. We like to see the turned up, the wild, and the hilarious. We play on this. We are putting out a message. I am not saying who you have to be or what you have to be. I am just showing you what happens in my movie. There is a consequence. There is a consequence when you lose yourself. You can play this metaphor so many times. It is not just in your career, it is in your life. It is in how you deal with your family, loved ones and girlfriend. I know girls that have lost relationships and friendships because it is so important for them to post. There is this obsession with constantly getting attention and what this means. This means more to them than a human relationship.

Kenneth Fok Talks Male Communication and the Dangers of South Africa Today

ATM: What does your interaction with Matthew McConaughey’s character exhibit about male on male communication?

KF: Lionel and Dill have known each other for a few years, but there is still a duel every time they communicate. Matthew’s character is always obsessed with something that is inside of his head or an obsession with the thing he is after. In terms of the interaction, it is very off the cuff when they are trying to handle the best price for the fish. It is a very simplistic way of communicating with each other. He is trying to extort money from me. I am trying to get the cheapest price from him. It is much of a case of haggling, this is the way I see it. The relationship does not really go deep. This is my second time working with Matthew. The first time working with Matthew was on The Dark Tower. It was a total interaction with this character. The characters are much more familiar with each other in this film Serenity.

ATM: What if in this scene there was only silence? No sound at all and all we saw was nonverbal communication. Now, how does this change the communication?

KF: Looking back on the day our interaction. Matthew’s character, Baker Dill, seems so distant from the present throughout the movie. My character, Lionel, is curious about his intentions with the gossip from the town’s residents, but there is a red herring in the film about a character trying to track him down.  Lionel is trying to communicate with Dill but there’s constant deflection. There is a very different way of communicating. One is present and interactive. The other is not within this realm at this point.

ATM: What is something that would be deemed an obsession to you but a hobby to an average person?

KF: Films. A lot of people enjoy films, but I watch to the point of obsession and breaking scenes down. I seem to do this subconsciously that it’s become second nature. It has always been an analytical way for me when watching films. While on set I am analyzing and assessing how other actors approach a role and prepare for a role. For me films and tv series are my obsession.

ATM: What is the strategic thought that first enters your mind while in this stage of analyzing films?

KF: Believability. It is different ways of portraying a character. For me it is believability. If you feel what the character feels, then for me this is your first point of contact to pass the test or not. If you do not buy what they are selling, then they have not done their job. This to me is your number one go to. Do you believe them or not? Do you feel their pain? Do you feel whatever they are trying to portray of their character at this point? Everyone has an innate sense of whether someone is telling the truth or not.

ATM: Do you agree that the set design for how the Escape Room was made can metaphorically be someone’s mind when they tap out of reality?

KF: For sure. The sets on Escape Room were phenomenal. When watching these sets in film, you have the added benefit during post production to wrap up the quality. It is quite amazing what they can do. It warps your mind into what is or isn’t reality. These sets take you to a different dimension and really play with your mind – to play on your mind of what is real and what is not real. It is like a third or second Character. It is multiple characters in this case, a character in itself. Different sets have different personalities. The escape goes from one room to the next to see what the clues are to escape it.

ATM: How can a person having ownership get in the way of things?

KF: In Looming Tower, having ownership can cloud your mind. A lot of it was the CIA vs. FBI. I think once the agencies claimed ownership on their intel that’s when it got clouded and ownership became the focus and not the best interest of the country at the end of the day. Prior to 9/11, they were working almost as separate entities. A disaster like 9/11 made them wake up. There is maybe a pride involved and you cannot see this unless something tragic happened.

ATM: How do you handle ownership in your life when you have a huge responsibility?

KF: It is with a humbled heart. Ownership covers a lot of things. If you are talking about ownership of one’s self. If you are talking about ownership in spirituality or the existential meaning of this. It is just taking ownership of who you are within the context of the people around you. In today’s society, in the world of selfies and your status, how many likes you are getting, it makes you lose your ownership of yourself. Maybe it starts being owned by the world. I would like it to be close to home and not be out there as much. Ownership within my immediate circle and just keeping it humble, trying to keep it closer to home and not being out there as much and let the responsibility have a ripple effect from that.

ATM: Where in your life do you feel you are a warrior?

KF: You have to be a warrior while living life every day. Especially living in South Africa. It feels like you have to be a warrior every day. It sounds extreme, but if you are not a warrior these days you will get swallowed up. If you heard it or not – living in South Africa, there is a high crime rate. As soon as you step out of the security of your home, you are in the big bad world of Johannesburg. You must be a warrior in this sense to be aware of your surroundings. I am not kidding or blowing this up! If you are in your car, stopped at a light, then, you are constantly observing to see if it is okay or if there are hijackers out there. Is there smash and grabs out there, which happen quite often. It is just survival of the fittest whether you are in a job situation to fight for the right to be at your job. This turmoil is an everyday life especially in the city.

ATM: What is a misconception of a white South African male today and what is the reality of a white male’s presence in South Africa?

KF: That they are privileged. South Africa has gone through such a transition. To me, being honest, it is kind of a regression than progression. Trump and just his way of dealing with situations, his abrasive nature of dealing with people. It is just regressing. I come back to be a warrior. If you are not a warrior out there, then you are going to get left behind. There are a lot of misconceptions of white males in South Africa. There is a big turnaround in terms of the job situation. You are less likely to get a job as a white male in South Africa. This is the truth and the reality in South Africa as a white male.

ATM: White males are not of the dominant like in America?

KF: Yes, for the most part. If you are a white male looking for a job in South Africa, then you are probably way down on the list. With the whole history of Apartheid, they have been trying to introduce a new way of dealing with the post-Apartheid situation. The privileges that white males had before are no longer. It is trying to get to the state of equality. Black people or Indian people or Asians have been given these opportunities more today.

ATM: South Africa’s way of fixing the racist behavior was to marginalize the white male.

KF: It is about the BEE, the Black Economic Empowerment. You are trying to give preference to the previously disadvantage. Before the white male had an advantage. It has very much been reversed and a part of South Africa. I am waiting to see when the playing field is leveled, and it is the best person for the job and not your skin color. The balance has to be tipped the other way around. We have spent over 20 years now, since the democratic South Africa, now we can level the playing field. Make it the best qualified person for the job.

ATM: They are giving black people and other marginalized races a chance. They have become the dominant. Whereas, before the white male was the dominant.

KF: Yes.

ATM: Has this truly and honestly made a white male understand how black people were once horribly and systematically treated? Because of this societal switch do white males get it now that they are living it and reserve psychology has been done?

KF: I think it does give them some kind of perspective. It is almost a role reversal. I am a Chinese male in South Africa, and we did not have this privilege back in the day. We had to ask for permission to buy houses or to be someone’s neighbor. It may put them in the shoes of what happened before. It is quite a real thing when before you saw a black beggar but now there are white beggars. This is the reality of South Africa. You can put yourself in their shoes as to how it was before but only to some extent.

ATM: Some might not know this in America.

KF: It has been in the news in South Africa. I am not sure what outside of Africa how the rest of world sees what is going on here. What do you guys think? To see what is happening in your own country, I wonder what people from outside of my country see what you see. Do they still have the stereotype of looking at South Africa? Whatever this stereotype might be.

ATM: From my perspective, I mostly see information and news about politics and about the government overall. Some know there are some white people in South Africa. There is not a little of talk or the media does not really show your side of what has just been said. Some people think of various ages that Africa has a high rate of starving children. It is not judging the person for thinking this way, but it is to question what the media is putting out to make people think like this.

KF: People are surprised when they come to South Africa. What they thought of South Africa compared to what they experience is a total mind shift for them. They are pleasantly surprised. We do not have tigers and elephants in our backyards.

ATM: Also, some people still think Africa is all poverty.

KF: As much as the rich get richer, there is a big part of society where there is a shortage of jobs.  A lot of people on the ground are not happy with what they were promised from this government. They feel progression is very slow. There is a lot of frustration in this. It is a difficult one to balance out.

ATM: What information from the media do you receive about America when in South Africa? What do they tell you about America?

KF: There is so much fake news these days. I try to keep up more with world news and not local news. From the reliable news outlets, from what I have seen that it is interesting is the impact America has on the rest of the world economically. It is quite a scary situation. You just have to wait and see what Trump’s move is. What he says. What he tweets. This almost has a knock-on effect on the world’s economy, which is quite scary. I am quite sure that perhaps he realizes the power he has in his hands. A lot of people are afraid of this. I see a very segregated America. What you are seeing on T.V today almost reflects what you saw on T.V during the 60s and 70s. If you had a split scene to put these two images together, then has America really progressed? I do not know. This is my perspective on America at this point. The world is in a scary place.

Nathalie Boltt Puts A Good Sense to the ‘Riverdale’ Maternal Role

ATM: If your character were to look in the mirror, then what do you believe she would see?

NB: I do not think Penelope looks in the mirror with much ease. She probably does not really look into her own soul. If you know what I mean. This would be hard for her to ask the question of “Who am I? Who am I becoming?” This is quite difficult for her to ask a hard question. It is easier for Penelope to plot and move forward. Also, to distract herself with plans of how she is going to get back on top.

ATM: How would you express Riverdale’s civilization such as social life, social norms, and how they operate?

NB: I do not think there are any social norms. I think Riverdale is an extremely twisted place. I feel like teenagers are the off springs who are the normal ones. The parents are all completely out of their minds. Who knows? Maybe this does reflect a lot of how young people see adults. We have all got to a place where things are quite confused, and no one really knows what is good or what is bad anymore. There is a lot of crime in Riverdale. You can get away with an enormous amount of criminal activity without getting caught. The story has a sort of reality where anything can happen. You can get away with poisoning, drug dealing, and murder. In season one, the kids all starting out innocent has rapidly changed. I feel like if you are watching scenes now in Season 3, you feel bad for the kids. You see how things get really complicated easily. If we are not careful, then these children will become twisted like their parents quickly. It is quite a complicated civilization and community in Riverdale if you put it all together.

ATM: What is your character really searching for? Is it power? Is it a sense of trying to internally belong to herself? What is it?

NB: Penelope runs the Maple club. It is a club of domination. It is less about sex, and it is more about control. I am going to speak as Penelope here. I tie it into the fact that I have had this awful childhood where I was adopted as a small kid. I was groomed into the Blossom family essentially to marry my adopted brother. This is very already twisted. You can understand as Penelope I have a weird understanding of life and family. Over the last few seasons, she has suffered a lot. Always fighting with her daughter and the relationships with Nana, Rose, the mother in law are abusive. Penelope has had enough of all this. She is trying to figure out who is she. At the same time, she is getting revenge. She is finding her own power and being a madame. She is a dominatrix and a madame of a bordello that is specialized in domination. This is all about her getting her power back. She was in love with serial killers and understands them. It all makes sense when you try and understand someone who has been controlled and separate their whole life. Penelope is one a path to expressing herself and finding her own power.

ATM: What labels would be attached to her if she lived in our reality?

NB: She is a feminist, but a dark feminist. I would not say feminist hate men the way Penelope does. She has her own personal cost to bare. I would call her dominatrix. This would be a label I put on her. I would call her a murderer. I would call her a victim because of being abandoned as a child, sent to an orphanage, adopted by a very strange family that was out of control. I would label her a bad parent for sure. I would also label her as hopeful. Hopeful is a little bit too sweet. She is in search of redemption. She is a bit of a martyr. She sees herself as a bit of a Jon of Arc or someone who is along these lines. Is she prepared to die for other women to reclaim their power? Maybe.

ATM: What seems to be some of your character’s coping mechanisms?

NB: Penelope coping mechanism on a superficial level is style. She has had a distinct style and dresses with incredible class with an old fashion vintage aesthetic. No matter what happened to her even when losing her house and family, her dignity, her inheritance, she always found a way to look good. She covers herself. She protects herself with this mask of class, style with what she looks like on the outside. She does not conform to any norms. I have a kind of the 20s or 30s aesthetic. Her other coping mechanism is that she is closed and mysterious with what she reveals. There is a quiet to her personality. She will only reveal what is actually going on in her mind when she directly pressed for information by someone. She probably only tells Betty because she is her niece. Penelope has a secret desire to aim for the family because she has lost everyone.

Coping mechanisms are an outer shell for control and a very serene posture and vibe that does not reveal to me. In the end, her coping mechanism is that she has this skill. She has a quiet power in how she gets through to people in her path. This is her ability to poison. She has some secret abilities, and this is how she copes. Planning and plotting are a part of her coping mechanism. In her core, she is playing a chase game here. She has a very clear plan. She is picking off the pieces in her past. So, she can control and win her game. Maybe she is like a chess piece and maybe the queen on the chessboard.

ATM: How would an audience from South Africa view your character and her nonconventional ways?

NB: This is an interesting question. Very interesting. While a household name in South Africa, I was on a show where I played a journalist. She was always on a mission to out the baddies and hunt down the truth. Now, I am kind of the opposite. Now, I am the baddie. Betty is the blonde who is in my case. My fans in South Africa view me so well. This is a real switch around. To be honest, they have been very complimentary of my acting skills. They say “This is incredible to see your range. You seem to be able to play anything. You are so evil on screen now, but so loving in real life.” I go “Well this is acting life. This is a part of the craft.” You take a character and you put it on. You try this skin on. It was fantastic playing the romantic show in South Africa. It is now fun being a terrible villain. They are very proud. I get a lot of “I am proud of you and how far you have come and stuck with it.” There are not a lot of South Africans that have survived the whole international transition. I am very blessed to have done this and have brought my fans with me.

ATM: How would a New Zealand male viewer perceive your role?

NB: A lot of what I did was a comedy when moving to New Zealand. This was fun. I just did Happy Together with Damian Wayans Jr. I do love this side. For them to see me play in an award-winning Australian movie production than playing this actress. They would go “Yes, this probably makes sense.” I do not know if you can see it, but there is a bit of comedy in Penelope. She is so complete in this and twisted. It is to the point where I say horrific things to the character Shellie that you can almost burst out laughing. It is like I cannot believe that this is happening right now. A New Zealand audience would be smirking at Penelope going “There she goes again. She is completely mad.” If you saw it from a male perceptive, then they would be a little terrified. She is a male hater on the show. I was also a dominating woman on the comedies in New Zealand. I played the hard-drinking, brash girlfriend in Isidingo.

ATM: What connection do you try to draw while working the Palm Oil Organization?

NB: If you get to know me as Nathalie Boltt and not Penelope the actress, then you will see I have always been a very passionate conservationist and a wildlife activist. The only connection there is the red hair with the orangutan. The orangutan is the key species that are being critical in endangered. I reached out and said, “Can we make it a red hair connection?” This would really raise awareness going “Hey, Riverdale this is Riverdale, but also hey guys have you realized what is going on with the other side of the planet.” A lot of people do not know how their choices of what they buy in North American stores affect third world countries, especially in Indonesia. The oil mayfar. This is where some cosmetics and in cleaning products come from. I am a person who entertains with my madness, social media captions, humor.

Then I go “How about this?” People go “What?” I go “Yeah, this is what happens. You have a choice every single day in what you do and what you buy. We can all team up together and make a difference. I have really interesting fans that if they follow me they do not just get some superficial posting of pictures on set or this outfit or that. The rest of the time I am encouraged to think, to speak, express themselves, and make smart choices. I also think the people who follow Riverdale are the young people who will use their inherent through our inheritance in the world and change it for better.

We are at a time where you see so many smart young people speaking out about gun violence at school, how some politicians do not represent them, or how the environment is in absolute crisis and nothing is being done. I like to be one of those people who goes “Come on let’s say something and make a difference?” If I can help you make a difference, then I will help you run with it and start making a difference. This is my role in a way. This is my other role in a way in life. To use my profile for good. To get back to your original question. I hope that my fans in Indonesia can see this. Even though they are far away, I want them to know that I see them, I hear them, and care about them. There is quite a difference between Penelope and Nathalie Boltt.

NB: What can you admit about the reality of endangered species in Indonesia and how this can transform a person’s emotions?

ATM: It is very real and scary in what is happening down there. We are losing tropical rain forest at the rate of a football field every three seconds. If you can picture what this means. Everyone needs to think about is the rapid break and forests as the lines of the earth. They are being cut out. It is simple to understand that when you lose these lines you die. No matter where the forests of the earth that are being cut down will not have the forest in our area and we die. Going down here and seeing how devasting the Palm Oil industry has been and how quickly we are losing our forests. We need to do something need and change policies. We need to boycott Palm Oil. It became real when I went down there. It is not sad little cute pictures of baby orangutans or other animal species being taken to orphanages. It is not cute. It is just devastating.

You see places that were full of life and they have been replaced by this monoculture that has nothing living in it. It is at a rate that is far that we will eventually lose our rainforest within three years. I am trying to wake people up to this is being real and not made up. I am helping Palm Oil investigation and an engineer to develop an app where you can just scan your product to see if Palm Oil is in it. We are also looking to develop a sustainable Palm Oil plantation. This does not exist yet. At some point cutting your own indigenous forest will stop. This is what you can learn and find from being in the forest. We are not there yet. I am trying to help this, happen.

Nathalie Boltt Talks Nelson Mandela, Stereotypes and Cultures

ATM: How can the understanding of climate change help a person understand this issue related to the Palm Oil?

NB: I think everyone understands climate change at this point. You do not have to know the major details. You just have to understand that we have thrown ourselves out of balance as people. Our planet is getting warmer and our weather is changing. Any day you watch the news to see fires, wild storms, and the completely unusual changes in temperature from extreme cold in places where it did not use to have this happen. The danger is people feel overwhelmed and they do not know what to do about it. They think: “I am one person.” You have a teenager at school going “I feel like I have no control over my life because my parents make these choices. So, what do I do?”

A lot of people have told me that watching my post on Palm Oil has inspired them to do their school project on it. They have done presentations and their school has taken on the project, without having known about the issue before. But now know what is going on, so one person has made a difference. This is good because everyone feels involved.

Also, the positive side to social media is that anyone can build their following if they are passionate enough and talk about what they are passionate about. This could be deforestation, climate change, saving species, or getting plastic out of the ocean. We have a voice now through social media. This can be very empowering. You can find your tribe of people who feel the same way. There is so much you can do in terms of connecting with people who can support your cause, finding friends with the same values and voicing your worries. I didn’t have that as a kid, so the Internet is a blessing if you use it right.

ATM: When you were younger why did you not know how to help people?

NB: Because this was before the internet. In South Africa, where I grew up, we had very little access to real information during the Apartheid years. We did not have T.V until late. This was controlled by the government. So, our information about our society, was told to us in the newspapers. We did not know how black people were being treated. I was living in this strange bubble. And when the government changed and Nelson Mandela came out of prison, I realized I had been living a complete lie. I watch what is going on in America now and go “Wow, it is going backward. In terms of integration and compassion and acceptance of all ethnicities and belief systems, we are going backward.” After what I experienced in South Africa, where a society woke up and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that allowed victims and perpetrators to speak and apologize and heal, I feel saddened and extremely frustrated witnessing the enabling of separation that is going on in the US. But I am very hopeful it will change. I know it will. Because we can speak up through social media. Unlike in South Africa in the 80s, where these outlets didn’t yet exist.  The only people who I could speak to as a kid were my school friends and teachers. I could ask my parents how I could help. My mom always made me aware of people in need. At university, my friends, whose parents had been involved int he anti-anti-apartheid struggle, made me aware of what had really been going on in our country. They taught me to question everything, to think for myself, to be proud of standing up for a cause.

With regards to my passion for conservation, my mother helped me speak out about my passion for the environment. She helped me. She has a huge heart and has spent her life connected to animals. Our home was a zoo of saved animals! So of course, that has influenced me. The connection to another species and our natural world is deeply therapeutic.

ATM: Going back to growing up in apartheid South Africa, If the newspapers showed something went wrong, then you believed it no matter what. You did not have anyone coming out saying their opinion whether it was fake or real.

NB: You just ate it all up. Especially as a kid, you trust people. You think this is true. You just go with it and it is only much later you go “Oh, wow. That was nonsense. We believed a lie.” This has made me who I am today. I have great compassion for all communities and cultures. I have a great understanding of how you can be one thing and then turn out and become something different as long as someone just explains to you what is going on. I always encourage people on my social media to not get angry, shout, and lecturer people about anything. This does not start the conversation, but it ends the conversation. It ends up like where we are at in America, where certain groups of people are allowed hate whatever is not them. They are encouraged to fear ‘the other.’ This never solves anything. Fear can lead to violence and violence never solves anything. Never.

ATM: Although we are in the early parts of the 21st century, there are some American people who still believe there are no white people living in South Africa. This is totally not true. I would not blame them. I would blame what society puts out about how Africa is portrayed. How would you explain the social behavior growing up in South African as a white woman?

NB: This is a huge question, but it is a good one. Growing up as a white person, male or female, it was crazy. I finished high school during the last year before Nelson Mandela came out of prison and the system changed. I went to a white-only school. We did not learn about any history in South African that had to do with the Apartheid. We had a very one-sided curriculum. The following year everything changed. I went to a university that was very progressive and openminded. The people that I met there helped me to really wake up.

It was a beautiful time when Nelson Mandela was released from prison – the people fighting for him and for change – we had so much hope. Talking about the time of the rainbow nation. Nelson Mandela developed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which went on to be used throughout the world. This was all happening while I was at university. I felt so privileged and a blessing to see this happening.

The Truth and Reconciliation commission was essentially: let’s talk about it and let’s not fight about it. The perpetrators and victims were brought together in a court. They were invited to express their pain. As the perpetrator of a crime, if you told the truth, you were given amnesty. A very progressive concept. The healing that comes out of it this is so much more rich and helpful than being judged and incarcerated. For both victim and perpetrator. Because you can look each other in the eye, express your grief and see how flawed we are as human beings. People need healing. They need to say “I am so sorry. I did this because I was instructed to do so by the government.” Or give the reason and motivation for their crime and their deep regret.  The people on the other side are given the chance to express their trauma and say, “I need you to know how much you have hurt my family with the violence that was brought upon us.”  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission trailed around South Africa for three years listening to the pain caused by the Apartheid government. It was broadcast live on TV.  Witnessing it completely changed me and healed many thousands of people and a large part of the psyche of a very damaged South Africa. It was revolutionary and the reason SA did not break into a civil war.

How does this apply to my career as an actor? Well, I have witnessed so much. I have seen people change completely. So, I am very aware that it is possible to be any character you choose as long as you believe and give that person a back story. Why are they like this? What happened in their life to make them like this? Actors are very accepting of people’s any traits.  We are the ones that are fearless of ‘the other’. We are always putting on each other’s skin and trying on someone’s character.

We always need a recipe to create something new and life-changing. I was on this show, Isisdingo (The Need) and the movie, District 9. Isidingo, is one of the longest-running daily dramas in South Africa. It showed the first interracial kiss or relationship. This was huge. It was so cool to be a part of this. You portray something and people see it is possible. This creates change. In District 9, it was this brilliant commentary on the ‘aliens’, the victors to Earth, that were treated so badly, and it was shot in these refugee camps. So, this was a very smart commentary on, not only what had happened politically in South Africa, but also on how refugees are treated globally. It was a privilege to be part of these stories – there is nothing better than to know you are a part of the change of a terrible system that turned into a better system. This is my experience.

Even in New Zealand, I learned about the anti-anti-apartheid movement – information I hadn’t heard while living in SA because the censorship of the news. When I lived in NZ, I learned about how the 1981 Springbok tour was boycotted in New Zealand. Many people believed, quite rightly, that the South African rugby team would not be allowed to tour, as people of colour were not allowed to join the national team.

It was fascinating to see how New Zealand influenced the change of power in South Africa. And the whole debacle was played on the radio in South Africa and Nelson Mandela got to hear about the rugby boycott in New Zealand from his cell on Robben Island.

ATM: There are some things society feeds people that are not true. They so long have wanted to keep us divided. You grow up thinking this race is better or this gender is that way. A lot of what is taught in education today and from the beginning of time is not true. When you go to the source, you realize the lies that society embeds in your head through tests, quizzes, and etc.

NB: Exactly. We have a lot of work to do to open minds and undo the damage of racism and bigotry. For example, the terrible attack on Jussie Smollett. There have been some posts from the Riverdale cast on how we really stand by him. Riverdale is very gender balanced and LGBTQA proud, so I am very happy to be part of that. This also goes for our sister show Sabrina. It is something to be proud of that we do not stand by any of the hate that is going on in the world. We want to be a part of the people who speak out about these things. All of us stand for something positive on the show.

ATM: How was your race and gender in New Zealand assessed once moving there?

NB: Contemporary NZ is predominantly European. So, going from that background, there was nothing unusual about me, when I moved there. Maori is the indigenous culture there, along with an interesting mix of Pacific Island culture, Indian, Asian and so on. I was hoping to be speaking influent in Maori within the ten years living here, but sadly, even though there is now a lot of Te Reo/ Maori taught in the school curriculum now, I didn’t pick it up in my day to day.  It did not happen. It was when I moved around a bit and got involved with some of the T.V shows where I got to mix more, culturally. New Zealand has some historical issues in terms of race relations, but not the same scale as South Africa. I really enjoy being around the Maori friends I made, and getting to learn more about their culture, which is fascinating and proud and very musical and artistic. I was once told I have ‘mana’ after I performed in a series about the part the Maori soldiers played in the Gallipoli war. ‘Mana’ means grace and dignity. I was so moved by this. The Maori culture is based on mana. So, this was very meaningful to me.  

Thank you for your interesting questions. Not a lot of people have gone there with me. I am always open to discussing my background, and cultures.

Mona Marshall Talks Sex, Erotic Art, and New Web Comic

ATM: You annotated readings while an English major in college.

MM: Yes. I was greatly influenced by Existentialism. I was one of those naïve midwestern kids. I grew up without the benefit of a mother from the time I was 14, which is when she died. I felt different which is the artist kind of thing. I never got along with my older sister. My dad died when I was 21. I was alienated from the family. My sister and father dealt with bipolar issues, but no one back then knew what this was. I went to college thinking here was Enlightenment, especially studying literature. I was extremely disappointed. As most 18 years old’s who are serious, I felt very helpless. I have always been into history and liked reading about the French Resistance.

This was the heart of Existentialism in a way. Here you had a group of people fighting against an overwhelming obnoxious force trying to take their lives and their country. These people never gave up. At this time, I read a book by Albert Camus called the Plague. All the truth has been written, how to deal with each other, how to be caring. Yet we continue to make these horrific mistakes. As a very young and naïve person, I felt helpless. I read the Plague and in it, he talks about once you are aware of the absurdity of the world you have four choices. The first one is to commit suicide.

Some of us do this directly with drugs or alcohol. The second is to extrapolate yourself from the absurdity. You become a hermit, isolate, and begin to live off the grid. The third is to click off your awareness and become a part of the absurdity. The fourth is to find meaning in what you do, being responsible for yourself, and in doing so you make changes the world. This idea appealed to me and this was my salvation. I still thought I was going to be an English professor at this time. I realized how political it was and I stopped lying to myself about wanting to be an entertainer. A part of this decision I owe to my first husband. I said, “I should go out for a play this year.” He said, “Why don’t you get up off your ass and do it?” So, I thank him for this and my last name. I am a very creative and reflective person. I’ve loved performing from the time I was small. They said I could hum before I could talk, and I believed them.

I wrote and made up songs as a kid. I was a heavy set, wore glasses and never felt a part of anything except when I would sing, dance and write. Fast forward to coming out to LA wanting to be a serious actress. This was kind of a joke. I should have gone to New York. I was teaching at a private professional school for young actors. One of my 5th graders was taking a voiceover workshop with the late Daws Butler (voice of Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Cap’n Crunch. His mom kept nagging me to take his class. said “You should do this. You would be really good at it.” I did not know what voiceover was. I took her advice, walked into Daws Butler’s workshop, and was blown away! I thought “I can be anything doing this. I am not limited by age, sex, or ethnicity.” Woah this is heaven for an actor.

ATM: When you annotate you go through the piece of work to highlight what is important. This is usually done with a highlighter or pen. Do you agree that your show South Park highlighting the hypocrisy in America is like annotating a piece of literature?

MM: South Park says, “If you are not walking the way you talk, then you are a part of hypocrisy.” We can all be hypocrites partly because of ignorance and partly because we can be a stubborn jackass. Stop pointing the finger at someone else.” Annotation for me, I’m referring to an annotated edition of a Sherlock Holmes book I read many years ago. I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan. (There is a Robin William story that goes with this) is: let’s say you’re reading a line and you are not sure what it really means in context. An annotation gives you an historical and event time frame: this came at this time and this is when such and such happened. It is a reference to so and so. If you read a lot of early literature, especially the Romantics, the Greeks, Homer, etc., they used mythology so much. You might annotate which myth or character they are referencing and then get a better idea of how it relates to the reading. I guess you could say South Park annotates current events and society. Things happening today which will become history tomorrow.

ATM: It analyzes the world and society. The controversial things that happen.

MM: What they really do is point out hypocrisy, which we need. If we are going to be sitting there talking about how awful we are, then we better be looking at our part in it. We are only looking at it, instead of trying to make this better. We are a part of the problem and not the solution. In Adventures with Puss and Dick, I am trying to point out the problem and look at the possibilities of solutions. “If we cannot see someone else’s point of view, then we are missing the chance to relate and communicate.”

ATM: We all should see everyone’s point of view. Some of your characters change into each other’s bodies. They changed gender positions, which allowed them to see various systemic differences. We need this because sometimes if someone taps into reversal psychology or when something is done from a different perspective, then they see it differently.

MM: Absolutely. It does not necessarily mean you have to agree. If you understand a point of view, then you can begin to make a compromise. If you look around at the people on social media, then you see they can be very vitriolic. Most people are not interested in making a connection; we are more interested in getting across our point of view. This is not communication, this is soapboxing. Looking back at my years on South Park I realize that the show has been quite an influence in how I think. Going back to the story about finding comfort in Existentialism – the thing is our lives have meaning on a daily basis.

How we treat each other every day has meaning and repercussion of great consequence, and we may never know exactly how. It’s like throwing a pebble into the water: you see those ripples and the go on and on spreading outward. That one action reaches out in so many ways. Every time we treat someone poorly, this reflects on society as a whole. Every time we treat someone with kindness, or we are caring, this reflect on society too, and it makes a difference. They both have impact on the world around us.

I have been thinking about this and how our actions impact others, because that has so much to do with my animation project. The episode we’re using in the pitch is the last episode on the web comic: Stop! Enough!! Time’s Up!!! It’s timely given what’s come down in the last couple of years.  About two weeks before we were ready to record voices, I was working on the script. I suddenly realized that I needed to create a real antagonist. Then, like a bolt of lightning it hit me.

Inside every one of us, there is that fearful and nasty voice that gets to us sometimes when we are the most vulnerable and susceptible to listen and then there’s a real danger of doing what it wants! This is how the character Dreck (which means “shit” in Yiddish) was born. It is an amorphous character that comes out of whomever is in conflict and in a hoarse whisper tries to bring out our worst “Oh, go ahead you know you want to do this; it’ll make you feel so good! They deserve this because they’re in your way and you’re so much better!” This is a voice of fear and dread that we all have with in us.

ATM: This character sounds like the starting effects of depression.

MM: That’s exactly what Dreck can turn into despair and depression. If you listen only to that voice, then you are drawing only on your input. This tends to make our worlds smaller and smaller and it sets up a barrier to anything that is different. Dreck brings out the egotist and the bully. It wants us to believe we are the end all and be all. It tells us we are a king as we transform into a tyrant. This is our fear and insecurity at its worst. Playing this character was so intriguing. Acting as a villain was fun! Being a villain. . . not so much.

The voice of VenMar, is Dreck’s counterpoint and as such gives us a better reality check and acts as the voice of enlightening inspiration. While we all have access to the Dreck that is inside us, we also have access to that energy that gives us inspiration (VenMar). The challenge is that we sometimes have to ask for direction, shut up for two minutes, listen, for the guidance and then take action, even when fear tries to stand in our way.

Having Dreck as the antagonist, allows my main characters Puss and Dick, in their various characterizations and situations, to make mistakes when they are influenced by Dreck, but it’s Dreck who we love to hate. It was a good device, definitely an inspiration. I was smart enough to ask for guidance and wise enough to listen and take action when it came.

ATM: Because you are a certain gender you do not have to move through society with what is told to you about this gender. The social norms for genders are created at birth. You do not have to live by them.

MM: We all have male and female aspects. I have a marriage counselor on board. I want to make sure our storyline includes transgender and same sex couples, and that our stories are well informed about various types of relationships. Because the relationships will be inclusive to any and all types, the story lines are endless. We were talking about the project with two of our friends who are lesbians, gal pals, but not a couple. and they came up with a good story line. Two women living together having their period at the same time; the perfect setting for hilarious havoc. 

One of these women had read something in a magazine about a male who had breast cancer. After they had been treating him with estrogen, he found himself becoming more sensitive. His body awareness and reactions were suddenly much more dominated by his female aspect than his male. Before his treatments it was “Eh, I gained a few pounds.” After his treatment, he gets paranoid about weight gain and is hyper-aware of his body.

Because there are all kinds of interesting stories out there, expanding the scope of the project was a good idea. There are so many possibilities and more people can relate. This expansion came partly from a conversation I had with someone who is transgender. Looking at all kinds of relationships and how they impact all of us open our minds and hearts.  The time is right.

ATM: It is time to see projects like this in our society. They are a mirror of how society is and give a new kind of way of thinking.

MM: Exactly. It is time we start being inclusive, instead of exclusive. What is normal? Normal is whatever you are.

ATM: It is subjective.

MM: Absolutely. The more society can understand this the more harmony we will have. There is no normal. Hopefully there is acceptance and love.  That requires better communication, which is also the goal of my project.  The more we can understand each other, the better we all can live together.

ATM: We live in a society where you can always tell someone something, but until you experience it or see the reversal of it, this is when you get it or understand it. We get this new frame way of thinking.

MM. The conversation I had with the person who is transgender really made a difference in how I think. I’m grateful I was open-minded enough to listen (Dreck and VenMar-VenMar won and so did I) I had sent this person an audition for the voice of VenMar. After reading the audition lines, they basically said that they hoped I would not take this the wrong way, that some of the dialogue was insulting.  They were referring two one of VenMar’s lines where he is talking about the differences and inherent conflicts between men and women: “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Women have a vagina and men have a penis.” They said, “I am transgender, and this is offensive to me.” At first, I thought, “What?” This is actually from a song I wrote. At first, I felt defensive and then I thought If I add the word “Most” – “Most women have a vagina and most men have a penis”. This one little word opens a whole world of possibilities. I thanked them their input and hope to use them as a consultant once the show is on the air.

ATM: What are some traits that can be perceived or stereotyped as masculine tendencies?

MM: The qualities of aggression and competition seem to be more male. Women tend to be kinder and gentler. That doesn’t mean woman can be strong and men cannot be kind.  But women tend to nurture more; we have the bodies that produce babies within them.  Doesn’t mean men cannot bond with and be loving to their children.  If you want to get ahead in this world, then you also need to have that kind of strength that men seen to have naturally. My husband is a great example of having both strength and tenderness. He is definitely a guy, a straight guy. He also has a gentleness about him that is seen as a female aspect. He genuinely likes women. I do not mean just because he finds them physically attractive. He likes and respects them. He likes that women are not afraid to talk about things. I fell in love with him because partly because he was still friends with the two women he was in relationships with before me. There is a difference between liking women in a sexual way and liking them because you respect them and what they have to say. He doesn’t objectify them. This was one of the things I found attractive about him. A lot of men do not allow themselves to entertain that feminine aspect because to them it does not feel masculine enough, or they’re just afraid if it.

I think this is why a lot of straight guys get homophobic. Just because a guy is gay does not mean you have to fear him vice versa with women. Women are a little bit more open. We can display affection much more readily to other women than a guy can to a guy. This is not to say guys need to become more feminine.  Allowing that gentle side to come out means your confident enough to be comfortable with all of yourself.

ATM: What if we mixed the two? The softer and the aggressive side.

MM: It’s all about balance. Knowing when to be strong and when to be gentle; life-long lessons in living. Part of it is not fearing and acknowledging both aspects. From the time I was a little girl, I hated dresses. I like wearing pants because they are more comfortable for me. There are a lot of guys out there that find much more freedom walking around in a robe. I mean look at men from the middle east. Does this make them any less manly? No, this is what makes them more comfortable. I think each of us needs to spend more time finding balance within ourselves rather than trying to dictate what others should or should not do. I was and still am a bit of a tomboy.  As a kid my favorite toy was a dump truck.  I loved filling it up with dirt and dumping it out like I was building something.

ATM: Were you?

MM: Yes, a career creating little boy voices, like Izzy on Digimon.  Seriously, I just remembered being fascinated by making the truck move.  It held my attention much more than playing with dolls.  As an artist, I find the form of women beautiful.  Men, too. But there’s something about the earthiness of women that is intriguing. Most of my erotic drawings are about this balance of male and female and take the form of women within the penis. This concept of male and female enriching one another is the seed of creation that became the idea of Adventures Of Puss ‘N Dick-A Survivor’s Guide To Relationships.

I do narrations for ABC Mouse. There was a book we read a couple of sessions ago called Bear Bunny. It is a book about being okay with whoever you are on the inside even if you look different on the outside. It sounds a lot like being okay with being transgender, gay or just like doing things that people don’t expect, just because you look a certain way. It is so delightfully written. I bought the book. I read to kids at Descanso Gardens and this wonderful dinette called Base Camp every month. This has now become one of the books I read.

ATM: What is the artistic nature that flows through your erotic art?

MM: Something happened to me in 1991. I went to Cabo San Lucas and saw the solar eclipse. This was quite moving, but a couple of days afterward we went out on the rocks where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. I had a moment. It is hard to explain. It was a though I could feel the struggles of humanity. It was an epiphany, truly awesome and it left me inspired.  We human beings are struggling, trying to live a spiritual or meaningful life in a world that is very material. All people, throughout history have had to struggle to survive and it is that determination to be and become that makes the human experience so beautifully joyful and tragic. It is a celebration of the spirit. 

When I got home, I started doing a series of drawings called Women Emerging. I have them riding on dragons, in dragons and coming out of flowers, and rocks. This led me to drawing the erotica I mentioned.  It embodied the idea of yin yang was based also on my relationship with my husband.  A relationship based in love, friendship, mutual respect and sexual attraction. Once again, there’s this idea of balance and acceptance in relationships and how struggle can lead to resolution.

Most of my erotic art is of this nature. I will send you some photos of it. Shortly after this, I began drawing these wire dancers with a drafting pen called a rapidograph. The drawings started as squiggles and then became people and then became wire dancers. I was inspired while listening to some Latin music at a concert. Then I got hold of some actual wire and started rendering the dancers as wire sculptures. The essence of their movement represents the celebration of life. They can be either female or male and they are meant to be moved, by both artist and patron. If you go to my website into my store, then you can see I have done them as earrings and pendants.

I have also made them larger and as fairies, angels and as all kinds of animals and sold them.  Some people have bought them to put in their gardens.  I love thinking about the progression from the initial inspiring event to how they grew from drawings to sculptures and the essences of them being a celebration of life.  This is also the feeling I have about the relationship my husband and I have, where you work through the struggles and you each grow, both as individuals and as a couple. The original title for The Adventures of Puss and Dick-Survivor’s Guide to Relationship was Sal-Mo.

ATM: Sex is like a work of art. Your emotions are like a splash of paint that goes on a canvas. The two contenders are immersed in their art and if deep enough gets in the formation of origami. The deeper the splash the higher your chances are of making collages, portraits, and murals. Their expression is what makes them make different pieces of origami. So, everyone takes the form of Picasso, Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Frida Kahlo, and others. But the art does not have to always make it to the canvas, not everyone wants to be a painter. Sometimes people want to draw stick figures and not portraits or collages.

MM: Both sex and art have room for all. They both have universal appeal. That’s so important. I was going to name my characters Sal and Mona. But those names did not have a universal meaning. Then, once again, the light of inspiration clicked on and I realized the name Dick is both a nickname for Richard and a can be a nickname for a penis. Puss can be a term of endearment for a female and is also the nickname for a vagina.  So, Puss and Dick became the names of my leading characters; they represent, in a playful way, every male and female.  With slight changes they can represent all ages, ethnicities and even time frames. I based her on Betty Boop. You know the cartoon character from the 30s. They had to be attractive, appealing to everyone.  Everyone had either a penis or a vagina, whether you’re gay, straight, or transgender. If you have both . . . well, that would make a very interesting episode.  

Isabel Lucas: Gender & Love Complexities in Adventure

Isabel Lucas stars in the recent film In Like Flynn. The film shows you the high lengths a man named Errol Flynn that went on to explore what life has to offer. Lucas talks about her character’s connection, family and more.

ATM: What can you assess about Errol’s perspective of adventure?

IL: Imagine someone putting all his coins in one basket to buy a boat and go to a journey to somewhere he has never been before. I am not sure. What is an adventure? It is all so relative to each person. He went on these big random escapades. In the film, we follow him through the earlier years of his life. I did not know this myself that before he became an actor Errol Flynn had gone on all these adventures. This is what made him the charismatic man he was and is.

ATM: What is an adventure for you?

IL: Good question. Maybe it’s easier for me to consider what an adventurer is. An adventurer is not afraid of taking risks, someone who wants to get closer to the juice of life, be passionate about their life and doing things that are not safe or easy but makes them feel alive. – What about you? What do you think is an adventure?

ATM: An adventure is not necessarily dangerous, but it is that internal moment when you take a risk and you are able to overcome this risk and feel happy.

IL: Yes, this makes sense.

ATM: Do you think your character Rose had a chance to dabble into adventure like the men?

IL: That was such a different time then. These days, women can do this more easily, they are liberated. They can make choices that feel freeing for them. I don’t think women were able to do this in the same way as men were during Errol Flynn’s time. Maybe they were dabbling in adventure as you say, but they’d certainly have to face a backlash. Rose was attracted to someone who was an extreme daredevil. She was incredibly brave to go on her own adventure looking for him, traveling from coast to coast. She shared this with him in the scenes. You know, maybe when we fall in love, we become an adventurer in a more internal sense. We go out on a limb. We are going to places where we have not been before. We make these irrational decisions, but they feel right. They are bold decisions, but they are from a place of love, passion, and wanting to live on the edge. Maybe in this way – more internally – she was very adventurous.

ATM: So, women are more of an adventure internally and with their emotions. They are adventurous with love and it shows with the words they say. Also, in the charismatic or passionate words women say to their male lover or lover. This is typically in a literary sense taking a risk also. You are saying words that are based on your emotions, but you do not know how the male or the other person is going to react.

IL: Exactly, this is the point. When we are in love, we become like an “adventurer of the heart.”

ATM: We become like little kids again.

IL: Yes. This is why we all love this experience and why an adventurous spirit is attractive to us and a beautiful thing. It’s attractive to see it in people and when I feel this in myself. It’s about completely living on the edge of life, feeling closer to why we are all here and being really alive.  In this way, this energy inspires me and connects us to the love of kids. They are playful, young, and have not been hurt by life.  

ATM: Sometimes when people fail or mess up at something when life hurts them it closes the internal need for an adventure. They do not try anymore and just become more content in life. The adventurous streak is gone. This could be with a heartbreak or a relationship.

IL: This is why resilience is important whether we get our heart broken or have a car accident. We get hurt physically and emotionally. This is life. The real question is how do we still say yes to life and open our hearts again and soften rather than become over-protecting and guarded? It is important to repair, nourish and nurture yourself after you have been hurt. It is important to know to get this feeling back -the childlike, joyful, and adventurous spirit. Otherwise, we become hardened and close down our hearts. You then do not care for yourself or other people as much because you are afraid of being hurt. It is good to learn about being hurt and come back from this.

ATM: When has been a time you have sought an adventure or lived on the edge of life?

IL: I feel this happens when doing a movie. Most actors have a huge amount of self-doubt. I have talked to Christian Bale, John Hurt, Ben Mendelsohn and have learned mainly that actors all go through the same internal struggle, “What am I doing here? I cannot do this…” and it can happen right before shooting. It feels like this, “Yes, this is my job and I like doing it, but it is also scary” right beforehand. – It is also a risk. What is everyone going to think about it? This is an unknown territory. I take it day by day. So, for me living on the edge has been mostly related to work. 

ATM: Describe the authenticity seen in Errol Flynn during the times of pre-Hollywood?

IL: It does not mean that when working in Hollywood you become fake. A lot of people do care what other people think of them. It is a human trait to want to be liked and look for validation, but wanting to get a positive response from people, I think, can also be unhealthy. We can become quite inauthentic and very concerned about what people think. This is why I think Errol Flynn was attractive. He was living his own truth.

ATM: What is the difference between the customs and social norms in America and Australia?

IL: I have heard people describe Australia as being comparable to America during the 40s, 50s, 60s. In that sense, they really appreciate Australia because it felt like the 40s in America when everyone came to start their own dream. It is kind of related to openness to life. Australia is not as important on the world scene as America and political issues and baggage that weigh down society are less impacting.  Maybe there is a little bit more freedom here.  

ATM: How and what did your young adult self-view as life in Australia?

IL: My family moved around a lot which affected me considerably. We lived in different parts of Australia which are all very beautiful in their own way: in the south (Melbourne), the north (Kakadu National Park) and on the north-east coast (Cairns, near the Great Barrier Reef).  My mother grew up in Switzerland and we spent some time there as well. I went to school in Switzerland when I was 7 and again at 15. I felt a new familiarity with nature in Australia when I returned. In noticing the difference in the landscapes between the two countries, the beautiful land, the forests and the rainforests, and I discovered the coral reefs. It was such a colorful, very aesthetic and beautiful underworld treasure! Nature had and has a big influence on me. 

Michael Quinlan on the Value of Trust & Human Connection

Michael Quinlan recently played in The Upside and played on Hulu’s Looming Tower. Both projects were opposites of each other but share a lot of insight on how we move through this world. A lack of trust could impact a nation. Whereas, taking a chance on a person can start a lifetime friendship.

ATM: If you did not walk upright, then how would this change your perspective of life?

MQ: If we walked on our hands and did handstands all over the place?

ATM: Yes.

MQ: I could not really look up per se because I would be down. My view of life would be from the ground. As we see in some movies, this is the viewpoint from a cat or dog. Their viewpoint is from their height. You get a sense of what life is like from their eyes. It would be limited. We could not really take in the scope of things. It would be limiting.

ATM: When two people come together from different forms of life, how can this broaden their horizon?

MQ: It was unintended for Philip to hire Del. He did it to piss everyone off in the beginning. He wanted to rattle the cards a little bit. Del was not prepared for this job nor did he want to do all the work. As the story unfolded, they really did see other sides of life through the other eyes that they never would have this opportunity come along. It is a true story and these guys are still friends. If he did not take this crazy chance, they would have never developed this relationship and known one another. Obviously, they saw completely different sides of life through each other’s eyes. This was a positive thing in the end for both.

ATM: How was trust seen in the series Looming Tower?

MQ: This was interesting. Again, this story was based on real characters. Jeff Daniels plays a real guy in the 80s and 90s who was in the FBI. He was ringing the bell and calling attention to this group called Al-Qaeda. No one kind of gave him the time of day. It turns out he was correct. Before 9/11, these guys, the agencies did not trust each other at all, which were the FBI, CIA, and NSA. They kept priority information to themselves and they did not share it. This was really the problem with 9/11. The left hand never knew what the right hand was doing.

They lost a lot of valuable time and information that could have been put to good use. This guy O’Brien, the character Jeff Daniels play was instrumental in bringing it to light. He ironically was killed in 9/11. It was his first day to work as head of security for the World Trade Center. It turned out he was right. After 9/11, the agencies really did come around to see they had to share information to move the security of the country forward.

ATM: What was the mentality of the people in this profession during the 80s and 90s?

MQ: They were just after their own slice of life. They did not want to share information about the information they had gotten. It was like “I did the work to get the information. It is mine. I am not sharing it.” They all had the same mentality. In the end, they realize it was detrimental to all of them combined. They learned to react and move forward in a different way after we saw what happened when they did not share information.

ATM: I would assume when you look at the script you visualize how it will get visually portrayed.

MQ: Yes, when you look at the script you visualize what you think is important. Sometimes when you get to the set it goes along these lines or it changes completely. You have to talk to the director and see what is and how things are set up physically. You really do not know until you get there. As an actor, all you can do is be prepared with your lines and prepared to be swift on the fly if you have to. The only thing you can do is to show up prepared, know your lines, and not get in anyone’s way.

Tanner Beard on the True Reasons for the 2nd Mammoth Film Festival

ATM: How does your film festival bring a film purpose for exhibition, exploration, and a creative nature?

TB: This is a great question. I would love to answer this question. What is cool about our film festival are the creators happen to be filmmakers themselves. I am a filmmaker and as is co-founder Tomik Mansoori. Theo Dumont has been in the festival game for 15 years with his film festival Hollyshorts and Alexandra Chando, our festival manager, is also a great actress. She has starred on her own television series for several years and she is now directing. I would like to think about this as a film festival by filmmakers for filmmakers. All of us understand the plight of making a film, being in a film, and how much a festival can pivot your movie for the better.

We have all been in the business for years and gone through the festival circuits. I have been competing in festivals for the last decade. I wanted to cherry-pick a few things I learned from those festivals and apply them to MammothFF to make it different but familiar.

ATM: All films start in the film festival phase. This is whether it picks up distribution and goes to the Oscars or just remain an indie film. They all start here. It is more like an NFL draft pick. The distributors are the recruiters.  There is a misconception to some people in the nonentertainment that think a film just magically appears at the theatres, on the television, and streaming platforms.

TB: This is a great way to look at it. This is another thing we like to think about too. The first world premiere that we ever showcased at this film festival starred Sophie Turner, of Game of Thrones. This was an indie film and for this to be our first thing out of the shoot, the bar was immediately raised very high and set a tone for what we set out to accomplish. If you get accepted into this film festival, you also have a chance for distribution, that’s something we’ll continue to build on. The idea of, you can be bought and sold at the Mammoth Film Festival. This is our purpose. A poor analogy if you will -If you are here, it’s like being an athlete well on their way to being chosen into the NFL draft. You are going to play for the Dallas Cowboys or the Kansas City Chiefs, ha.

ATM: What characteristics do you feel this film festival give off that is like its animalistic title?

TB: This is such a lovely question and a fun one to answer. I am a Texan at heart, and I was born in Texas. I live in LA now. There is a saying in Texas “Everything is bigger in Texas.” With a name like ours, everything is bigger in Mammoth. Our huge world premieres with huge talent and mega movie stars like Zac Efron, Jennifer Morrison, Xzibit, Josh Duhamel, and Lamourne Morris. All of these stars walk the streets of Mammoth Lakes, California during the festival. They’re eating where you’re eating and skiing where you’re skiing. We go big with events. We have an 80s Ski Lodge party that is going to be an absolute blast. We have a celebrity charity bowling tournament. We have an exhibition hall called MammothCON, which is going to grow into its own convention. All of this was established in our first year. We were called the biggest first-year festival ever organized. If that’s is not mammoth, I don’t know what is, (laughs).

ATM: How do the definitions of togetherness and mentorship infuse themselves into the festival’s mission statement?

TB: This is a great question too. It takes some film festivals years and years to develop interactive film discussions. The togetherness of the people who speak on our panels offers a huge amount of mentorship. The interaction we can have with people who sign up for our panels, they get direct access to talk to these producers of who’s representation precedes them. 

ATM: How does working in the business side of the film and performance side bounce off each other?

TB: I started off just doing acting and filmmaking. Now, I am doing 1 or 2 projects as an actor a year. 1 or 2 projects as a filmmaker a year. To go in having the business side, you really appreciate each other’s job. Building a festival is like doing ten movies at the same time. There are so many moving parts.

ATM: How does the area’s weather climate impact the ways a person might perceive the festival?

TB: Well, we have been compared to Sundance in only our 2nd year due to the landscape of Mammoth Lakes, California. It is a beautiful ski resort town and a wonderful place to house a film festival. They are calling it “California’s Underground Sundance” already. It is kind of unfair for us because Sundance has been going on for almost 30 years. We are only a 2nd-year film festival. My goal is by 2022 to be in the top 25 film festivals in the world. With the number of movies, we are able to world premiere and screen with the caliber of our talent. We are well on our way. The snow and the landscape here are what makes our film festival special. Thank you, Town of Mammoth Lakes.

ATM: I would also assume Texas has taught you some things. There are life traits. How do your Texas roots spread throughout your job in carrying out of the responsibilities?

TB: I had a great mentor Suzanne Weinert. She is also the president of the Austin Film Society. She is a great Texan producer. She really took me under her wing. Me being from Texas, I spend a lot of time doing movies in Austin, Texas. I got to compete in SXSW a couple of times. The comradery that the Austin film circuit has, trained me to carry on with that comradery we built with Mammoth Film Festival.

ATM: Every state as a slogan they go by. For example Virginia is the state for Lovers. Texas is the state for Friendship. How has friendships and partnerships helped you?

TB: They are everything. Tomik Mansoori is not only one my best friends but also my business partner in this whole thing. He and I have gone through hell and high water every day as the co-founders of this film festival. We have people with us like Theo Dumont, Alexandra Chando, Nicole Castro and Dylan Efron. If we were not close friends, then I do not think we could bear the difficulties there are to put this festival on.

ATM: How does going through the process if it being hell and high water metaphorically do you all make the waters become calm like the Mammoth Lakes in California? How do you make it ease and stay calm?

TB: All of us throw the pattern away and throw our egos away. There is no handbook on how to make a successful festival. We do not know really what our festival is going to be until submissions come in. We have made sure we never lose control of the boat on the open water. We take it one day at a time. We have really ambitious goals for this festival. We depend on each other and take a lot of deep breaths. There’s’ only 5 of us. We know that at the end of the day what we are doing and the organization we formed is doing great things for some many people. But we’re happy to be creating what I’ve heard called, “secret star studded, underground film festival that only the who’s who know about.” (laughs).

Director/Writer Joe Penna Talks ‘Arctic’ and Survival

ATM: How does a human being going into the unknown make them more comfortable with life?

JP: This is a great question. I like this and have never been asked this before. In the beginning, I tried to place our character Overgård in a place he was comfortable and where he had a routine. There was no energy to try to deviate from the routine. Any deviations could spell out his death. I did this a long as I could in the film and tried to set up this pattern in the beeping of the watch so that it becomes this rhythm of his life. We strip away his humanity. He does not get this back until there is a different human presence there. Until there is this chance, he is going to be saved. His emotions are what returns to him.

ATM: What is your perspective on the main character figuratively becoming his own authority figure?

JP: There is so much of this film that relies on his internal conflict inside of his own head. You see him wonder sometimes out loud. “Should I take the three-day path or the five-day path? The five-day path is somewhat closer. Should I do this, or should I do that?” There is not anyone to bounce anything off of. In fact, in an earlier version of the screenplay we did. We made him have his own internal dialogue where he was talking to himself out loud a little more, so you could kind of understand what is going through his head. This is not the version of the script we ended up because Mads does so much with just a look. To me, it is a little bit more interesting trying to figure out what he is thinking through his actions.

ATM: Do you believe this wondering stem from his internal or external side? Which do you think makes this decision?

JP: So many of his decisions are predicated on expending the minimal amount of effort. Especially since every step is treacherous in this setting. How does he get from A to B? He does not have anyone to bounce this off or any way to exposit out loud.  It’s interesting to me to have the audience try to figure out what is happening.

ATM: When a film has the two genres of drama and thriller intertwined with each other, how does this manipulate how the viewer sees the film narrative?

JP: It is interesting because I do not see it as a thriller label. I see it as an escalation of difficulty for him; more of a survival drama. I suppose it is riding the line, but far closer to the dramatic side of things.

ATM: What does the beginning scenes exhibit about the ways a human would move through life or what they would need to move through life?

JP: There is a moment early on where he is looking at a picture, he found on her. He sees that she is a mother and has a little child. I think he understands that hers is not going to be the only life he is going to impact. I can imagine a scenario where he waits for a rescue crew, they don’t come, and she dies. If he were to then be saved, no one would blame him. Everyone would say that it’s okay that he stayed in his plane… but I don’t think he could live with himself after this. He thought two or three steps ahead and thought, “I have to do this not only for her sake but also for my own.”

ATM: What is true in a person that makes it through a survival experience?

JP: Our will to live is our most basic instinct. This is the driving force behind everything that we do, not only humans but everything that fights to stay alive. Everything that is alive wants to survive. This is why I wanted to tell this story – because it is so easy to understand this instinct.

ATM: On the 18th day out of 19 days of shooting, what new epiphanies and findings did you have about the film narrative or the main character?

JP: We came up with a back story for him. I came up with one, and my co-writer came up with another. Mads came up with a completely different backstory. We did not use any of them. We never wanted this to come through in the film. We tried to impart as little characterization on him and to only judge what he does in the moment. As opposed to what got him there, or where he came from. It does not matter if he is a pilot, a co-pilot, a researcher, or if he was knocked out in San Diego and woke up in the Arctic. He is still somebody who is going above and beyond for someone he does not know. He is inherently a good person. This is what makes us care about him. Our character cares for someone he barely knows – and hopefully that’s how we feel about him, too. The audience doesn’t know much about his backstory, but hopefully they’re invested in his struggle.

ATM: As the writer and director, describe the internal feeling of falling in love with storytelling and depicting it?

JP: For this particular story, I think this film is not, or at least not only, a parable of man against nature. It is about the endurance of altruism even under extreme circumstances. When we first start watching this film, our immediate fascination leaves us trying to determine what we would do if we were in the same situation as our protagonist. After that, I hope Overgård inspires us to carry a bit of his courage out of the theater with us.