Author - Gabrielle Alexandra Smith

Lloyd Meredith Talks the Tale of Two Sisters

Lloyd Meredith plays a contrasting character to sisters Bethan and Sian who are on two opposite sides of the spectrum. Meredith recounts moments in the film and social efforts that sounds the influence he has on the two sisters.

ATM: How is sisterhood portrayed in this film called Sisters?

LM: Two sisters have been dragged all their lives in the social care system. Bethan turns 18, the social system puts her out. She takes her sister and runs away. They have an unfortunate background with no support system or people to help them.  We see them go through very dark times. Especially at the end of the movie. Beth, the oldest one makes sacrifices to ensure Sian has a roof over her head and food. These sacrifices usually tear people apart, but in this situation, it brings them together. It is more in Bethan being a guardian to Sian. She is young and does not understand anything out the social system. She is being guided by Bethan. The movie really looks at a relationship with two people who can evolve.

ATM: How does your character influence these characters?

LM: They start to rely on a group of young men after leaving the social care system. These are not your typical young friendly men. They are troubled and dangerous young men. They are very much involved in drugs, illegal things for money, and alcohol. They follow along with these three young men and start to live with them. They are constantly centered around drugs and alcohol. My role is kind of comedic, but this is a very dark and gritty film. There are elements of dark humor, which sheds light on what is going on. It is a hard-hitting movie. 

ATM: Does humor make the girl’s situation better?

LM: It does not help it. I am friends would someone who is also into drugs. They argue about the ridiculous things, which is where the humor comes from. These relationships are dark and not something the two sisters want to be a part of. They realize there are no other options.  

ATM: What does this film say about a man’s influence on a woman who has not found their identity yet?

LM: There is a relationship that starts with Beth and another character Jordan. He is an evil character and the other characters, including mine, find him difficult. This is a forced relationship. Everyone knows if she stays in this relationship that Sian will have food. Bethan is almost sacrificing herself for her sister. She cannot leave because she is a danger. There is an element of danger that you see. He sees this and has everything they do not have. He gives them little by little to keep them there.

ATM: Was this risk worth it?

LM: She is 18 years old and very young. She has not had a childhood. Sian is nine. Beth gives her things, so she can have this. She does fall into a trap with a group of people. I do not think that is worth it. It is more of what she can do at this time. They do leave. We see the reaction of these young men. The story continues and it’s not something that is seen as being worth it. She is doing the best for her sister at this stime.

Bipolar Between Two Worlds

Tracy Campbell plays Trevor, a recent high school graduate who gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder, in the film Bricked. This mental illness takes him in a new direction with life. Campbell tells his view and a connection to the subject of the film.

ATM: When you hear of the mental illness “bipolar disorder” as a black person, what comes to mind?

TC: it’s interesting because I do not normally hear these words in the black community. I know it plagues the black community. This is the contrast. When this word is used in the black community it means “unstable,” “irrational,” “erratic,” or anything that deals with a mental incapacity that is extreme. It is undiscussed in the black community. It is always a whisper and never a resounding noise in the black community with the term bipolar.

ATM: It is a mental illness that is taboo to talk about. If you are a black person living in this community, then it is like “We will pray to get it away.” “You do not have this.” “You can find a remedy or start with going back to church on Sundays.” A black person in this situation would say “I have a bipolar issue. Why can I not just get medicine?” Some would respond, “Why do you need to see a therapist? You are not crazy.”

TC: Right. Or you need to step out of it.

ATM: Or you are thinking too hard on it and you do not have bipolar. From my experience, white people and other races, they take it more carefully and seriously. It is not taboo. They have the necessary care. They have therapy and medicine. This is probably why the black community has a high issue with mental illness.

TC: I agree with this. It is not really taken seriously. It is not treated at all. This is disheartening because there are so many people that are dealing with something of this degree and caliber. The response is “Hey, you are just being overly emotional. You need to snap out of it. Maybe you need to go on a vacation or take a break?” We are addressing the symptom but not the root. The symptom is just how someone is responding, reacting, exhibiting certain characteristics of the root. There is something on the inside that we need to talk, address, and make sure this person gets the proper help they need.

ATM: People in this community are afraid to come out. Especially as a young person. You already have the “black” stereotype. If you come out staying you are bipolar, then you are outcasted within your own community. Often in the black community this term is treated as sarcasm. You are in an argument, it is sarcastically said you have bipolar. Some people say they have bipolar but have never been medically diagnosed. Bricked focuses on this issue universally and how it is dealt with.

TC: The film is not a “black film,” but it does have an all-black cast.  It is dealing with an issue that is plaguing a lot of people throughout the world. I am a faith-based person. My relationship with God and Jesus is fundamental and crucial to how I generally function in life. I had a friend who committed suicide in March. He was clinically diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. It had been an atrocious journey for him. It is an interesting thing when you lose someone to this element. It gives you a lot of perspectives. A pastor said, “The need is always spiritual before it is physical.”

We focus on the spiritual aspect, but we also need the physical need. The physical need is potentially therapy or medicine. We look at the spiritual as well, this is crucial because we are spirit beings. This is from my point. This is just coming from a faith-based point of view. This film is not faith-based at all. It was cool to be in the position of my friend and see his lens of life. Also, to see how he turned to live in general with dealing with this element and this mental illness. It is an interesting idea overall. It is not talked about or focused on in T.V or film. There are few films that really tackle this issue. This was not even a big budget picture, but it was an indie film. It does a good job with shedding light on something most people are conscious and aware of in society, but we are not depicting it properly.  We are giving people the tools or assistance to people who deal with something of this magnitude.

ATM: There are not a lot of true depicted television or films that we know of that touches on this subject. It is a touchy subject. It comes down to how do you talk about it without offending someone. I would assume a person with bipolar feels alone. They are manic depressive for a certain amount of time. Then also they are depressed for another amount of time. People know themselves and when their bodies are changing. A lot of times we do not want to face reality or face bodily changes. This creates the feeling of “Am I normal or am I abnormal?” Mentally they have to fight their own internal demons. It is worst when keeping this to yourself because you are suppressing it. People need to know they are not deemed crazy or psychotic, but you just need help to guide you.

TC: Yes, you need to be open. In the black community, we do not typically talk about issues. While growing up there was no transparency. The vulnerability was not a key component in my household. I know this for tons of my friends who grew up the same way I did. When it comes to dealing with things of what might plague any community, but especially the black community, there needs to be a level of transparency and vulnerability so we all can speak openly about what is happening on the inside. We all can speak openly about what we might be facing or what our light might be. Trevor’s reality is different, and he is living in a broken reality. It is a tough journey to communicate and express this for him. There are different elements to the film. Especially in the ending where there is a twist. He comes to the essential being of living with bipolar. He comes to grips with this being a broken reality for such a long time. How do I get back to living life as a young man in society with this plague of brokenness and separation of life? How do I get back from this? How do I maneuver my way to where I know I am supposed to be?

ATM: In the trailer where T.C Carson’s character diagnoses your character, he says, “So am I crazy?” This alone supports the negative stereotype that is given to people living with this. There are people hiding behind whether they are this or that because they refuse to fall in the lines of this stereotype. If you openly express you have bipolar disorder, then you might not get hired, people will not associate with you, or your family might disown you. This is likely in the black community. This makes their loneliness worse because now they feel as if they are outside of this world. They might move to things that result to suicide or ending their lives.

TC: The whole topic at hand is such an interesting topic. I hope the film serves this topic justice. I hope it clears the conversation in all communities. Parents should talk to their children and kids should feel comfortable sharing this with them. Especially if things are happening on the inside and they do not understand. It will be seen around the nation. I hope the conversation will be more about this topic of bipolar disorder and what this looks like for people. How we treat people.

ATM: From the embodiment of your character, what does the real and mental status of being depressed encompass, which is one of the stages of a bipolar disorder?

TC: When it comes to science, the brain, and certain serotonins that are not mashing with the other parts of the brain. It is a chemical imbalance that makes you feel a certain way and you just do not know why. I was guilty of this before doing my research and understanding that people are struggling. “Just snap out of it.” “Change your thinking.” It does not work like this in science or biology when it comes to different levels in their actual physical. It is a huge thing for me to empathize with people like this for me. It was not a snap out of it situation with this character because it was all clinical. We need to get you balanced. We need to put you on medication to help you get balanced. If not, then you are going to live in this state for a while.  This is what it looks like from my perspective.

ATM: Typically, a person who is suffering from a bipolar disorder has a chemical imbalance of dopamine and serotonin and a lot of other things. Dopamine refers to the emotional response a person has. Serotonin refers to the self-esteem level in a person.

Screenwriter Ross Owen Williams on ‘Winter Ridge’ Debut, Upcoming Books & More

ATM: Why did the universe allow you to write Winter Ridge?

ROW: The idea of writing a thriller where degenerative conditions were a major element initially came to me in 2009, a while after my grandmother passed away. She’d been suffering with dementia for a long time and, for the last few years of her life, her body was there but she really wasn’t any more. What struck me the most about the situation was how much impact it must have had on my grandpa, seeing this woman who had been his wife for over 50 years essentially disappear in front of him. By the end, she didn’t know him as her husband any longer, she just knew he was the man who looked after her and fed her. I couldn’t imagine how hard that must have been.  

The quality of life they shared together at that point was zero, so when she died, it gave him his life back. I remember being at the wake and thinking to myself, ‘Shouldn’t we all be sadder?’ but there was definitely a positive, upbeat feeling because we knew grandpa was going to be able to get on with living his life. Of course, he was going to miss his wife, but he’d had years to come to terms with her passing on as he saw her disappear deeper into dementia. When she died, it was an end to both of their suffering – I thought that was interesting because the standard thinking is that death is a cause for misery rather than relief.

ATM: What was his life like after your grandma passed away?

ROW: Grandpa had a good decade or so after that where he could live his life without having to keep a watchful eye on his wife every waking moment, so he could go traveling or cycling, enjoying what he did. Sadly, he also succumbed to dementia. I saw a little more of it first-hand this time, when I would go to visit, and he would recognize me a little less each time. The last time I saw him, he couldn’t quite grasp who I was anymore. He knew that my mum was his daughter but, when he was told who I was, he would say “no, Ross is only *this* tall”, indicating the height of a ten-year-old. In his mind, his grandson was a small boy, not a six-foot man with a beard.

During all of this, I found myself thinking about the, “What if?” That was where Winter Ridge began to take shape. ‘What if’ someone was going around and killing people who were physically alive but, to a large extent, mentally and emotionally dead or dying? What were the moral implications of that? How would the surviving family feel? Was it murder of a person already disappearing, or was it saving those closest to them from years of being burdened – not that caring for someone close to you is a burden we are unwilling to bear but there’s no denying the impact it has on quality of life. I certainly wouldn’t want to get to a point where I was a complete inhibitor on my kids’ lives, for example.

ATM: How much has your perspective on life in general changed since becoming a parent?

ROW: Hugely – and I think everyone who has had kids would agree. It’s a game changer that you can’t even imagine before they come along. But there’s a change in perspective brought on by simply getting older too, providing you’re open to it. Looking back at how I felt in my teens and my early 20s, my thought was that life is life and you live it to the last drop, you want every second because the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate. As I got into my thirties, I began to understand people later in their lives telling me that they were fine with dying. They weren’t seeking it out, for sure, but there are worse alternatives – like dementia and the impact is has on the people they love. I don’t think a lot of younger people understand that, so I’m hoping Winter Ridge will raise a little awareness amongst the under-30s around Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions.

ATM: Explain the process of when Winter Ridge started to come together on paper.

ROW: I had just sold my business – that was back in 2008. I’d been building a recruitment agency and got it to a place where someone was interested in buying it and integrating it into their existing company. Since leaving University, I’d always wanted to write but I’d never been able to find much time to do it because recruitment is such a time-consuming career – at least, if you’re doing it properly! You can’t find more than scraps of time here or there in which to write and it’s extremely difficult to get into the flow of anything when you’re chipping away at writing a page or two every few days. Once I’d sold my company, I finally had the time to commit to getting stuck into a script. There was an online challenge called NaNoWriMo, which stood for National Novel Writing Month, encouraging aspiring writers to get at least 50,000 words of a novel done in a single month.

I think it was November 2008. I used that as a motivator and didn’t do much else apart from writing. By the end of the month, I had more than 50,000 words and more than half of a novel I finished writing that December. I’ve done nothing with that since, but it was a good starting point to getting a work ethic in place when it came to writing. The next year, there was a similar challenge but this one was based around screenplays. I took the idea I’d come up with and began fleshing it out, figuring out the characters and the elements of the story, and then got as much of it on paper as I could in the month of the challenge.

I ended up cutting off changing most of what I wrote in that very first draft, but that’s part of the creative process. You have to start somewhere and just get it down on paper. The first draft is a way to get to the second draft and so on. The whole thing is going to change and adapt and evolve beneath your fingertips as you move forward, and once you’ve signed the story and script over to the producers, the chances are that it’s going to continue changing without you having any further input.

ATM: How do you go from being a business owner to a screenwriter?

ROW: Not overnight, that’s for sure! It’s difficult to get anyone with the ability to get things done to consider your work because you’ve got no track record. It’s a chicken and egg situation – it felt like everything I’d done in my life up until that point didn’t matter at all when I was being considered as a screenwriter. ‘So, what have you done?’ was the usual question I’d get whenever I approached a literary agent or a producer to pitch my idea. Even when I mentioned I’d had a book published in 2013, The Hardcore Truth, they weren’t interested because it wasn’t a film. I could write a book, but it didn’t follow that I’d be able to write a screenplay. I understand the mentality a lot more now but, when you’re trying to get started in the industry, it’s incredibly frustrating because it’s hard to see even the smallest glimmer of hope at times. You just have to keep writing, re-writing, and talking to people about your ideas. With a combination of hard work, persistence, talent and luck, maybe something will happen but even that’s no guarantee.

ATM: What was it that finally got things moving forward?

ROW: I believe that it was a combination of all the above. I started doing some acting in 2012 – again, something I’d always wanted to do, given I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama. I’d just got wrapped up in my business career after graduating and never had the time to commit properly to it until then. One of the earlier projects I was involved with was a Virgin Media Shorts film called A Hero’s Journey. You should check it out, it’s a fun little piece and won several awards. While I was on set, I met a guy named Dom Lenoir, who was the DOP for the short. He and I got to talking about our ideas and hopes for careers and kept in touch after we’d finished the shoot. I showed him what I had for Winter Ridge – which was, at that point, called Terms of Execution, and he liked it. We began working on another idea together, that one called In Another Life, and he began talking to people he knew within the industry to pitch our ideas and see if anyone was interested in getting involved. After a few false starts on In Another Life with producers who talked a good game but couldn’t back up the big talk, we got talking to Matt Hookings, who’d worked with Dom on Shoe Polish. Matt was building a production company and looking for a project as a first feature – he’d seen the script for Winter Ridge and was interested in going with that, as well as playing the lead role of Detective Ryan Barnes. We went through several further rewrites – including a frenzied one from a hotel room in Spain when my partner and I were in Alicante going for IVF treatment! – and I handed it over and checked out of the project creatively at the end of 2016.

Dom and Matt drove it forward, assembled a great crew and an amazing cast, including Alan Ford (Snatch), Hannah Waddingham (Game of Thrones) and Michael McKell (Doctors), and shot the film in 17 days during April 2017. After it had been edited and scored, it hit the independent festival circuit where, to date, it’s won sixteen awards I believe. It’s also had a limited cinema release in the UK, showing on 25 screens, and is now available on Amazon, Google Play, Sky Movies, iTunes, Hulu, and assorted other VOD services.

ATM: So now Winter Ridge is ‘out there’, what’s is in the future on how you plan to embark your next endeavors?

ROW: 2019 is looking very positive so far, in that I’ve got a couple of books scheduled for release this year. They’re both autobiographies of pro wrestlers that I’ve been the writer on and I’m very happy with how they’ve turned out. The first, which will be released in May I believe, has the awesome title of Self-Help: Life Lessons from the Bizarre wrestling career of Al Snow, and the second is something I’ve written with Dylan Postl, the little person wrestler who played Hornswoggle for WWE, called Life is Short and So Am I. I’ve got no doubt that wrestling fans will love them, but we’ve taken care to write them so they’re accessible to people who’ve never seen a wrestling match in their whole life. Al’s book is absolutely hilarious, with so many great stories about bizarre but true things he’s experienced over the course of his 35-year career, and Dylan’s book is hugely inspirational, about a boy born with achondroplasia, who had to have two major back surgeries before he was seven, overcoming the odds and living his dream.

ATM: How about anything for the screen?

ROW: I’ve got a couple of things up my sleeve – there’s a sports drama in the world of Mixed Martial Arts that I’m redrafting right now for a producer and that looks promising to go somewhere. I think that could do very well because it’s not about MMA, per se, it’s based in that world but it’s not the central point. It’s a rites of passage story about a guy figuring out that short cuts might get him his childhood dream, but commitment and integrity are more important to becoming the adult he needs to be. There’s also a road trip comedy loosely based on Al Snow’s book which is at an early stage, and a couple of other comedies I’ve had hidden away for some time which need a solid polish but could definitely go somewhere in the right hands. I’ll keep working on them and talking to people and we’ll see what happens.

ATM: You mention commitment and integrity being things that drive change in the main character of your MMA film – have these been important elements in your own personal growth?

ROW: I think – or, at least, I hope – they’re two of the main things behind people who are successful in the long run. In my business career, I’ve seen a lot of people come in, try and take short cuts and achieve some quick success but it doesn’t work out long-term. It’s the people who are committed to their work, their colleagues and associates, committed to quality, committed to making a difference rather than making a quick buck – those are the people who develop relationships worth having, personally and professionally. Integrity goes hand in hand with all of that. And both integrity and commitment to give your best are vital parts of becoming an adult and a parent, since then you’ve got to teach your kids how to get ahead in the world without taking those tempting short cuts.

ATM: How do you balance the time-constraints and pressures of being a writer and a businessperson with being an effective parent?

ROW: I think every parent has those moments where they doubt themselves and ask ‘am I doing this right?’ I’ve definitely had more than a few but I think the most important thing I can do for my kids is lead by example. No hypocrisy, no ‘do as I say, not as I do’, and complete honesty. There have been a number of times when my daughter has asked me something where it would be easier or more comfortable to tell her what she wants to hear but I don’t think that’s going to help her in the long term. If I placate her with a dishonest answer, she’ll figure it out eventually and won’t trust my responses. For example, if she’ll come to me with a piece of homework that she thinks is good, but I know it’s not hitting the mark, I’m going to tell her that I think she can do better. I’ll be polite and gentle with it, and she’ll initially be disappointed, but by doing this, she learns that I only say “that’s great, well done” when I genuinely mean it – and we build trust with each other that way. It’s the same relationship as I have with my parents. If my dad tells me, “Son, you’ve got this one wrong…”, I’m going to listen to him – he’s got a lot more life experience than me and he’s got my best interests at heart always. I might not agree with him but I’m definitely going to hear him out and consider his points seriously. And, more often than not, he’s right. Age will do that for you!

ATM: That life experience element is so important, but it has to be hard when you need to play that card with your children and say “I’ve got 25+ years more experience than you, listen to me…”

ROW: There’s a brilliant quote by Mark Twain that hits the mark here – he said “when I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant that I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” My daughter is 12 right now and of course she’s going to think she knows it all, if not right now, certainly within the next few years. I can remember just how right I was about everything when I was in my teens. What did my dad know? It turns out quite a lot – but he didn’t humble or humiliate me, he listened, guided, advised, and let me figure it out by myself while he stood back and was ready to catch me if – and definitely when – I fell. To me, that’s being a great parent.

Al Snow put it all into words for me while we were writing his book. He explained that when we’re kids, we don’t get to make the decisions because we aren’t able to bear the consequences. The parent has to deal with the consequences of the child’s actions, so they need to be involved in the decision-making process. As the kid grows up and is increasingly able to accept the fallout of their choices, that’s when the parent can begin to relinquish that necessary control and settle into the role of guide and advisor. Right now, my boy Rex can’t be left to make decisions because he’s a toddler. He’ll put his finger in a socket or try to roll down the stairs because he doesn’t understand the consequence. Grace, at 12, knows full well what’s going to happen if she does that! There are going to be plenty of other challenges upcoming for her where I might do things differently, but her life’s her journey and her failures will be her learning experiences. All I can do is offer her my perspective, then offer her my encouragement when she gets it right and offer her my support when things don’t go so well.  

Tammy Gillis Talks ‘A Dog’s Way Home’

Photo Credit: Jostin Del Rosario

We had the opportunity to speak with Tammy Gillis of ‘A Dog’s Way Home’. Read this exclusive interview where Tammy tells us about working on the beautiful film.

ATM: In ‘A Dog’s Way Home’ a dog, Bella, travels 400 miles in search of her owner, Lucas. She completes the journey.

 I find that some humans would maybe not take on this type of expedition, do you feel like this is the type of adventure that only a dog would be loyal enough to travel that far?  

TG: This is interesting that you say this. There are a lot of distractions in life. The connection that Bella makes with Lucas in the beginning when he gets her as a puppy, is such a strong connection. Dogs have this amazing loyalty. Something that just popped into my mind, my mom was sick for quite a while and we had a rescue dog that would not leave her side if, ands, or buts. He was there for her 100%. It made me think about George H.W. Bush who just passed away recently. They have a beautiful picture of their dog laying on the floor beside his coffin. A dog’s loyalty is absolutely incredible.

ATM: Since dogs cannot talk English or any human rhetoric, why do you think they take on these humanistic traits like we do?

TG: We are all essentially animals in some sense. There are some absolutely hilarious and amazing pictures online of dogs. They look like they are smiling. My sister has a lab and she come to greet you at the door every time. She smiles and shows her teeth. It’s pretty adorable but also intimidating. Some people can be a little concerned. She’s not angry, she’s smiling because she is happy you are here.

ATM: I think that dogs see the smaller things in life. Whereas, we tend to miss the smaller things and see the larger things in life.

TG: We all need to be more like dogs.

ATM: It is in human nature for us to miss the smallest things. We always concentrate on the larger things in life. Sometimes there is not much beauty in the larger things. There is more beauty in the smallest things, which one day becomes the larger things.

How can concentrate on the smaller things in life boost someone’s sense of living?

TG: I love the idea of this. It is something I actually practice in life. The older that I have gotten, I have realized the things that make me the happiest and are the most important to me are the smaller things. I have a couple of these candle holders in my house that say, “Something Beautiful Is On The Horizon.” At the end of the day, I always take a moment to look back and think about something I am grateful for. More often than not, I find that there is always something to be grateful for, even a small thing. It could be a small encounter with a stranger. You help them out or they helped you out and it just made a big difference in your day.

ATM: Had you worked with animals on set before ‘A Dog’s Way Home’?

TG: I have! There was a movie where a director had just rescued a dog after the floods in Texas. He only had her for about a month, she was terrified and would not come out from under his desk when he first got her. She opened up and started to trust him. It got to the point he would bring her onset. We were shooting in Victoria, BC on the water. It was a really emotional scene for me. The dog kept coming over and putting her head on my lap because she could tell I was upset. Dogs can really tell when someone is hurt, and they can very much be there for you. They can help take care of you and let you know you are not alone.

ATM: How was it working on set of ‘A Dog’s Way Home’? Were there any challenging moments?

TG: There is a scene that is a tough moment between Lucas and Bella being parted from each other, this scene personally was so hard to do. It was heartbreaking to think about taking this beautiful dog of its owner. It was hard to be separate those feelings while playing a police officer.

ATM: What traits does a dog carry have that are similar to a police officer? I would think territorial

TG: Territorial, protective, and loyal. They are willing to get in the line of danger to protect someone. Especially, if they are really loyal to their owner and also for children and puppies.

ATM: Regardless of whatever species, it is in a women’s nature to be guarded. When you see females, they often times do not leave the sight of their puppies no matter what. This is in a women’s nature period.

TG: I agree. The momma bear comes out in everyone.

ATM: If a woman is pushed far enough, then that momma bear comes out. Has this trait ever came out in you?

TG: For sure. I am also a Scorpio, which makes me really protective of my family and friends. I always have their back. I am willing to take a hit in order to protect them.

ATM: ‘A Dog’s Way Home’ was filmed in Vancouver, BC. Tell us about filming there.

TG: Vancouver is such a beautiful place. When you watch the movie, you can just see the incredible landscape. This is a beautiful and heartwarming family movie and the surrounding areas really embrace the telling of the story.

ATM: If you were to plan an afternoon of watching this movie, then what would you take with you to watch it?

TG: I am from a really small town called Manitoba, which is in the middle of Canada. Over three quarters of the people in my hometown has gone to see this movie in this year already. I could not imagine a better experience than gathering a big group of friends, bringing popcorn, and settling down with Kleenex because it is a tear jerker.

A Child’s Life in a War Zone: ‘The Distant of Barking Dogs’

Monica Hellstorm serves as the producer in The Distant of Barking Dogs. This film has recently made its way on the banter as a 2019 Oscar Contender for Best Documentary Feature. She opens up about her experience of watching children live in a war zone and see this type of living as normal. Hellstorm mentions how children’s reactions are portrayed, which is what the film touches on.

ATM: Express the family’s reaction when visiting New York compare to living in Ukraine.

M: It is a real difference. This is the most amazing experience for them. For them to have this chance to come to New York. For foreigners, New York is the place for human films. They had time to see the Empire State Building and other tourist places. They are overwhelmed by the experience.

ATM: Before making this film, do you believe an average person not from Europe would clearly know of the topic discussed in this film?

M: Yes, in Europe because it is happening so close. The force of the Russians role is big. Some of the reaction from the Trump people. They have had screenings in LA to understand where the conflict is. For the American audiences they know there has been something with Russia and Ukraine, but they cannot remember the exact details of how and why it happened. The focus has been to see what it means for children trapped in a war zone and grow up in the shadow of war. The particular aspect of war was not the reason we made the film. It can happen at any place in the world with children growing up and live a normal life while bombing is happening. We have made a big point in explaining too much about the war and this why this happens. We have two information signs in the film, and this is it. There is also a human story behind it.

ATM: What do you feel is the portrayal of children living in a war zone?

M: There is so much going in the world that it is hard to keep track of everything. Our focus has been to tell a universal story about the children growing up in these countries. There are many stories told here that are told in the U.S. America has followed public shows from Europe and other places around the universe.

ATM: As a producer, how did you want to bring more awareness to the children living to allow us to concretely understand their life?

M: We tried to get as close as possible. We tried to find out how to help the area in doing something in this situation. We realized it was too difficult to start something. As soon as the money moves it gets very complicated. We looked at the help of the organization in the area. We tried to point them to these organizations that already were in this area. This is also in the war and in Syria. So, the focus can be on helping children. Our main thing has been to help in the area and help the awareness of the focus on children and guide them. The film was shows how important close relationships like Oleg and his grandmother plays a real tribute to growing up. It is a healthy thing having someone in your life, caring, and protecting you in a way. . . because as a child you are still allowed to play and be a little bit aware. Also, they are aware of the dangers that are there so you can make choices in your everyday life.

ATM: How does America show children living in third world countries from your perspective?

M: It makes me sad how they live. The Western countries are so rich. There are poor countries where people cannot afford food or location. There is something wrong in the whole structure of our society and as a human being. As a mother, I want to help them and do something to make a difference. As a human being, this is how I react. There is a difference in war zones and poor countries where people are starving and how to help.

ATM: Do you believe the children’s reactions and the fact they see this as a reality is effectively projected?

M: Simon captured the real life in this area. We had many ethical discussions about this. He has been filming situations that have been dangerous. They have this hot gun shooting and Oleg gets hit in the foot. The bullet rebounded. We have discussions about how we protect them and portray real life. Simon stopped a lot of situations when going in the beginning. He was like this is too dangerous. He recognized this was their life and he must stay true to the life they lived. He filmed and went along with how they live. The film is really seen the eyes of children. It gives an understanding of what is needed to get through living in a war zone. Of course, war zones are different so I cannot talk generally about them. The way he lives in Ukraine, he would not be able to live in Syria. It is good to give love, hope, and caring while you are there. This is what is strong about the film. It is showing that love and hope that you do not get to see in other films that are about war zones and children.

ATM: What would a conversation with a child of a similar age living in a third world country converse with Oleg about?

M: They would ask about the dangers and what they have experienced. They would talk about playing football, computer screens, living with an older brother and cousin. Children do not see the bigger picture of what they are in their everyday life or the experiences of the things that surround them. They do not react to things. The grandmother stands in the situations and sees what is going on and sees the bigger pictures of where they are. Oleg is worried about reacting to seeing things and talking with his friends. If children were to speak to them, then they would ask about the war, but very quick talk about everyday life like being at school. All kids’ stuff. This is one of the best things about having children because they take it down to a different level.

ATM: What could you assess the high point of Oleg’s day?

M: Like any boy, it is having a girlfriend. You think about the girl you are liking. You play with your friends. You are afraid of what will happen when the living is going on. He lives despite the feeling. They are still trying to live a better life there. They try to make sense of the situation even though it is hard to make sense of this. They go to school and play with their friends. They hide inside when the feeling happens and become worried. They have to keep going and learning from the strength of their grandmother and how she approaches the whole thing. She is making sense of something that does not make sense.

Tyler Rhoads

Tyler Rhoads has a passion for acting and voice directing and does so with various Netflix’s series. Rhoads takes us behind the scenes of Netflix with the evolution and significance of Netflix’s and how a few Netflix projects correlate with his family regime. Also, he speaks on what it takes to be a voice director and his interest in acting.

ATM: What is your observation of a Chinese teenager from working on Flavor of Youth?

TR: This was a beautiful, quiet, and universal story. It is three movies that are intertwined together thematically. The first one is Rice Noodles. It really hits home for me. We have a lot of traditions around food in my family. On my mom’s side of the family, we have fried chicken for holiday meals instead of your traditional dinner. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we always made fried chicken. It was passed down from my grandma, her mom, and down to my mother and me. All these memories and experiences are tied into soup. It is either traditional to your area or family. It was something that hooked onto me.

ATM: What are the reactions while they partake of fried chicken happens?

TR: It is very special to us now because my grandma has passed away. In addition to being familiar and that we look forward to for the occasion. It is our way to remember her. This again in the story, in the end, he loses his grandma. The very last scene is him going back to school and ordering the noodles. He had just been there for his grandma’s passing. It is the same thing for us. Not only the eating of the meal but the preparing of the meal. My grandma used to make the meal of mash potatoes gravy, rolls, fried chicken, and everything on the table. She did it on her own because she was used to it. We have our jobs because she is not there. If I am not frying the chicken, then I am making the dinner rolls. This is a part of my job for the meal. It is a way to remember her.

ATM: At what moment in your youth, did you find your way into adulthood?

TR: We are hitting on a major thing for me again, which is food. When I went to college, you had to cook and fin for yourself. I started cooking. A recipe book was one of the first things my mother gave me when leaving the house. It was of things she used to make and things I liked. It was all written in her hand writing. It was a lot of the recipes we had while growing up. I learned how to cook all these things. Food is a big touchstone for me. I tend to cook a lot for friends. I love having people over for dinner. It is a way of nourishing their relationships and your friends with food. It helped with being homesick for sure. You get this little taste of home when taking your mother’s potato salad to a barbecue. Even though you are not there, missing family and your hometown, you kind of carry it all with you.

ATM: What is your observation of playing a character in Hitting the Break that came from a small town?

TR: I grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri. It had about 75,000 people while I was living there. Things are a little at a slower pace. You tend to know everybody. If you do not know everybody, then you know someone who knows them. It is much harder to have secrets. There are no secrets. Everyone knows each other’s business and everything that is going on. Relationships in a small town are stronger in my experience than in a bigger city. Living in Los Angeles, I have lived in a bunch of apartments complexes out here. I know a few of my neighbors but I have not met everyone. In Missouri, I knew everyone in the neighborhood.

ATM: How could you fit the title Hit the Breaks in your own life?

TR: It is a play on words. Obviously, Randy was an ex Nascar racer. There is the car analogy there. He moved to a smaller town and life slowed down a little. It is simplified to how to hit the brakes on life a little bit. Another meaning is catching a break or giving a break. Maybe it turned out to be exactly what they needed at the time. I’ve had experience with this in my life. Taking opportunities or shaking things up. Moving from Missouri to Los Angeles has shaken up my life. It turned out to be the best thing I could do.

TR: There is so much content in the dubbing industry. Netflix is one of the biggest distributors for content. They are out there buying everything. They have all sorts of stuff. Babylon Berlin was a very high-profile show from Germany. It had a very high-profile director and an insane budget. They spent a lot of time making this movie. They ended making it a television show. Netflix buys the distribution rights and we get it. We put English voices over it for the American audience. There is a lot of opportunity for this kind of work in voice directing.

ATM: Netflix has come a long way. I remember their commercials used to come on like clock work on television. The price was around $6.

TR: It was better than getting two DVDs in the mail per month.

ATM: They have come a long way within the last 10-15 years.

TR: I agree. This is the future of the industry. You see last and last on networks. It is more about streaming and on demand content.

ATM: Some people have said they like to watch things that are instant. They do not like to sit to watch a whole season on regular television. A typical season on television is 10-12 episodes, which is spread out to 10-12 weeks. People go to these streaming platforms because they want to watch the whole season in one night. There are so many cliffhangers.

TR: Binge watching.

ATM: This is how binge-watching became the popular term. A person does not have to wait this long amount of time to know what is going to happen.

TR: The On-Demand viewing is not scheduled anymore. You do not have to miss dinner with your friends because of Grey’s Anatomy’s season finale is on. Even if you are watching something on Hulu or Amazon Prime or CBS All Access. You do not have to change your schedule around for T.V. You can watch it whenever you want.

ATM: In the past, you did not know what is coming forth. I would imagine it was difficult. There streaming platforms have brought families and friends together. Some families are sitting down watching movies again. In the 20th century, they did this, but they stopped for a short period of time. People are making nights to watch Netflix. This is bringing out the American family culture.

TR: The power dynamic has shifted from the consumer to the viewers. We have a lot more control over what we see and when.

ATM: These are also more platforms for indie filmmakers. Before there were no platforms or they did not have a voice. This is made a route for them to sell their films too and helps them break into the industry quicker.

In relation to your Voltron project, how would you feel if the next species of humans were robots?

TR: (Laughs). Hahaha. Personally, I am terrified of robots. It is inevitable that they are going to take over the world. We are getting closer and closer. If they were all giant saving robots like Voltron, then I would be okay with it.

ATM: Wait. Why are you so terrified of robots?

TR: Oh gosh. Oh no. They are going to turn on you. You cannot trust a robot. You can quote me on this. {laughs}

ATM: What’s your experience with the adapted and your readapted version for Fauda.

TR: This was a fun project. It was originally from Israel. It got the original Israel version and adapted it to the American voice. It was a little of a different project. The client requested that we use native Israeli actors or actors with native speakers in this show. We worked with Hebrew speaking actors. If you watch the show, then they would have very thick accents when speaking English. We also had to do a remote recording with the actors. He was over in Israel filming an on-camera series while we were recording here. We had to do a remote session with him.

ATM: What elements of acting did the actor expose in the session?

TR: It was tricky. You get energy and vibe. It is a little easier to connect face to face than it is over the phone. He was a professional and knew what he was doing. It was an easy session and he was easy to direct. I only worked on the season of Fauda. They had already recorded the first season before I came to the studio. He was playing a character that was recurring from the first season. He knew everything that was needed for his character. We told him the story we needed to tell him.

ATM: In La catedral del mar, do you think the ruling class tactics for controlling with proletariat is still used in American society today?

TR: Yes. Without getting into politics. The idea that the people running are a little disassociated with the people who do the actual work. This is a universal truth, and everyone can relate to it in history. You see this pop up sometimes throughout history. This is what makes the show relatable.

ATM: How prime was the human connection between individuals during the 1300s?

TR: It must have been difficult to live in this day. The lead character’s wife was carrying heavy stones from a beach to a construction site where they are building the church. They must wear these special caps with a little flap on the back because the stone would cut into their skin. This was a difficult world to live in. This is not saying how women were treated back then. If you watch this show, then it is a brutal world for the women on this show. We have certainly civilized since then. There is a woman who says bring me to the Kings camp. This guy just back hands her and rapes her. It is brutal. Even though it is not obvious, this is when you see things and say it is still not okay for women in our civilized world or not developed places where it is harsher.

ATM: They had no sense of humanity that women were not human.

TR: They were not. They were more seen as property back then. This was a terrible time to live in.

ATM: What are the interesting times while working on a show with a strong female lead in Ingobernable?

TR: She was really the main person. Her husband Diego came out of nowhere to win the presidency. He did it on the back of her money. Her father was a wealthy businessman. He was a very well-known personality throughout the country. Someone else did the first season. I came in to direct the second season. I worked with the actors who were already intimately with the characters. This was one last thing for me to worry about.

ATM: What do you contest that happens when a wife or female lose faith in their husband?

TR: This is what kicks it all off. Diego is having an affair and she steps up. He gets murdered and she is on the run. We explore a little of the happier times for Diego and Emilia in the second season. We see a lot of flashbacks to their happier life. As Emilia in the present day starts undercovering the conspiracy that led to the assassination of her husband, she is uncovering these things now, we see in the flashbacks the turning points in their relationship. Diego falls in the influences of the cartels and the armies. We see a bit of his corrupt and the toll it took on their relationship. We go back to see the arc and see the moments where the relationship falls apart.  

ATM: Describe your relationship and high interest in video games.

TR: I love video games. I would love to work more in this field. I would like to get more involved in this in the next years. Video games are interactive stories being told. Red Dead Redemption 2 just came out. It is a Western video game. The storytelling is compelling. It is being told beautifully through the videos. The voice acting is some of the best voice acting I have heard on a video game. This is such a huge market now.

ATM: As for Far Cry 5 and others, how does your take and perspective on video games changes once going behind the scenes of it?

TR: You hit on a lot of the work I have done. This might sound corny, but I like good storytelling. This could be as an actor, on camera, or doing voice-over work. I write a little bit. The adaption is all about telling these stories. This is what I really love. This is what gets me going in the morning. I like to keep telling stories whether they are in front of the camera, behind the camera, on the keyboard, on a mic, or behind the mic.

Paul Lincoln Alayo Talks ‘The Mule’, Art and More

ATM: What’s the moral compass of what Sal is about?

PLA: The way Sal spoke to me was to play him more as a quiet and internal type of man. Someone who speaks within reason, he is a little aggressive at times. He is well oriented and tight with his Narco family. He over steps on people’s shoes that he shouldn’t of which affects his future and what happens to him.

ATM: How does Earl show the wisdom of a 90-year-old?

PLA: Throughout the whole story ‘family’ is the one thing we consistently touch on whether you see him doing the wrong or right thing. It’s something the audience can see that is important. Clint does a beautiful job because he does not tell you, but he shows you. He helps you build that emotion without telling you which great storytelling is. There is no narration. He shows you a guy that makes the wrong decisions and how his family ends up paying for it. He shows you a different side of the Narcos. The advice he gives Julio is something you only hear between two close friends. He is a father figure.

ATM: How does he strategically change as his success leads him to money? Does he become more cautious or does he enjoy it?

PLA: He is not cautious at all you see him do things with money that he shouldn’t of done. The number one rule with these guys is not to flash it. You hear that old say, rich people do not wear a lot of jewelry. With Earl once he starts becoming successful you see him with different things. He upgrades in a way he shouldn’t have. Throwing money around brings attention to you. He’s at a point in his life that we are all going to come across. What’s important? Our family and memories.

ATM: Have you reached this age yet?

PLA: I am starting to see this a lot more. You can hear this your whole life but to understand it takes a little bit of time. The people around us are one of the best gifts that life gives you.  It’s your rock and foundation and as you get older you realize how important this is and how close you hold these people near you. So yes, I think I have. I’ll get more experience as time goes by. I have to look at it in different angles and different forms. This is exciting.

ATM: It is interesting how you go through something it becomes the smallest thing. For example, to some people high school and even higher education was their world and where their biggest problems probably occurred. Now, as an adult I would imagine that it has become a blur like a small molecule.

PLA: Good point. Great point. The only things you remember are the important things. It’s funny because you know what someone once told me that kind of nails this. They said, “the things that are important are because we make them important.” Most of the things we should truly care about are around us already. Everything that we want is in front of us. We have everything we need, we are born with it. Your family will always be there for you in your darkest moments. This is all that matters in the end. You cannot take any of this with you. Not even the movies. Even this beautiful experience that I just had working with Clint and Andy. Going out to dinner with the man. Being lucky enough to have an Oscar winning actor showing you how to break down scenes and what works for him. I’m here to learn. The only thing I can take from this are my memories. You cannot take anything else. It’s like grabbing a hand full of sand and trying to pick it up. It’s going to slip right through your fingers.

ATM: Your memories are your grandest treasures. It’s similar to the saying you have to live each day like it’s your last. Live it great.

PLA: Yes, you have to enjoy. Sometimes we have to re-teach ourselves. It’s so easy to wake up bitter and because of that you’ll have a bad day. It’s harder to choose to be happy.

ATM: A lot of people do not know what being happy is.

PLA: Good point. A lot of times society just tells you what being happy is. For example, at this age you should have this and that age you should have that. If you’re a girl, then you should only do this because it’s not lady like, we have all of these rules.

ATM: What happens when you do not meet these expectations? When you decide to go beyond or out of the stereotype?

PLA: You get frown upon, you become an outcast, they are like “oh no that’s not right.” Our own parents sometimes make the mistake of telling us this. I am not judging them. It’s hard to be a parent. Especially with women, I feel for women. Women ultimately have the hardest time in this world because of what we think and expect of them and these traditions we have. I am glad things are changing. But, oh boy is it hard for women.

ATM: In Hollywood, when you look back 50 years ago, women’s hair had to be like this, or their attire had to be like that. It was so strict and a little even now. What if you decide wait, I do not want to do this? If you decide not to do it, then is this your happiness or is it not considered happy because it is not what society is telling them to do.

PLA: I applaud women that break the boundaries good for them. Even yourself, you are doing something amazing. You sound young yet you are doing something you love. You are seeking and having conversations with a lot of interesting people. You have not only received knowledge, but you also have an opinion about what you are hearing. So, it’s opening up all these doors. This is what we need to feed our young individuals, specially our little girls. I have a little girl. I want her to think this way. I would be flattered if she was already a journalist like how you are. I want her to challenge and break the rules.

Rules are there to keep you in line. If I can give any advice to any actor, then be bold. Do not be disrespectful but be bold and be nice to everybody. Break rules in a good and smart way.

ATM: Well thank you. I’m only 21. This means they have gotten a sense of knowledge that we did not expect for them to receive at this particular age. What happens when they have this new sense of knowledge but them people impose the expectations their age should be.

PLA: A person can choose to listen and accept or choose to listen and disregard. They’re going to say you should not be doing this because you are too young. You know when you’re right and you got to follow that instinct. Some of the greatest people in history have done this. Einstein was told he was a slow speaker and turned out to be one of the smartest men that ever lived. Look at Stephen Hawkins or even Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali, man! Look at how many boundaries he broke, and he was young buck too.

ATM: The people who are in these history books and the people who we try to mimic. Sometimes when people aspire to become an actor. They try to copy what someone else has done. They cannot. They cannot tap into what they did. Some people do not do it because they want to act. They are like I want to be Denzel Washington, or Viola Davis, so I want to act. Why can’t you just get inspired by them, use the inspiration to create your own recipe. They crawled before they walked. So, anyone can’t become them. This is the result of their journey.

As for the legends of our time a lot of these people went against what was normal because they did not have anything else to lean on. It was not until later where people went wait you mean to tell me if you got the other side of this you make sense. What if they would have followed the rules? What if the painters would have continued painting like they saw? It took one painter to paint in depiction of shapes. “Hey, what if I do not draw in a straight line and I just connect the lines to make shapes, and in this I make people.” Pablo Picasso. And this became art history.

PLA: Vincent Van Gogh was considered an unsuccessful artist when he was alive. He never saw his work reach the level it has now.

ATM: This is sad. Frida Kahlo. People did not start honoring her work until the 80’s. Why? Just why? We looked at it and it was too late. All we give are posthumous awards. These people just took a different route. I mean if you tell me to walk straight… then I will just walk backwards for the fun of it.

PLA: This is exactly it. The only way you are going to make something interesting is to do it differently. It’s funny you talk about actors being like this. I was talking to a friend, he was also in the Mule. We were talking about a third friend of ours that was not getting work. Of course, we actors go through this dry spell. If it’s too long, then it can mess with your psyche. You start questioning yourself like “Oh man what is going on? I’m not getting any more work. Am I doing this wrong? I have to take a class.” Now you have people in your head telling you what you should be doing.

Art is personal, which is what makes these people great. They had a gut instinct and they followed it even in rough times. Actors that choose to mimic other actors are probably good at mimicking. This is probably a good tool to have as an actor but in the end it has to be personal and your own.

The reason why we love Denzel Washington why we love Viola Davis? When she starts screaming and she’s passionate about things. You can’t help but say wow now that’s real.  That’s raw. It’s because it came from somewhere. You are not going to get there unless you find your signature. This is deep inside you this is what makes you unique.

ATM: What is art to you?

PLA: To me, art is the seed of your soul. It’s the first root that sprouted into a dream. It’s hard to get there. When it flows freely it’s beautiful it’s being truthful to the character.

ATM: To me, art is tapping into the unknown.

PLM: Absolutely.

ATM. For example, if you write a song and someone is familiar and associates it with someone else, then this is not art. Now if they write a song, and you noticing it’s unique and different, then this is art at its fullest blossom, to me.

PLM: You can be influence by somebody, but you have to make it your own.

ATM: You have to find your own identity and your own way of expression.

PLA: It is so hard to do what you are saying. America is about 240 years old. Art has been around forever. The longer it has been around, the harder it is to come up with an original piece. The only way you are going to come up with original piece is to listen to what’s inside. Michael Jackson is a beautiful example. There will never be another Michael Jackson, not even in 1,000 years. There are so many reasons why he is amazing. He followed his heart. We can never fault Michael on this. He came from a place deep down inside.

ATM: Now, describe an artistic and inspiring day on set.

PLA: Boy, I could tell you many. You want a story. Ok first day on the set of the Mule. Everyone is setting up and I just finished saying hello to all the other actors. I’m sitting down in the bench were about to film on. Then comes Clint. I knew it was Clint because the seas parted like he was Moses. Clint walks towards me at slow pace I don’t’ know why but it felt like a duel. He’s getting closer and closer and I’m a little frozen. I know it’s him but it’s taking me a long time to register.

He says “How are you Paul? I appreciate you being here.” (silences) It took that long to answer I went “yeah, yeah you’re welcome sir my complete pleasure. Thank you for having me.” The cool thing about Clint is that he is so laid back, funny and smart. The whole “He is Clint Eastwood” thing goes away. He is such a sweet man. Once the camera rolls you don’t even know he’s acting. He talks so low I had to really pay attention. It made the scene interesting. I was very nervous because I had one day to prepare. I wasn’t sure if he was going to like what I brought.

He was so generous because he gave me the best compliment I will ever receive in my life. Right after the first take, he says, “Can you put the camera on Paul? Are you getting anything he’s doing? I like what he’s doing.” It was amazing. This was the pull pork sandwich scene, which I chose to make it more intense. If you look at the scene, it’s a very uncomfortable scene. But hearing his approval of my work, made me feel invincible. We have all been discriminated in some kind of way no matter what race you are even if you are rich or poor. Have you ever experienced anything like this?

ATM: Yes

PLA: I took this and said to myself I have been here before. I’m going to make this a real as I can. The extras were so good and gave me looks that made me feel so uncomfortable. If you look at the scene, then you can slice the discomfort from it.  It’s even almost comedic. He says the funniest things ever. When the scene is done, he would ad-lib. He’s so funny with the things he says in character. I’m sitting there with a serious face trying not to laugh at the moment. He’s that funny. He cracks you up. You want to laugh but you have a job to do. He taught me so much about directing and I wasn’t even seeking it.  I have become a better actor from working with Andy and Clint. No other set is like a Clint set. You work 10 hours not 13 or 14 yet you get everything done.

ATM: You only got the memory. You can only take the memory.

PLA: Yes. If you ever get the chance to work with him, take it, because it is terrific. It was lovely talking to you.

Aristocratic & Proletariat Behavior in the Early 21st Century

ATM sits down with actor Tyson Wagner as he discusses a few bias views exhibited within the film industry and examines the progression on how social classes influences the film narratives.

ATM: How would you say the aristocratic and the proletariat are depicted in American film?

Tyson: In the large and big-budget productions they don’t usually seem to accurately reflect the working class as well because I don’t think they are as in touch with the type of person they try to portray. 

But when the actors do their jobs correctly it does not usually matter the class of citizens they are playing. This is because of its emotionally driven stories that are so out of normal it all blends together in a big fictional world that the general audience would not usually relate to. Generally, I would say they try to make the working class more relatable, and the rich are usually the antagonists to many stories. 

ATM: Why do you think the aristocrat take on the portrayal more? 

Tyson: The general audience viewer or target demographic would usually be the working class, it makes sense financially and they can relate to it as a protagonist.

ATM: So, if an aristocratic was the protagonist how would this influence how the general public who is of the proletariat depict the movie?

Tyson: The Marvel franchise has Iron Man as a protagonist, but since the stories are so out of this world it would still draw in crowds to see these movies.

ATM: If aristocratic characters started to play protagonists, then how will this change the film standard?

Tyson: In many of the stories the rich need to learn how to be humble as a character arch, it’s been played out many times. I do not think if audiences can relate to the stories they would be as inclined to go out and pay to see the new movies.

ATM: Why should American aristocrats of today be humbled? Wouldn’t this show them assimilating to the proletariat’s feelings and emotions?

Tyson: Generally, they aren’t depicted as the caring or sincere type in the beginning of a movie and when they become humble it’s usually their character development coming full circle, it is usually to convey that they are also human and capable of the full spectrum of emotions everyone else is. 

ATM:  Why can’t black, white, Hispanic, and Asian aristocratic people be as humbled as black, white, Hispanics, and Asian proletariats? 

Tyson: They are viewed to be the silver spoon type who have everything handed to them. The audience has to see them go through the type of learning experience to see their full potential.

ATM: Could this be exploiting the aristocrats?

Tyson: I would not say exploiting. Most films are produced and made by the rich, who then profits from those movies. It is their own class who they’re trying to portray in most cases. I would not say it is an accurate depiction. Many of the upper class I have met have been quite down to earth. I would say it is a production tactic but not exploiting. 

ATM: Do you like the term “rich” or “aristocrats?”

Tyson: Aristocrats isn’t a common term used by most people but depending the placement both can fit. Saying someone is an aristocrat sounds nobler than just being rich, like they hold more power with that title.

ATM: It’s the same term as what is classified as the word “celebrity.” Those are not celebrities, they are black and white aristocrats! They have been conditioned to live by the term. They are entertainment aristocrats. This use to be the norm for people in their field. Those are aristocrats. The term “celebrity” is a diminishing term. Black people and other marginalized groups are grand enough to have such a nobler term reflect their hard work along with the white race in their field.

Tyson: Yes, I have seen “celebrity” be used as a scandalous title in an article. Especially if it is reflecting anything negative about a person its being written about. Also, putting those word together (celebrity + scandal is what typically sells.

ATM: They are aristocrats! Well, entertainment aristocrats.

Tyson: I also don’t know if I can talk much about race in Hollywood though. As I am not from a marginalized group, and not part of the “celebrity” group either, so I would not have a perspective from either side. I will however agree that they definitely need to work harder to gain and maintain that status being from a marginalized group because in any industry it would be difficult.

ATM: I am not a modern-day aristocrat either. You are an actor. Money or a ‘celebrity” status should not reflect your passion or your identity. Stay away trying to obtain titles. Titles do not mean anything. See society makes some nonmarginalized groups feel they cannot relate to the current marginalization. They can. You can. We can. We may not the same race, but we do drink the same water. We breath the same air. We walk the same. We might have different sizes, but we all it all the same. Why? Because we are human.

Tyson: Most people look down on my career choice when I don’t have that status to back up my passion, and my work that I do get is overlooked or ignored by most since it doesn’t have anyone of the status in it. It eats away at my self-identity, self-worth by not achieving that yet.

And yes, being human is definitely something that every race shares, but that doesn’t mean equality unfortunately, hopefully soon though. I can hear and understand these struggles but not witness them firsthand, that’s why I’m hesitant to speak on the matter, but I will give you my perspective. 

ATM: The same feeling you are expressing is how black people have felt for decades. White people’s culture, customs, lifestyle have been our history. It was sneakily forced on us. We complied but we did not understand it at first. It didn’t represent what we felt. 

Tyson: And I can empathize and relate through my own past and present struggles. I don’t know if anyone not from the democratic can ever fully understand the hurdles marginalized groups need to overcome. But having the conversation is a great way to help start to understand for most people.

ATM: I know. There is a deep social disconnect. This is why they cannot understand. No matter how much we protest and try to establish equality. Its oblivious to most white people. It is not them not wanting to help or understand, but it’s the oblivion. We have lived in a society so long that misses the things and the next generation picks it up and calls it history.

Tyson: I believe that its like holding up a mirror to show a face they are not familiar with because they have not seen anything from that perspective. Unfortunately, change only happens through choice as well and not enough people are willing to change.

ATM: They are not willing because of the social disconnect. It is similar to an airborne disease that his scoped our nation, culture, and education. Education is just history relay to us. 

Tyson: I want to thank you. I have never had an opportunity where someone wanted to hear my thoughts on any subject and share it. This has been an enjoyable experience.

Genderqueer Knowledge in Television

Stacey Raymond of NBC’s New Amsterdam continues to push the boundaries for genderqueer by setting the tone with people understanding their identity is not male or female. Raymond discusses her ideas around the character she plays for one to understand what it is like living as an entertainment actor on an episodic medical drama.

ATM: What does it mean to be nonbinary with and without Webster dictionary’s definition? How do you feel it influences your work as an actor?

SR: Webster’s dictionary defines nonbinary as “relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male or female” Another term for this is genderqueer, which I personally like better. It sounds more fluid and less scientific to me than nonbinary. For me, being genderqueer feels like I’m a little bit of everything. My identity doesn’t feel like I’m only one gender but a combination of all energies. Being nonbinary or genderqueer means different things to different people. For example, some people who are nonbinary only use “they/them” pronouns. As for myself, I like to say that all pronouns apply. I feel flexible about it. Nothing is wrong and all pronouns roll up into my experience and identity. This sometimes means people default to “she/her” and I am okay with that because it is part of my experience, though “they/them” is appreciated. Some nonbinary people do not feel flexible about this, so it’s good to respectfully ask what someone’s preferred pronouns are if you’re not sure.

As an actor, I feel being genderqueer is an advantage. I believe it further helps me relate to many different characters throughout the spectrum of humanity in a unique way. I’m often cast in queer roles, sometimes nonbinary but most often female-identified and I’m thrilled to give voice to any of these characters. Representation matters. I am open to and excited about playing characters of any and all genders, sexualities, etc. Humanity across the board is so interesting to me and it’s such a gift as an actor to be able to share stories and reflect humanity back to itself. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do with my life ever since I was a small child and I’m very excited to see what the future will bring.

ATM: What are your thoughts on the progression of gender in society, media, film and TV?

SR: It’s exciting because the industry is evolving. Writers are now writing about ethnically diverse characters as well as queer, non-binary and trans characters. People are finally realizing these stories are incredibly important and needed in the collective narrative shared with the world. Audiences want to see themselves reflected back to themselves onscreen and onstage and sometimes on a stage or a screen is the first place a person is introduced to someone unlike themselves. This is incredibly important and powerful.

A great example is the NBC show New Amsterdam which I am fortunate be cast in the role of EMT Whitaker on. Caparelliotis Casting is doing a fantastic job of assembling actors for New Amsterdam that reflect the diversity of our world. They are reflecting New York truthfully through casting actors of a variety of ethnicities, gender expressions, etc. The writers and producers of New Amsterdam are seeking out and writing for this diversity, which is fantastic. It’s exciting and I see the industry expanding more and more in that direction. Audiences want it. And what’s great with New Amsterdam is that this diversity is not made into “a thing.” It just so happens that the EMT is queer, for example. And this is how it is in the real world. All different types of people are everywhere and why wouldn’t we want that reflected to us?

ATM: What were your thoughts on the reflection and term “gender” growing up?

SR: As a kid, I didn’t have the understanding or the terminology for how I was feeling. I remember in elementary school when things were “boys against girls” for example, I didn’t feel I quite fit on either side. I also had crushes on girls and tried to push the feelings away because I thought it was weird. I didn’t have an example of someone to look up to as a person I might grow up to be like. I didn’t know anyone who was gay or gender nonconforming on any level and there was no one on television even that I could identify with. It was in college that I was able to accept being queer and to start celebrating it.

My family was fully accepting and understanding, which I’m so grateful for. It wasn’t easy at first, but as the years go by, I get more and more comfortable in my skin. The idea that there might be a young kid out there who feels similarly to the ways I did, that can look to me and feel a little less weird or alone in the world and think, “Okay, this is someone who seems like me. I can grow up and live a normal life and be accepted” is humbling beyond words.

ATM: Take me to the pivotal moment in your life when you had a feeling expressing the phrase “I can be any gender” I am not a female or male. My gender preference is free, the sky’s the limit.” 

SR: I am saying I identify with ALL genders. It’s not about being void of gender for me. It’s about encompassing all of the energies on the gender spectrum. And as an actor, I am excited to take on a wide variety of roles and all different types of characters across the spectrum without limitations – whether they be female-identified characters, nonbinary characters, etc.

There were moments here and there as I was growing up…for example, the “boys vs. girls” dynamic in elementary school…that never felt right for me. It was a culmination of moments and feelings.

ATM: What was the emotional feeling of claiming your genderqueer identity?

SR: I’ve just lived my life as truthfully and organically as possible on a day to day, moment to moment basis. And once I became aware of such words as “nonbinary” and “genderqueer,” I connected to it and was happy to have some terminology to describe how I’ve always felt since I was a child.

ATM: How does love influence the mind of a nonbinary person? Love is subjective depending on gender. Males should love as this and females should love as that. When you do not classify as a gender what is love?

SR: In my opinion, love influences everyone in the same ways, regardless of how you identify. If someone thinks they need to love in a certain way because of an expectation they have placed on themselves or society has placed on them, or because of some idea they think they need to live up to base on how they were born and/or how they identify, I’d challenge them to recognize that love is an energy that doesn’t need to be controlled by outside labels. I think Lin-Manuel Miranda summed this up best when he said, “Love is Love is Love!”

Josef Altin Talks British Comedy and Netflix’s ‘Chewing Gum’

Josef Altin plays Ryan in season 2 in Netflix’s Chewing Gum. Altin surrounds himself with sensible characters and comedy that shapes the British comedy style by putting a unique twist to the preparation of what goes on behind the scene.

ATM: What can one understand about the role of your character?

JA: I played a twenty-year-old young man called Ryan that lived nearby on an estate with his mum. He finds it hard to find work because of his criminal background, so he works for his stepdad sometimes which is Tracey’s father’s furniture removal company. Work is up and down, so Ryan is always looking for other easy ways to make money to survive. 

ATM: What is a day of shooting like?  How you continue to immerse yourself into life?

JA: You get picked up by one of the production drivers or taxis in the morning. You get driven to the base where you got the production trucks, makeup and hair trucks, costume trucks, and the trailers for the actors. You are met by the 2nd AD who welcomes you and shows you to the trailer. They tell you that the call sheet is in there for you or they hand you one. The call sheet has the times to be in hair and makeup and when to get into costume. The ADs always make sure you are where you need to be because sometimes, they might want you to get ready earlier or later than that time. So, in the meantime, they ask you if you want breakfast and usually, you can get something to eat. Once the time has come around to see hair and makeup and get into a costume, you typically have a bit of time before you go to set to rehearse and film.

When you get to set, you have a rehearsal with the Director before you do a crew showing which is mostly everyone who has to be behind the camera when filming. Or a closed set just requires the minimal possible crew in the room to make it more comfortable for the actor if there’s a tiny bit of nudity going on for a bit of the scene in which one of our scenes had in Chewing Gum. You would then get ready to block the scene and have another rehearsal with our sound packs attached to our waist or attached to our ankle to be prepared to shoot the scene. Once shot, the Director decides if they want to go again or not. If their happy and everyone else is happy, then they move on. If not, they continue filming with the amount of time, they got left to get what they need.

ATM: How did the behind the scenes affect your experience as an actor?

JA: When they are happy, we move from a wide angle to the characters point of views. Once the cameraman, sound, and others have captured every actor and their happiness with the scene, we move on with the other scenes on the schedule for that day. And if you still got scenes to do, sometimes they’re right after each other, or sometimes you have a little wait until you are on set again. Everyone breaks for lunch and goes back to set after or waits at the base until you get called again.

When filming has wrapped, you go to makeup and hair to clean up. Then you get changed in the trailer you’ve been put up in and hang your costume up for the costume department at the end of the day or leave some separately for the wash. Once changed your transport usually has arrived to take you back home and you get handed a call sheet or get told a call sheet for tomorrow will be emailed to you soon or tonight for tomorrow if you got any more scenes. 

ATM: What is your connection to your onscreen character in comparison to the main character?

JA: My character Ryan is the stepson of and worked with Tracey Gordon’s real father part-time. You find out in a later episode 6. But for now, Ryan was first seen hanging about smoking against a wall on the street near the estates in series 2 episode 5. Cynthia spots him and likes the look of him. Cynthia went up to Ryan and said she was lost but she was lying. He directs her, but Cynthia wanted him to take her. They get to the flat and Cynthia asks Ryan up into the flat. Once inside she asks Ryan if he wants to have an alcoholic drink while Ryan looks around at the room surrounded by the message of “I love Jesus.”

They have some awkward small talk and Cynthia comes out and asks him if he wants to have sex. He finds this really weird and he thinks he’s being set up by a hidden camera show. But Cynthia is serious and there’s no hidden cameras, so he goes with it as a nonbeliever of him being set up. After they have sex Ryan says he feels tired and goes to sleep and Cynthia goes to sleep in another room with a big smile on her face. When Cynthia wakes up the next day, she realizes Ryan has gone and then notices she have most of the flat’s belongings!

Later, in episode 6 we realize Ryan didn’t know Tracey was related to Cynthia as Ryan and his stepdad has come to deliver some cheap furniture to Tracey’s mum because she was recently robbed. But who is there standing next to Tracey when we arrive with the same stolen furniture? 

Her sister Cynthia, and it dawns on Ryan that he just robbed Tracey’s mums house. Tracey was played by the talented and lovable Actress Michaela Coel & Cynthia was played by the talented and lovely actress Susan Wokoma. 

ATM: Does your character seem to find more jobs to help him survive that are noncriminal or more when they are criminal? 

JA: Because of Ryan’s past it’s hard for him to get the job he wants. He does have a criminal record. He’s not going to give up trying to find one as he wants to change his life around. He still results back to criminal jobs only when the opportunity arises when no cash in hand jobs are around. He’s looking into going to college to train for a plumbing course when he gets around to it and survive on any money coming in the meantime.

ATM: How would you describe Cynthia’s curiosity? What is your character’s thought process about women?

JA: Ryan finds Cynthia’s curiosity a bit weird at the time, but he loves her characteristic of acting straightforward. My character’s thought process about women is that he has always been brought up to respect women and to never lay a hand on a woman.