SMC Spotlight No.1 | Robert Segarra, Multi-Talented Poet, Author, Artist, Musician, & Script-Writer

By Candice Anne Marshall

On June 30th, 2017, in the midst of our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Artist of the Year competition (aka: chaos), I noticed a very confused, yet, humorous comment on one of our Artists’ voting poll posts. It went something to the effect of: ‘Did my vote register? I didn’t get a notification that it registered. Maybe it’s Trump…’ Of course, I had to respond. For two reasons: 1. Anyone who would take the time to ensure that their vote was, indeed, registered, enough to comment about it tells me that this is someone who pays great attention to detail, and 2. Anyone willing to make light of an (almost) pandemic situation (it was the last day to vote) by poking fun at their own government (even though the contest was global) had to be a friend of mine (that warped sense of humor – perfect!). Now, almost five months later, some in-depth conversations (and intense research on my part) later, I am happy to say that New York-born and based Singer/Songwriter, Author, Poet, Filmmaker, and Artist, Robert Segarra and I have struck a kinship that is pretty hard to beat. Not only is he incredibly talented (he’s an award-winning poet!), he devotes his time to others through charity work for many organizations in New York, particularly in the Brooklyn area where he was raised and where he calls home. This alone weighs very highly in my books.

As I always do with people I am fascinated by, I began reading about Segarras’ background to discover he had very recently written a book called ‘Temporary Angels’, a true account of his own visions of the afterlife that he’d been experiencing since he was very young. It didn’t take me long to discover that the ‘visions’ he was seeing of even disastrous events in dreams were prophetic in nature and he has documented this throughout the ‘Temporary Angels’ novel (read ‘Exterminance Cometh’ – a novel he wrote as a non-fiction account of countless dreams he had been having long before 911, about 911. This is discussed below in our interview more in-depth). These were things that resonated with me greatly being that I have also had experiences much like this of my own.

I then delved into his poetry and understood immediately why his work has been recognized and awarded. A good poem demonstrates excellent command of diction and syntax, not to mention, deliver a strong emotional impact without giving away too much or too little and all of this is what is prevalent in the book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. Although he has written a newer poetry piece ‘Heaven’, both past and current works demonstrate Segarras’ ability to maintain a fresh approach to each piece he writes. Some people think writing poems are easy but in reality, the best poems are the most thought provoking and complex, leaving you to wonder. Admittedly, Segarra is a fan of Edgar Allan Poe which made sense to me after reading his works which are equally as great.

But there is something much deeper than that to this exceptional individual…

So, I dug deeper, discovering that Segarra has, in fact, written several scripts that have garnered massive media interest including the New York Times. Several were produced, and some have been aired on television. I recently was privy to reviewing an unpublished script he wrote called ‘The Littlest Hitmen’ and after reading every single page, I became more and more intrigued. I could visually see the actors, the mood, and the imagery flash before me while I was reading. I am a visionary as well, so it was interesting to be able to connect with another profound visionary in this way. I am looking forward to reading more of what he has written in the coming months and if people ask me ‘what I am reading’, more than likely, it will be something by Robert Segarra.

Throughout the summer and into the fall of this year, I also began observing Segarras’ music and video content on his socials and was pleased to discover that he had released an EP and full-length album this past spring: ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, and ‘Transition Man’. The former is a delightful and magical blend of songs that brings me to the topic of his children’s book ‘A Christmas Mouse’. It takes a certain kind of character to write for children. It impresses me when I see a fellow Writer creating a work of art explicitly to bring delight and wonder to a child – to me, that is indicative of a very selfless individual. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, to me, is the music version of this work of art. Audibly, I can also see the all the songs on this EP translated onto a children’s film and that is something I would definitely like to explore more of in the near future. ‘Transition Man’ is a full-length album with more of a classic rock sound that is easy on the ears, and soothing to the soul. With the gentle, charismatic charm in Segarras’ vocals, combined with a true classic rock sound reminiscent of The Beatles or Jimmi Hendrix and intriguing  lyrics, I feel this is an album that will appeal to all ages. Songs from the ‘Transition Man’ album have been already spun on Limehead Radio in the UK, and KB Radio in Ontario to name a few. I will not be surprised of some of Segarras’ songs like ‘Parkside Girl‘ or ‘Beautiful Girl‘ aren’t picked up also. These are previously recorded songs which, I feel, would be well-received by his fanbase. Luckily for our readers today, I have included these in the ‘MUSIC CAREER‘ section below. Enjoy!

PRESS RELEASE

After thoroughly examining all of Robert Segarras’ social media platforms and seeing his devout dedication to Artists within the entertainment and writing communities it was becoming very apparent that this was someone I wanted to work with on a more involved level. He is selfless and has often supported others when even his own brilliant works have had to be put on hold which also resonates with me. I spoke in-depth to him about what that might entail, and I am happy to say that we will be launching an official page on the SMC website as well as the SMC Spotlight for Robert to showcase his talent as well as collaborate with SMC on future projects. Some of these projects will be of the entertaining sort and will be formally announced well into the early part of 2018 as our creative juices flow. His official page on the SMC website will launch on November 30th, 2017, complete with new branding and content (did someone say, a Christmas video?). I think this is the perfect way to end 2017 for SMC, and I look forward to many exciting, upcoming projects with Robert as an official part of the SMC team. Watch for his bio and content in the coming weeks as well as a very special announcement in the new year! His OFFICIAL BIO is now on the CONTRIBUTORS section of the SMC SPOTLIGHT (click in the top menu to check it out!)

Editor’s Note: Robert, you are a shining example of what it means to be truly selfless in this (more often than not) chaotic and self-absorbed world we live in. If we had more people like you bringing the kind of perseverance, patience, and artful beauty you possess to this planet, this world would be a heavenly place. I look forward to working with you on making just that happen. I appreciate all that you have done not only for SMC through your unwavering support, but also for that of others. I have seen you on social media constantly support the same people you believe in day in and day out and I admire this greatly. Where many fall off or fall short, you have been the lighthouse on the shore for many of your peers. Your art, in all it’s multi-faceted forms are a true reflection of the beauty you have within. I see a solid foundation and great potential in you and I look forward to seeing where this partnership goes. Now, let’s help make that star of yours shine bright, shall we?

Welcome to the SMC team. More importantly, welcome to the SMC Family!

SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview with Robert Segarra

SMC – Hello Robert! I am very excited for this interview – there are so many different facets of your career as a writer and artist that I would like to cover, so I will break this down into a few categories to make it easier. Let’s begin with how you found out about SMC?

Robert – I’m very excited for this interview, too. I feel quite honored to be a part of it. I’m relatively new to the online community of musicians. I was an active musician for years, but only within the last four or five years did I rekindle playing and recording again. At one point I had given up playing altogether for almost ten years. It seems I’m always on the verge of quitting. Then just as quickly as I had quit this last time, I picked up the guitar and started playing again. I re-recorded some songs and got them up online. Then I began exploring ways to promote the songs online, and this is where I began to find Internet radio stations that offered this kind of support – some for free, others charged a fee. I went with the ones that didn’t charge a fee. Through Hannah Clive, one of the artist musician friends I had made in a chatroom, I found Starlight Music Chronicles when she was in the running for Starlight Music Chronicles’ Artist of the Year in June 2017.  

SMC – We have now welcomed you as Contributor to the SMC team. We look forward to seeing where this venture will go. What are your thoughts on this?

Robert – First and foremost, I am really thrilled and honored to be a part of such an awesome and all-creative organization. I think what appeals to me most is the fact that creativity is nurtured here, and I am beyond pleased to be a part of such an exciting group of individuals, at such an exciting time in its history. I look forward to contributing in any and every way that I am able. 

SMC – Part of your new profile which will launch on our site November 30th, 2017 means that we get to showcase you and your art/projects alongside some of the other Contributors to our site. What kinds of things would you like to see happen for SMC?

Robert – I would definitely like to see SMC recognized as the multimedia powerhouse that it is. I’m not sure if people realize just how much reach and influence SMC has. I thought the recent interview that you did with Dacre Stoker (on Limehead Radio – see here and the SMC Spotlight – see here)  was amazing and fascinating. I was glued to my PC as you interviewed this blood relative of Bram Stoker, no pun intended, and got to hear stories of what inspired him to write his legendary ‘Dracula’ novel. The public’s fascination with the story has only grown through the generations. I think people need only look back at past interviews and see the important work that SMC has been doing to support artists and bands.

SMC – Can you tell us if there are any current projects that you are working on that you can share with our readers?

Robert – I am always working on something. I am currently working on some scripts, as well as music. I am in the middle of re-recording music that I wasn’t happy with, such as my Christmas song. I am also writing new music – which is actually some of my old music, written in new ways. Additionally, I am looking forward to working on projects within the SMC family.

SMC – What role do you see yourself playing as part of the SMC team? Meaning: what would you like to do creatively with SMC?

Robert – Creatively I can see myself assisting in any way possible within the SMC organization, whether that involves writing, music, artwork, promotion, or support of any type that’s needed.  I see an evolution with SMC, and we’ve spoken about this. I see SMC getting involved in all sorts of ventures – including film production, whether for TV or the theater. I can see book and script development. I can see music development, and collaborations with other artists. I think the skies the limit, and I would assist in any way that I can.

SMC – We are featuring you on the SMC Spotlight where we place all our high caliber artists. This will be your first feature on the site which will become what we call a ‘SMC Spotlight Numbered Series’. We tend to like doing follow-up interviews as an artist expands their career. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on becoming a part of our ‘biography-style’ journalism?

Robert – I’m flattered and humbled beyond belief. Starlight Music Chronicles has a reputation for focusing on some really amazing talent, and words can’t express how much I appreciate your support. I’ve seen and read about some of the artists that you’ve featured and it’s quite a list of talented folks. I’m honored to be included among such individuals, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my story unfolds.    

SMC – We recently did some interviews with Limehead Radio and as a result, talks are in the works for my own show on their station. If we asked you to do an interview with me for the show in, say, December, would you be up for that?

Robert – I wouldn’t be against it, but I think an interview on me should cover new territory, and not just rehash something that has already been discussed. I’ve only done a handful of interviews, mainly because I don’t think I’m all that interesting. People may find my projects interesting, but I think I’m only interesting for being part of those interesting projects.

SMC – We have also talked about having our own podcast with SMC – and you being a part of that. What are your thoughts on this?

Robert – I think podcasts are fascinating and essential tools for getting information out to the public. As long as there is something interesting and fresh that needs to get out to an audience, then I think podcasts are just another facet of accomplishing that goal. So, with regard to getting SMC material out to its audience, I would be more than happy to do what I can to facilitate that.  I have done everything from background music to actually writing interview questions for podcasts in the past, and I would be more than happy to contribute and continue doing that with SMC.

SMC – What involvement do you like to have in creative projects? Some people like to be front and center and others prefer to be behind-the-scenes. What is your preference and why?

Robert – In general, if I am involved in a creative project that I am pursuing, I tend to take on a more direct role. But when I am asked to become involved in something that didn’t originate with me, but with someone else, I tend to work more behind-the-scenes, only because I have always seen myself as a team player, and I don’t want to railroad someone else’s vision. But when required, I am more than willing to do whatever is asked of me in order to get the job done.

SMC – Before we dive in, can you tell us which career path you tend to gravitate toward more than others?

Robert – I started out as a playing musician. I played places when I wasn’t legally able to play them. I played with older musicians, in general, and sometimes we would play some tough places, like bars and strip clubs. I wasn’t legally allowed to be in these places as a customer, since I was a minor, but because I was part of the entertainment, nobody ever asked my age. They basically looked the other way. We played at lots of legitimate places as well, but the seedier places stick out more in my memory because I would be more anxious than usual during the performance. Over the years I sort of drifted away from wanting to play in front of a live audience, and prefer to focus more on songwriting now more than anything else.

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music career

SMC- Being a lover of classic rock sounds, upon first listening to your music – it was like finding that gem of an album on record store day. How refreshing it was to hear ‘Mermaid Serenade’! Can you tell us what your process was in creating the ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ EP?

Robert – I’m really glad you like that song. That song was important to me. It proved to me that I could write a song that wasn’t your typical love song. Not that there’s anything wrong with love songs. Most of the songs on ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ are old songs. Most of the songs on ‘Transition Man’ are also old songs. In putting together ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ I basically put together songs that I thought would go well together. ‘Mermaid Serenade’ was heavily influenced by The Beatles.  They were always a major influence on me and my music, and it was the fun songs on the White Album, such as, ‘Obladi-Oblada’, ‘Bungalow Bill’, and ‘Rocky Raccoon’, that were in the back of my mind when I wrote ‘Mermaid Serenade’. The Beatles were such amazing musicians. They could write songs on just about any subject imaginable.  I wanted to do that, too.

SMC – Indeed you have also been getting some fab radio play from this album as well as your other album ‘Transition Man’ – both released this year. Can you tell us who you would like to give a ‘shout out’ to for spinning your music?

Robert – Where should I start? First, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. Your support has been very important to me. And I’d also like to thank the people who are listening to my music and buying my tracks. I’ve been lucky. A lot of places have played my music, starting with Take 2 Radio, Howard’s Power Pop Stew, Frontier Radio, Wig-Wam Radio, Rocker’s Dive Radio and a bunch more, but there are a few that have really shown me an amazing amount of support, with the first being Stephen and Anne Lambert of EGH Radio. They were the first to show me a real sense of belonging. Stephen is a visionary and a jack-of-all-trades, and Anne was the first person to recognize my roots in British Invasion music and Glam Rock. They’re great supporters of Indie and Unsigned artists, and they host shows every week where artists and basically anyone interested can take part in chats, while they play an amazing mix of music. Victoria Dee at Open The Door Radio has also been extremely supportive of me and my music, and I want to thank her for debuting many of my songs. Most recently it’s been Al Yardy of KB Radio that has been giving my music tremendous airplay, and I’d like to thank him for that. I’d also like to help spread the word that KB Radio suffered some major damage and is trying to rebuild. They have a GoFundMe page where they are accepting donations (see here).  I truly hope that KB Radio can continue to do the fantastic job they’re doing in giving independent artists as well as established artists a forum. It’s a really amazing feeling as an Indie artist to hear your music in rotation with bands like Led Zeppelin, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Celine Dion and Kool &The Gang.

SMC – What has the media response been like for these albums?

Robert – The response to my music has been really positive. In fact, back when I was first playing music the old fashioned way, the response to my material was decent, but it was slow going in getting exposure. I had to push relentlessly in order to get the message out. With the Internet, the response is so much quicker, and generally a lot more positive.  An artist can have an easier time finding a receptive audience with the Internet, as opposed to how it used to be without the Internet. The Internet has become an essential tool for independent artists today. Demographics and analysis is quicker and easier using the Internet, as well. I’ve found that audiences are much more receptive to my “sound” in Canada and Europe and in other parts of the world, than they are in the United States, and I believe that’s only because Indie artists doing anything other than what I call Disney-pop, Hip-Hop or Rap, are not getting the airplay or exposure that these other genres are currently getting, and have been getting for some time now in America. The Internet came along at just the right time for artists doing rock, alternative and other genres.  If it weren’t for the Internet, the careers of Indie artists today would be much more difficult to get off the ground.

SMC – In the entertainment industry, we always hear about the kinds of struggles that artists go through to get themselves established. What would you like to see happen as far as change for artists in the industry (music, film, etc)?

Robert – I think there is a revolution coming within the industry, where the old ways of doing things will be changing forever. And I believe it has been a long time coming. I think artists, and creative individuals should not have to sell their souls in order to follow their dreams. I think it’s been this way for far too long, and for generations now, especially today, we are seeing the abuses that have come from such ingrained, highly imperfect and sometimes predatory institutions.  But these things are already changing. Almost anyone can produce a film these days. Decent cameras are available at somewhat reasonable prices. Writers can take the initiative and get their music up at iTunes and other music sellers. And writers can get their works out in a number of ways that weren’t always available to them.

SMC – Can you tell us why there was a full-length album and EP back-to-back release for your music?

Robert – That’s a long story, but in a nutshell, one of the reasons, and there were many, was I was tired of writing, recording, and producing music under the name, Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders. People were always getting confused and asking me who Billy J Bryan was.  People couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I was doing this under an assumed name. It was as if this had never been done before. And this all came about while I was working on more material, so rather than wait, because I’m always working on new things, I decided to re-release the older material under my real name, and also release what I had been working on without a break in between. I think it worked out okay because the material on both collections is so very different. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ is essentially an acoustic album.

SMC – What ‘sound’ do you naturally gravitate toward in terms of other Artists?

Robert – When it comes to other music that I listen to, the list is endless. I have loved and enjoyed the music of everyone from The Beatles to Elvis Presley to Dusty Springfield, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, The Allman Brothers, 38 Special, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Queen, Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, Nirvana, and even bands like The B-52s and McFly and Blink-182. Through my experiences with Internet radio I’ve discovered a whole new set of artists whose music is just as exciting and valid as these established bands, such as Chris Watkins of Drunk Poets, Red Light Revival, Anchor Detail, Free to Grow, Twenty6Hundred, Hannah Clive, and more bands and artists than I can list here. I feel that there is a whole crop of undiscovered and exciting talent simmering in the Indie Internet radio-sphere that’s going to explode someday in the very near future,  and it’s going to re-ignite interest in this kind of music all over again.  

SMC – Can you tell us what your favorite song is off each album and why?

Robert – From ‘Transition Man’, I’d have to say that ‘Heart Break Girl’ is probably my favorite at the moment. It reminds me of the songs that I used to love and listen to from British Invasion artists. I also like ‘Transition Man’ as well. I think it’s a fun summer song. I was in a good mood when I wrote and recorded it. From ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, once again, I’d have to say that the title track, ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, is my favorite song. It’s a really old song of mine, and this is the best version of it that I’ve produced. People have come up to me and told me what they think the song is about, and it’s always different. I don’t usually tell anyone what the true meaning is. I prefer to let people make up their own minds, but it’s a song about alienation. It’s a song about someone feeling like an outcast or a misfit in their own world.  

SMC – When you create the lyrics for your music – is it based on your own personal life experiences or is it observations of the world around you?

Robert – Both. I’m a people watcher. I think I watch people so that I can figure out exactly what it means to behave correctly in social situations. I don’t think I’ve learned anything yet, however. In truth, I guess I’d have to say that a good majority of my lyrics are written from my own personal life experiences.  

SMC – Can you tell us which song has received the most traction on radio to date?

Robert – ‘It’s probably Because Of Chloe’. Everybody thinks it’s a song about a particular girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, but it’s really a song about my cat.

SMC – In delving further into your music career, there were some delightful discoveries! There are songs like ‘Park Side Girl’ and ‘Beautiful Girl’…can you tell us what other gems are out there and which platforms they can be found under?

Robert – ‘I Believe In Rock & Roll’ is a decent song. I also like a song I wrote called ‘Florinda’. It has a Beatle sound to it that I like. They can only be found currently at places like Youtube and Vimeo. I’m planning on re-recording them in the very near future. I’ve actually taken a lot of material down, mainly because I want to re-record them. I think I took down about 55 songs. I rushed a lot of the earlier songs to completion, and I wasn’t always happy with the way they turned out. 

SMC – Indeed you have created music under the moniker ‘Billy J Bryan and the Ax Grinders’ – tell us about the name and how that came about…

Robert – When I first started out playing guitar, I didn’t really have any kids my age that were interested in music, let alone any that could play an instrument. I was thirteen years old. Naturally I ended up gravitating towards older musicians. These guys invariably would party more than they rehearsed, and they almost never wrote any original material because they were stoned or drunk all the time, and often they couldn’t remember what day it was, let alone remember my name. They’d call me Billy, or Joey, or Brian, or any number of names, with these three being the most often used. And when it came time for me to record and get my own music out there, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do this under my own name, so I put all three names together, added a fictitious back-up band, The Ax Grinders, and that was it. I thought I had come up with a name that nobody would have ever used before.  I was so wrong!

SMC – Can you give us a career timeline in terms of when you began creating your music and that ‘Ah Ha’ moment when you knew music would always be a part of your life/career path?

Robert – I don’t think I’ve ever had that “Aha” moment you are referring to. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. My grandfather used to build custom acoustic guitars for musicians in NYC way before I was even born.  So I was exposed to music and musicians from a very early age. Once I heard about the music of The Beatles and Elvis, through older cousins, I was hooked. When I was 13 my mom bought me my first real guitar. I basically started writing music at about that time, and I accumulated a pretty large stockpile of songs that I’d written by the time I was eighteen years old. Nobody that I played with was writing their own music, so my music was it. If we played somewhere, anywhere, we did a bunch of cover songs, and the only originals we would play would be the ones I had written. I didn’t have a lot of confidence back then in my songwriting, but even still, people would ask to hear my songs, which always amazed me. And it wasn’t till recently that I even considered the possibility that music might someday play an even larger part of my life. Whether I could make a living at it was another thing entirely. But music will undoubtedly always be a part of my life.

SMC – You are also a prolific and esteemed writer (we will get into your work as an Author next) – have you written songs for others? Who and where can we find them?

Robert – Actually, you may come across music online that is written by me that appears to be performed by others, but it’s really just me. I have recorded under the names – Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders, Bobby Smith & the Space Machine, Jimmy Deil, The Charismatic Asthmatics, Spit Bucket Disaster, among others, but it’s all me. My goal is to write songs that others can cover, but I didn’t always have the confidence in my songwriting skills to approach other artists regarding this.

SMC – Do you consider yourself a Frontman or do you prefer to be behind the scenes?

Robert – Many times by default I ended up having to “look like” the frontman in bands that I played in, but that wasn’t my choice, and it’s not what I preferred. One of my idols was Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple, and I was always amazed at how he could command the attention of everyone at his concerts by playing the guitar. He never sang a note, but all eyes were always on him and what he was doing with his guitar. His theatrics and his mastery of the instrument was mesmerizing.  I always dreamed of being able to play that well, but no, I don’t consider myself a frontman and I do prefer to operate more behind the scenes.

SMC – When creating your music, where do you feel most in your element?

Robert – I am most in my element when I’m writing music on the guitar. I play a few instruments, and when you are a one-man band, you kind of have to be able to focus on what you’re doing, and I feel I do that best with the guitar.

SMC – What do you have coming musically in the next 3-6 months?

Robert – I have a lot more of my older music that I want to re-record. Many of them were done on analog machines, and many were rushed, and the sound quality wasn’t good enough, and consequently, I wasn’t always happy overall with the way they turned out. I have quite a bit of older material to convert that way, but I am always writing new material as well, and I’d like to continue doing more of that. I’d also like to collaborate with other musicians. I’ve had musicians ask me recently, and I have not had the time to do so as of yet, but it’s something I definitely would like to do.

SMC – Have you performed live? If so, where and which was your favorite venue?

Robert – Yes, I started out performing live. My very first memories were of performing informally for friends at parties and other gatherings. I played at a college once. I guess the one place that stands out, probably because it was kind of a traumatic experience was a strip club in Manhattan called West, when I was sixteen years old. I was always concerned that I was going to be found out and get arrested. I performed at a place in Queens called The Rainbow. Lots of bands from the fifties, sixties and seventies performed there. They had photos of many of the bands hanging on the walls. I think I remember a Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons photo there. I can’t remember anybody else offhand. I knew a girl that had a band and she needed a guitarist when she played at CBGB down in the Bowery, and I played with her and her band. Just about all of the clubs, bars or other places in New York City and New Jersey that I performed at are no longer in existence. They either went out of business, or have been replaced by clubs that now cater to other genres of music. And the thing about performing live is, while I enjoy it, and there’s an energy that you can’t get anywhere else than from a live crowd, I suffer from stage fright. I’m extremely shy, and if I had my way, I’d prefer to write and record over playing live. 

SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received to date for your music?

Robert – Without a doubt it’s the support that I’ve gotten. I’d have to say that my experiences with Internet Radio stations, like EGH Radio, Open The Door Radio and KB Radio have given me an amazing amount of support, and have been a great boost to my confidence. Your interest in my music at Starlight Music Chronicles has to easily rank up there as the best that has come my way. I don’t do very many interviews at all, but I have done a few. However, I have not yet come across an interview as indepth or as interesting as yours, and the truth is, an interesting interview can make an unknown band or artist sound even more interesting. So I appreciate this support. I’m not sure that anyone that is not an Independent musician can understand how difficult it can be to carrying on doing what you love to do without support. For many, the financial rewards are years away, if they’ll ever come, and finding support in any way you can is often the only positive feedback most of us will ever get.

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Writing Career/Author

SMC – I was absolutely thrilled to read your book ‘Temporary Angels’! There is a lot that I can personally relate to with regards to what was mentioned or discussed in your book. Often, there are many who won’t speak out about their ‘ability’ to see entities or even visuals such as you have! Can you tell us who or what encouraged you to step out and write this book?

Robert – I think I had gotten to a point where I felt I had nothing to lose in writing ‘Temporary Angels’. This was something that I struggled with for most of my life, and I think my main goal in writing ‘Temporary Angels’, whether a reader believes what they’re reading or not, is that I believe we should always keep an open mind to everything in this world. We all have a role to play in this life, and in being open to things, we can then be more prepared to behave the way we should when our opportunity to act as a Temporary Angel arrives. There is a lot more in this world that we never see because we close ourselves off. We refuse to see. This world is a constant source of stimulation, knowledge and wonder, and if people would just be open to it, the possibilities could be endless. And for those that already do see, being able to see should not be a point of embarrassment or shame.  

SMC – There are many books you have penned. Can you tell me which one was the most enjoyable to write?

Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has to be up there with being one of my favorites. I actually found it more of a challenge to write a complete story in the span of 1500 words or less than if I had written a book of 150,000 words. To be able to get your message across to your target audience under these strict guidelines was more difficult than I had imagined. I also have always loved art – painting, sketching, drawing, sculpture, and more, and combining the story and the artwork in this book was an amazing experience.

SMC – Which book has received the most traction in the writing community?

Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has gotten a great amount of traction, perhaps the most of all my books so far. It’s been the subject of a number of book reviews. It was featured on a CBS-TV news affiliate piece on children’s picture books in St Louis. Grammar school classes have read it as part of reading initiatives. My cousin is a school teacher in Brooklyn. One time just before Christmas a few years back, she read the book to her class. She asked me to make an appearance there, and I reluctantly agreed. The kids loved the book and asked some really observant questions. For the adult romance market, I wrote a book called ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ – it’s the story about a woman that’s frustrated with her life, and one day, seemingly out of the blue, she receives an unusual inheritance, and through it she gets a second chance at life. It’s been just as popular as ‘The Christmas Mouse’.   

SMC – You have also won awards for your writing. Can you tell us which ones and when?

Robert – I’ve had poetry win some awards. I don’t remember exactly which poems these actually were. I quit submitting my material for consideration when three of my poems took prizes in Vandoelecht’s Annual Poetry Contest in 1994. I was happy to win, but it felt absurd to have my poems win first, third and eleventh prizes, and I haven’t submitted my material to any contests since. Instead, my poetry has appeared in a few anthologies, including one entitled ‘Thoughts Of Christmas’ that featured poets such as Jane Yolen, Angie Monnens, and many more.  I was also a regular contributor of poetry, short stories and artwork to a very influential national magazine called ‘Wicked Mystic’. Some of my poetry was a part of ‘The Poe Pulpit’, a magazine that published poetry, short stories, and artwork that was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe.

SMC – Your poetry is brilliant. I have already begun reading (when I am not distracted LOL) your book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. So far, ‘Dream, The Mariner Did’ is my favorite. Can you tell us which poem is your personal favorite and why?

Robert – Thank you very much for the awesome compliment. I like that poem, too. I think most of us feel like the mariner, in search of many things in this life. I think that’s why it may appeal to readers. I have a number of favorites from that collection, but if I had to choose two, one would be ‘The Ghost Of Endale Arch’. I wrote that poem about a Revolutionary War battle that took place just blocks from where I live. It was The Battle Of Long Island, and I found it fascinating that I was walking along the same cobblestone streets that soldiers from the 1700s walked upon.  The other poem is about a baby sparrow that died accidentally when it got tangled in some nesting material and never got the chance to beautify this world with its song, called, ‘Hanging By A Thread’.

SMC – Can you tell us what time of day you feel most creative?

Robert – I am constantly feeliing “inspired” to write, but I don’t often have the opportunity to do so during the daytime. I’ll be out running errands or doing something where I am away from my computer or a notebook, and I’ll have to jot things down on napkins or little pieces of paper, so that I can remember something that has come to me, or has inspired me to work on something. Usually I’m most creative towards the evening and at night when there are fewer distractions and I can focus on what I need to do.

SMC – What makes you wake up one day and say, ‘Hey! I think I want to write a book!’? At least, what sparks that creativity and desire to create within you?

Robert – My compulsion to write, whether it’s poetry, lyrics, scripts, or stories is chronic rather than acute. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those moments yet. I just always remember wanting to read, write stories, write songs, write poetry or create artwork. I think I’ve always had the desire, and from an early age I started writing. I didn’t have any one moment when I told myself “now is the time!” I just started writing. I’ve always had lots of ideas for material. My writing was all silly to begin with, but it was ambitious. I remember writing a script about ghosts appearing at a seance when I was nine years old. In general, I try to write, no matter what I’m writing, whether it’s a short story, novel, script or a song – to write something I’d like to read, see or hear. I would have to say that obviously my writing is inspired by something, and if anything, it has to be the writings of others. I guess I feel I have something to add to the conversation, and that’s what motivates me.

SMC – What projects are you currently working on?

Robert – I’m usually working on a few things at once. I’ve always worked this way. That’s why it sometimes seems as if I will suddenly come out with a lot of material all at once. I am always working on new music. I just recently got three of my books out of book contracts that they were in because I wasn’t satisfied with how they had been edited or promoted, so I re-edited those and had them re-released online. I’m currently working on new music and a script. And from time to time I am working on art, but that’s usually done these days as part of a bigger project. I don’t always have the time to do the things I want to do, so I have to pick and choose. When I need to relax and recharge, art is usually my choice of therapy.

SMC – You also write screen plays! Can you tell us which ones and what kind of interest or traction you have gotten from them?

Robert – I’ve had about a dozen scripts that have been produced. Some aired on TV. Some screened at festivals, salons, bars, and clubs. I wasn’t always happy with how they turned out, so I generally don’t talk about them, but one of my favorites was called, ‘Waiting For Eugene’. It was a romantic dramedy about a couple of late bloomers that meet and fall in love. They had been waiting to fall in love with the right person, it seems, their entire lives. But they’re also career people, and when Eugene is offered an out-of-town promotion, he feels compelled to take it, even if it means leaving his girlfriend, Dolores, behind, who also puts a good bit of emphasis on her career.  It was filmed in New York, with scenes shot in Central Park, and it screened at Arlene’s Grocery, sandwiched in between short films that included cast members John Belushi and Bill Murray of Saturday Night Live. To be sandwiched in between these legends was really a highlight for me.

SMC – You had mentioned to me once about a script you were working on that was mentioned by major media – even the New York Times. Can you tell us about that project?

Robert – I was working with a New York producer that was actually focusing on several projects at the same time. I wrote a script for one of the projects that was called, ‘No Safe Haven’. It was about the “Honor Rape” of a Pakistani woman named Mukhtaran Bibi or Mukhtar Mai. This producer and I actually met Mukhtaran Bibi and her handlers at Trump International Hotel and Tower the same week that she was in New York to speak at the United Nations, and the same time she had visited with President Bush in Washington. It was an amazing meeting and would have made for a really interesting and revealing story, but the project is still currently not in production after many years. Other producers became interested in developing her story, and amidst a very turbulent and violent atmosphere back in Pakistan, interest quickly faded. From what I was told, there were lots of threats made against Mukhtaran’s life, and government officials eventually made concessions, bringing electricity, a school, and fresh drinking water to Mukhtaran’s village, and the story soon disappeared from the public eye, after initially focusing a glaring eye on the practice of honor rape and honor killings in the Muslim world.  The other project ended in a scandal and lawsuits, so I also tend not to mention these projects too much anymore. Producers and production companies tend to steer clear of people associated with lawsuits and certain kinds of controversy. They are all about controversy when it sells tickets and fills theaters, but when the controversy hinders production and profits, you can become industry poison.

SMC – Which ‘stories’ do you naturally gravitate toward when you write scripts?

Robert – I enjoy writing comedies and romance stories the most. But in my experiences, the demand for police dramas or police procedurals, and mob stories, far out-weigh the demand for anything else. And when you’re first starting out, you need to write what production companies are interested in, or you won’t get anything produced. I find these genres to be way too formulaic for my taste, but I have still managed to write several screenplays that bend these rules enough so that I was satisfied with what I ended up writing. 

SMC – What has your writing meant to you personally?

Robert – My writing, whether it was writing songs, poetry, short stories or novels, have always been a way for me to express myself, even when I was too shy to express myself in other ways – such as in conversation. Because I was always so painfully introverted, I’d often turn to my writings in order to get my point across. And initially I was the only one that was reading my writings until I got my first poem published when I was 18 years old. The feedback I received from that made me hungry to want to express myself even more.  My writing literally saved my life, in this respect. Without any sort of outlet, life would have seemed otherwise hopeless and meaningless.

SMC – What message(s) or subject(s) are you drawn to writing about?

Robert – I write about anything that fascinates me. Because I think that if a certain subject is interesting to me, that it will be interesting to others. As for messages, I leave that for the reader to find and interpret in any way they wish. I don’t specifically try to embed messages in my writing. Instead, details can be extrapolated by the reader. If they wish to see these things as messages, then that’s fine. But it’s totally up to them.

SMC – Do you get a lot of requests for ‘The Christmas Mouse’ book during the Holiday season?

Robert – I do. Most people don’t realize that I don’t actually sell the book myself. I have a publisher, yet they always write to me in order to get copies. And by the time Halloween rolls around it’s already difficult to purchase paperback copies of the book and have them delivered in time for Christmas.  The publisher gets backlogged, and there is a “lag time” when people wait till the last minute to try and get a copy. The eBook version is also available, and it is delivered to a customer’s device within minutes, but the paperback version, which is the version that most people want, needs to be ordered with the time it takes for it to be printed and physically delivered in mind. I can’t tell you how many times people have turned to me to request the paperback version of the book just days before Christmas. Even I can’t get a copy that quickly.

SMC – I have read ‘Temporary Angels’ and I know that you are a gifted ‘see-er’. Is there one memory that stands out in your mind that is a positive experience that you haven’t written about in your book?

Robert – ‘Temporary Angels’ was actually twice the size it ended up being. Many powerful stories and examples were edited out. The reason they were edited out had to do with the nature of the experiences and believability.  Some sections were just too personal for me to put out there at this time. And I think that other chapters would have fallen on deaf ears. I think what I ended up including was the right mix and amount of information for what I had in mind when I sought to have that material published.  I think that one day soon I may release a version that includes more of what I kept out. I think the time may soon be right for that.

SMC – Which of all your publications (books) is your personal favorite and why?

Robert – That’s a tough one. I like certain things about each of my books for different reasons. There is always something about a project that endears it to me, and each one of my projects, even the ones that I’m not totally happy with have some redeeming value to me.  ‘The Christmas Mouse’ and ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ are favorites. One was my first successful children’s picture book, and the other was my first successful adult novel.  I like ‘Million Dollar Harry’ because it captures a lot of what it was like growing up in Brooklyn.

SMC – Who is your personal favorite Author and why? I know as a writer myself, it’s always hard to narrow it down to one, but perhaps you can tell us of a few you like from each category?

Robert – Yes, it’s very difficult for me to narrow things down to just one of anything. In writing, I’ve enjoyed reading Steinbeck. I read his books as a grammar school student – he’s full of detail, humor, local flavor, mysticism, and more. Two of my favorite short novels were ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway. With both it was as much the style of their writing as it was the subject matter.  These two writers carefully chose every single word, phrase, and sentence that went into their work, and made it seem effortless and captivating. One of my all time favorite books is ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. It was her one and only novel, but it has something for everybody in it. There is drama, romance and ghosts. What more could anybody want?  In poetry my tastes are equally enormous. I enjoy reading everything from Shakespeare and Chaucer to Milton and Byron and Blake and Pope and Poe and Dickenson and TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Edna St Vincent Millay and more. I’ve also read Beowulf many, many times since first reading it in the 5th grade.

SMC – Can you tell us what the support has been like in the writing community for your work?

Robert – Writing books, like writing songs in America are about the same for me personally speaking. I find the only real support I have ever gotten from the writing community in America has been from the people who actually purchased my work. Just about all of my books were first published in the traditional way, by a traditional publisher, usually smaller independent publishers. And unless you already have name recognition, they barely promote you at all. After about three months, you are usually on your own, or headed to “remainders” – which is author hell. Over time I’ve gravitated towards self publishing for a number of reasons, the greatest being creative freedom. There have been times in the past where editors were interested in my projects, but wished to change them to suit their tastes. For instance, one editor wanted me to make the protagonist in one of my true-life stories be a major auto maker from Detroit that he had a gripe with. When I refused, he lost interest in my project. ‘The Christmas Mouse‘ was originally published by a small publishing house in the Mid-west. Due to the nature of small independent publishing it got very little promotion and eventually was published by one of the first Internet interactive publishers around at the time. That didn’t last very long, but it was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life working with the editor of Electric Bookworm.  But for me that kind of pleasant experience was rare.

SMC – You have also penned two children’s books! Can you tell us why you felt inspired to write for children?

Robert – I think that writing for the children’s market can be the most fun, and the most enjoyable, creatively speaking. None of the restrictions that you encounter as a writer in the adult market exists with children’s literature. Children find wonder in everything if they are exposed to a lot, and the way they come to solutions to problems before they become cynical as adults is miraculous. It’s where dreams come from. To look at the world like a child is to see the endless possibilities. Of course children also lack the experience that’s practical and necessary to survive in the real world, but in the world of literature, especially children’s literature, to think like a child is essential. As a writer, you are limited only by your own imagination when you write for children.

SMC – What has the response been to your children’s books?

Robert – It’s been really great. I have people that have written to me from all over the world regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’.  I think feedback is extremely important to anyone that creates anything. Sometimes it can be the only reward, and when it’s positive, that’s what keeps you going and wanting to write the next project. And it hasn’t only been children that have written to me. I get just as many messages from adults as I do from children regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. The kids tend to write student reviews of my books, which invariably end up in some online library archive, while adults will tell me about how the book may have rekindled storytime with their children at home.

SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received in terms of your work as an Author?

Robert – I think the greatest compliment I have received as an Author has to undoubtedly involve the reaction I’ve gotten to ‘The Christmas Mouse’, though I have had positive reactions and positive feedback to nearly all of the things I’ve written – at least from readers, that is. People of all ages have told me how much they enjoyed reading it, and how much they enjoyed the fact that it was like none of the other Christmas books they had ever read.  Everyone tends to analyze the book in their own way, and I let them interpret things as they see it.

SMC – Your book ‘Exterminance Cometh’ is a very profound book and it is spoken about in your other book ‘Temporary Angels’ – can you tell us about it a little more? I know it is somewhat of a prophetic written piece…

Robert – ‘Exterminance Cometh’ was a recurring dream I had been having that in its unedited form bore a remarkable resemblance to the attacks of 9/11 in New York City. It was originally over 300 pages long, but I cut it in half. Ironically, there was so much in the material that I removed that I didn’t think anyone would ever believe could come true. The story at the time seemed so far removed from reality that I felt forced to alter the story. The book detailed attacks and catastrophes all around the world; struggles of many kinds for people everywhere; religious turmoil; a mid-east strongman that lived in an underground bunker; New York City in rubble – with skyscrapers being vaporized, and a sort of revolution that would bring about an African-American president. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see an African-American president in my lifetime, so I edited this last detail out. The African-American character still plays a vital role in “liberating” the citizens of North America, but he doesn’t become president. I had such a strong urge to get the message in this story out, that I had it self-published a year before the 9/11 attacks. ‘Externinance’ is the book I referred to earlier that a mid-west editor was interested in publishing if I would be amenable to making the villain be a major Detroit car maker that he had a gripe with.

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Film Career

SMC – In addition to your career as a writer and musician, you have also delved into film. I have watched some of your videos – pretty funny some of them, and others are quite compelling! Can you tell us which way you tend to gravitate toward in terms of style?

Robert – Writing scripts is so different from everything else. There is a visual element to films and screenplays, so a lot of the time you are writing to accentuate what you are seeing on screen or on stage. Many of the times because of this, it’s not what you write, it’s what’s in the direction that works with the writing to create the overall effect, and I find that a great challenge. That having been said, many of my videos are experiments and incorporate many different styles. I’ve enjoyed the styles of everybody from Alfred Hitchcock to Penny Marshall to Quentin Tarantino and more. That’s why you’ll see videos on all different subjects. If I find something interesting, then I think I can safely assume that others will find some of these videos interesting or funny, too, and everything is fair game. I am self-taught in everything that I do. I never took music lessons. I never took an art course. And I never took a course in film or animation. So these are all essentially experiments and learning experiences for me. I like learning new things. I saw these as a challenge, and I have learned quite a bit in doing them.

SMC – You have several monikers under your film credits too such as ‘The Ugly Man Revolution’ and ‘The Cat Stevenson Show’ – where can one find all of your work in film?

Robert – If they can be found at any one place, I’m not aware of it. Right now they can be found at Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion. I believe that a few videos are also up at other sites, such as iTunes and Amazon, but other than that, I can’t say. ‘The Ugly Guy’ and ‘Cat Stevenson’ have attracted a good amount of attention. They say things that we all want to say about life and about the world, no matter how outrageous – one through the eyes of a house cat, and the other through the eyes of a social outcast, and because they’re cartoon characters, people tend to be more forgiving, and less judgmental.  

SMC – You also wrote a compelling piece called ‘Chicken in a Cathouse’. I do feel that is a pretty powerful piece. What was behind this piece and your reason/purpose for writing/creating it?

Robert – I wanted to chronicle a true story, and also make people aware of a practice that still goes on to this day around the world. There is a sort of coming of age ritual that goes on where a young boy is initiated into adulthood when still a teen by taking him to a cathouse – which is another name for a house of prostitution. Often the boys will perform awkwardly because they’re still basically kids. This practice is seen as harmless, but it can often negatively affect any later relationships that the boy will have when he becomes an adult. It all depends on the experience, but I believe that a boy of 13 years of age just doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand what’s going on, or what’s expected of him, and so there can be lingering issues later on.  The actual events as they unfold in my piece are true. This happened down to the last detail to someone that I know. In 2013, ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’ was part of the Sans Diego Short Film Screening at The Producer’s Club in New York City. There were a number of great films screened that evening to a very receptive sold out audience.  My video also screened in Mexico City and in the UK.

SMC – You also have a pretty scary short called ‘The Homecoming’. I admit, I watched through my fingers LOL. Can you tell us a little more about this film and its theme?

Robert – Thank you for such a nice compliment. My intention was to experiment with a piece where one felt compelled to watch, even if it scared the heck out of them. Judging by your question and comment, something worked. ‘The Homecoming‘ is the ultimate warped love story. It is the story of undying love, even in the face of death. The male character passes away suddenly and unexpectedly and then literally rises from the grave in order to keep his promise to his lover that he would always return to her.

SMC – What part of the film-making process would you like to have involvement in or learn more about?

Robert – I’ve contributed to many aspects that were needed in film-making regarding the projects I’ve written or been a part of. I’ve written scripts. I’ve created props. I’ve done voice-over. I’ve acted in a few. I’ve written and recorded music.  That being said, I consider myself an eternal student. There is always a lot to learn, and always things that a person can just not know about any one field or subject. I’m always open to being a team player and contributing as much as I can to the successful completion of any project that I’m a part of.

SMC – Your animated series are a lot of fun – this is where we begin to delve into your work as an Artist (which we will discuss next). Can you tell us what your greatest challenge is when creating for an animated series?

Robert – The greatest challenge is bringing it all together. I can come up with the idea. I can write the scripts. I can do the animation, and I can do the voice-overs. But it takes a lot of patience to marry these elements and still keep the project fun. And when you are doing this on your own, you can receive no feedback until you upload it or screen it, and by then it may be too late.

SMC – What platform do you create your animation still on? Photoshop, Illustrator?

Robert – It varies. Some of my artwork has to be scanned if I did it by hand, and if so, it can then be worked on using Photoshop. But a good amount of my artwork that’s used in some of my animated pieces is digital and was done using a mouse and the Paint program.  Working on these is similar to artwork that I did using traditional methods, except no scanning is involved.

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Art Career

SMC – As an Artist, can you tell us which medium is your favorite to work with?

Robert – I enjoy working with oil paints, water color, goache, pencil and acrylic. If I had to choose one, it would probably be oil paint, but I enjoy it all. I have also created “paintings” that have incorporated sculpture in it – meaning, I will create a portion of a painting that will come out at the viewer in a sort of solid 3-D fashion. I will mount a particular piece, usually some part that is made of plaster, onto a canvas, as part of the bigger piece, and tie them all together.

SMC – You have also created and sold pieces to help charities…can you tell us which ones?

Robert – I did paintings to help raise funds for a local school’s art program in Brooklyn, where I live, which was very successful. I also did artwork for the Easter Seals Society of New York, and a number of other places. I really enjoyed being a part of these programs, and I’m always open to doing more when time permits. 

SMC – Is there any painting you are working on at present?

Robert – No. Art has had to take a back seat lately. I enjoy it immensely, but it can also be time consuming in comparison to writing and music.  And while I find it therapeutic in helping me to relax, finding the time to work on art at this stage is difficult.

SMC – Which Artist in history is your muse?

Robert – I admire so many artists, contemporary and throughout history. If I had to choose one single artist, I would have to say Leonardo DaVinci. I also admire Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Albert Pynkham Ryder, but DaVinci stands out for me, mainly because he did so many other things, and I enjoy doing as much as possible, too. He was a writer, a sculptor, a designer, an inventor, a scientist, and so much more. Trying to imagine what kind of a mind he possessed is often as intriguing as studying his work.

SMC – What is your muse today when creating new art?

Robert – Unfortnately, I cannot seem to find enough time these days to carry out the new ideas that I’d like to have committed to canvas, or whatever medium I’m considering. From time to time I will manage to get something done, but it’s definitely not as commonplace an activity for me as it once was.  But I look forward to the day in the near future when I will be able to return to doing artwork once again. Maybe if I hit the lottery I’ll be able to do that.

SMC – What do you feel about the kind of support in New York City that is available to Artists?

Robert – Despite the fact that New York City is home to the Metroplitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, as well as so many other great institutions, like The Fricke, or The Cloisters – I don’t know that Art for the average undiscovered artist has ever been well supported in New York City. I’ve taken part in some exhibitions, but I’ve never felt any tangible amount of support. Just as with anything else in New York City, a creative person has to take the initiative. Nothing comes to you in New York City. Just as with any endeavor and any location, one has to aggressively seek out opportunities.  

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Personal Life

SMC – With such diversity in your talent, can you tell us how you have been able to integrate it into every aspect of your careers to date?

Robert – Some projects make it easier to incorporate more skills into a single project, while others don’t always allow it. For instance, if I decide to write a book, it will be just the book unless some other aspect comes into play. However, if I write a children’s book, especially a picture book, it may also involve artwork, sometimes poetry.  If I write a song, I know that at some point I most likely will be creating a video to help promote it. So the work may involve writing, recording and producing the song, as well as creating artwork, props, graphics, sometimes recruiting acting talent, and shooting video to go along with it.

SMC – What would you like to see happen for Artists/Writers in the industry today?

Robert – I’d like to see it made easier for new artists and writers to gain a foothold in the publishing world, in music, and in writing, for TV or Hollywood.  A lot really does depend on connections in the various industries, and unfortunately many really great ideas and innovative writers will never see their work produced.  The industry does not welcome new talent or any talent that they’re not already acquainted with, and because of that, we see many books with themes that seem repetitious, and in film we see remakes, sequels, prequels, and endless animated movies that involve dancing penguins and talking dogs, mainly because Hollywood is so closed off to new writers and new ideas. In literature, aside from the Harry Potter series, or a very few other projects, we see just how little interest children today have in reading.  In music, the airwaves are cluttered with generic and formulaic product. I don’t hear all that much that is creative or original. Much of what commercial terrestrial radio plays is fine if you’re a teen or slightly older, but in my opinion, if you want to hear anything with substance, you need to find the local oldies station or turn to Internet radio, which is just about the only place that you can hear anything new, creative, innovative, or with staying power.  

SMC – Which social media platform do you feel is most effective in getting the ‘word out’ on your new projects?

Robert – Without a doubt, Twitter has worked best for me. It’s fast paced, and in my experience generally reaches a wider, larger audience quicker.

SMC – Which social media platform do you think is most effective in general?

Robert – Again, I would have to say it’s Twitter. I also use Facebook, but the potential for reaching a wide audience is hampered by the size of your “friends” network.  Facebook tends to discourage users reaching out to others with whom they have no connection.  Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion are also good for reaching out to your audience, but with these, you also have to let your target audience know that you even have material posted if you are going to attract attention. So once again, sites like Twitter and Facebook come into play.  

SMC – Your book ‘Temporary Angels’ does delve into your personal life somewhat – can you tell us which events in your life are most profound for you and which have shaped who you are today?

Robert – Easily the events where I was able to be helpful to others have been the most profound. I mention a young Australian woman in the book that had gotten all scraped up after tripping and falling in the mud while jogging in the park near my home, that seemed practically invisible to others, even though the park was packed with people that day. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to get involved, and I felt that I got as much out of helping her as she did from me coming to her aid. I find this kind of balance to be essential in everything I do in my life. Though things like this rarely fall at my feet the way that this one did.

SMC – What would you give as advice to Artists trying to ‘make it’ in the industries you have delved in?

Robert – I would tell them to not give up too early. If they have true talent and a real passion for what they ‘re doing, they should never give up. They should search out every avenue. Be as nice to everyone you meet as possible, because at the very least, you never know who may end up being a contact or connection somewhere down the line. I would tell them to believe in themselves, but to always stay humble. I would tell them they should not listen to those who with envy will tell you that you’ll never make it. In general I would tell them to be practical, and to persevere.  If they truly believe in what they’re doing, they should never give up.

SMC – What does ‘success’ mean to you in terms of all your careers?

Robert – Success can mean a lot of things to me. Success can mean a lot to a lot of different people. Sometimes, for myself, success can be as simple as getting a great response for something that I worked hard to get completed. Sometimes it can lead me to another project or an opportunity to do more. Ultimately, in today’s world, success means recognition and financial reward, because it’s only with funding that an artist is able to create freely, without worry. When one is forced to choose between eating and paying the rent, or being able to freely create because they do not have such worries, it can be the ideal atmosphere for new and innovative ideas.

SMC – What is your favorite thing to do in your private time?

Robert – I have not had private time in years, but when I did have private time, I used to love to be outside in nature. I used to enjoy gardening. I used to love to hike and take walks. I used to go to the theater more often. Now it’s either Netflix or nothing.

SMC – What do you feel is essential in helping you feel most creatively ‘in the flow’?

Robert – I think that for me it is time – having the time to do the things I’d like to do is essential to me. Because of this, I jot down lots of notes to myself. I am always having ideas for new songs, stories, poems, books, and scripts come to me. I just don’t always have the time to develop them the way I’d like to. Now it’s more a matter of which idea or project seems more timely than the rest.

SMC – In your book ‘Temporary Angels’ you talk about how you have ‘given back’ to less fortunate people/families. Can you tell us which charities or organizations you like to support and why?

Robert – I tend to support charities that are local. I think that when you give locally, there tends to be less of the funds spent on the salaries of those that run the charities, than when you donate to some massive organization with thousands of employees. I think the more direct approach is always best. I like to donate to a local soup kitchen near where I live. My local YMCA has drives throughout the year that I like to donate to. I like to donate to animal shelters in my area as well. Just as with people, animals tend to need similar items. They need shelter and food, and towels and clothing. And giving to these is easy, and you can see the effects more readily and know where your money is going.

SMC – You seem to talk a lot about potatoes….what is the correlation? Why the fascination with potatoes?

Robert – Hunger, starvation and malnutrition are major problems at home and around the world. I wrote a piece about potatoes a while back that showed just how important Potatoes can be in meeting the nutritional needs of the human race.  My article traced the origin of the potato from its humble origin in South America, where originally it was about the size of a human thumb, but over time, through careful cultivation, developed into a food item that is the staple of many cultures around the world. According to the World Health Organization, many lives can be saved with just a glass of milk and a cooked potato, and implementing such a program would be easier than most would imagine. 

SMC – You seem to be so supportive of everyone on twitter as well as other social media platforms! I see you tweeting so many lovely things about your peers. Thank you! What has your experience been like by engaging in this way?

Robert – The vast majority of the time, I’ll either get a lukewarm “thank you” or a “thanks for the retweet” – but occasionally I will make a true “friend.” I think people tend to either be wary of praise, or they begin to expect it, and there are few that are comfortable enough to accept it for what it is, and graciously pay it forward. Despite this, I still try to be as supportive of everyone as I can be, because I know how difficult it was for me to get any support whatsoever.

SMC – Can you tell us what being a part of the SMC Family experience has been like for you so far?

Robert – If my memory serves me, I have only been a part of the SMC Family for about four and a half months, but already I’ve felt a tremendous amount of support for the things that I do. It’s a difficult thing to continue trying to be creative when your efforts are never acknolwedged. And often it’is in the small gestures that we are able to carry on. With SMC I truly feel as if I’m able to breathe easy. I don’t feel as if the support I am feeling will be gone in a flash.  For an artist or creative person that has always had support, this sentiment will never be understood. But for the vast majority of us, just knowing that you have the support of someone who recognizes your struggle is enough to make us want to continue, and to be supportive of others in our own way.

SMC – What are you most grateful for in life?

Robert – I am grateful for my dysfunctional family. I am grateful for my good health. And most recently, I am grateful for wandering into the world of Internet Radio, and ultimately finding you and SMC, and the group of supporters that came with these. This seemed to be a total chance discovery, but it was a timely discovery. Just prior to this, I was about to give up music once again. I feel that I am always one step away from quitting the creative life. There was a period just before I began writing and recording again, around 2004, that I had not played a single note of music for about ten years. My own personal experience for so long had been, “support of any kind for new bands was impossible to come by, and it was only a fluke that I started playing guitar again.” It was around 2004 that I was working on a few film projects that needed music, and it was through that process of seeking out and locating talent that my own interest in my music was reawakened. 

SMC – Okay – final question: Can you tell us five things about yourself that no one knows anything about?

Robert –

1) My parents met while trying to pick each other’s pockets during the Christmas festival at Grand Central Station.

2) Chuck Woolery is my godfather, once removed (using a minimally invasive procedure.) 

3) My real name is Wink Martindale, but since there already was a Wink Martindale, I had mine legally changed to Robert Segarra. 

4) My parents named me Robert Segarra because they loved that it is an anagram for – Sara Is A Great Robot.

5) I am a huge animal lover. (I don’t mean that I’m 20 feet tall or weigh 500 lbs, or anything like that. I just mean that I’m devoted to the well-being of nature’s creatures everywhere.)

Thank you Robert!

Robert – You’re very welcome! Thank you for this opportunity!

____________

Robert Segarra BIO

Lifelong Brooklyn native ROBERT SEGARRA is a New York Artist, Writer
and Musician.

He is the Author of “STILL WAITING FOR THE SUN” – a lighthearted novel
that details the difficult life of an unmotivated woman as she receives a
very bizarre inheritance. With this unexpected windfall, she will attempt to
get her second chance at life – a life that she had almost given up on.

He is the Author of “MILLION DOLLAR HARRY” – A humorous novel.

Most recently he is the Author of “TEMPORARY ANGELS” – a true-life book
about angels and the after-life.

His poem, “HEAVEN” was also recently published.

Some of his other books are “CROW HILL & OTHER POEMS“,
– as well as the illustrated children’s book and perennial favorite,
THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE.”

Robert Segarra is the screenwriter of a number of screenplays, including
WAITING FOR EUGENE“, “A NIGHT AT THE INN“, “A SITUATION
 WANTED“, “BEAT THE STREET” and “AN ANGEL COMES FOR OFELIA.”

Robert’s music can be found at Amazon.com, CD Baby, iTunes and a number of
other fine sites.

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Robert Segarra

Robert Segarra Social Media (click to view)

Author Website

Robert Segarra Music Facebook

The Ugly Guy Revolution Facebook

Twitter

Spotify

YouTube

iTunes

Amazon

SMC Spotlight No.1 | Darren Keith, Multi-faceted Producer, Writer, Musician, Actor, Comedian behind ‘DK The Gig’

by Candice Anne Marshall

In the early spring 2017, I received a friend request and private message on Facebook, and much like how I discovered the magic of Fashion Art Rock band Palaye Royale, the request was simple: ‘Please check out my trainer for my show ‘DK The Gig’”. Now, it must be said that I don’t always ‘check out’ everything that is sent to me. If I did that, I would spend the whole day watching videos and not getting any work done. To be frank, not everything that is sent to me is something I would post on our site anyway. It simply MUST cut the mustard in terms of quality, content, originality, and, of course, pure talent. With this said, entering into the (like-minded, I must add) comedic mind of Philadelphia born and based Darren Keith, was like having front row seats at the premiere of a Robin Williams film: it’s funny, unpredictable, thoroughly entertaining, and leaves you always wanting more. I am referring to his trailer for his upcoming series ‘DK The Gig’, and if you saw it on his socials or even ours and it lead you to this testimonial, then you are in the right place. After the first few seconds of the trailer, I was sold and I confess, I was laughing so hard, I almost fainted. Not even joking!

We were lucky enough to capture a few moments with Darren for this exclusive ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the creative mind of this comedy genius to discover that he is not only the funny man behind the script for this series, he is also the Producer, Actor, Musician, and Director! The series focuses on the life of a Musician whose career has dead-ended leading him to the stage set in his friends’ restaurant (based in Philadelphia), not exactly the place he imagined himself. The comedic value in this film is portrayed by Keiths’ very blatant and obvious unwillingness to appreciate this ‘courtesy spot’ (expressed in his sarcastic demeanor and over inflated ego), apparent right from the get-go in the series trailer. To quote the Facebook page for this series: “”DK the gig” Is a comedy series about a Musician whose ego is much larger than the Restaurant Stage He Performs On.’ If this is your first time discovering ‘DK The Gig’, we encourage you to check out the trailer (below) and THEN read on!

Keith has a stellar cast lined up for the filming of this series such as: Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns), Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), Joseph Arthur (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne), Fred Berman (Amos Lee), Four-time Emmy Nominated TV Producer Jill Gould (JillGo Productions), and Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies – See Barrys’ Profile below). After perusing the files of each of these individuals, I am certain that this series is a recipe for success and the high caliber individuals involved are the ingredients to what will be a masterpiece.

Indiegogo Campaign

At present, Keith has begun an Indiegogo campaign to get the series into production. He is also scouting potential investors or Networks for the series and in all honesty, if I had my own network, THIS is the series I would place my bets on. There are a lot of shows on TV and Netflix today that don’t capture my attention past the pilot episode. It takes a lot for me to be engaged enough to ‘want more’ and this series, I predict, will go the distance in the right hands. I had the chance to speak at length on the phone with Darren where we went a little further in depth on the current status of this project and there was one thing we both agreed on: we are anxious to get the production started so it can be shared with the world! This comes with your active participation SMC friends and family – if you ‘like’ what you see and want to see more like I do, click on the link on our right-side menu on the SMC Spotlight and let’s get this show (literally) in the road! For any inquiries about this series via my brilliant network of friends, please contact Darren Keith direct (located in the socials below).

Editors Note: One thing I know about the Starlight Music Chronicles family is this: we are a collective of artists and creative like-minded individuals who understand the meaning of ‘true support’. I am confident that after reading and watching this special feature on our site, there will be financial backing and very possibly, a spot on a network for this series. I am THAT confident this series has what it takes to put a smile to peoples’ faces, bring humor to this often dark world, and to become a household name.

DK The Gig. Don’t forget it folks. You heard it here first.

SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Darren Keith, Producer, Writer, Musician, Actor of ‘DK The Gig’

SMC – Hello Darren! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! Let’s begin with getting into your background – you are a Musician and an Actor/Creator of your series ‘DK The Gig’ now. Tell us about you. I want to know more about your early career to where you are today and what lead you here where you are now the Producer of your own series.

DK – Hello, Candice! Well…I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I started playing music professionally at 15 and have been a freelance/session drummer for most of my life, playing for countless local, national and international bands and artists. I have even done the singer/ songwriter thing from time to time as well. I’ve lived in NYC, LA, Austin (twice), and even Branson, Missouri. And even though I’ve done a lot of things musically that I’m really proud of, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with music and the drums, and have even totally stopped playing many times over the course of my career, sometimes for very long periods of time.

Regarding what led me to what I’m doing now…the majority of the time I was a musician, for 25 years or more, I had this consuming thought that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a musician, but should have been doing something with my sense of humor instead…and that thought gnawed away at me for most of my adult life. Then something happened to me a few years ago, which made me confront this unrealized dream that I had been carrying around for all those years, and I knew it was time to either do something about it or to finally let it go, knowing full-well that meant taking it to the grave with me.

So, with no background, training, experience or connections in any facet of this process, I wrote ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode and started the long journey of figuring out how to do something like this, at the level I wanted to do it at, when you’re starting point is at zero. And when I say zero, I mean that I had never written a script (I didn’t even know how to format a script), had never acted, and had never produced anything…actually, I really didn’t even know what a producer did…and now I was a producer!

So, skip to a few years later and I finally release ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode, and the response was incredible. It was then that I really started thinking about the future of the show…not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but up until that point, the Pilot episode signified a life achievement for me…I wasn’t thinking that it had to be this or that so it could be shopped to a Network, or that it had to have an arc, etc…the main purpose it served was making people laugh and most importantly, proving to myself that after all those many years, the voice inside my head that told me I could do it…was right.

SMC – Who are some of the people you have played with in your music career?

DK – I have played with, either live or on recordings, with Isle Of Q, Joseph Arthur, Liz Longley, Tony Orlando (yes…that Tony Orlando), Kurt Neumann (of the Bo Deans), Clarence Spady, Paul Simon bassist Bakithi Kumalo, Pete Donnelly, and Zakk Wylde.

SMC – You have quite the stellar cast lined up for your series. Wow! How did you acquire this stellar line-up?

DK – Thanks…I’m really excited about all the amazing people involved with the show. The first person I contacted was Barry Markowitz. Barry’s a legendary Cinematographer….he’s filmed so many incredible movies, like Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses and The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies. About 20 minutes after emailing him the link to the Pilot, my phone rings and it’s Barry. He says “I just watched the Pilot…it’s not just good…it’s fucking great”. He must have watched it twice because he knew the episode every which way and was reciting lines back to me. We talked for almost an hour, really hit it off, and he told me he wanted to be involved moving forward and shoot the new episodes. So…we were off and running.

After I found my wonderful Producer, Jill Gould, we started casting and were lucky enough to find all these amazing people, both actors and musicians, who loved the show and wanted to be involved, and they’re truly all great, like the actors Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns) and Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), as well as musicians Joseph Arthur (Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne) and Fred Berman (Amos Lee). And we’re not even finished casting all the parts yet…there’s still more people coming on board.

SMC – We have shared your enthusiasm for this remarkable series on the SMC socials but we definitely want to get more involved in some way by way of supporting your series from this moment going forward by keeping you current in our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. We usually like to chronicle the journey of many of our star profiles. What are your thoughts on that?

DK – I think it’s great. And I’m sure everyone really appreciates what you are doing. 🙂

SMC – How many episodes do you have planned for this series?

DK – Well, it depends on the budget we end up with, but I really want to shoot at least 4 of these episodes, which are all somewhere in the 15 to 20 minute range, and that will be DK the gig’s “First Season”. Most web series I’ve seen shoot a lot of really short episodes, but I’m insane, so of course I’m doing much longer episodes that cost a fortune, and without a Network financing it. And it’s because I really want to develop these story lines and characters….to create this universe and drop people right into the middle of it. And I think it would do the scripts and story lines a huge disservice if I try to chop them up into shorter pieces.

SMC – Do you have a network in mind for the series to be shown on?

DK – If I had a dollar for every time someone told me this show should be on a Network…I wouldn’t need a Network! I’m not kidding though…I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that ‘DK The Gig’ should be on HBO…or NETFLIX…or AMAZON, HULU, etc….and there’s many things I like about all of them. The most important things I’ll be looking for in finding the show a good home is finding who is the most organic fit for it, and who will be the most committed to preserving the show’s integrity and making it a priority.

I LOVE this! The true perils of a man who just wants to play his music…and its f*cking funny!

– Steve Lukather (Toto/Guitar Legend)

SMC – If you could choose which network to have the show aired on, which would that be?

DK – I am a totally food-obsessed person, so I think when all is said and done, it’s going to come down to which Network takes me to the better restaurant. And yes…once you put food in front of me, all that “integrity” shit goes right out the window.

SMC – We connected on Facebook. You had sent me a friend request a while back, then somehow, we disconnected and then I remembered your promo reel and I think I was tweeting with someone about you…or maybe it was you who tweeted with me. Regardless, your video cracked me up. I think I hit replay about 10 times! Have you always had this great comedic sense of humor?

DK – Thanks. As far back as I can remember. I always knew I was funny, and have always been able to make people laugh…really laugh…whether it was friends, family, or total strangers. There have been so many times when someone has told me about something funny that I did or said that stuck with them…even if it was 20 years earlier…and sometimes I remember, and sometimes I don’t. Those are just some of the reasons that made me finally do this.

SMC – Would you say that living in New York has lent the authenticity to your performance as a comedian who delivers his humor with a punch? I heard New Yorkers can be tough!

DK – I only lived in NYC for about 8 months when I was around 20, so I don’t think NYC plays much of a role in my life at all, even though it is still one of my favorite cities. I live in Philly, which is very similar in many ways and very close…so that is probably what you’re detecting.

This is great…

– Dave Abbruzzese (Pearl Jam)

SMC – When did the concept of ‘DK The Gig’ begin?

DK – I would always think of funny things…and since I have probably played a few thousand gigs in my life, I would think of a lot of these things while in that environment, so it seemed like a very natural progression for my first show to be about a musician.

SMC – You have some pretty amazing ‘bells and whistles’ included in your Indiegogo campaign! Can you tell us which ones you are looking forward to delivering on? I saw a ‘Birthday Party’, ‘Associate Producer’, and the ‘You Want It All’ packages which are all great!

DK – Thanks! Well, I originally wanted to offer my body for a PERK at one of the higher donation levels, but INDIEGOGO’s legal department got involved, so I’m sorry, people! Actually, it’s fine, because the shipping fee on that would have made it a bit cost-prohibitive anyway.

Yes…I have some great perks. For one PERK, I take you out for your birthday (even if it isn’t…we’ll just say it is so we can get that candle on your dessert)…and for another PERK, you can actually be an EXTRA on the set for a day and have that very unique and amazing experience of being on the real set of a series. I also have DK the gig Shirts, Mugs, and a lot of drum-related PERKS too. And of course, you can donate without taking a PERK at all.

SMC – I would LOVE to sit on set and do a behind-the-scenes take on this show. Legit. I bet you all had a blast even filming the promo video for this series. How do you keep a straight face?

DK – You just hope that you don’t break and ruin an otherwise great take. But if it happens, it happens….just have fun with it.

SMC – Ideally, when would you like to film the first season and have it aired?

DK – As soon as we reach our goal and raise the money we need to film, we’ll coordinate everyone’s schedule and shoot. I can’t wait for everyone to see these episodes…but the quality is paramount to me, so I always take my time and do things the right way, even though I want it to be out as soon as possible.

DK the gig is so damn funny, smart and a little raunchy. It’s real. I know guys like this!

– David Uosikkinen (The Hooters/Sessions)

SMC – Who has been most supportive of this project so far? Who would you like to give a shout out to?

DK – My family and my good friends…they are as supportive as you could hope for and have been amazing. And, I have to say that I have some really awesome and die-hard fans who have been so supportive of everything I’m doing, and they know who they are…and I appreciate every one of them.

SMC – In terms of your own personal perseverance, what keeps you going when there are challenges? We all have them and we all deal with them differently. I am always curious how everyone in the industry powers through….

DK – The self-belief and confidence I have in myself and my abilities, the love and support I have from those that are important to me, and all the kind words and support I have received through the years from those who enjoy what I do creatively….those are the things that always keep me afloat.

SMC – I would like to keep people in the loop as to the progress of your series – what kinds of ways can we lend our support? I have a good feeling this is going to be a pretty amazing series!

DK – Thank you…the response to the show has really been unbelievable and it’s nice to hear so many people tell me they think this show is going to be big (see industry quotes below). The best possible way everyone can help right now is by donating to our INDIEGOGO campaign, and then by sharing and spreading the word about the show and our crowdfunding.

While we’re talking about the INDIEGOGO campaign, one of the things I would really want your readers to know is just how expensive these episodes are to make. I came from the music world and have been involved in not only live shows, but in the recording of many CDs, both as a sideman and on my own…and nothing could have prepared me for the unbelievable difference in budgets between music and doing something in the TV/Film/Digital Content world. Making any type of video at this level costs infinitely more money than making a CD does. The difference is staggering. So…to do what we’re doing will easily cost somewhere around $70,000 or $80,000. And that’s why every single donation to our INDIEGOGO campaign matters. Even if someone can only afford to give $5.00, that donation helps towards the goal.

Well crafted and hilarious insight into the life of a musician.

– Derek Sivers (Founder, CDbaby)

SMC – I was happy to see as I was typing this interview out that you just made one of your milestones on the fundraising process of this series. I know it’s often quite the task trying to get people to see the vision you do, but – you have marketed this project very well. What areas do you think there are strengths or areas of improvement you would like to tackle for this project?

DK – Creatively, I am 100% confident in the quality of this project. The only area of improvement I would hope for is on the marketing/social media/PR side, simply because I am not a big social media person, and given how important that is today, it’s something that I’d like to see grow with this project. If there’s any heavy social media people out there who want to be involved with the show, reach out.

SMC – What makes a person wake up one day and say, ‘I want to make a series’? I mean, there must be some form of love for the art of film making and acting. You are wearing a lot of hats for this project!

DK – Well, that “waking up one day and creating a series” took me about 25-30 years! Yes…I created the show, wrote it all myself, play the lead character “DK”, composed all of the music, am an executive producer, and even did some editing. And besides the music component, I had never done any of these things before and had to teach myself everything. I had no idea how to edit…I didn’t even know how to import media files…so I taught myself how to do it, did the final edit on the Pilot, and then made that TRAILER that you saw that everyone has loved. It’s really been crazy.

SMC – I am telling you, I think anyone who doesn’t know about this project should! I think there are a lot of people out there who have deep pockets and I think they should dig deep. I don’t say this about too many people or projects these days because there aren’t many who impress me. That’s a fact. I am very selective who we choose to be on the SMC Spotlight or a part of Starlight Music Chronicles as part of our team. What drives you to do your best and keep going?

DK – First of all, I want to thank you for all the kind words…it means a lot. Given my unusual and unconventional situation and all that I’ve been through to arrive at this point, I appreciate it all and am trying to enjoy this journey as much as possible. I am incredibly passionate about this and have always considered myself an extremely creative being…and to me, there is nothing better than being able to make people laugh. Along with family and friends, those are the things that drive me.

SMC – What are the top five things that are important to you in the quest to get this project completed?

DK – I just want to bring these new episodes to life at the highest level possible and have everyone get to see the full scope of the show…I think everything else will fall into place from there.

SMC – What are deal-breakers for you in terms of getting this series completed? Meaning: what would you NOT do to get this film completed?

DK – Well, obviously I really want to have this series completed and would do just about anything except share my doughnuts…because I loves my doughnuts. The President of Netflix could sit down in front of me and say “I’m prepared to offer you eight-figures and commit to five seasons of DK the gig…and the only thing you have to do is give me half of that Strawberry and Basil doughnut”…and I would be like “How about five-figures, a two-season commitment, and I eat this whole doughnut?”

SMC – Have you filmed anything beyond the promo video as of yet? Is there a pilot episode you have already gotten filmed?

DK – Yes…I filmed a Pilot that I released in 2016…and the Trailer you saw was made with footage from it…but given that so much has changed with the show since I released it, and in light of these amazing new people that are now involved, I thought it was best to take it down and just use the Trailer until the new episodes are released.

SMC – What is the best compliment you have received from an industry peer for this project?

DK – Well…there have been quite a few that stand out to me…but honestly, I have to say that I appreciate all of them. Especially when you do something as personal as this is to me, it means a lot when it resonates with people and they communicate that to you, whether it’s a peer or someone you don’t know who saw it on YouTube.

SMC – How long does it take for you to write the script for even one episode?

DK – With the way I write, it’s impossible to tell. I don’t even attempt to sit down and write an episode straight through or try to finish them as quickly as possible. I like to write something, then put it aside and let it be for awhile…could be days, weeks, or even months…and then come back to it with fresh eyes. We get so emotionally attached to what we create that it’s easy, and often unavoidable, to lose perspective and objectivity. And since we’re incapable of seeing our own work through someone else’s eyes, which would allow us to have a different perspective and objectivity, the way I try to achieve that to some degree is through time and distance. The more you distance yourself from a creative work, the more disassociated and objective of a lens you’ll be able to view it through. And I think that really helps, whether that creative work is a song or a script.

Love it…

– John “JR” Robinson (Drum Legend)

SMC – I am new to this kind of area of the entertainment industry, but it absolutely fascinates me. Pardon my ignorance for asking this question, but I would like to know – do you have the whole seasons scripts complete? Or are you working on these as the episodes are filmed?

DK – I already have way more scripts than we’re going to be shooting, which is a good position to be in. If HBO picked up this show today and said we needed 10 episodes to start shooting tomorrow, we’d be good.

SMC – Who has mentored you or inspired you to create this project?

DK – Actually, no one…I had to teach myself everything, every step of the way. I have had no formal education, mentor, or experience doing anything like this. I have made a few really good friends along the way who I turn to if I have a question about something…but that’s it.As far as inspiration, without question, no one inspires me more than Barry Manilow. Not his music…but his hair. Actually, I get all the inspiration I need from doughnuts. And who hasn’t? I guarantee that if you could get close enough to the Mona Lisa, you’d find traces of chocolate frosting on it.

SMC – You and I have spoken in chat about how it benefits many to bring this project together – what are your thoughts on the people who have really ‘stepped up’ for you with this project?

DK – If people are helping you crystallize your vision, why not let them benefit in some way from their investment in you? There’s nothing better than having people involved that are emotionally invested and who truly care about what you’re doing and want to see it succeed. You have to seek alignment…whether it’s how your personality aligns with someone, or how your aesthetic sensibilities align…whatever it may be, you should seek out those with whom you most organically align. You may not always find them, and it often makes the process take longer, but it’s worth it.

SMC – Okay, final question: what are five things you can tell us about this project that have made you really proud of it?

DK – I have to say that I’m really proud of it all. Once again, to consider what I’ve done, coming from literally knowing nothing and having zero experience just a few years ago, to getting a pilot made, making the trailer myself, evolving the show the way I have and getting all these amazing people that are now involved….there’s a lot that I’m proud of.

SMC – Thank-you Darren! I look forward to seeing you on the tube with this because that’s where it’s going!

DK – You’re welcome, Candice…it’s my pleasure. Your support and enthusiasm for what I’m doing has been awesome, so thank you… 😉

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Social Media Links for ‘DK The Gig’ or Darren Keith (click to view)

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Indiegogo Campaign

YouTube

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The Indiegogo Campaign ‘DK The Gig’ Synopsis

*All content below is from the Indiegogo Campaign which can be (found here)

Hello people…it’s Darren Keith here and I want to welcome you to the new INDIEGOGO campaign for my comedy series DK the gig, which is about a musician whose ego is much larger than the restaurant stage on which he performs. This is a true passion project…I created the show, wrote it, play the lead character “DK”, composed all the music, am an executive producer, and even did some of the editing. I have been a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists/bands, but creating DK the gig fulfilled a lifelong dream for me, which was to do something professionally with my sense of humor. Now, only a few years after officially starting this journey and writing my first script, I am about to shoot DK the gig’s first season of episodes with all these incredible people that are involved.

THE AWESOME AND EXCITING NEWS!

Legendary Cinematographer Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies) is filming DK the gig’s new episodes!!! Barry loved the DK the gig Pilot episode and said he wanted to be involved with the project moving forward and shoot it’s FIRST SEASON of episodes, which is incredible.

OUR AMAZING NEW CAST!!!

We are so lucky to have these incredibly talented actors, actresses and musicians (and we’re not even done! More will be coming on board in the next few months) for the new episodes:

CHARLENE AMOIA (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless)

STEPHEN GRAYBILL (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns)

BROOKE TOTMAN (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens)

JOSEPH ARTHUR (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter)

PETE DONNELLY (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne)

FRED BERMAN (Amos Lee)

And I have a wonderful new producer, Jill Gould, who is helping me make this show as good as we all know it can be.

OUR GOAL:

We are going to film DK the gig’s “FIRST SEASON” of episodes, and to do that we need your help. Some incredible things have happened since my first INDIEGOGO campaign that have made this production much bigger and significantly more expensive than it previously was, which is why we are here once again. It’s been estimated that this will cost over $70,000 or $80,000, and with your help, our hope is to raise at least $30,000 of it here on INDIEGOGO. As soon as we reach our goal, we can begin the work, which includes pre-production (scheduling, rehearsals, recording the music, etc), shooting the episodes, post-production(editing, sound, etc), PR, and then releasing the episodes online for everyone to see.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

So, here’s the part where you come in. It is so difficult and expensive to do what we’re doing without a major network financing it. It will cost a FORTUNE…and as I said earlier, well over $70,000 or 80,000, which has to pay for the cast, flights and hotels for the cast, location fees, equipment rentals, post-production (editing, sound, etc.), production insurance, hard drives, recording sessions…the list goes on and on. So many people think that DK the gig has a very bright future and will eventually get picked up by someone like HBO, Amazon, Netflix, etc., so it’s extremely important to me that everything is done right, and we present the show in the best possible way to make sure that happens. You can help us accomplish that right now by making a donation, however large or small, because EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS. And please don’t forget to help spread the word about this INDIEGOGO campaign.

THANK YOU SO MUCH….WE CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO SEE THE NEW EPISODES!!!

Darren Keith

About Darren (as per the Indiegogo Campaign)

My name is Darren Keith. Before creating DK the gig, I was a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists and bands. DK the gig was inspired by the 25-plus-year dream I had (while being a musician) to do something professionally with my sense of humor. It was something that gnawed at me for well over 2 decades, so to be at this exciting stage right now is very profound for me. This is the epitome of a passion project….I created DK the gig, wrote it, play the lead character DK, composed all of the music, am the executive producer, and even did some of the editing.

SMC Spotlight No.1 | Mike Rogers ‘Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock & Roll Ghost Story’ Exclusive!

By Candice Anne Marshall

When we talk about Halloween, we are encompassing all it entails: witches, black cats, vampires, monsters, and…. ghosts. This leads into today’s epic launch which I personally have been beyond excited to finally be able to share. Here’s why…

In October of 2015, I promoted a video for fashion art rock band Palaye Royale for their song ‘White’ off their upcoming ‘Boom Boom Room Side A’ album. The video content included an intro from InterFM897 Japans ‘WhatTheFunday’ radio show for the band. The show was hosted in part by Mr. Mike Rogers and after tagging it in our SMC post, Mike and I connected. What a ride it’s been too! In the two years that I have known Mike, we have conversed, collaborated, shared mutual likes of the Artists we support, laughed, and networked like crazy. This has led to some of the most prominent stories on the SMC Spotlight platform with notables such as Mr. John Ferriter, The Tearaways, Stephen David Brooks, Chris Craker (Karma Sound Studios), and The Fontaines. This is just scratching the surface too.

There is so much that goes into the background of someone as interesting as Mike Rogers and this goes beyond his vast connections: it is the fact that he speaks candidly, honestly, and humorously in his own blog ‘Marketing Japan’ (see here). This is something this world really needs: honest and factual journalism and the fact that Mike is willing to write a truthful account of his experience with ‘Sex PistolsJohn Lydon aka: ‘Johnny Rotten’ in ‘I Interviewed Johnny Rotten – The True Story’ was, in my opinion, deserving of a massive applause. It isn’t often these days that many are willing to write responsible journalism, and Mike is. That bodes well in my books! Enough that I have formally invited Mike to be supported on the SMC Spotlight website and he has agreed. If you look to the right of this feature (desktop) or below it (mobile or tablet), you will see that his blog has been added to our roster with ‘The Chronicles’, ‘Little Black Book Club’, and ‘SMC Artist of the Year’. Take a moment to read it, there’s a lot to learn from someone who has the background he has…

Which leads me into Mike’s background: he’s been a Musician (The Rotters), General Manager of a major Japanese broadcasting station (TV Tokyo owned InterFM), produced smash hit programs and several of Japan’s highest rated and most famous radio programs, and most recently, Wrote and produced full-length motion picture “Ghostroads – A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story“. This bringing me to the purpose of launching his first ever SMC Spotlight fittingly, today, Halloween day. This is a film, is a truly entertaining thrill ride from start to finish and has earned some serious awards and nods at prestigious Film Festivals worldwide including the Raindance Film Festival. The story line is both humorous and steeped in truths: ‘what would you do for fame?’ being the tagline. It is reflective of an individual who has not only seen the best and the worst of the entertainment industry, he has lived them.

The vibrancy and quality of this film, featuring brilliant music by some of Japans most famous bands (The Neatbeats, The Privates, The 50 Kaitenz) show Mikes serious credibility in his role of Director and Producer. I recommend anyone who is looking for something to take them away from their day to day grind or the negativity of what’s going on in the world today and turn their attention to this film. It is quickly becoming an iconic rock and roll (and dare I say, Halloween) music cult classic which I can easily put up there with the likes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I know what you are thinking: ‘Did she just say that?’ Yes, yes I did because undoubtedly, in my mind, it’s something you will want to watch every year!

Editor’s Note: Mike, I am personally congratulating you on your accomplishment with this film. I realize and can appreciate how much strategy, planning, and hard work goes into these kinds of projects from start to finish. So, I will say to you this: I am very picky with the kinds of art I will lend my praise to – it must be exceptional. With ‘Ghostroads’, you have created a masterpiece and I look forward to supporting you on your future projects going forward. This film, honestly, gets a five out of five Starlight Music Chronicles star rating. Congrats!

Mike Rogers on the red carpet in London
Photo Courtesy: Mike Rogers

SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Mike Rogers ‘Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story’

SMC – Hello Mike! This Spotlight has been a very long time coming my friend! Let’s begin with a little bit of a back story on who you are and how you evolved into your career today. Can you tell us what new readers to our site will want to know about Mike Rogers?

Mike – OK. You can ask me anything. Like about the time I was the driver (and booze runner) for Burt Reynolds on the set of the film Boogie Nights in 1997. Or how about the time when Justin Beiber, in a foaming-at-the-mouth rage, tried to stab me in the shoulder with a butter knife at Mick Jagger’s pool party because a drunk and topless Selena Gomez was riding on my shoulders and screaming at him and singing “I’m so over you!”… I have lots of those!

Ghostroads Film Festival award accomplishments
Photo Courtesy: Mike Rogers
Official Ghostroads Movie Poster with awards
Photo Courtesy: Mike Rogers

Ghostroads

SMC – I am going to get right into this interview with your film ‘Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story’, which has been getting some major traction on the film festival circuit. Which awards, or accomplishments have you won or been acknowledge for to date?

Mike – Well, the biggest thing so far is getting selected at Raindance Film Festival in London. Raindance is one of the most famous and respected film festivals in the world, so even though we didn’t win any big high-falutin’ awards, just being selected at Raindance is incredible. Many film makers try all their lives and never get into a festival like Raindance. I have to thank my “Cinema Sensei,” Stephen David Brooks, (see Stephen David Brooks interview here) who actually, has become one of my very best friends, for all the coaching and advice. Without him, we’d have never gotten into that festival. That’s not bullshit, it’s true. And a big thanks to John Ferriter for introducing me to Stephen. John Ferriter is tops too (and plays lead tambourine for the rock band, The Tearaways), as your readers already know! (see John Ferriter interview here)

We’ve been in several other festivals as “also-ran” but, actually, we’ve only won one award so far. It was for “2nd Place” in the “Best Foreign Feature Category.” I think the official award title for second-place is “The Film That Sucks Less Than the Others” award…. Or something like that.

SMC – I have personally seen this film and can NOT say enough good about it. There are no films like it on the market today which not only have appealed to foreign culture in Japan and the UK, but has also been getting attention in North America as well. (which is where we are based) What is the greatest compliment you have received on this film so far?

Mike – Hmmm? That’s a hard one. I figured out that, naturally, when someone is making their first movie, no one expects much… So, I’ve gotten remarks like, “Wow! That was better than I expected.” Or, “I’ve seen other films that friends made and they were all bad. This was really good!” Or, from my wife’s mom and dad, scratching their heads after watching the film and asking, “What was that all about?”

I guess the best compliment was from the top program director of Raindance who wrote, “Congratulations on a truly great film.” That blew my mind… I can’t imagine a higher compliment than that. I cried the night when I read that comment from her.

SMC – The synopsis of this film is basically selling your soul to the Devil (Ghost) for instant fame. We see this all the time in our industry. Is this a personal experience you have had or seen happen?

Mike – Yes. You guys are going to think I am nuts, so you can skip over this next part if you wish, but I have seen this personally. Now, I am not a religious person and I follow no organized religion, but I personally know people who made deals (by prayer to somebody) for fame… (As Bobby Dylan says, “It may be heaven, or it may be hell, but you gotta serve somebody.”)

I also saw and heard bad things that happened to them and their families…. I don’t know why these bad things happened to them. Was it because of the deal? Was it bad karma? I don’t know….

But, entertain me for a second here. What is “fame”?

If you make a deal with a Manager, Agent, label, or Publisher or, yes, even the Devil for “fame” then you’d have to damn well know and write down what exactly “fame” means. You know that guy in town whose always drunk and getting into fights down by the billiard hall? Yeah. Everyone knows who he is.

He’s famous, isn’t he?

There are conceited jerks I’ve met who played infield for a famous professional baseball team here in Japan… They were “famous.” But what is famous? You don’t know their names. I don’t know their names. The average person walking on the street wouldn’t recognize them if they saw them. But they are “famous.”

There are many levels of fame. I think that “famous,” I mean, really “famous,” means that anywhere in the world where you walked, many people would recognize you; that’s famous.

So, being in some rock band, having a hit on the charts, being a radio DJ, etc. etc. That’s not really famous…. Michael Jackson? David Bowie? Adolf Hitler? Winston Churchill? Donald Trump? Yeah… People would recognize them. They are famous.

Is this a good thing?

That’s about all I can say on this subject… I could write a book about things I’ve seen involving this person – these people – who I know made a deal for fame….

But the devil doesn’t exist, right?

As for me, I believe in these things much like the great American writer, Samuel Clemens who was also known as Mark Twain; once said, “I do not believe in ghosts, but I sure am afraid of them.”

The old saying goes, “You’d better be careful of what you wish for.”

Scene from the film ‘Ghostroads: A Japaneze Rock & Roll Ghost Story
Photo Courtesy: Mike Rogers

SMC – From start to finish, what was the length of time spent getting this film made?

Mike – I almost died in a hospital in Sept 2014. It was there where I decided to make a film before I died and wrote the first idea on a napkin. The film was completed in May 2017. So almost 2 1/2 years from conception to finish.

SMC – Tell us about the selection of brilliant talent you have in this film – I can see that you carefully chose some pretty stellar talent from Japan!

Mike – I chose the bands, the Neatbeats, the Privates, the 50 Kaitenz, because those three are my favorite Japanese bands of all-time. Foreigners don’t usually know good Japanese bands because the only Japanese acts that people know outside of Japan are released on major labels. Take Baby Metal (please!) these big money labels create these acts and sell them… It’s OK, I get it. When I was a kid, I liked the Monkees too… But, I am astounded at how I sometimes talk to foreigners (who are over 12 years old) who like stuff like Baby Metal.

The Neatbeats, the Privates, the 50 Kaitenz, are the real thing. They are DIY indies acts. They have all been offered deals with majors, but they do things the indies way… Why? Because everyone knows, major labels have a way of screwing up good indies acts. It is common knowledge, isn’t it?

Also, I chose those bands because they are easy to explain to a foreign audience in just a few words. The Neatbeats are the ‘Japanese Beatles,’ the Privates are the ‘Japanese Buzzcocks,’ the 50 Kaitenz are the ‘Japanese Ramones.” Simple is always best, especially when making a sales presentation… And, in life, nearly everything is a “sales presentation.”

The other actors and actresses in the movie I found because I have always been impressed by European films and off-beat movies that have strong and unforgettable characters – unlike American films which always have people who look like fashion models in them with perfect teeth. In a nutshell, in my movies, I want many to look like the circus act on the cover of the classic album by the Doors, “Strange Days.” I want people who look like freaks – because we are all freaks somewhere deep down inside – and I want strange people because, as the song goes, “People are strange.” We are all strange.

In fact, if you really stop to think about it, the more you get to know people, the stranger they become.

Besides the strangers, I also have one of Japan’s top sex symbol girls in the film, Mina Shirakawa, and Miwa Rock who is one of Japan’s most famous burlesque dancers.

So, there’s something for everybody.

Scene from the film ‘Ghostroads: A Japaneze Rock & Roll Ghost Story
Photo Courtesy: Mike Rogers

SMC – You also have a cameo in this film as the narrator. Is this your first role in a movie?

Mike – Oh no. I had been in many famous Japanese TV dramas in the eighties; with lots of Japan’s most famous stars! In Ghostroads, I only narrate in the trailer. That’s my voice in the trailer saying, “A struggling Japanese rocker finds a haunted amp with a ghost who promises fame.” (see at end of this interview). I am in the actual movie several times though. You know the scene where the girl throws a beer can out the window of the car? I’m driving.

In fact, that girl is/was one of Japan’s most famous actresses. She has been a big star since the 1980s. She was a sex symbol and starred in literally hundreds of movies and TV shows and commercials galore. Everyone in Japan knows who she is. But she only appears for a split second, so only a few people have spotted her so far… It’s like, well, imagine getting Lindsay Wagner out of retirement and cameo in your film? Or getting Lillian Gish to appear in Whales of August?…. That’s what it is like having this former super-star in the film.

Also, when the story teller is showing the high school yearbook and mentioning about how some jerk acts like your friend, but he steals your girlfriend and you hate that guy forever? That’s my high school senior year photo he is looking at.

SMC – Can you tell me the behind-the-scenes story while making this film?

Mike – I tried to run this film as a business with a profit motive. I am reminded of an anecdote about a very famous businessman and industrialist named John D. Rockefeller. One time, newspaper reporters were interviewing Rockefeller and they attacked him as not being especially knowledgeable about trains or the steel industry. Rockefeller responded by saying, “Perhaps I am not an expert on these subjects, but I am smart enough to hire people around me who are experts.” I never forget that.

As one of the most important jobs of any Producer (be they the manager or founder of a business, or whatever) is to get people around you who are better than you are. It is also wise for any business owner or producer to hire people who are smarter than they are. The smartest management hire smart people so that these smart people tell them what to do. Of course! What’s the point of hiring people who are smarter or more talented than we are if we are going to tell them what to do?

So, when I started out this film, and a big reason it came out so well is that, my #1 priority was not protection of my position, but the success of the project. So, I went out and got a director who was better than me; he had a much better eye for design and composition. He was a true artist. I also hired a cameraman who is really top class and stubborn as hell; he’s stubborn because he’s great at what he does. Of course, my partner, Ken Nishikawa, is a genius at editing and musical styling. Ken is one of the top in his field in Japan and the best editor I’ve ever met. So, with every job, I tried to get people better than me to do specific tasks. I think that is the core reason the film looks the way it does and has enjoyed the success it has; I could have never done this without that great team.

So, we had an Italian director; an American cameraman; a Japanese editor and actors and actresses; Darrell Harris from Nebraska (as a ghost) and me. It was often chaos at the shoots.

Oh, by the way, a guy named Yuji Wada, was our lighting “sensei.” Yuji is a famous Hollywood lighting director. You all know the Bill Murray film, “Lost in Translation”? Yuji does all the lighting for Sophie Coppola’s films. Yuji was my friend and next-door neighbor for ten years… I asked him to help and one day he came and showed us how to do the lighting. I like to think I am a fast learner and I am good at copying people, so when Yuji showed us how to light scenes, we merely mimicked what he showed us. That’s why the film has the lighting it does. Of course, if Yuji could have done it for us himself, we’d be talking about winning an Academy Award, but, beggars can’t be choosers.

Because I am a radio show host and producer, I also am a professional talker; so, I went out to Phillips Electronics (technology company) and convinced them to just give me a thousand dollars (USD) of high tech lighting equipment for absolutely free in trade for putting their name in the credits. When I went there to ask for these high-tech lights I was surprised they eagerly said, “Yes!” so quickly. I actually said to them, “Wait! What? OK? Don’t I have to grovel or something?”

The point is that if you are making a record or a movie, you need to be flamboyant and you need to overcome insecurities and your own fears. Asking for something doesn’t cost anything and there is no risk; all they can do is say, ‘No!’ But you have to have a professional presentation prepared and you must have confidence.

I was prepared for the meeting with Phillips. I had a great trailer, printed synopsis and staff and actors and actresses lists. I had mentally prepared and I knew in my heart that them giving me those lights was a good deal for them too! I know now that they were very happy with the film. I was happy to save a few thousand dollars on lighting.

SMC – You are the Producer/Writer/Director for this film. Do you feel that you had greater creative control of this film by wearing all three hats?

Mike – Yes. I always had the veto over everything… I do realize that I did fail in one thing though; during shooting, we often had a problem with important staff being constantly late. Other issues occurred with arguments over absurd things with the staff. Much later, when the editor and I finished the film and I had informed the editor that we had been accepted at Raindance, the world-famous festival, and I had sold the right for sales and distribution of the film – along with a healthy advance – to a very famous Japanese major film company, my partner, Ken, was almost speechless.

He said to me, “None of us ever thought, in our wildest dreams, that we’d come this far with this movie. In fact, the director and the cameraman were convinced we didn’t even have enough footage for a proper feature film! For a trailer? Maybe. But not a film. Only, you, Mike. You were the only one who believed from the start to the finish that this could happen.”

When he told me this, I wasn’t especially happy because I realized that I had failed in an important part of the project; I had failed to properly explain to the staff what we were going to do. I had failed to get them to realize the vision and the dream. I then understood why the director was always late; why the cameraman would complain about ridiculous things; they didn’t believe that this would become a proper film; they didn’t believe it would be entered in festivals and win awards (hell, they didn’t even believe it would be completed). They never believed for a second that the film would be sold to a Japanese major film studio. So, this was my failure; I didn’t get them to understand the dream and the vision.

We did this well, with people who had no belief or confidence? Imagine how much better it could have been if they believed and became better than themselves? I will always regret this shortcoming of mine.

But, even in the bible Jesus talks about this: I guess it doesn’t matter what others believe. It only matters what I believe. I believed we could do this and be successful.

Though, that the film has done this well and is so successful is nothing short of a miracle. Next film, will astound people even more. I really believe that too.

Scene from the film ‘Ghostroads: A Japaneze Rock & Roll Ghost Story
Photo Courtesy: Mike Rogers

SMC – While doing my research, I came across a video of you wearing a sandwich board shaking a rattle for the Raindance viewing of your film. Great Stuff! What kind of reaction did you get from that?

Mike – When I was in London at the theater, some friends told me that they had been to some film screenings and, in a theater that seats 200 people, there would only be three to eight people in paid attendance!

I couldn’t believe it!

I was shocked. I thought about my wife. What would she say if I had spent three years of my life making a movie, spent another $2000 going 6000 miles to the other side of the earth only to have it viewed by four people (including me?)

So, with that, I decided what my mission was: I had decided to sell out our screenings or, if I couldn’t, to at least give it the good old samurai try (try or die trying!)

I decided that since we couldn’t hang posters at the theater, I’d take my biggest poster and make a sandwich sign. Then I’d stand in front of the theater wearing the sign every day.

I went to an art shop and bought the supplies for making the sandwich sign. I then went home and constructed it with more loving care than mom making Christmas dinner. The next morning, I went back to the theater with my sandwich sign and put it on and I stood there; in the heat and the sun… I would stand in front of the theater with my sign for four and a half or five hours every day.

I wondered why other filmmakers are so self-conscious and embarrassed that they refuse to promote their own films in this way? Nobody really cares what we do. Nobody watches us as much as we like to think they do.

I was a curiosity to the other people at the film festival. Many ridiculed me, some laughed; others just gawked. A few said that I was an inspiration and wondered why other filmmakers didn’t promote their films this way… One time two young filmmakers walked past me, laughed and pointed at me, and one said, “That’s what we should be doing. I wonder how much that costs?”

A few days later, I was informed that the World Premiere of my movie, “Ghostroads – a Japanese Rock n Roll Ghost Story” was sold out; one of the few films that were sold out!

People had laughed at me as Sandwich Man! But there also is an old saying, “He who laughs last, laughs best.” I laughed so hard I almost cried when I heard we had sold out the first night and the second night was nearly sold out. I felt redeemed.

I wrote all about it here (I think it’s a pretty funny story with an important lessons for filmmakers and musicians alike)

SMC – What was your experience like working with The Neatbeats for this film?

Mike – Before shooting started, I was very good friends with the Neatbeats and, especially their leader, Mr. Pan. But, as I mentioned above, there were all sorts of problems during shooting. The worst problem was important staff being constantly late. Being late like this is out of the question in Japan, so Mr. Pan would get angry with me about it.

You see, in Japan, for any mistake or screw-up, management will never blame the staff. I was the producer; I was captain of the ship, so if we hit an iceberg, it was my fault. This is the Japanese way. In the Japanese way of doing things, no matter what happens, the boss takes responsibility.

The top boss is always the person responsible for what goes on. The captain could never say to the crew and passengers, “That idiot navigator didn’t see the iceberg. So, we hit it.”

That would never happen in Japan.

I often had frank discussions with the critical person who was often late and told him the ways of the locals and so, he came to understand the cultural differences between his country and Japan. This is only an example of many issues that occurred with regularity.

But, in many cases, the damage was done. The leader of the Neatbeats, Mr. Pan would call me on the phone and start berating me in local-dialect Japanese (which was difficult to understand – but I knew he was mad). I know the way of the people of this country, so I know that it would be best to handle it the Japanese way: I had to take responsibility. I was, indeed, my fault. I could not blame the guilty party. Why? Because I hired him. It is my fault.

I would allow Mr. Pan to yell at me on the phone for 30 or 40 minutes straight and I would merely reply, “Yes. I know” or “Yes. I think so.” I would do this and not talk back until Mr. Pan grew weary of shouting at me and he’d finally calm down. I’d eventually tell him I would try to rectify the situation and then I would smooth things over.

That was my biggest job as producer: keeping the team together, keeping the peace and trying to keep the boat from capsizing.

I thank a famous producer in Japan named Motoyoshi Tai who showed me that the best way to handle pissed off people is to let them yell at you (agreeing with them) until they tire out and then promising that you’d do your best to remedy the situation.

I think many Americans would do themselves well to learn this way; getting into a hellacious fight and then people quitting mid-project is never a good result for anyone. A smart Producer knows how to handle it.

SMC –  What is one thing you wish you could do differently for this film if you had the opportunity?

Mike – As I mentioned above, I would have taken more time to explain to people what was going on and to get them to understand the vision. I think about it now, and I have made very famous programs and TV shows here in Japan, some of them with millions of viewers (10 million in 6 months on an internet TV show).  But I guess the staff didn’t know that or they didn’t understand or didn’t believe in what we were trying to accomplish.

Next time I will make sure everyone understands and is on board 120%. If they aren’t or they don’t “get it,” I will patiently keep trying to get them to understand. If they don’t, I will replace them.

SMC – What kind of competition is there in the film industry in Japan?

Mike – In Japan, in films, like music, the majors have total control. The difference is that, in Tokyo, there are 3000+ bars and clubs and so-called “Live Houses” where musicians can come and play and hone their craft every night of the week. Some can even break and become famous. There is no such a situation for independent filmmakers like that in Japan. I want to change that.

SMC – What do you find is the most difficult thing to do when promoting your own project?

Mike – In the case of Ghostroads, I had sold it off to a Japanese company before it was even completed, so I don’t really have any stories (besides frustration) at watching how other people handle things… I reckon the biggest problems was, is and will always be budget.

SMC – Can you tell us if there are any upcoming film festivals that this film will be a part of?

Mike – The next big festival is very soon in Europe, but I can’t announce it yet. It’s a big deal but everything seems so cloak and dagger. I’m hoping the win the Golden Tupperware Award (like Stephen David Brooks has) or, maybe I can get some 50% discount tickets on fries at Burger-O-Rama. We’ll see.

Fact: The Golden Tupperware Award is an extremely rare award, and few have ever seen one, even fewer own it.

Trivia: What’s really cool about the coveted Golden Tupperware Award for best film, actor or director is that, even though the base of the award is solid 24 carat gold, the top lid is still, to this day, made of pink plastic as engineers have yet to figure out how to make a solid gold lid malleable enough to snap into an out of an airtight fit. Once they do, the Golden Tupperware Award will truly become a proud member of the Tupperware family.

SMC – Ken Nishikawa is also the co-Director, Editor, Sound Designer, and Translator for this film. What was it like working with him?

Mike – Ken Nishikawa is the nicest guy anyone could ever hope to meet. I’m damned dead serious about that too. He never has a bad word about anyone and I have never heard anyone say anything unpleasant about Ken. No Kidding. I want to be like Ken when I grow up. Ken is a sort of legendary person too as he comes from a famous family. Really. His mom is very famous as she is one of the last true remaining geishas in Japan and Ken is almost done with a documentary about her. It is a wild story: Matsuchiyo – Life of a Geisha.

SMC – Once Ghostroads has circled the film festival circuit, will you be working on another film project?

Mike – I have already started working on another project now. Ghostroads is finishing its festival course. We got very lucky and had our World Premiere at Raindance. Entering smaller festivals (that aren’t famous) is meaningless for sales and promotion. I have a few more festivals coming up (that I signed up for months ago) but I will not be signing up for any new festivals. I will now focus on getting distribution and sales and letting some company handle the rest of the life of this film.

SMC – Who would you like to work with in the future in terms of film?

Mike – Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles and Cecil B. DeMille. But, alas, none of those guys ever answer my emails, so I wrote to Stephen David Brooks instead. Now he and I going to try to make a movie together. I say “try,” and I think Stephen will agree with me, because whenever anyone can actually complete a movie, it is a miracle.

SMC – What advice would you give to someone new wanting to begin a film project?

Mike – Run it like you would any business. If your idea is good, then you should be able to find financing and investment partners. Blowing your parents money on a crap vanity project is no good for you or your parents.

The best advice I ever received from anyone was when Stephen David Brooks told me to read the bible of script writing: “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder (here) and I recommend, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell (here).

Mike Rogers (far left) interviews John Lydon (The Sex Pistols) recently.
Photo Courtesy: Mike Rogers

Career/History

SMC – You have (had) a show on WhatTheFunday at InterFM897 Radio in Japan which I believe is where we met via Palaye Royale – I believe it was after we did a Spotlight on the band for their single ‘White’ (see original post here). Can you tell us how long you have been with the station?

Mike – I can proudly say that I am the only DJ in Tokyo, that has been fired from every radio station in Tokyo at least once. You name it, they’ve canned me. But since FM radio in Tokyo is so lame, I wear that as a stinky badge of honor. I have been fired from InterFM three times now, but they keep hiring me back because I make the best shows. I have been with them since 1996.

I have a new show, The Mike Rogers Show, that starts on Nov. 5, 2017. It’s going to be like a BBC morning show on acid.

SMC – I love seeing the posts on your blog ‘Marketing Japan’ and would love to link it up to this feature as well as our site! You have some of the greatest stories, tips, and shared memories on there with some pretty fantastic people. Can you tell us some back stories that haven’t been shared on that platform?

Mike – I once had to fly to Canada and back on the same day, just so I could sleep with the editor of SMC just to get this interview. Hey! I need the promotion.

SMC – You recently did an interview with John Lydon while you were at Raindance Film Festival. WOW. This is the reason I asked you the previous question. I have to say I truly admire honesty. Way too many will write a fluff or ‘Pollyanna’ story about some of the behaviors of the ‘professionals’ in this music industry. I am happy to see you are not – you write it as you see it – for the facts. What kind of a response did you get from people after you posted that?

Mike – Oh? Mr. Rotten? That’s probably best if the readers go directly and read the entire details by themselves. The article is here: “I Interviewed Johnny Rotten – the True Story.

The festival people and the Theater Manager and staff were furious at John Lydon and his posse. But, I am not mad at the guy and he is still my hero. I totally understand his desire for respect and status. We all have it… So, just because he was drunk and rude to me (well, all of us) it would be childish of me to now say, “I don’t like Johnny Rotten because he was a right ass to me when we met.” Nothing he could do now erases what he did in the past. I just figure that he delivered what was expected of him that night in London. Nothing more. Nothing less.

SMC – I know that you have met a lot of music industry peers over the years. Tell us of a pleasant story that you have a great memory of?

Mike – I think the most formidable and imposing person I have ever met was Siouxsie Sioux. My radio show was so popular in the nineties that we presented her band and concerts, The Creatures, in Japan (the station didn’t present that the concert, my program did!) The Creatures had awesome shows. I think one of the best songs of the nineties was the Creatures’ “Second Floor”.

Siouxsie and her then husband Budgie came to the studio at InterFM. She was a dominating, imposing figure. We were all totally intimidated by her. She was a giant twenty-foot tall rock goddess made of marble, ice and ivory.

Into the studio she strode with Budgie right behind and as she sat on her chair, she looked me straight in the eye, lit a cigarette (she knows there’s no smoking in a radio studio), and said to me, “It’s alright if I smoke, isn’t it?”

We all froze. I didn’t know what to say. Wide-eyed, I gulped and stuttered, “Er, uh, the rules do not apply to the queen.”

After that, we then had a great time and a fantastic interview. She was the most awesome, fearsome musician I have ever met. Later on, we all got to hangout backstage with Siouxsie! How many people can say that?

SMC – Are there any charities or organizations that you support or are passionate about?

Mike – I have always supported Children With Incurable Diseases Charity in Japan. It is called, “Nanbyo.net.” “Nanbyo” means “incurable disease.” (Nanbyonet)

SMC – What do you think is lacking in the music industry today?

Mike – Musicians who have business sense as well as musical talent. People hate the business side of things, but a negative attitude towards an integral part of the business and success is self-defeating and short sighted. The most famous musicians knew this. Michael Jackson and David Bowie were astute businessmen.

SMC – Can you tell us your top indie bands that you like to support?

Mike – There are the rock bands from Japan that I like best (Some of these videos I made with Ken Nishikawa):

The Neatbeats

The Privates

The 50 Kaitenz

The Routes

Taffy

Su Ko D Koi

Moja

The Pats Pats

The Stephanies

The Stompin’ Riff Raffs

These are my favorite bands in Japan.

Oh, and my favorite new foreign band of the year are from Australia. A young band that plays their own instruments and rocks out? I’m in love!

Amyl & The Sniffers

SMC – You have delved in music yourself! I remember reading on your blog that an original record of yours sold for a hefty price too! Tell us about your history in music….

Mike – When I was young, I was in a “One-Hit Wonder” Punk Rock Band. The band’s name was “The Rotters.” We played with the Dead Kennedys, Fear, Black Flag, the Germs, Angry Samoans and a bunch of other 1978~79 Los Angeles Punk Band’s whose names I can’t remember. I’ve written about it here: I Was a Teenage Punk Rocker – Why Dedication Beats Fanaticism Anyday! Even for Punk Rock or Success in Any Field!

After that band broke up, I floundered in a few other bands, but never really did anything that was as exciting as the Rotters… I thought. The band I was in after the Rotters? The Wuffy Dogs? I am told that the single we made is now the “Holy Grail” of late 1970s L.A. Punk singles and sells for nearly $1800. Why? I’m guessing it’s because that band had two former Rotters, the guy who would later become the drummer for M.I.A., and the original guitarist for Berlin (who got kicked out of Berlin because he wanted screaming guitars and Berlin wanted to make pop tunes like, “Take My Breath Away.”)

SMC – What was the turning point in going from a music career to film and where you are today with radio?

Mike – After my band broke up, I wanted to stay in Los Angeles. As a suburban boy, I found L.A. exciting as hell. So, one day, I asked Rodney Bingenheimer (Rodney on the Roq – KROQ Los Angeles) if I could be his assistant. I told him I didn’t need to be paid. He said “OK” and so I was an unpaid Gofer for the World-Famous KROQ’s Rodney on the Roq for about 16 months between mid-1980 – 1981. I would clean up and organize albums that were scattered about in some rooms and also carry records for Rodney to and from his car. The best part of the job was answering the door at KROQ for Rodney and greeting guests who came to be on his show. Through that I got to meet Clem Burke of Blondie, the Ramones, and a bunch of other super famous punk stars whose names escape me at the moment. I used to get stoned with Dee Dee Ramone! I wrote about that here: “Belinda Carlisle Naked, The Ramones, Rodney Bingenheimer and Me – Another True Story

The first time I got to meet Phil Spector was Christmas of 1980 and when he arrived at the door, he didn’t look like a Punk (he looked like my dad!) so I was rude to him (like an idiot!) I didn’t find out until much later who he was!… Doh!

I used to go with Rodney to that all-night diner he lives at (Canter’s Deli) too after almost every show. There I met lots of people who were famous or to become extremely famous later…

I never told people in Japan about that because they wouldn’t believe me. But, one day, Rodney came to Japan and I got to be his tour guide and take care of him for 5 days in Tokyo, so I could pay back, a little bit, all he did for me. (I wrote about that here)

So, had I not been Rodney’s assistant, I probably would have never become a radio DJ.

SMC – I like to ask this question because it means different things to different people: What does ‘Success’ mean to you?

Mike – Being able to live and eat and have a happy family doing what you like. Diana Ross once said, “Show business is not success, it is survival.” So, if you can survive and be happy doing what you want, then that is success.

SMC – Which social media platform are you most active on and why?

Mike – I do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and I blog. As far as Social Media is concerned, I think one must focus. Social Media is like going to parties. If you are doing too much and too many Social Media (going to too many parties at once), you can’t spend time at any party getting to know people well. I think it’s better to go to a few parties and be able to spend time and talk with friends than having to rush around to a dozen parties, just say, “Hi!” and then leave.

SMC – What are the top attributes you look for when aligning yourself with industry peers for future projects or even simply to network? We all have certain ‘deal-breakers’ when it comes to a certain type of person…

Mike – I like honest people. There are so many dishonest people, it astounds me. And these people are quite easy to pick out as they contradict themselves constantly (though it seems they don’t realize it). I have a bad memory for names and tasks I have to do so I always take notes and I always try to tell the truth. Why? Because, once again, as Mark Twain says, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

It’s too much trouble lying and then having to remember what you told to who. So, it’s just better to tell the truth.

People who lie habitually, about shit that doesn’t matter, fail to realize it when they contradict themselves. They are their own worst enemy.

May I recommend two very important books?

The Road Less Traveled” and the sequel, “People of the Lie” by F. Scott Peck. Both discuss telling the truth all the time and the second discusses how some people will go to extreme lengths, even kill, in order to protect the lie. The last few chapters of “People of the Lie” are frightening.

SMC – Okay, final question: What in project you would love to get involved in or work on in future?

Mike – Now I am franchising one of the world’s most famous film festivals and bringing it into Japan. I cannot mention the name of the film festival because I have signed a confidentiality agreement. We are now setting up a consortium of some of Japan’s most famous corporations to support this project. It’s going to be huge news all over the world. We will be able to announce it later this year. Think Big!

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Social Media & Media Links for Mike Rogers (click to view)

Mike Rogers Twitter

WhatTheFunday Facebook

Robot55 Facebook

Ghostroads Trailer

Instagram

Confessions of a Sandwich Man

Sochi International Film Festival and Awards

Matsuchiyo – Life of a Geisha

I Interviewed Johnny Rotten – the True Story

The Creatures’ “Second Floor”

“Belinda Carlisle Naked, The Ramones, Rodney Bingenheimer and Me – Another True Story”

Nanbyonet

The Neatbeats

The Privates

The 50 Kaitenz

The Routes

Taffy

Su Ko D Koi

Moja

The Pats Pats

The Stephanies

The Stompin’ Riff Raffs

Amyl & The Sniffers

I Was a Teenage Punk Rocker – Why Dedication Beats Fanaticism Anyday! Even for Punk Rock or Success in Any Field!

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)

The Road Less Traveled by F. Scott Peck

People of the Lie by F. Scott Peck

 

SMC Spotlight No.1 | Rochelle Vincente Von K World Premiere ‘Deal Me In’ Music Video

Every once in a while a comet lights up our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) sky and today, that comet goes by the name of Rochelle Vincente Von K. The Viennese born, Los Angeles-based multi talented Artist has roots rich in music,fashion (modeling), dance, and film and with the world premiere launch of her brand-new music video ‘Deal Me In’ exclusively to SMC, this is one comet whose light we are certain will not go out anytime soon.

The video, directed by Stephen David Brooks (see SMC Spotlight here) is an opulent and extremely creative film from this prolific visionary. Scenes from the video were all shot in and around the Los Angeles area. The video also features New Zealand Actor Jamie Spear as Vincente Von K’s boyfriend who played the role of ‘heartbreaker’ exceptionally well. The song itself is intense with an almost ‘celestial’ undertone in its instrumentation combined with alluring vocals and an intense story line in the lyrics. It doesn’t surprise me that Vincente Von K has created a masterpiece here: she has a history gilded in accomplishment and achievement not only in music (see full discography here), but also with the success of Lover Raw Chocolate (see here), her company which focuses on the super food ingredient. We have included a link for your convenience in the right sidebar menu for purchase! Her clients are The Academy Awards, Costume Designers Guild Awards, The Supper Club, NYC Fashion Week and HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher to name a few. And this is just scratching the surface!

I have spent some time getting to know Rochelle in the last few weeks while planning the world premiere launch of her video on the SMC platform and I have to say that this is one of the most focused, personable, and lovely souls that I have encountered. In fact, she asked for SMC to postpone the launch of her video until today (was originally slated to launch October 3rd, 2017) out of respect for the tragedy in Las Vegas (only days ago), and the sudden passing of industry peer Tom Petty. Indeed, a comet passes our planet every so often, but I can assure you that this unique comet will not only light up our world, she will leave a lasting impression in it through her exquisite works of art wherever her magical trail is seen.

We welcome her into the SMC Family and look forward to following her career through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. To find out more about Rochelle Vincente Von K, be sure to check out her socials at the end of this interview below.

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(l-r) Director Stephen David Brooks, Rochelle Vincente Von K, and Actor, Jamie Spear. Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

World Premiere ‘Deal Me In’ Music Video exclusive interview!

SMC – Hello Rochelle and welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! Can you tell us how you heard about SMC?

Rochelle – Hi SMC, thanks so much for your support! I heard about you through the incredibly talented director Stephen David Brooks.

SMC – We are thrilled to have been the Music Platform for the World Premiere of your new video ‘Deal Me In’! Before we get into this, let’s get a little career history from you in terms of where your career began to this moment in time…

Rochelle – Erm, where to begin… I started when I was 9 … and each phase moved into the next … so I guess I’ll start with my last phase before I moved to LA?! I was based in London & Brighton and was one half of electronic duo Product.01, we worked with many including Ursula 1000, Dr Luke, Stephen Hague, Bassnectar, Dubstar, Dave Clarke, Chicks On Speed, Adam Freeland, Si Begg, Princess Superstar, Larry Tee, Kromeangels, Alter Ego, Tiga, Husky Rescue and Katie Melua to name some.

We performed plenty of live shows, to 40000+ people, and including touring with Freeland, Dubstar, The Lightening Seeds, and playing alongside Tiga, Fatboy Slim, Dubfire, Eric Morillo, Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Wilson Pickett, The Commitments, Mark Moore , Spektrum, Gregor Tresor, General Midi, Larry Tee, Princess Superstar, Arthur Baker, Chris Coco, Lee Coombs, Caged Baby, John Acquaviva, Kid Alex, Lee Coombs, Einmusik, Si Begg, Andy Barlow (Lamb), Beardyman, Kromeangels, Simian Mobile Disco, DJ Mehdi … as well as performances for Radio One, XFM, MTV, Tate Britain & London Fashion Week. We toured Brazil, Japan, China, UK and Europe predominately, thou did do some shows in Montreal and New York City. Never got to the West Coast, but had plenty of radio and DJ support.

My new band based out of LA, with Ryan Carnes on drums and Simrin Phull on guitar, has played The Roxy, Hard Rock Café, The House Of Blues, The Satellite and Coachella.

SMC – Stephen David Brooks is the genius behind the filming of this video. Can you tell us how you two connected?

Rochelle – He did an amazing job, didn’t he? We met through a mutual friend and felt an instant connection. We knew we wanted to work together right away and were contemplating either a short film or music video, hence the birth of our ‘Deal Me In’ collaboration.

SMC – Would you work with Stephen again?

Rochelle – Hell yes, I hope we work together again very soon! The thing that is refreshing with Stephen is he understands the creative process in that no matter how prepared you come, shit will inevitably happen, so nothing phases him. And when that shit flies, he knows how to duck and keep things moving forward. I also love how he works spontaneously and honestly. Artists can be oversensitive and it gets in the way of the process. With Stephen, I found it easy for us to be unfiltered with each other because we both wanted the same end result so I trusted him. We used what was in front of us to the best of our ability. You have to understand we worked with ZERO budget. So, it was pure raw energy from everyone who graciously gave their time and contributed. We were all there because we wanted to create something together.

Still from the Music Video for ‘Deal Me In’ featuring (l-r) Ryan Carnes (Drummer), Rochelle Vincente Von K, and Simrin Phull (Guitarist).
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

SMC – Can you tell us what the premise of ‘Deal Me In’ is about?

Rochelle – It’s that age-old question of why do we sometimes fall in love with the very person that’s wrong for us? I know that for me, for example, I don’t like or play games. I’ve never been attracted to that, so I’m not addicted to weird behavior in men! I want straight shooters, I always look for the good in any person until proven otherwise, and yet why is it that I attract complex men? Is it because all men are complex and it comes out in different ways? Or are we destined to love certain people because it’s fate or some past life karmic pattern? I don’t know the answer to that… but ‘Deal Me In’ explores that, and also how when a man destroys the beautiful opportunity to love, he doesn’t just hurt me, he hurts himself even more. We can’t run from ourselves.

SMC – The song is brilliant and the video even more so! Aside from the teasers we shared in the last 8 days, can you tell us of a memorable story from behind-the-scenes?

Rochelle – Thanks so much. Written from the heart… created from the heart by all involved. I’m bummed that I don’t have more behind the scenes footage of my band but we needed my phone for music playback on the theater shoot! I’ve got some pretty wild stories, but I won’t share those just yet out of respect for other people’s privacy ha ha! But to share something, when we were shooting on Sunset Blvd, we needed a crowd so we went down on a Friday night and it happened to be a long weekend where literally everyone was out of town… we had zero crowd… so we waited around until one o’clock am when the Roxy was emptying out from The Buzzcocks show, and had literally 5 minutes before there was zero crowd again so had to move like ninjas!

Then at the Ahrya Theatre we had limited time because the City of Beverly Hills doesn’t let you park on the street after 3am! I was in the loos at 2am doing my makeup and getting on my last costume for the black wig scene, then my nails kept popping off and my guitarist Sim was helping me find them and glue them back on while I was trying to handle my cape. Stephen was very calm and also trying to help! By 2.30 am we were finally ready to shoot and we had literally 20 minutes to shoot the last scene and be at our cars by 3am. No pressure at all. 4 takes and we were done!

SMC – What has been the media anticipation been like for the release of this single?

Rochelle – It’s surprised me regarding how much demand this music video has had prior to its release!

SMC – Can you tell us who your ‘go-to’ team was for the creation of this video?

Rochelle – Stephen and I did pretty much everything together. We fed off each other’s ideas and made all the big decisions together. The initial plan for this video was very different to what it ended up being. It kept evolving into a different direction, even while we were shooting it, but we knew the feeling we wanted from it. Like I said, because Stephen is a true artist he understands the process on many levels and that’s where his experience and professionalism shines through… so, this allowed much creativity to flow without resistance and attachments to previous outdated decisions that ended up being mere spring boards to fresh ideas. And then of course on shoot days we had creative input from my band mates Ryan Carnes, Simrin Phull, actor Jamie Spear, our behind the scenes photographer Inge Christie and assistant Erica Boslego. But we really didn’t have a lot of time to faff about at any given moment because we were either on sunset times, theatre times, or street parking times!

Still from the Music Video for ‘Deal Me In’ featuring Actor Jamie Spear
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

SMC – Your ‘boyfriend’ in the video Jamie Spear did a fantastic job as well! Was this your first time working with him?

Rochelle – Yes, it was our first time working together. We had our own secret back stories a lot like we all do in life, and then Stephen would pull us aside individually and say something to create a certain feeling. There were certainly times where Jamie would give me a confused look and I wasn’t able to explain that it was Stephens direction. At the very end of the last shoot we revealed what our back stories were to each other and it was interesting because it really did add a depth and suddenly certain things finally made sense!

SMC – What is your overall summation of this video?

Rochelle – A journey within and a journey without!

Still from the Music Video for ‘Deal Me In’ featuring Rochelle Vincente Von K and directed by Stephen David Brooks.
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

Music Career

SMC – Let’s go way back to 2006 when your album ‘Bullet Ride’ under the moniker ‘Product.01’ launched until this very moment with the new release of ‘Deal Me In’ – can you tell us how you feel you have evolved as a Musician?

Rochelle – Mainly I think the process has gotten faster. I’m much more able to be present and take on whatever is happening with trust. I no longer over think things… I’m much more impulsive. I understand that as long as I’m tuned in, there’s a reason why things are coming out as they are, and eventually it will make sense! You just have to keep going with it.

SMC – Do you write all your own lyrics?

Rochelle – Yes, I write all my own lyrics and melodies. And depending on how a song began, whether I started it or a producer sent me a music link, I do my own chords and arrangements.

SMC – Who is your creative team when recording your music?

Rochelle – It changes depending on the project I’m working on, but for this it was Marc Adamo from Product.01. He’s one of the best electronic music producers in the world. By far! He’s been my partner in crime for many years, and while the journey isn’t always smooth, the result is always exactly right.

SMC – What instruments are you proficient in?

Rochelle – I can play piano enough to write songs! I am also pretty good with programming and mixing, but I prefer to collaborate, to me it’s much more interesting. Like sex. Better with two!

SMC – I had a listen to your song ‘One Starry Night’ (see below) – beautiful song! Can you tell us a little about what the theme is behind the lyrics in that song?

Rochelle – Funny you should mention it as my ‘One Starry Night’ character makes a cameo in ‘Deal Me In’, in case you didn’t notice the blue wig & cage shoulder pad! ‘One Starry Night’ is about love at first sight… when you meet someone and feel their soul when you look in their eyes. You just KNOW. But then you second guess yourself because how is this possible? So instant? So easy? And you let it go, and then spend many years regretting that moment you let it go, only to find yourself praying for a second chance. Knowing you were right all along and won’t make that mistake again. And that no one has since come close to that feeling.

SMC – Your single ‘Blazing’ and the video is brilliant! Who was the creative team behind this video?

Rochelle – Ah yes thanks … and it was shortlisted for two Grammy nominations, under ‘Music Video of the Year’ and ‘Record of the Year’.

The majority of it was shot at a stunning crazy Mexican themed house in Calabasas where they film Ancient Aliens. Jeff Skeirik was the director, and Nazim Chambi was my guitarist. Nazim’s makeup didn’t quite go to plan! I was in Malibu and Nazim was in Hollywood getting ready before arrival at the house, and my awesome makeup artist Rebeca Teresa is experienced, but unfortunately even thou I had specified, we didn’t get the makeup artist that knew how to do Sugar Skull makeup on Nazim, so Rebeca was Facetiming with his makeup artist and it was insane, she had no clue even with basic instructions, all the while Rebeca was trying to get me ready in time as we only had the house to film for a short period of time. That was very stressful! But Nazim took his bad makeup with grace! Thankfully it worked because of his natural good looks. And Jeff was a trooper, he had the pressure of making sure all the shots were complete in time, there was a lot we really needed to ensure it made sense! Then I wasn’t planning it but that night I ended up at a party in full costume, which was pretty wild!

The dance sequence was shot Downtown, I did the choreography and auditioned the dancers, Jonny D and Isaac Uhlenberg. They were inspiring to work with. We only had 2 short rehearsals and then that shoot day ran very smooth!

Jeff edited the video himself, another incredibly talented director!

SMC – Can you tell us what the next 6 months look like for you in terms of promoting your new single?

Rochelle – Now that everything is digital it’s not really like that anymore over a 6-month period. Things are quite instant these days… but the plan is for my band – Ryan Carnes and Simrin Phull, to play live shows, and I have another stripped-down mix of ‘Deal Me In’ that we are going to release soon also.

SMC – Will there be an EP or full-length album in the near future?

Rochelle – We have two more singles coming out, ‘OutLaws’ & ‘Valley Of Fire’, and then the album ‘Three Is The New Four’ will follow.

SMC – What about the music industry appeals to you and why?

Rochelle – Nothing at all appeals to me about the music industry, but I have a deep passion for music so it’s just a part of it. On one hand everyone loves artists who break out and do something different and yet the music industry no longer supports artists like that, nor does the music press. Even independent journalists I know rarely do, thou they think they do! Now everyone just wants to be ‘liked’… Truth is they tend to want someone commercial with their songs written, produced, recorded and a million built in ready fans! That’s not exactly A&R! It used to be the complete opposite, the more underground, the cooler it was and the more people wanted to be a part of something new and special.

I think commercial music has always had its place, and I enjoy it too, but when it’s the only option it’s a bit creatively void, right? Then you have these famous artists who were lucky enough to have thousands if not millions invested to build them and develop their skills, who go on about giving away their music for free. Yes, we have to move with the times, but let’s not forget they had a shit load invested in them to get them where they are, so that they can give away their music free, and still make money in order to continue making music!

I’m also not a fan of these contrived pop show contests, or what I call musical fast food! For starters let’s be real, these shows are really about boosting the judges’ careers, in case you haven’t noticed! And because to me the very point of being an artist is to be creatively free and have your own opinion and voice that. Music is not a democracy and it’s not about approval. Anyone can train a monkey to copy something and do it well.

Music is an expression. An exploration. It’s not fixed. It changes all the time if it’s true. And while I love to explore remakes of other people’s songs and have successfully done so in the past, it shouldn’t be the main focus. I applaud people who try something different and shout that out. That takes real guts. Real spirit. That’s creative evolution.

SMC – I will get into some questions about your earlier careers but I would like to ask first which career you find most fulfillment in and why?

Rochelle – Which bit? The singing and songwriting, acting, dancing or my raw chocolate superfood company Lover Raw Chocolate? I love all of it and find they are extensions of each other. To be a good actor you need to work on voice and movement so that you have a natural vocal and physical range, to connect with a song you need to connect with emotion and movement, and to nourish the body for these things you need to fuel the body with something that gives it the best opportunity to thrive, so that you aren’t bogged down and can focus on being creative and channeling that energy.

SMC – Can you tell us which social media platform your music fans can find you most active on?

Rochelle – Facebook & Instagram are my 2 main ones. I barely use Twitter… I’m not the most technically savvy but I do try!

SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing an Artist can do for themselves to promote their work?

Rochelle – These days I have no idea, it’s so random. A talking dog can go viral. I can’t compete with that! I can try, ha ha. But probably just being who you are, sharing that, and praying a hell of a lot!

SMC – Which song of yours is your most personal favorite and why?

Rochelle – They are all really personal and touch me in different ways. Some are fun, some are deep. With our current global state, my next single is probably the one that’s most relevant to us all … it’s called ‘Outlaws’…

“when freedom is outlawed, only outlaws will be free, when freedom is outlawed, only some of us will see” … “insanity passed as logic, violence the tool of change…” … “epidemic if cronyism, we police our empire ….” … “in the eyes of progress, we bury hearts under ground” …. “evil described as virtue, slavery sold as liberty, we have broken from reality, broken from reality…”… that kinda thing!

SMC – I also saw on your website that there are some collaborations as well – which one is your favorite or most memorable?

Rochelle – I loved them all, all so different… memorable? I would say working with Stephen Hague because he’s such a legend (New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, The Pretenders, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Williams, etc., etc.) and learning his song writing tricks was priceless. It really did change my process and the way I approach songwriting to this day, and also gave me the confidence to know I am on the right track with my own techniques.

I would take the train from Brighton to Hastings on those cold miserable days and he would light up my world. I loved his studio, on a beautiful property overlooking the sea. It was inspiring and deep.

SMC – Are you looking at doing another collaboration in the near future?

Rochelle – Most definitely! I have some producers lined up and I’m really excited, there’s still so much I haven’t explored as an artist. I am taking a new direction with the new music.

Earlier Career History

SMC – I read in an interview that you were a dancer. What kind of dance did you take up?

Rochelle – Long story short, when I was 11 I was working on a TV commercial and Tony Bartuccio was the choreographer for the job. He was the number one Choreographer in Australia at the time and asked me to come and train with him at his studio. Within six months of doing one class a week I started working for him on live shows and TV. I picked up dance quickly, but he was also hardcore so that made me have to learn fast. The other dancers had all started when they were two – four years old, so I was rather late ha ha. And because I was working with them, there was a lot of pressure on me to be at their level even thou I didn’t have their backgrounds, was a lot younger, and many of them were already incredible choreographers and performers in their own right, touring with Billy Idol, Kylie Minogue or whoever! I started with jazz dance and expanded from that into ballet, tap, acrobatic dance, and then learnt Karate, got to brown belt but stopped as I was doing so much TV and was concerned I’d have a broken nose before a job!! I also started teaching dance at a popular gym in Melbourne when I was 16 (Ann Peacock was one of my students – the Prime Ministers daughter!) and did choreography for shows around Melbourne. But then my music took off and something had to give.

I continued dance in London with one of Michael Jacksons’ choreographers, joined a Hip Hop dance group in Brighton, and now do Hip Hop in LA!

SMC – I also read that you have worked with Femi Taylor (‘Oola’ from Return of the Jedi). Can you tell us how that came about and what the outcome was?

Rochelle – Femi and I were models for a rather large fashion parade at the Tennis Centre stadium (where they host the Australian Open), and she came up to me after the show, asked if I sing… I said “in the shower” and she said “good because I’m going to London to visit family for Christmas, will you please audition?” Honestly, I showed up thinking there’s no way! Bizarrely got the gig but it was only for one month. The other girl in the band was horrible to me. I’m a sister and love empowered women. And I was terrified. I needed guidance. I had never sung in front of anyone! I had 3 days to learn the entire repertoire including two feature songs that I had to sing, and a rap!!!! And I was working on two of those days so only had evenings. All I remember is my best friend at the time Portia (De Rossi) and I walking up and down her street in the city (as I used to stay with her when we had modeling jobs together) going over and over the songs together all night. She was unbelievable, held my hand thru the whole process. I would have died without her! Then when it was show time, it was a full house, my idol Scott Carnes from ‘Kids In The Kitchen’ was standing in the front row right in front of me. I was about to faint. Anyhow I think I got thru it. He’s a lifelong friend now.

When Femi returned from London I of course left the band, as I was always a replacement, and then after one show they called me, said that they miss me, and will I come back? They sacked that horrible other vocalist and Femi and I ended up working together for 2 years. So that is how my singing career began! Femi and I also did a lot of TV work together as vocalists, we were often booked together. And she is still my best friend to this day.

SMC – You have modeled and also won Miss Junior Victoria as well. Tell us how that came about.

Rochelle – Wow where did you find that?!! You clearly dug deep! When I was 9 I told mum I needed purpose in life and wanted to contribute to the world and maybe I can start by dusting shelves at the local shop?! Mum had heard of a modelling school and thought I’d be better off doing something where I’m making more per hour than dusting! But only if I liked it. She was never pushy, only encouraging. Well I just followed that journey and yes ended up winning Miss Junior Victoria, which was very surreal, as it was massive. Then I joined the best adult agency as a child model, and would be confused when I was sent to these auditions with the big girls, almost didn’t want to go in. 90% of the time I got the jobs I went for. The other kids’ mums hated it when I entered the audition room lol, and the big girls were awesome and really looked after me. I did Vogue, Elle, Dolly, Harpers Bizarre, and all of them really. I worked with some legendary Photographers and was also on Daniela Federici’s first ever photography business card. (She did Anna Nicole Smiths Guess campaign, and went on to shoot the famous Douglas family portrait, Prince, Sharon Stone and pretty much every Hollywood star). I remember that shoot well, she made me climb a church wall! I worked with her for many years. She has a work ethic few could match. I learnt a lot, that has stayed with me.

SMC – Can you tell us which acting gigs you have done as well?

Rochelle – It started in Melbourne, as an extension of modeling at a big agency you got sent in for various film auditions, plus at the dance studio Caroline Gilmore (a well-known Australian actress) was head of the acting department and also sent us in for things.

I worked on lots of TV including ‘Chances’ with Jeromy Sims, a film called ‘The Hunting’ with Guy Pearce, John Savage and Kerry Armstrong… I featured in Paul Norton’s ‘Southern Sky’ music video as his girlfriend (loved swimming in those shark infested waters with the shark patrol on sight, comforting!), which was selected for the Sydney Olympics Opening, and ended up in a lot of music video duke boxes (!) … and when I moved to England got involved with the short film scene thru Junk TV. We won awards for our short films and then I was funded by the British Film Council to direct my own short ‘I Make My Pictures For What Hollywood Spends On Lipstick’, a film about Maya Deren, the pioneer of film funding!

SMC – Which career did/do you find most fulfilling for you personally?

Rochelle – I love them all. I see them all as different limbs to the same body. Creative energy is just that, it’s just where you put your focus.

SMC – Can you describe ‘a day in the life of Rochelle’ to us?

Rochelle – Hmmm, it’s so different every single day. My one constant is my beautiful rescue dog Maya. I have no routine, it depends on what I am working on.

SMC – Which Artist (can be any: musician, actor, etc.) would you like to work with and why?

Rochelle – David Bowie. I hear from mutual friends who have worked with him that he was a very funny man. I like a sense of humor on the job, British sense of humor even better … even if it’s just once coming up for air after some deep creative moments.

Living, I would love to work with Martin Scorsese. And music wise Trentemoller. Please Lord!

SMC – Can you tell us of a time in your career (choose any) that stands out for you as most memorable?

Rochelle – Being booked to support James Brown on his Australian National Tour with the band I was in ‘Relax With Max’, and then the record label doing the dirty on us the day before was a memorable one! That’s a long story, sigh! We won the court case but honestly, it really didn’t matter at that stage! (facepalm)

And a defining moment when I feared I had gotten off track in life… needing a break, I had taken a one-way ticket and small suitcase from Australia to Europe, and eventually landed in Munich working with Warner Chappell, but didn’t like the music they wanted me to do, it was super cheesy and I could have done that many years ago, why go on a massive journey only to cave? So, I continued on to where they import the music I do from, London. In London I had an incident where I was physically attacked by the Minister at a church I had gone to, I was only there to enjoy the gospel singing. That’s a very long story but after I came forward many other women did also, and as it turned out this guy had been on the run from New Zealand and hiding at the church! Fooled everyone, who had initially thought I was lying! Until other women came forward!

I moved down to Brighton and lived in a squat for a month or so, upstairs was pretty nice and downstairs it had no floors, just dirt and wooden planks to balance on, it was winter and damp with no heating, and I had to sleep in all my clothes and a coat and was still shivering. I really understood that scene in ‘Withnail & I’ with the Deep Heat rubbed on them to keep warm! Dude! And the Brits have this weird thing where they share bath water????!!!! (I was always the first ha ha)… showers were not a thing in old houses at that time. Eeek.

Needless to say, I had run out of money and found a job at Virgin Cinemas. My intuition was very set on me working there.

Within a month, one of the ushers at Virgin knew a guy who was looking for a vocalist for his band, so I gave him my demo not thinking too much of it. When the usher next came in he told me I must quit my job because they wanted to put me on their National UK Tour that week. I didn’t believe him because we hadn’t met, but he convinced me so I quit my job, went to London to meet the band and discovered it was only an audition!!!! Thankfully, I got the gig and was at dinner with EMI that very evening to celebrate.

A week later I was doing our first show with Dubstar live to Radio One with the legendary John Peel (who went on to support all my music endeavors), then MTV, then TFI Friday, Shepherds Bush Empire (that’s where I met Stephen Hague for the first time) and then onto a massive tour with The Lightening Seeds right when they had their football hit ‘Three Lions’, and ‘Perfect World’ had just came out as well.

In one week, I went from being a popcorn chick, to signing autographs and working with the British music industry elite.

Plus skip forward, the first signing Product.01 had was a record label in Munich called Compost Records, who knew the Warner crowd where I started in Europe.

And that my friend, is how life rolls!!

SMC – Okay, final question: What does the term ‘success’ mean to you?

Rochelle – Success to me is doing what you are passionate about without creative compromise, and being supported for that.

Thank-you Rochelle!

Rochelle – Thank You Candice!!! You dig deep!

____________

Rochelle Vincente Von K
Photo courtesy of: Rochelle Vincente Von K

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SMC Spotlight Series No.1 | Stephen David Brooks ‘Flytrap’ Director & Writer Exclusive Interview

By Candice Anne Marshall

There’s a new King in town and he is known as Los Angeles-based Writer/Director/Special FX mastermind Stephen David Brooks. I mean this quite literally. After watching the 2-hour sci-for thriller ‘Flytrap‘, a film that was well received on the film festival circuit, I am convinced that Brooks is the next creative film genius of our time. I spoke at length with Brooks a few days ago about some of his upcoming projects, his views on the film industry and his time working with horror book Novelist Stephen King. This is truly one of the most unique individuals I have met thus far, and it is apparent in this most recent film – its script is inventive, dynamic in visuals, and strong in composition. It comes as no surprise to me either that King elected Brooks to be the screenplay writer for his film adaptation of the book ‘The Mangler’. This earned him a place on King’s short list of “King Approved” Screenwriters.

‘Flytrap’ is full of humorous, chilling, and edge-of-your-seat dramatic performances delivered by Jeremy Crutchley, Ina-Alice Kopp, complete with epic creepiness by ‘whistle blowing’ Jonah Blechman. Overall musical score is by Simon Boswell with dance sequence and end titles by The Tearaways which add a unique balance between paranoia (the synopsis) and normalcy. The film is directed by Brooks and produced by Tamara Sayiner (Ellen Degeneres Show) and is a true reflection of this sophisticated and audacious film prodigy. I can not even compare him to any other because there absolutely is no comparison – Brooks walks to the beat of his own unique drum and it is this that will make his films a truly memorable work of art.

You can catch the thriller on most major media platforms since it has already circulated the Film Festival scene throughout 2016 earning Brooks several prestigious awards. Stephens films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

In speaking about future projects, the idea of SMC being involved in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ editorial came up and Brooks was all for it, ‘Do that for my next film, sounds fantastic!’ We look forward to continuing our journey by documenting his career through our SMC Spotlight series and we begin with our exclusive interview today.

Enjoy this Director’s reel below and ‘Flytrap’ preview, sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy. We guarantee this IS the beginnings of a genius at work!

By Candice Anne Marshall

SMC – Hello Stephen! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! We were thrilled when our friend Mr. Mike Rogers connected us. This interview has been a long time coming and we are so excited to dig into the questions here. First, can you tell us what your connection is to Mike?

Stephen – Happy to be here. I met Mike through John Ferriter. Mike was playing some Tearaways songs on his Japanese radio show and had questions about film festival strategies and sales for his film Ghost Roads. So, John turned him on to me. 

SMC – Mike also informed me that you are a multi-award winner at some of the most prestigious film festivals! Can you tell us which was most memorable for you and why?

Stephen – I have four festivals that stand out, each with a unique set of wonderful memories. ECU The European Independent Film Festival in Paris, The Chelsea Film Festival in the heart of New York City, the F.A.S.H. festival in Los Angeles, and the charming Ramsgate International Film and Television Festival in Ramsgate UK. ECU screened my first feature HEADS N TAILZ so I have a special place in my heart for festival founder Scott Hillier and everyone there. That’s why I chose ECU to be the site for the World Premiere of my second feature film FLYTRAP. The people running it are top notch film lovers and are very supportive of independent filmmakers. Plus, the festival is in Paris in early April. Nice time to be in Paris!

SMC – Your credentials as a Director/Writer are astounding. I have read that you have also worked with Horror Novelist Stephen King – can you tell us how that came about?

Stephen – That was my first professional writing job. I was hired to adapt Stephen King’s short story THE MANGLER. And Stephen King had script approval. So…no pressure.

I had supervised Visual Effects for director Tobe Hooper. He and I had a great working relationship so when he and his producers obtained the rights to Stephen King’s short story he called me to see if I’d like to pitch him my take on the adaptation. Tobe loved my pitch and called Stephen King. Next morning, I get a call from Tobe informing me Stephen King loved the pitch as well. So, I was hired to write the first draft. Six months and 44 drafts later we were in Johannesburg South Africa shooting. I went along as the Screenwriter/2nd Unit Director/Visual Effects Supervisor.

Brooks (right) on the set of Stephen King’s ‘The Mangler’ with Ted Levine (left, Silence of the Lambs)
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC -What was your experience working with King like? Can you tell us of one that is most memorable?

Stephen – It was actually a dream working with him. He understands the psychological aspects of horror better than anyone. We went back and forth on dozens of drafts of the script until he gave it his stamp of approval. He’s a perfectionist but one who knows exactly what he wants. Brilliant mind.

The most memorable moment happened when Stephen King screened the film. The short story is 5 pages long so I had to add a lot of detail that needed to be Stephen Kingesque but wasn’t actually in the original work. As he was watching the film he kept asking “Was that me?” and oftentimes Tobe would say “No man. That was Brooks.” No higher complement than that. Stephen King couldn’t tell what I wrote from what he wrote.

SMC – You then went on to seek your own adventures in Directing and writing – can you tell us what kinds of themes and stories you gravitate toward most?

Stephen – I gravitate towards characters who are out of their depth, in a situation they couldn’t have imagined and when we first meet them, have no idea how to extricate themselves.  Then again, I think that’s the basis of all drama. That sense of being out of our depth and unsure how to proceed to make things right. We’re all imperfect creatures and exploring that imperfection through drama is how we discover who we are as human beings.

SMC – As a writer myself, I know that we writers are a very eclectic group and our imaginations are pretty intense at times – tell me, are you also an insomniac too? Most of us are…. if so, what keeps you up?

Stephen – I have never had insomnia. I can sleep anywhere. On a plane. On a train. In a moving car. And some of my best ideas have come to me in dreams.

SMC – You and I have tried so often to connect by phone to no avail – our schedules are intense! Can you tell us what project you are working on at present?

Stephen – Well I’m quite superstitious about announcing anything too soon. Waiting for all the pieces to be forced into place. Let’s just say one film is intended to be an iconic holiday classic, like LOVE, ACTUALLY and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This film has a heart. A big heart. Another film will bring a beloved character back to the big screen. And another is the beginning of a Young Adult mega franchise…When I can say more I’ll let you know.

SMC – Before we get into discussion on your film ‘Flytrap’, can you tell us what it’s really like being among some of the world’s greatest screenwriters in Hollywood? Have you collaborated with any?

Stephen – I know some of those writing greats but have not collaborated with any of them. We screenwriters tend to be solo creatures.

SMC – Your bio on your website says that you have been ‘mentored by Oscar winners John Dykstra & Richard Edlund’ (Star Wars) – can you tell us what that experience was like and what the most important thing you absorbed in your experience being mentored by them?

Stephen – John Dykstra taught me to always have a backup plan for any specific shot or scene. He was so right! Things oftentimes go wrong during the intensity of production and having a ready backup plan has saved the day more than once.

Richard really taught me how to view dailies with a critical eye. That man sees absolutely everything. It’s astounding.

I also had a third mentor in my Visual Effects days…Harrison Ellenshaw. Harrison taught me another valuable lesson…one I have dubbed “The Harrison Ellenshaw Rule.” That is…everything will change. Go with the flow. Filmmaking is as much about reading the tea leaves as it is turning adversity into an advantage.

And in the end. IT. WILL. ALL. CHANGE. Sage advice.

SMC – What, in your opinion, makes a film ‘great’?

Stephen – For me it all comes from the characters. Do they have identifiable problems? Do they deal with those problems in a realistic way? Are the characters driving the story? Are there some larger more universal thematic issues being explored? Is the film well executed? If the answer to all those is “yes” then you probably have a great film. Ultimately, it’s the test of time. If we’re still watching a film 50 years later. It must be great.

Brooks speaking at the European Independent Film Festival
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – I see you have also shot music videos as well. Can you tell us which projects you have worked on past or present that are most memorable and why?

Stephen – Back in my Visual Effects days I worked on an Ozzie Osbourne video. “No More Tears.” That was a blast. Ozzie, what a character.

I directed a couple of videos for The Tearaways: ”Bash” and “Hello Isla Vista.” I loved capturing the exuberance of The Tearaways sound.

I’m now working with Rochelle Vincente Von K on a new video for her song “Deal Me In.” Rochelle is an Austrian Australian recording artist from London now based in LA. Very exciting stuff. We’re exploring an amplified cinematic visual style not usually seen in music videos.

SMC – What do you think makes your art stand out among the rest in your field?

Stephen – I’m just true to my point of view. I trust my gut. I have a very specific idea how the universe works and I use that as my guiding light when creating.

I don’t over think what I’m doing. Rather I feel my way through it. When I’m writing I can feel when a situation, or line of dialog is right. When directing Actors, I can feel when a moment is right. All I can say is…Everything I do is very “me” as those who know me well can attest. My sensibility. My sense of humor. My sense of irony.

SMC – Let’s get into your film ‘Flytrap’ – I watched the trailer on your website – wow! It’s intense! Can you tell us where you conceived the storyline for this film?

Stephen – FLYTRAP came to me like all my ideas…BOOM. There it is. A complete concept just pops into my brain. There’s no method to it. The initial idea is pure inspiration. Then I have to craft the idea into a story and a script. That’s where the hard work comes in.

SMC – As for the Actors in your film, can you tell us whose performance most blew you away in terms of final result?

Stephen – I had worked with Jeremy Crutchley before. He was in THE MANGLER. So, I knew he’d be great. Although Ina-Alice Kopp and I knew each other we hadn’t worked together. But having discussed another project at some length I had a good idea what she could do. And she did not disappoint!

Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and I have worked together on three films. He is my Robert DeNiro. So, I knew he’d knock it out of the park.

The big surprise was Jonah Blechman’s portrayal of Gilligan. I had met him once. I thought he seemed perfect for the role but I didn’t really see his genius until the first day of shooting. His look. The creepy whistle thing he did. He absolutely blew me away.

Brooks (left) with Ina Alice Kopp (right) at the ‘Flytrap’ World Premiere
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – Can you tell us where the public can see this film in the film festival circuit?

Stephen – We’re finished playing festivals. FLYTRAP is in wide distribution and can be seen on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan, Google Play, iTunes, and Fandango Now. And we recently sold the film to China so it will be available on various platforms there in the very near future.

SMC – Your bio states:

‘Stephen’s films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.’

Can you tell us which award ceremony/win stands out to you the most and which film it was for?

Stephen – I hate to pick and choose. Every festival award is a gift and a special moment. But the win at The Chelsea Film Festival was quite memorable. It was the end of the ceremony and they had given out all the awards. FLYTRAP was nominated but didn’t win. Fine you can’t win them all. And as everybody got up to leave the theater the lovely Ingrid Jean-Baptiste, founder of the festival, steps up to the podium and announces there is one more award. And the Special Jury Prize goes to FLYTRAP. I was floored. What a great moment!

SMC – I also noted that there’s some ‘Tearaways’ music included in this film. As you are aware, we recently interviewed John Ferriter for our SMC Spotlight. Can you tell us of your connection to John and what projects you have worked on together?

Stephen – Well that’s no coincidence! I went to high school with Greg Brallier of The Tearaways. So, I see most of their Southern California gigs. I had also seen John Ferriter’s band The Stingrays back in the day. So when John re-joined The Tearaways John and I re-connected.

I needed 3 songs for the dance sequence in FLYTRAP. John said he’d send me the new Tearaways CD’s The Earle Mankey Sessions Volume IV and VII. I got the CD’s at 8 am the next morning. Played them and found two absolutely perfect songs on Volume VII: “Keep Your Knickers On,” “I Love The Blues,” and then on Volume IV I found “The Last Goodbye.” I mean it is as if they were written for the film. They were thematically and rhythmically perfect.

Then I discovered the song “I Love My Life” on the Volume IV CD and realized it is the perfect end titles music. Sometimes when it’s meant to be it just works out. And this was the perfect marriage of film and music.

SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing to be ‘equipped with’ in terms of pitching an idea/concept to potential investors for your art?

Stephen – Passion. Period. Yes, you have to know the structure of a pitch and you have to have a compelling story. But if you don’t go into the pitch absolutely convinced it will be the best film/tv show ever then you’ll get nowhere. And you have at most 30 seconds to make an impression. If you fail in the first thirty you won’t last the next couple of minutes.

SMC – I saw that you shot this film in California in a matter of only 12 days! In my personal opinion, some of the greatest films or projects that I have seen have been produced in a very short time-frame. What are your thoughts on this?

Stephen – There is something to be said for working fast. I think the energy level you create on set having to shoot 10-12 pages a day shows up on the screen. There’s an intensity there that translates.

SMC – Can you tell me who your ‘dream team’ is or who you would like them to be?

Stephen – John Ferriter, Jamie Angelise and Rana Joy Glickman…I’m already working with them!

SMC – What do you want to aspire to?

Stephen – I’d love to make a cinema classic. A CASABLANCA. Or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. A timeless story set against an epic struggle. Intimate and sweeping at the same time. I’ve got a few ideas…

SMC – Which of your other projects are you particularly fond of and why?

Stephen – My first feature HEADS N TAILZ stands out. I mean it was my first! And making a feature is infinitely more complicated than making a short. I’m very proud of that film. It did play festivals and win some awards. And there seems to be renewed interest in it…

I’m also proud of my short BINKY which I shot before FLYTRAP. It stars two of my actors from HEADS N TAILZ: Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and Lucy Jenner (Lucia Ballard). That film also won some awards including a Best Actress accolade for Lucia. BINKY is being distributed by Shorts.TV and can be seen online, via Amazon and iTunes as well as on select cable and satellite channels.

Last year I directed a short called IRIS. I didn’t write or cast the project which is a first for me. But it turned out really nicely. And has already won a Remi at Worldfest Houston. Other film festival screenings are in the future but we can’t announce anything specific just yet.

I recently directed a short called BURN BABY, BURN with the Irish sensation Emma Pyne. The film was an experiment in minimalism. Emma wrote it, produced it, and stars in it. I directed and shot it. No crew. We’ll be screening at a festival in LA this November…stay tuned.

Genius at work – Brooks on the set of his film ‘Headz n Tailz’
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – If you had a chance to do anything in your career over again, what would that be and why?

Stephen – I don’t dwell on the past. I learn from it. Learn from my mistakes then move on. I’m always moving forward. Never looking backward.

SMC – What do you measure success in the film industry by?

Stephen – There are two parts to my answer. First, how your work effects the audience. You can make them feel bad or make them feel good. Make them feel afraid or make them feel loved. I’d rather go for the positive emotional response. Have them walk out of the theater feeling better about themselves and their fellow human beings. That’s success to me on a creative level.

On a professional level, success it’s all about box-office. If you make the industry a lot of money then you will earn the clout to get more projects off the ground. That’s a win/win for me.

And I don’t think the professional and creative definitions of success are mutually exclusive. You can have both.

SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have received to date from an industry peer?

Stephen – “I want to work with people who know what they’re doing. Like you.” Producer Rana Joy Glickman September 17th, 2015

SMC –  Let’s go way back: what was the pivotal point in your youth which lead to or was a result of where you are today in the film industry?

Stephen – When I was very young my parents took me to a re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had seen films and TV shows before, of course, but that film made me keenly aware that there is a vision behind what is on screen. I started to make movies, read about movies, and think about movies. It became my obsession.

SMC – Where do you think there are difference between the music and film industries? What do you think there are similarities?

Stephen – Both are tough but I think the music business is much harder. Touring is brutal. Much more exhausting than being on location shooting a movie.

Artists in both industries are judged by the amount of money they make for the business interests. In that sense, both are quite similar.

SMC – What is a ‘deal breaker’ for you?

Stephen – That’s an interesting question. Showbiz is a full contact sport. Everyone gets knocked around and kicked to the carpet from time to time. That’s business as usual. For me I’d have to say a personal attack on my team or an attempt to subvert the team would be a possible deal breaker. I’ve been personally attacked but have a heavy-duty Teflon skin. So it doesn’t bother me. But to try to attack or attempt to influence me by attacking a member of my team? That’s way over the line.

We live and die by our working and personal relationships. It’s all about teams and allies. You have to defend them to the bitter end even if it means walking away from a project. There will always be another opportunity. But there will never be another core team. A truly broken relationship can never be repaired.

SMC – What five things impress you (this can be in relation to anything and includes the film industry)?

Stephen- Loyalty. When a person chooses an individual relationship over personal or professional gain…to me that’s golden. And in my experience very, very rare. Relationships are permanent. Or at least they should be. Professional gain is temporary and fleeting. The personal capital of a relationship is worth more than all the gold in the world.

Unfettered intelligence. By that I mean someone who can always view a situation with an open and analytical mind. Think outside the box and find a unique understanding of a problem. Every day something (or many things) will go wrong and it takes an unusually agile mind to keep everything on track.

The ability to say: “I was wrong.” You’d be amazed how many people there are inside and outside of the industry who simply will never admit a mistake. They’ll deflect. Blame others or simply double down on the error. I do say to people when I first start working with them “I don’t care if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Just let me know when and what happened and let’s find a solution.” For me the cover up is always worse than the crime.

I am impressed with anyone who can take criticism at face value and not take it personally. There is nothing absolute in the creative world. There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story or define a moment. And all of us, writers, directors, producers, actors, and musicians need to be able to accept a note or a comment and not become defensive about it.

I’m impressed by superstars who stay grounded. Very easy to be a movie star or rock & roll icon and lose yourself and your sense of humanity. Easy to lose themselves in their public persona. I’ve met both those who can and cannot handle stardom. The ones who can are rare gems.

SMC – What is the most positive experience you have had in your career where you felt like it was an ‘Ah Ha’ moment?

Stephen – My first 2nd Unit Directing job on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. Usually 2nd Unit is just establishing shots of buildings, car drive-bys, shots that do not involve the principal actors. In the low budget world 2nd Unit also involves finishing scenes when the director has to move on to another location. Or shooting entire scenes when the schedule requires it.

This was my first opportunity to direct professional actors. And my first two actors where Academy Award Nominees…So, again, no pressure! I had to direct Melinda Dillon who was nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and Brad Dourif who was nominated for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.

First up was Melinda. She played a ghost-like character who came back from the dead. So, there was a supernatural element to the scene. I setup the shot. And we did Take 1. It didn’t work. So, I walk over to Melinda and made a suggestion. I don’t’ remember what I said. I walked back behind camera and did Take 2. It didn’t work either.

I remember the next moments very clearly. As I walked away from camera towards Melinda the world slowed down and I was hit with a horrible realization: This is my moment. I want to be a director and I can’t get a performance out of an Academy Award Nominated actress? What the hell am I going to do…?

Then just as I reached Melinda it hit me like a bolt of the blue. I said, “You’re the wicked witch of the West.” Her eyes lit up. I knew she got it. I hurried back to camera and called action. Take 3 was perfect. “Ah ha” I thought. I can do this…

SMC – We would definitely like to begin a well-documented and chronicled SMC Spotlight Numbered Series on your career journey – what are your thoughts on this?

Stephen – Let’s do it!

SMC – Okay, final question:

Can you tell us what the next 6-12 months look like for you in terms of wrapping up current projects and new ones?

Stephen – FLYTRAP is in the rear-view mirror so all my energy will be projected forward. I’ll be moving one of my film projects from the development to the production stage. I just don’t know which one yet…Such is showbiz…

SMC – Thank you Stephen!

Stephen – Thank you!

___________________

Social Media/Contact (click to view)

Website

IMDb

Flytrap Facebook Page

Twitter

YouTube

Instagram

‘THE MEANEST MAN IN TEXAS’ FILM BEHIND-THE-SCENES GALLERY | MAY 11, 2017

SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Actor: Mateus Ward is ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’

By Candice Anne Marshall

How do you begin a review of an Actor who, at the age of only 18 has surpassed any milestone that the average young adult has? I mean, we’re not talking about the first car, first girlfriend, first job, and graduation kind of milestones here either…this is something on a much grander scale…..

I am referring to the kind of milestones that only Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward has come to achieve in his short, but very accomplished acting career thus far. In fact, his very persona reminds me of a middle-aged Johnny Cash: cool, confident, and bonafide talented without ever giving an air of pretension. I have observed him in interviews since the launch of the film ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ in the Film Festival circuit, (where he plays lead Actor) and without fail, he exudes these aforementioned traits. I have also read interviews where he has been referred to as ‘an old soul’ and his responses are concise, sometimes cheeky, and brimming with mature sophistication. Ward has also mentioned his early talent for Elvis impersonations (he loves Elvis) at a musical theater debut which later earned him scores of wicked television roles (see film and television credits below his social media links) and an impressive roster of film credits under his belt as well. He has often played dark characters and delivers them with the kind of graceful, undaunted candor that, in relation to the acting realm, I can only compare to a young Marlon Brando. In fact, looking further into Wards’ background, I would never have guessed that his portrayal of Clyde Thompson in ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ was that of a man half that age. (see my interview with his Father, Director of the film, Justin Ward here)

In this true-story film of convicted murderer Clyde Thompson, Ward manages to take this role from an innocent boy, to an aggressive and hostile young man, to a redeemed middle-aged man of faith seamlessly all in a matter of an intense 105-minute thrill-ride. The accuracy to which he portrays Thompsons’ character in this film is genuine in delivery and fiery in emotional display. Because his performance was so historically accurate to the original Clyde Thompson, Ward (recently) earned himself the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the IndieFEST Film awards in Florida. This doesn’t surprise me, in fact, I predict this to be the start of a successful string of awards to come. It does take a lot for young Hollywood to impress me since the days of Molly Ringwald and the ‘Brat Pack’(and even the original ‘rat pack’ for that matter), but Ward has earned the utmost respect from me for his ability to take this role at such a young age and make it undeniably twenty-four carat authentic. If you have any opportunity to attend a Film Festival where ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ is showing, make sure you are there!

So, here’s my summation of Mateus Ward: undeniably, for me, he has earned the right to be compared to the reputable likes of Johnny Cash (even arriving to premieres all in black) and Marlon Brando (that confidence!). Yet, even with all comparisons to music and Hollywood royalty aside, there really is only one Mateus Ward, and he really is that predominantly paramount, remarkably distinguished, and naturally skilled. AND – he will always dance to the beat of his own drum.  Period.

I connected recently with Ward for an exclusive interview for our SMC SPOTLIGHT. Here is what he had to say:

 

(l-r) ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ lead Actors Mateus Ward and Alexandra Bard Photo credit and courtesy of: Joshua Shultz | Bellus Magazine

SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview | Actor: Mateus Ward ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’

May 9th, 2017

SMC – Hello Mateus! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have been profiling some of the industry’s top Actors, Musicians, and Fashion celebrity profiles for a couple years now and are happy to add you to this roster. Let’s begin with an introduction: we discovered you via our friend and peer Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine) who also Directed the short film ‘STROBE’ which you have a starring role in. What are your thoughts on how the film will have in terms of an impact on society?

Mateus – I believe that STROBE will shock people into realizing the collateral danger of hard drugs.

SMC – Do you think that this film could be an educational tool on the effects of drugs and how they impact people’s lives?

Mateus – Absolutely! I really think it will wake people up!

SMC – What was it like working with Joshua Shultz (Director | STROBE)?

Mateus – Josh is a great friend of mine! He’s a true artist in every sense of the word. Working with him was a true pleasure and such a blast.

SMC – Okay, so let’s get into your film credentials – your film reel roster is impressive! Which films/TV shows are/were your favorite to be a part of and why?

Mateus – I have so many amazing memories from all of these sets, I’ve created amazing friendships with people. Tyrel Jackson Williams (Lab Rats, Brockmire) and I still hang out, and I’m always in touch with my onscreen sister Quinn Shephard (Hostages, Blame) I’ve kept in touch with most of the people I have worked with, but if I had to chose, the two best work environments had to be “Murder in the First” and “The Meanest Man in Texas.” The cast and crew on each of them were like a family!

SMC – What is it like for you to prepare for a role? You go from being a meth addict in ‘STROBE’ to being a hardcore criminal in ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ to a Disney XD role on Lab Rats…. this has to involve some devoted time to studying for these kinds of roles and becoming the characters you are portraying. Tell us what your process is like when preparing for a role.

Mateus – I think each actor has their own process.  I like to start with research of the world or time period, then answer all the motivation and intention questions of the character and get to know them, then find their physicality.

SMC – Let’s get into your role as Clyde Thompson in The Meanest Man in Texas – can you tell us how you landed this?

Mateus – Pure nepotism! Just kidding, my father was offered to direct the film and I set out to prove to him and the producers I could play this part.  I read the book, studied the history, learned the accent, and eventually won the part.

**Spoiler Alert**

SMC – There are some pretty intense scenes in this film that I have to give you a ‘hat’s off’ nod to. For instance, the scene where you took a ‘whupping’ from ‘Captain Colt’ (played by Actor Jamie McShane) – wow! These are things that not very many youth today know anything about. How did you prepare mentally for that kind of a situation?

Mateus – I focus on the situation, and play it as real as I can.  For that scene, I honestly don’t remember much. I was just going through it.

SMC – In terms of the emotion portrayed in your character…. scenes like when Clyde is told his father has passed away, how do you prepare yourself for that kind of emotional expression? What frame of mind do you have to be in to get the emotions right?

Mateus – For me, as an actor, it always comes down to being in the moment. I tend to stay away from “tricks” or “substitutions.” That is not to say that I don’t use them. I think an actor needs to utilize whatever is necessary to convey a moment. I have always had an intense imagination, so putting myself in someone else’s shoes was always easy for me, once I’ve put in the work to know everything I can about a character.

SMC – Some of the scenes were played so well, I had actual tears! What are your thoughts on the story line and events that happened in the life of the real Clyde Thompson?

Mateus – It’s hard to believe all of these things actually happened to him.  His story is unreal in so many ways, I felt an obligation to play it all as real as I could.

SMC – The scene where your father (played by Ben Reed) comes to you and encourages you to have faith in God…your reaction to him was pretty intense! (‘There ain’t no God! There ain’t no word!’) Can you tell us what filming scenes like that were for you? Religion is such a controversy these days….

Mateus – When playing any character, no matter who they are, you have to throw out all of your pre-conceived notions and beliefs. I believe I really learned this while playing a school shooter on “Murder in the First.” There is a certain level of separation that has to be done before you can play a character truthfully. I personally am not religious, but Clyde was. This story is about Clyde’s redemption he so happened to find through faith. Therefore, it is my job as an actor to put all my personal opinions to rest, so Clyde’s could come out to play. I always find that once I do that, I fall in love with every character I play. In that particular scene, it’s all about where Clyde is, mentally, at that point. So, I guess, in short form, I just played what Clyde was going through.

(l-r) Justin Ward, MateusWard, JamieMcShane
Photo by: Ryan Gunnerson

SMC – I love the ‘Got a Light?’ smart-alec comebacks woven in throughout…. you have one of those faces that can portray an angelic innocent young man and then a devilish hell-child (laughs)…. which of the two personalities can you relate to more?

Mateus – Depends on the day…

SMC- (laughs) Fair comment! Your on-screen chemistry with ‘Julia’ (played by Alexandra Bard) was also intense. Can you tell us a few words about your thoughts on her performance in this film?

Mateus – She made it easy to have that chemistry.  She is an amazing actress and we had a blast on set.

SMC – I am going to ask the inevitable: what was it like working with your father on this project? (Justin Ward: Director of The Meanest Man in Texas)

Mateus – It was incredible! We read each other’s mind the whole time! He would go “Hey MC, how about—” and I’d reply, “I was just thinking that!”

SMC – On May 6th, you earned the award for ‘Best Actor’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) – That’s impressive! What are your thoughts on that?

Mateus – It is such an honor to be recognized for my work.

SMC – Can you tell us which other accomplishments in your career you are particularly proud of and why?

Mateus – Getting a chance to do what I love is the best accomplishment.

SMC – Can you tell us the most memorable fan moment you have had in your career?

Mateus – I was in New York on Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Hostages” and we took a family trip out to Mantauk.  I tweeted I was there, and on our way back that night, my sister saw a tweet from a fan, so she got her address and we paid a surprise visit.  Our families met and it was really cool.  Another great moment, was meeting young women with scoliosis in Nashville during the film festival.  These girls are so courageous and it was great to meet them and their mothers and hear their stories.

SMC – What are five unique things about you that no one else knows about? (our readers love this one)

Mateus – I am obsessed with Elvis.  I love to draw and paint.  I play piano.  I have a 1953 Chevy truck.  I am unhealthily addicted to superheroes and comic books.

SMC – I read that you have lived in Hawaii for a few years before pursuing a career in acting. Can you tell us what lead to your family’s move to LA?

Mateus – I like to believe it’s because I wanted to pursue acting, but I think it was during the recession, it was a tough time and we moved back where there was more work.

SMC – What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?

Mateus – I have always been a performer.  I was super shy, and it was a way to hide behind characters.  I didn’t even need an audience.  I just liked pretending and using my imagination.  I was a little Elvis impersonator at like 5, and I think that sparked the acting thing.

SMC – Which of your peers in the film have you created a bond with as a result of your character in the film?

Mateus – Alex and I have become close because of filming and on the festival circuit.  But the most entertaining friendship is the bizarre “Tron” inside joke between Anthony Guerino and I, who plays Barney in the film.  On set he suddenly approached me and asked, “Did someone say Tron?” It became a running joke.  Now we text each other with Tron mimes, gifs and jokes all the time.  He’s so funny!

SMC – Your whole family has such amazing talent! I did read about your sister as well – has she been involved in any of the projects you have worked on?

Mateus – It was a family production.  Our company is Ohana Films, Inc. Ohana means family in Hawaiian.

SMC – That’s lovely! What has the family support been like for your career?

Mateus – I honestly couldn’t have done what I have done without my family and their support.  My mother is the best.  She used to own a salon and stopped working to make sure I could follow my dream.

SMC – Can you tell us your thoughts on your father’s work on this film?

Mateus – He did alright… I mean for his first film.  Just kidding!  Who gets to act in a film their father directs?  It was incredible.  He was so prepared, had such a clear vision, and yet, since we didn’t have much time, he was able to improvise and shoot on the fly in order to make the days.  All the actors and crew respected him, and went the extra mile for him.  It was an amazing experience.

(l-r) Justin Ward, MateusWard
Photo Property of ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – For an Actor so young, did you feel intimidated by this role at all? You did so well!

Mateus – Thank you! It was one of those things that I was always worried about. I wasn’t necessarily worried about doing it. I knew that once I put in the work, I could get there. I was mostly worried about how people would receive it. The title of the movie has the word “Man” in it! I knew it would cause shock and a lot of doubt from the audience before hand, but the way the movie is formatted I think it works very well. I have always been told I have an old soul, and to be honest, it was more challenging to play the young version of Clyde.

SMC – Have you had any personal experiences that have shaped you personally and prepared you for the kinds of roles you have been playing as of late?

Mateus – Let’s see an evil robot who shoots lazers and is telekinetic, a smart-ass son of a drug dealer, an actual drug dealer, a school shooter and a 40-year-old man convicted of three murders?  Hmmm… can’t really say I’ve had any of those personal experiences…

SMC -Ha ha ha – fair enough…. Where can the general public see The Meanest Man in Texas?

Mateus – We are still on the festival circuit.  But check out our social media, all #TheMeanestManInTexas for updates.

SMC – Have you been approached for other roles as a result of this film?

Mateus – Not that I can discuss…

SMC – What advice can you give to new Actors pursuing a career in Hollywood?

Mateus – Work, work, work! Study film, watch as many old and new programs as you can. Challenge yourself! Make sure it is truly what you love, because it’s not easy.

SMC – Since we are also a Music website – can you tell us who the top five Artists are in your favorites playlist?

Mateus – Jason Mraz, Chance the Rapper, Elvis Presley, Childish Gambino, and Panic! at the Disco

SMC – We would like to continue profiling you via our SMC SPOTLIGHT Numbered Series. This is a documented chronological journey of our most celebrated Artists throughout their career. Is this something that would appeal to you?

Mateus – Sounds great!

SMC – Alright, final question…finish this sentence: If I didn’t pursue a career in Acting, I would be………

Mateus – I don’t know what I’d be if I weren’t an actor… I’ve never had a back up plan!

SMC – Thank you Mateus!

____________________

Actor Mateus Ward is ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ Photo by: Deborah Kolb

Mateus Wards’ Social Media links (click to view)

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Actor Mateus Ward at the Red Carpet Premiere in Los Angeles May 5th, 2017
Photo property of ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

Film and Television: Wards television credits include: Murder in the First, Hostages, NCIS, Disney XD’s Lab Rats, Weeds, Parenthood, Norn MacDonald Show, Outnumbered (Pilot), Criminal Minds, Pit Boss, and The Incredible Bean (Pilot). Film credits include: Lonely Boy, House Painting, The Afterlife, The Hall Monitor, Devil’s Eyes, Love in the Time of Flannel, STROBE, and now, The Meanest Man In Texas.

DIRECTOR: JUSTIN WARD ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ | Exclusive SMC SPOTLIGHT Interview

By Candice Anne Marshall

Recently, we posted a SPOTLIGHT on Director Joshua Shultz for his short film ‘STROBE’ complete with an in-depth interview with he and his leading lady for the film, Chelsea Debo. In researching the background on other Actors in the film a little further, I discovered Los Angeles, California-based Actor Mateus Ward (see Mateus Wards’ in-depth SMC SPOTLIGHT interview/review here). His role as a meth addict in this film was so convincing, I decided I needed to know more about him. That’s when I stumbled across his Facebook Fan page and discovered he was cast as lead Actor in the upcoming film, ‘The Meanest Man in Texas‘(just hitting the Film Festival circuit now). This lead me down the rabbit hole and what I discovered was a kaleidoscope of magnificent talent and that talent has a name: Justin Ward.

Ward is the Director and genius behind this compelling film and it is evident in every detail that was portrayed historically and thematically. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is a true story account (set in the late 1920’s and onward) following the life of Clyde Thompson, who, at the age of 17 was convicted of murder (self-defense) and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Within hours of his inevitable fate, Texas Governor Ross Sterling reduced his sentence to life in prison. This began the true account story (title of the same name) written in the early 1980’s by Author Don Umphrey who compiled a detailed and documented account of what turned this young man into what the media would later label ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’.

Photo still of Actor Captain Colt played by Jamie McShane at the Prison Farm where Clyde Thompson was placed.
Photo by: Ryan Gunnerson

Aesthetically, this film scores high in my list of epic true-story cinematography: I have always been a fan of vintage films and the imagery, costumes, sets and final produced result of this film is exquisite. Lead Actors Mateus Ward (yes, he is Justin’s son, also, plays Clyde Thompson), and Alexandra Bard (Julia, Thompson’s love interest and savior) bring depth and emotion with conviction. I admit, I was a blubbering mess each time their on-screen relationship was tested with inevitable challenges and hurdles.

Actor Jamie McShane lends combustible energy to his role as Captain Colt. Now, I don’t want to give too many of the details away (you’ll just have to attend the Film Festival circuit to see what I mean!), but let’s just say that the friction between Wards’ and McShanes’ characters was on-the-seat-of-your-chair gripping, explosive, sometimes humorous, and compassionate. Characters throughout the film such as Ben Reed (Thompson’s grief-stricken Father), and Casey Bond (Preacher) lend depth to this already intense story. My hats’ off to Casting Director Laura Ward who, clearly, has a true penchant for recognizing strengths and weaknesses in each Actor and has suitably matched them for every role in this film – brilliant! A full list of the cast and crew for this film can be found (here).

There aren’t a lot of films anymore that motivate me to head to the theater and feel inspired by their stories and I am also not the kind of individual to watch even much television these days. For me to sit more than 10 minutes during any film, whether it be in the theater or in the comfort of my office or home, it must be compelling in its content, visuals, and supported by stellar performances. ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ is this complete package delivered by a ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber cast and crew. Having a Journalist background, I am drawn to factual-based films where accuracy portrayed in the overall details, visual, and acting is congruent to the time/era it takes place in. In my opinion, Justin Ward along with Producers Casey Bond and Brad Wilson (Higher Purpose Entertainment, in association with OHAHA FILMS, Inc.) have brought truth, humor, emotion, and enlightenment to this otherwise dark story that I am certain will inspire viewers to look beyond misfortune to know that there is always hope and the ability to achieve a positive outcome.

If you haven’t heard about this film yet or the cast and crew mentioned, I encourage you to check out the social media links after this interview and stay tapped in to find out when it will be available for public viewing and where. In the meantime, spend two minutes of your day and check out the trailer to this incredible film below.

And did I mention the films ‘Rolls Royce’ caliber?

You’re welcome.

Director Justin Ward Photo by: Joshua Shultz Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC SPOTLIGHT Exclusive Interview | DIRECTOR: JUSTIN WARD ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’

May 9th, 2017

SMC – Hello Justin! Welcome to the SMC SPOTLIGHT! We have begun expanding SMC into other areas of the arts such as the Film Industry. We are thrilled to be talking to you today about your new film ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’. Let’s begin first with some background questions…. can you tell us about your role in the making of this film?

JUSTIN: Thank you.  I am the director and co-writer of the film. 

SMC – Can you share your career background with us?

JUSTIN: I began my career working for Mick Jagger at Jagged Films, his film production company.  I went on to work as an assistant to the producers on several studio feature films, and was fortunate enough to work with and observe such producers and directors as Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, James L. Brooks, Richard Donner, Ron Shelton, Arnon Milchan, Joel Silver, and Grant Hill.  I developed a documentary sports series for extreme sports for ESPN, and produced and directed over 300 hours of programming from 1999-2005 on that network.  In 2006, I was the Showrunner on a magazine TV series called “Inside the UFC” for Spike TV. I also created and was the Showrunner of “The BJ Penn Show,” and in 2011, I created, directed and Executive Produced the documentary film series “Rock Stars” on National Geographic.  In 2015, I directed the award-winning syndicated farm-to-table series “Localicious.” I have also produced, directed and edited for The UFC, The USSA, The ParaOlympics, Nascar, Warner Bros. Marketing, CBS, NBC, FOX, The Travel Channel and the NFL.  This is my feature film directorial debut.

SMC – What lead you to this story about the life of Clyde Thompson aka: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’?

JUSTIN: Mateus Ward and I wrote an anti-bully film called REBEL in 2014, and I shot a teaser to help raise financing.  Brad Wilson, one of the producers of “The Meanest Man In Texas” read the script and saw my teaser.  He and his partner Casey Bond brought the project to me and asked me to direct it.  I worked with writer Don Umphrey on the script for a few months, then we jumped right into production.  It all happened very quickly.

SMC – Let’s get into the details of the film itself: how much of Clyde’s life story was accurate in this film? Sometimes in films, there is a true account of the biographical story and in others, it’s a ‘based on’ account….

JUSTIN: When I read the book, it was hard to believe any of this could have happened to one man!  I was blown away by this unbelievable story.  So, it wasn’t hard to stick to the truth—it was more dramatic and exciting than any fiction.  Don Umphrey had spent years talking to Clyde Thompson and others to get all the facts, and we felt it was important to stay as close as we could to his true story.  All the situations actually happened, and are true.  However, we flushed out a few characters that Clyde knew or mentioned, but didn’t give much detail about.  When I started on the script, I wanted to really explore more deeply Clyde and Julia and Clyde and Capt. Colt’s relationships. 

SMC – Can you tell us what the importance of telling this story though film was to you? How did it resonate with you personally?

JUSTIN: I was so moved by this story, I had to tell it.  There were so many themes that resonated with me in the story.  First, I think it is a powerful story about redemption.  That no matter how dark things get, there is always hope.  The other theme I wanted to explore is the idea of how a corrupt justice and penal system can change you.  Clyde went into prison a typical teenager, quite innocent in many ways, and soon gained the moniker “the Meanest Man In Texas.”  I wanted to make a film that asks the fundamental question: do circumstances define who we are, or can we become the person we want to be in life, no matter our circumstances?  Once I started re-writing the script, what really resonated with me in the true story was the unconditional love between Clyde and Julia, so I wanted to make sure we flush that element out more.  Society wants to put us in boxes, they try and label us, for example he’s “a killer” and she’s a “hunchback,” but this is a story about two people who didn’t accept those labels—in fact, they defied them—and loved each other unconditionally regardless of how society saw them.   So, for me, it became a powerful story about redemption, forgiveness and acceptance, and that was the film I wanted to make. 

(l-r) Justin Ward, Mateus Ward, Jamie McShane
Photo by: Ryan Gunnerson

SMC – I also see that Don Umphrey, the author who wrote ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ was involved in this project as well. Can you tell us how much of a benefit he was to have included in the making of this film?

JUSTIN: Don was a wealth of information. Having met and spoken with Clyde himself was a huge resource.  It took Don 39 years to get this story to the big screen.  I was very respectful when changing the script and ran everything by him, just to make sure it was historically correct.

SMC – Your Casting Director Laura Ward did an excellent job at assembling the Actor profiles for this film! Can you tell us a little bit about her background and what vision she had for the film also? (this could even be a question you could let her answer)

JUSTIN: Laura was amazing. Laura has a phenomenal eye and worked around the clock to find the best actors for every single role.  Every actor we cast was incredibly talented!  It was such a joy collaborating on this with my wife.  I knew we had little time for rehearsal with the actors, and most likely we would get no more than a couple of takes, so we were really looking at auditions and audition tapes where the actors were “performance ready,” with maybe a few adjustments.  

LAURA WARD:  It was really important for us to find actors that looked vintage, as if they were from that era.  We saw a lot of actors from popular shows, but it was important to find classic faces and great acting.  During the process, it was great to see how many actors came really prepared and embodied the character they were portraying.  I come from an acting background and have studied with some great teachers.  Being the mother of a young actor, and watching roles being put out on breakdown, cast and then filmed, I was able to use that experience in searching for our cast.  I was seeking actors who brought something special to each character.  I am so very proud of this cast!

SMC – In conversation with you, this past weekend you earned ‘Best Picture’ at the ICFF (International Christian Film Festival) Film Festival in Florida! What an accomplishment! What are your thoughts on this?

JUSTIN: It is such an honor to win a Best Picture award. The festival also gave Mateus Ward a Best Actor in a Feature Film award.  Brad Wilson, our producer, was in Orlando for ICFF, and said it was an extremely successful screening and festival. 

SMC – Tell us about your LA premiere? Can you tell us what some of the reactions to the film were?

JUSTIN: I was thrilled we were accepted to the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival in Beverly Hills.  It was great to show the film to our friends, family and industry peers.  The reaction was amazing, and many people stayed after the Q&A to continue to discuss the film, which was incredible.

SMC – The emotion that was expressed in this film was very intense and laced with some humor throughout (‘Got a light?’) – can you tell us if that was your personal touch to the film or if those were true accounts of the kinds of things the real Clyde would have said or done?

JUSTIN: I have to admit, the line “Got a light?” was my addition.  However, it was based on Clyde Thompson’s type of humor.  I like to think it was something he would have said.  I didn’t have much time, but I did my best to add humor and charm into the film where we could, since it was such a dark series of situations.  The casting director and I wanted to make sure that the actor Barney had a great sense of humor, and Anthony Guerino brought in a lot of awkward charm and humor to the role.

(l-r) Justin Ward, Mateus Ward
Photo Property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – What are your thoughts on Mateus’s skill as an Actor in this film?

JUSTIN:  I can’t explain how extraordinary it was to work with my son on this project.  I may be biased, but I believe he is one of the most talented actors of his generation.  The fact that he’s won 3 lead actor awards for this film, backs up my belief.  I don’t know any 17-year-old that could pull off what he did in this film, let alone many actors of any age.  Not only did he lose 17 pounds for the role, research for months, reached out to the family, but he also learned a very difficult accent and certain cadence, aged himself up physically and vocally, and carried the film.  The role required so much emotional, mental and physical range, and he nailed it.  I am extremely proud of his work on this film. 

SMC – I discovered your film through an industry peer – Joshua Shultz (Bellus Magazine, Director: STROBE), can you tell us what your connection with Joshua is?

JUSTIN: We met Joshua through an article he was doing on Mateus back in 2013.  We have all kept in touch, and Joshua asked Mateus to be in his anti-drug film STROBE.

SMC – With the SMC SPOTLIGHT, we have begun a ‘Spotlight numbered series’ with some of our high-profile clients and would like to continue following your journey and career. Is this something that would interest you?

JUSTIN: Yes.  Of course.  We would love to be a part of the Spotlight Numbered Series. 

SMC – What do you think is the value in having the support of media platforms such as SMC?

JUSTIN: SMC is such a great publication, with incredible talent and interesting interviews, I am honored to be included.  I think there is huge value in SMC sharing indie films to their audience.  Our goal as filmmakers is to make films so people can see them, and we are able to reach new audiences through publications like SMC.

SMC – Can you tell us which industry peers have been most supportive of your film? Who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to?

JUSTIN: The success of the film is a culmination of everyone who worked on, acted in and helped support this film.  First, the executive producers Don Umphrey and Marshall Danby, have been incredible to work with on this project.  I have to thank the Producers Brad Wilson and Casey Bond, who hired me.  My wife Laura, son Mateus, and daughter Adiana for their constant support.  Shirley Roberts and Clyde Echols are members of the family who helped fill in the gaps.   It was my first film, so I reached out to a few people in the industry for advice, like Ralph Bertelle VP of Production at Paramount, Greg Berry an incredible art director and production designer, and Clenet Verdi-Rose a director and 1st AD.  So many people were so supportive, I’m sure I have missed some, but I am humbled by so much support by people like Dennis Lavalle, Eric Swanson, Andrew Morgado, PJ Ochelan and Joshua Shultz.

(l-r) Mateus Ward, Isabella Acres
Photo Property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – What are some of the projects you have coming up? Are you able to share that info with our readers?

JUSTIN: I have a couple of projects that I am trying to package right now, a feature film and a music documentary.  Mateus and I are also seeking financing on the anti-bully film we wrote together called REBEL.

SMC – Will you be including Mateus in on more future projects?

JUSTIN: This was such an incredible experience for both of us, we hope to continue to work on projects together.

SMC – Pardon my ignorance, but I have never asked this question before: what is the process of getting a film completed? Can you give us a play by play from first concept to final output?

JUSTIN: Basically, it’s like bearing a child.  For this film, we had a short window of pre-production which included budgeting, scheduling, re-writes, finding locations, casting and wardrobe.  Production was 11 days.  Post production included 4 weeks of editing, color, mixing and final output. 

SMC – You had mentioned to me that this film took only 11days to complete – wow! That’s some intense shooting! Can you tell us what a typical day would be like on set from start to finish?

JUSTIN: Having only 11 days meant everyone had to be extremely prepared.  I had every shot, every angle, every beat planed out.  Then, when we got pressed for time, I had to throw away the game plan, and in the moment, create a way to get the scene shot in just one shot, with no coverage.  This happened several times a day.  The cast and crew all had to adapt and be fluid, because I refused to throw out scenes, I threw out set ups and coverage instead.  We made every day.  I couldn’t have done it without my first Assistant Director and the Cinematographer Will Barratt, or with a different cast and crew.

SMC – Can you tell us what the next several weeks and months look like in terms of Film Festivals and promotion of this film?

JUSTIN: As of now, we are waiting on a couple more film festivals, and just trying to create some buzz and get people excited about the film.

SMC – I have to say that I was pretty impressed by the portrayal Alexandra Bard gave of Julia in this film. Can you tell us what working with Alexandra was like?

JUSTIN: Alex walked into the audition and had morphed herself into Julia.  I remember after she left, I asked the casting director for her headshot, thinking I found my Julia.  When she handed me Alexandra’s headshot, it was a glamor shot of this gorgeous woman, I said, “No, the one who JUST auditioned.”  Alex is one of the actresses every director dreams to cast.  She was 100% committed to the role, did her homework, transformed herself for the role, never complained, took direction, and gave a stellar performance that has left audiences in tears.  We lucked out that she walked through the door that day.  I knew from her first audition she was our Julia.

Alexandra Bard (Julia)
Photo by: Deborah Kolb

SMC – Some of the other Actors in the film had some pretty stellar skills presented in the film also. Ben Reed, who played Clyde’s Father was compelling! Jamie McShane as Captain Colt – that was also intense! How do you feel about the skills that these two gentlemen portrayed?

JUSTIN: I am proud of every actor in this film.  We assembled some amazingly talented actors, and they all stepped up and delivered strong performances.  I cannot say enough about Jamie McShane.  In New York, he won Best Supporting Actor at the Film Festival, and deserves many more awards for his performance.  Jamie was a pleasure to work with and he stepped in and accepted this part late in the game.  He didn’t have much time to prepare.   He was so respectful of the script and my vision, yet brought so much to the role. We had some incredible discussions about Capt. Colt and his journey. Besides being a great actor, he is an extraordinary human being.  Great example of the kind of actor / person he is, Jamie arrived on day 1, and it was over 100 degrees outside.  Hotter inside the Morgue.  Jamie shows up with 2 huge cases of water on his shoulders, and passes them out to the crew.  Then stepped in, and delivered that performance that left us all mesmerized. 

SMC – At the end of shooting, and it’s time to attend Film Festivals, do you feel like the cast has become a family? I mean, this is a story about a young man whose life was changed forever but there were key people along the way that helped to bring him to this epiphany in life…. surely this is the kind of thing that would connect people.

JUSTIN: Yes.  Well, some of the cast and crew are actually family.  Seriously, there is a certain connection with people when you make a film.  This team was especially special.  We were fortunate that the entire cast and crew were all really great people, besides being so talented.  It made an impossible task fun, and everyone has been so supportive during the festival circuit.  We have all gotten very close. 

Still from ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ with Cast
Photo property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’
Provided by: Justin Ward

SMC – Can you tell us all the film Festivals that ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ has been a part of and which are coming up?

JUSTIN:  We have been accepted to 7 film festivals, including the Nashville Film Festival, The New York City International Film Festival, The Beverly Hills Film Festival, IndieFEST, The International Christian Film Festival, The Los Angeles Cinefest of Hollywood, and The Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival.

SMC – What accomplishments overall can you list for us that the film has earned so far?

JUSTIN: It has been accepted to 7 festivals, with over 20 nominations and 10 wins, including a Best Picture. 

SMC – Where will the general public be able to see this film?

JUSTIN: We are still on the film festival circuit, but check our social media for any updates on distribution.

SMC – How can one of our readers reach out to find out where they can see this film?

JUSTIN: Follow us on social media for more information and updates:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

SMC – Finish this sentence: If I was not pursuing my career in Film, I would have been a……

JUSTIN: Theater Director… or a scuba or kayak instructor.

SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what your thoughts are on the future of film and the role independent films play?

JUSTIN: I think studio films play a great role as pure entertainment, but it is the indie films that filmmakers have a voice.  Films such as “Mean Streets,” “Momento,” “Resevoir Dogs,” “Precious,” and “Moonlight,”  are all independent films and have very unique cinematic voices.   I think Indie films are essential to the industry, it is where stories like this can be told.

SMMC – We couldn’t agree more Justin! Fabulous work!

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Film poster for: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’ Photo provided by: Justin Ward Property of: ‘The Meanest Man In Texas’

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