BACKSTAGE with Kenneth Kemp

14 09 2013

Today on CSReview, Hollywood actor and director Kenneth Kemp is sharing a behind-the-scenes story of an exciting upcoming TV series Attaché.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Kenneth. Let’s start with a quick look at your career in entertainment. What achievements are you most proud of?

KEMPKenneth Kemp: I ran Kenneth Kemp Productions for over 20 years, worked with numerous Fortune 500 clients, and produced over 100 projects. I won two Best Director Cindy Awards (Cinema In Industry). I was a producer at the Olympics Games in Salt Lake City and Greece. But the thing that I’m most excited about is this International TV series, Attaché.

CS: Attaché is your first network series – how does it feel embarking on a new adventure in a new, and a very different and serious role?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, I thrive on it.  Creating and writing a series is certainly serious work, as you put it, but serious fun bringing it to fruition. Attaché is an international crime drama about a branch of law enforcement that’s never been seen on television,  and I’m thrilled that we’ll be featuring cultures, countries, and actors from around the globe.

CS: I am curious, what’s the story behind Attaché? How did the idea come about?

Kenneth Kemp: I was working the Olympics when I first encountered a Legal Attaché. I had no idea the FBI maintained a presence in foreign countries. My curiosity got the better of me and the more I dug, the more I thought, “This is a great premise for a television series”.

Astonishingly, Legal Attachés have limited authority, no jurisdiction, usually aren’t allowed to carry a gun, yet their job is to solve or prevent crimes against Americans abroad. Having no jurisdiction, they must work with a local law enforcement liaison, who’s in charge of the case. Despite these impediments, they still manage to save Americans every day.

For the series I raised the stakes even further.  A typical Legal Attaché stays in a specific country for about three years and develops these liaison relationships to help investigations run smoothly. In Attaché, our protagonist John Roemer is a specialist, sent to a different country in each episode. Beyond cultural differences he must work with someone he’s never met before and lead from the back seat. To make matters worse, limited resources seem to doom his missions to failure.

At home things aren’t any easier. Roemer is unwilling to move on from his estranged wife and he’s challenging custody of their son, who means everything to him.


CS: Sounds like an awesome plot. What’s the hardest thing you had to do so far on the project? What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on this project?

Kenneth Kemp: I’ve worked diligently over the past two years to develop my relationship with the FBI. I wanted to make sure the series was couched in reality – even though I take creative liberties to make it more dramatic. The great thing that’s come out of this relationship is that the Bureau is excited about the series and has agreed to open their Legat (Legal Attaché) files to us to mine for future episodes.  That’s something networks want to see.  Not only are our episodes based on real cases; there’s virtually an endless pool of stories.

The funniest things were some of the stories I heard while interviewing current and former Legats. I can’t tell you the stories now, but you can be sure they’ll be featured in the series.

CS: Now I am intrigued! Let’s talk about the money. Isn’t producing an international series expensive?

Kenneth Kemp: It depends on how much we actually shoot in the foreign country.  Covert Affairs, (USA Network) for example, take their lead talent to several countries over a few weeks, with a skeleton crew, and shoot the recognizable exteriors they need from several scripts in order to mitigate costs. Everything else is shot on a sound stage or in local locations that double for foreign ones.

CS: Oh, Covert Affairs has been really awesome, very dynamic and real. Do you plan on having FBI consultants on the set to ensure authenticity?

Kenneth Kemp: The Bureau’s been on board with this project since the beginning. The Public Affairs office is used to working with Hollywood. They’ve been a tremendous help to me as a writer, ensuring my pilot script’s realism permeates descriptions, scenarios and even dialogue. Once we’re in production, we will want a consultant on set, however that will be a retired agent who’s no longer working for the FBI.

CS: That makes sense. Now, since this is international, what countries are involved in the story?

Kenneth Kemp: We start off in Greece. I have the rest of season one outlined and we’re already in talks with film commissions from countries around the globe that are not only excited about the series, they’ve expressed interest in possible joint ventures. You’ll have to watch and find out where Roemer goes next.

CS: Looks like you got it all covered. What’s next for Attaché?

Kenneth Kemp:  We’re attaching above-the-line talent, aligning with producing partners, and meeting with networks.

CS: On that note let me wish you to break a leg doing the leg work for this incredible upcoming series, and we here certainly will welcome news of Attaché‘s release. Thanks for being on CSReview, Kenneth.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.



BACKSTAGE with Craig Hurley

13 03 2013

Today on CSReview, a Hollywood actor and now a published author Craig Hurley talks about his autobiography 27 And All Washed Up.

craighurleyCS: Welcome to CSReview, Craig! How does it feel going from being an actor to being an author?

Craig Hurley:  Hi! Thanks for having me…  I have actually been a writer for many years, and have five scripts registered with The Writer’s Guild.  An actor in essence interprets the emotions and written word of a character, usually written by someone else.  As a writer, the project is your own creation from its inception, which is exciting in a very different way.  Over time in the entertainment industry, you learn that without a script you really have nothing.  You learn to really respect writers.  27 and all Washed Up is my first book, and my first venture as an author.  It was a cathartic and nostalgic experience, and I learned a great deal from it.  I really enjoy hearing reader’s opinions, good and bad, but mostly people find it to be an honest and entertaining read.  In the end, I’m an entertainer, so that’s great!

CS: What’s behind the title – 27 and all washed up – what kind of a message are you sending to young actors?

27_front_coverCraig Hurley: To watch out for your careers or you’ll become that, Kristen Stewart! Be careful.  27 is actually a very interesting number in the entertainment industry.  At that age, most child actors shift into adult roles, if they can.  And you have to be prepared to do that.  When I wasn’t booking on camera at 27, I shifted into voice over work.  You have to be prepared to tackle and explore other facets of the industry while you’re waiting for what you really want to happen.  There is a great deal of advice for young actors in 27 and all Washed Up, I can personally impart because of my own experience, which was sometimes very painful.  My message to young actors about 27 and all Washed Up is to read it!  They should do so, as there is always this tendency in the entertainment industry, and in human nature in general, to hear cautionary tales but say, “That won’t happen to me.”  I was poised to parallel Johnny Depp in our careers.  The decisions you make on the way up affect those projections.

CS: You’re rather open, frank in your book. Do you have regrets, or do you feel a sense of fulfillment that you got the entire story out – your story?

Craig Hurley:  I have nothing to hide! Never have.  My girlfriend, actress Katie Barberi, says one of the traits she admires most about me is my honesty.  If you can’t be honest about your experiences with yourself and with others you really have nothing.  Honesty is truth, and truth is freedom.  I have to have a sense of fulfillment about 27 and all Washed Up, because it’s a project that’s seven years in the making.  And it is actually just beginning as I tackle the marketing aspect of it without being a marketing expert.  But I didn’t really write it for that sense of fulfillment.  I‘ve just had an interesting ride and my friend and costar in a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest I did in Chicago, actor Zak Wilson, suggested we put those experiences down on paper through an interview process.  That process actually became the format for the book, which is another aspect of “27” I have heard readers really like.

CS: In your book you’re mentioning Paralympics. Could you share more about what exactly you did and why, and what was the ultimate lesson for you in this?

Craig Hurley:  I was a celebrity Judge at the Special Olympics in 1990, and what struck me about these kids and young adults was their spirit.  I also worked with Down’s Syndrome inflicted actor Chris Burke on Life Goes On and my observations were similar.  We so-called “normal” people  complain a lot.  A lot.  And then you see these kids, who were born with and/or have acquired an apparently huge disadvantage for accomplishment in this life.  But they don’t see it that way!  They persevere.  They deal with those disadvantages and move on toward fulfilling their dreams, just like anybody else.  They also need to be heard and recognized, just like anybody else.

CS: Are you enjoying your human experience so far?

Craig Hurley:  Well, I don’t seem to have much of a choice, do I?  I don’t know if we’re meant to enjoy the human experience.  Although there are obviously great moments of joy, mostly derived from love.  Dan Millman wote in The Peaceful Warrior that the bravest souls on this planet are those of us that come down here to learn.  To that end, I am enjoying learning.  But I am concerned about the human experience in general and for generations to come, and the fact that the “playground” we have to have those experiences on is in such peril.  On my website,, you will find my complete report on a project I conceived for drought solution and water conservation called, “Floodwater Relocation Program.”  As an Illinois Department of Transportation Certified Inspector and the son of a Civil Engineer who has owned his own Consulting GeoTechnical Engineering Firm for the past forty years, I have learned a great deal about construction, and I believe we need to put our knowledge to use toward the saving of the only little ball of dirt in the Universe that we have to inhabit.

 CS: I won’t let you go without talking about Star Trek. I bet it was awesome, and I also happen to know that my audience is dying to hear a backstage story from the set. Maybe just one, something that didn’t make into your book?

Craig Hurley:  Well, I don’t have much more to impart about my experience on Star Trek The Next Generation, precisely because I was very specific and detailed about it in 27 and all Washed Up, and all Star Trek fans should definitely check it out!  I have some fun secrets about the special effects and the actors and how they were on the set in there.  What has blown me away is how many followers the actors from Star Trek have on Twitter!  I have used Twitter to tell people about some of the actors, writers, producers and directors I talk about in “27”, and the stars of Star Trek have some of the most followers on the planet!  Just amazing!

CS: What are your future plans? What do you expect from life in the next 10, 20, more years?

Craig Hurley:  I am right now concentrating on ScrappyCo Productions projects.  We are in post production on an independent film called Crazy that I wrote, directed, produced and starred in alongside actor Steven H. Hansen. As for my expectations, I expect to keep learning. That’s what I’m here for.

CS: Thank you for sharing your story with CSReview readers, Craig. Best of luck with your new projects. I am sure we’ll be hearing from you again!

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Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

BACKSTAGE with Traci Dinwiddie

5 07 2012

Today’s guest on CSReview is a Hollywood science fiction actress and a woman of many talents with an amazing professional record – Traci Dinwiddie

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Traci. I am truly honored to have you here. You are an award winning actress, now also a screenwriter and a singer. Does wearing many hats wear you out, or, perhaps on the contrary, gives you an extra boost and inspiration to create something new and exciting?

Traci: Thank you so much for your interest in my work! Wear me out? Oh, quite the contrary! I’m a multi-hat wearing kind of woman.  It’s extraordinary to live a rich, full life.  Being busy doing what I love titillates me.

CS: From one sci fi fan to another – Han Solo rocks! And so do Star Wars. I really do not know what we’d do without them… do you imagine your life could turn out differently if not your early exposure to science fiction? What are the ultimate lessons of science fiction that you carry with you through life?

Traci: I hear ya.  Love me some Han Solo. The ultimate lesson in sci-fi would be that anything IS possible!

CS: Who is your Yoda, your Grand Master? What would you like to learn that’s missing in your professional career today?

Traci: My Yoda is my yoga. On the simple side, I’d like to learn French.  I’m also really flirting with the idea of going back to college and finishing just because I can and I love to learn.  The only real thing missing in my career today is a series regular role in a new badass sci-fi TV series! Come on, Universe! Bring it!

CS: You know what they say…  if you want something really badly, Universe will move with you to deliver. If you’re determined, things will happen! What is most special and most hard thing to do when acting in a science fiction film? Does it differ from anything else you’ve done on screen?

Traci: Sci-fi is my heart’s love.  It’s always mind-bending.  I must give a deep bow to the sci-fi fandom.  We are a special breed.  Hardest thing: keeping my eyes open after they were ‘burned out of my skull’ while crying in Bobby Singer’s (played by Jim Beaver) arms in episode 401 of  “Supernatural”.

CS: If you were a Star Trek character, who would you be? Why? I think Star Trek 2009 was absolutely brilliant. Do you want to see another Star Trek sequel, if yes – would you want to be a part of it?

Traci: Loved it, too.  I’m eager to work with J.J. Abrams.  I would have played Spock’s mama, Amanda Greyson, hands down.  Sorry, Winona.  Ya haven’t anything on MY eyebrows! Yes, I would dive into some Star Trek sequel action without hesitation.

CS: You’re on your way to creating a new web series. This is a new medium that continues to win the audience. What are the key components of producing an ultimately great web series?

Traci: I hope I have the ingredients right.  I’m a huge social media participant.  Web Series need quick, exciting story lines to follow, brilliant editing, and unique style.  These are designed for those who’ve busy lives.  I want to leave my audience inspired and eager for more.

CS: How does trying yourself in a new, more technical role of a producer, reflect on your acting?

Traci: It’s empowering to produce films in which I act.  I dig knowing that I’m creating work for myself, and I hope it inspires others to manifest their own desired work. As one of my mentors, Marianne Williamson says, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” While producing and acting does require a bit of a juggle, it’s completely do-able.  When I’m on the set as an actress, I delegate producer responsibilities appropriately, so I can simply focus on my craft.  It takes a good instinct for hiring your team.  I’d like to think I’ve got that instinct.

CS: If you had to go through a Stargate, which planet would you pick for your destination, and what would you find there?

Traci: Ah, yes.  My Stargate would take me to Neptune where the atmosphere is pure water in which one can breathe.  All movement would be lyrical in its effect simply by the fact that the local beings are living in a water world.  It’s a dreamy place with the essence of poetry, light, and dance where a person can restore after working their buns off on Earth.  I’m a bit of a romantic, I admit.

CS: I love alien planets! Well, Traci, thanks for a great sci fi chat! I’m glad you stepped by and I wish you all the best and all the greatest achievements in life and on screen!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Click to watch ANHEDONIA Trailer

BACKSTAGE with Michael J. Kirkland

10 05 2012

Today on CSReview, a Hollywood actor, film director and producer Michael J. Kirkland, talking about his film choices. The film will be screened at the Cannes Artisan Film Festival on May 16, 2012.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Michael! What do you think of your end product?

Michael J. Kirkland: Thank you for the interview. My impression of choices is and always will be… Needed the demo reel… In the world of making films and as an actor you must take a shot at filming anything you can put yourself into with out auditioning. It’s nearly impossible to get a good film to act in or to get an audition for. In my limited success as an actor, I have come to the conclusion that you must make your own film projects to be successful! This is why I choose to make choices.

CS: Michael, what happened, where did idea of choices come from?

Michael J. Kirkland: The idea of choices was brought to me by Gene Loveland, he acted and produced the film. We started a Kickstarter page. Raised some funds and built a crew. He and I worked on raising funds and building a crew for almost a year. John Hafner was our DP and he has an excellent eye. We added Gabriel Schmidt to bring us home and finish what Gene and I had started. Now choices is done and we needed an editor. Got Tom Ford to edit. Tom Ford and I have worked together before. Script was written by Sean Ryan’s team. He’s in Ireland. Gabriel Schmidt got onboard along with a few others who provided money. Gabriel has been the reason for everything else to include the multiple physiology sessions with the Director. Without him and us three film choices would have been done half-way and that’s not acceptable. If one or all is missing from the film, choices would not have gotten made. Period.

CS: Curious, and what in your opinion makes choices unique?

Michael J. Kirkland: The same thing that makes choices stand out! Bringing awareness to alcoholism. Millions are effected by this man made disease. Time to teach the masses moderation. The fact that we credited every actor in choices with an IMDB credit. Many of them never having a credit in a film. Instead of using background, I and Gene called our acting and work colleagues to help out as choices bit actors. Put real actors in the bit actors roles made all the scene look and feel real. Officially! They are the reason why choices scenes look real and life like. All are hungry to work in entertainment. All have graciously given their time to choices. All are beautiful performers! I applaud all choices actors and crew!

CS: Sounds like an amazing team work and some really professional choices made there to make this happen. But, Michael, your prime audience may not know all this. Why would they want to care about your film, and why should we?

Michael J. Kirkland: Why people will care about choices is the same reason why we raised funds for this film. The people who invested time and money want to be heard about this man made disease. We had a few full fledged alcoholics including one of my very good friends who were in choices. Without saying their names, they were very excited for this story to be told. Many who worked on choices were not paid and did this on their own free will.

CS: Your message in choices?

Michael J. Kirkland: It is to learn the signs of an alcoholic before he or she takes an innocent life.

CS: Anything memorable happened on the set you would like to share?

Michael J. Kirkland: We have a vast audience mostly due to the people who worked on choices. They all marketed to their respected age groups! This helps choices be seen. Funny story? We were going to film on Canon 7 D’s. Awesome camera. We switched to The Red Camera. This is why choices looks beautiful. choices can be and will be a feature film. Tell everybody!

CS: You also acted in choices. Who is your character – Sean Mathews – and what did you need to do to get into his skin?

Michael J. Kirkland: Sean Mathews was an interesting character for me to portray. Basically I mimicked the best bar tender I have ever known and brought that to screen. Added 15 lbs. 1/2 part my father, a few parts of real life experience in imaginary circumstances. Put the finishing touch on the character when I decided to take four months to grow the beard.

CS: Oh, so that was for real, no prosthetics?

Michael J. Kirkland: No one at the time knew that I have a reddish beard! At first people just looked. Then when a bird flew out… Kidding. I resemble my father. Send you a photo… I digress. The Sean Mathews character was an easy read. This guy was in charge of his bar. One night he overserves a drunk man. This man Ian Chance would later go on to drive and kill a little girl. Everybody wants the opportunity to tell someone that they are crazy. Sean Mathews gets to do it in a few takes. What was special about the role to me – my son Michael was across from me every take. Nothing more special than that.

CS: Michael, what can we expect from choices on screen? Why would we want to watch these characters?

Michael J. Kirkland: Why people would want to see the Sean Mathews’ and Ian Chance’s characters? Three reason’s: besides an excellent supporting cast, it was filmed on the Red Camera and the huge fact that film choices has been accepted at the Cannes Artisan Film Festival! Two excellent actors and a great production team behind them.

CS: Thank you for sharing an excellent story with us, Michael. Best of luck in Cannes!

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Watch CHOICES Official Trailer

BACKSTAGE with Athena Baumeister

10 04 2012

Today’s guest on CSReview is a young and promising filmmaker and actress Athena Baumeister. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Athena has successfully emerged into the world of “Young Hollywood.” A true jack of all trades, Athena has had roles in various short films and commercials and made her directorial debut with the short film Who’s Suffering More. Her directorial granted her the title of Prize Winning Short Film by Providential Film Festival and thus encouraged her to direct Caroline’s Crush, which was submitted to Kids and Teen Filmmakers in 2011 and awarded Best Film in her age group. Athena’s versatility with directing, singing, and acting has made her into the teen world’s popular new commodity. As a triple threat, Athena is a force of nature to be reckoned with. She is currently working on two web series. One is Correction House, a corky comedy series where Athena plays the character Rachel Butler, an adolescent neighbor who is living next door to a group of recently reformed convicts. Her second web series Facility House is currently in post-production.

Camilla Stein: Welcome to CSReview, Athena! A budding talent, you are in today’s spotlight as an award winning actress and film maker. Why did you choose cinema? If cinematography would not be available, what would it be?

Athena Baumeister: Cinematography is a unique medium for expression. I love music, writing, and a lot of other media as well, but filmmaking really lets me express myself. I enjoy all the aspects of filmmaking—the visual arts, cinematography, directing, acting, writing, and so on. Making a film lets me do all of these at once.

Camilla Stein: Athena, what would be your ultimate role in film? Anything classic or perhaps a challenging avant-garde?

Athena Baumeister: Currently, my dream role would be something that involves playing someone who is seriously mentally disturbed, possibly wicked.

Camilla Stein: What’s the best book you’ve ever read that made the most profound impression on you? Best film you’ve seen? Why?

Athena Baumeister: I’m just starting to read some of the great classic books in school this year and I love how they make me think of universal themes. At this point, it’s hard to pick a favorite. I really liked 1984. It was interesting to see the dark vision of how people thought the future would turn out. Currently, I’m reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I absolutely love it!

I think it tends to be a director’s body of work rather than any particular film in general that makes an impression on me. Directors that have had an impact on me include Tarantino, Burton, and Hitchcock.

Camilla Stein: Today’s world is taken over by social unrest and many acute issues. Does this concern the young generation – your generation – and if it does, where do you see your place as a young voice in the global demographics? Do you want to advocate for a cause?

Athena Baumeister: I think the Occupy movement and Kony 2012 are great examples of how young people can really impact the world. I think it’s important to get involved in social issues that matter to you. Personally, I’m an animal lover, and whenever I see or hear about animals suffering it upsets me deeply. I think it’s important to support local no-kill animal shelters.

Camilla Stein: The Oscar – the Academy Award that is the Everest of every actor, director, producer, anyone involved in making quality film. Are you ready to work hard and even harder for your Oscar Award? What qualities do you think are essential for becoming a real pro in your field?

Athena Baumeister: Like you said, the Oscar is the Mount Everest in all aspects of filmmaking. I think it’s important to have more realistic goals to start with. It’s wonderful that there are an increasing number of film festivals specifically designed for young people and budding filmmakers to receive recognition for our early projects. Of course, someday, it would be nice to get an Oscar, but if I ever do, it will take years and years of dedication and hard work to get there.

Camilla Stein: Your special message to our young female readers? Your advice on how girls can become empowered to go get their dream.

Athena Baumeister: It seems to me that nothing is important as hard work and persistence. You can be extremely talented but never get anywhere or do anything great if you don’t put the effort in.

Camilla Stein: Thank you for a great conversation, Athena! Wishing you a great journey in your career in film.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.


22 01 2012

Childlike Past and Alien Present:

Super 8 and Attack the Block’s Children and Aliens


The best science fiction stories do more than entertain us with big budget starships or creep us out with freaky aliens. While they entertain and entrance, they also use the fantastic elements of a sci-fi story as tools to create a compelling look at our own modern reality. They make us think about our own time and place. This willingness to employ science fiction to tackle bigger issues turns a special effects-laden blockbuster into a masterpiece.

Last year saw two science fiction films featuring young protagonists dealing with extraterrestrial invasions. Both films offer amazing performances, especially from young actors, accompanied by great action, breathtaking monsters and brilliant directing.

The purpose of this essay is not to dissect the movies as better critics have already had their say on both Super 8 and Attack the Block. Rather, let’s talk about the cinematic worlds that each movie created and see if there are differences between the overall premises and emotional value of each film. Finally, let’s explore how, like all good sci-fi, Super 8 and Attack the Block have a purpose beyond giving us a monster movie’s thrills and chills.

JJ Abrams’ Super 8 came out on June 1st and featured the story of a nice kid named Joe Lamb (played by actor Joel Courtney) and his friends, experiencing the arrival of a vicious non-human being in their American small town while making a zombie movie in the summer of ‘79. Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block was released in the United States on July 29th and features an aspiring young street thug named Moses (played by actor John Boyega). His gang of juvenile delinquents tries to survive an alien attack on their council estate in modern, lower-class London.

In a nut shell, Super 8 brings on the nostalgia for the past, while Attack the Block deals with unease in the present.

At first glance, Super 8 and Attack the Block are very similar. They both deal with a bunch of youngsters taking on a monstrous threat. They both owe a lot to Steven Spielberg’s films, complete with kids riding around on bikes. They both have unflattering portrayals of the government – whether it’s the mysterious military occupiers of Super 8 or the blundering, swarming ‘Feds’ of Attack the Block. They both even have their young protagonists use specialized slang – like ‘mint’ in Super 8 and countless examples of lower class London vernacular in Attack the Block. Finally, each does a good job of capturing the strange feeling of adolescence in a changing, unsure world.

But that’s where the similarities end.

Super 8 is all about a fond remembrance of childhood and the past. The 1979 it depicts is not free from trouble, but the troubles can always take a backseat to creativity. And that creativity is in full bloom. The kids are watching zombie flicks by George Romero, learning make-up from movie magazines and generally indulging their inner Tom Savini by making a film of their own. And so when danger arrives, it’s not even a big deal – it’s an opportunity to add a touch of big budget production to their movie.

That’s not to say there are no conflicts. Presence of a mysterious alien and occupying troops cause their share of problems for all the characters. There is inner turmoil as well, with a young romance for Joe and his changing relationship with his friends. But for the children, all of these travails are youthful and innocent. They’re charming, reminding of the gawky nervousness we all have had in our pasts. The world itself is full of wonder and an overall feeling that if you try hard – and are artistically-minded – everything will work out all right.

You get a few hints of a larger American paranoia, but not many. If we take a quick look at history, we can see that 1979 wasn’t exactly a great time for America. Watergate, the Cold War, racism, riots and Vietnam – all of that loomed large in the national consciousness. George Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead – a film which is referenced by the young filmmakers of Super 8 – perfectly embodies that turmoil. But you wouldn’t get an idea of it when you’re watching Super 8. There’s maybe a mention of the USSR from a housewife at a town meeting, which is played for laughs and Vietnam is used by the kids as a handy bit of back story for their movie. That’s about it.

Director J.J. Abrams isn’t putting a turbulent time of American history under a microscope. But then again, that’s not his purpose with Super 8. He’s trying to capture a sense of wonder and youthful exuberance, aspirations and fears in the film. Overall, Super 8 is about nostalgia. Because of that, its emotional charge is almost an exact opposite of Attack the Block.

The London Riots occurred in August soon after Attack the Block had been released. Whether Attack the Block could be called prophetic or not, it perfectly captures the torment and distress caused by poverty in the more disadvantaged areas of London. That Attack the Block manages to do this while telling a compelling creature feature story, being frequently hilarious and showing the journey of its main character is nothing less than a triumph. Attack the Block isn’t set in a dream world of adolescent longing and artistic experiments. The world in the movie reflects the cold reality of our own – bleak, cruel and sad. And even with all that, Attack the Block still lets you know that there’s room for saving the day and the possibility of change.

Before the aliens show up, the setting of Attack the Block is far from being a pleasant place. Bonfire Night, fireworks and smoke make it look like a war zone. The first thing we see is a mugging at the hands of Moses and his aspiring thugs. Moses and his friends live in the world where the law is unfriendly and is therefore feared. With no chance of outside help, survival is a matter of trust in one’s friends. They’ve got no time to be creative and can only vaguely experience adolescent love.

One particular line perfectly sums up fear created by this environment. When members of his gang are speculating on the origin of the extraterrestrials, Moses suggests that the government engineered the beasts to kill ‘Black boys.’ This conjecture is similar to conspiracy theories blaming the US government for creating the AIDS virus or bringing crack cocaine to America to kill off disadvantaged Black people. The theories are a symptom of the hate and mistrust for a system that has failed. The system doesn’t work in Attack the Block either and the kids and their few allies are on their own.

The film’s ending is built on hope. Moses must learn responsibility and team-up with those he and his friends previously distrusted, if any of them are to avoid death and save the Block. The friendships forged while facing the alien attack are more than just a union against a common enemy. The companionship of these characters of varied races and classes show that differences can be overcome in the pursuit of heroism.

Last year was a good season for science fiction movies. There were many entertaining ones and a few that really stood out. Attack the Block and Super 8 are going to be in the latter category. This evaluation isn’t coming from a film expert, but from someone who does his best to understand a deeper meaning in fiction. The impact of Super 8 and Attack the Block goes far beyond the simple thrills of sci-fi action. These two films hold up a skewed mirror and let us have a good look at our reflections while still telling a compelling story. Super 8 is nostalgic and Attack the Block is nearly prescient, but both of them have the piercing insight that has always been the hallmark of good science fiction.

Michael Panush ©2012. All rights reserved. Courtesy CSReview ©2012.
Twenty-Two years old, Michael Panush has distinguished himself as one of Sacramento’s most promising young writers. Michael has published numerous short stories in a variety of e-zines including: AuroraWolf, Demon Minds, Fantastic Horror, Dark Fire Fiction, Aphelion, Horrorbound, Fantasy Gazetteer, Demonic Tome, Tiny Globule, and Defenestration. He currently attends UC Santa Cruz. Michael began telling stories when he was only nine years old. He won first place in the Sacramento Storyteller’s Guild “Liar’s Contest” in 2002 and was a finalist in the National Youth Storytelling Olympics in 2003. In 2007, Michael was selected as a California Art’s Scholar and attended the Innerspark Summer Writing Program at the CalArts Institute. He graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 2008 and currently attends UC Santa Cruz.
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This post is part of the Curiosity Quills Blog Tour 2012. Curiosity Quills is a gaggle of literary marauders with a bone to grind and not enough time for revisions – a collective, creating together, supporting each other, and putting out the best darn tootin’ words this side of Google. Curiosity Quills also runs Curiosity Quills Press, an independent publisher committed to bringing top-quality fiction to the wider world. They publish in ebook, print, as well as serialising select works of their published authors for free on the press’s website.


4 01 2012

Making special appearance on CSReview  today is actor Larry Laverty, sharing his life story and his carreer in film.

Larry Laverty in Treasure State. Image courtesy: Treasure State, the movie.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Larry.  You have gone a long way in your filming career, starting modestly – but look at you now!  What brought you on this journey?  Why cinema?
Larry Laverty: I had my favorite movie stars I loved to watch as a kid like everybody else, but acting itself always seemed very strange to me. I just couldn’t imagine myself doing the school play. Sports and other outdoor activities were what interested me.  So, years went by…  Then, when I was 24, in my last year of college out of the blue I took an acting class. The instructors, both Broadway veterans, told me I was a natural, born entertainer, and to this I laughed, but took their appreciation to heart. At about the same time through a number of jobs I’d worked I felt like I just couldn’t surrender the rest of my life to a corporation, spending 8 hours a day in a cubicle. I’d worked quite a variety of jobs actually by that point, having started working when I was 11, and I enjoyed every one of them, exploring different roads in life. And then it hit me.  As an actor, I could experience a touch of what it’s like to be a lawyer, a doctor, anybody. I was on my way. But my search for a career wasn’t over. While I loved doing the plays and the musicals, being confined to a stage took a lot of the realism of the experience away for me. And since I’d spent a lot of time through my childhood on the streets, being on location to shoot a movie just about anywhere feels right at home to me. After all, I guess it all makes sense as I grew up watching more than my share of movies and TV, with my parents at drive-in movies, at the neighborhood movie house with buddies, and at home on TV with anybody I could get to join me. I’ve always loved movies, more than books, more than just about anything. How it began – I was backstage at the theater company I’m still a member of, in the middle of a rehearsal, when I overheard two other actors talking a film audition they were going to the next day. I chimed in, went, landed a role, and that film, ‘Deadlock’, with James Hong, was the beginning of my future career as a film actor.

CS: Fascinating, Larry. What led you to eventually choosing such curious characters for your trademark? Is there a part of you in them, or perhaps a particular personal experience that drew you towards playing such personalities?
Larry Laverty: Well, I’m a bit of a character myself, rarely having taken a conventional path in life. I know my heart and I’ve always tried my best to follow it.  Ever since first grade, I befriended the friendless and have felt something for the odd duck.  Despite all this and because of my looks and general demeanor, I played a bus load of conventional characters throughout my first ten years in the business. From L.A. to New York City, I’ve played nice dads, cubicle-hugging corporate guys, and cops of all kinds. Looking back in visual endeavors like film and TV are, I’m grateful that I fit in so easily right off the bat. But once I got a handle on what I was doing as an actor and the potential that was involved, it became much more rewarding to drift away from playing mainstream characters, who by nature toe the line, and move over to exploring the nooks and crannies of humanity as is most prevalent in society’s oddballs. I love playing oddballs. There’s a bountiful supply of quirks, complications and illnesses in the human race and the oddballs are the most prone to live with them at a noticeable level. Why I think it’s even safe to say that I’ve become an oddball myself.

CS: That’s quite a revelation! I do too agree with you about illnesses in the human race though. So much to mend out there, isn’t it… Now, back on the set, what goes through your head when you are in front of the camera?
Larry Laverty: Ninety-nine percent of the time that I’m on a set I’m living the life of the character I’m playing. I don’t do much chatting or fooling around. I’m focused on the current scene of the story being filmed and prepared to experience whatever it is that my character has coming down the tracks. I spend a good amount of time, more than most actors I know, preparing my characters before the shoot starts and I usually get pretty far away from who I am as Larry. I’ve cultivated this transformation for 10-15 years now and sometimes scare myself with the lives I create and how deeply involved in them I get. Oh, and the other one percent of the time, I’m likely to have been painfully pulled away from my character by some technical filmmaking issue. You see, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few Academy-Award winning directors and cinematographers along the way and I’ve learned from them. I’ve also produced a few projects myself, so it pains me when I’m out there working and notice that the lighting could be better or the placement of the camera could be improved. No matter which frame of mind I’m in, I’ve done this job often enough and long enough to just take a deep breath and remind myself that I won’t be curing cancer this day.

Images courtesy: Larry Laverty. Collage design: Camilla Stein.

CS: I am curious about the following. You played once a minor role of a bystander in the TV series Nash Bridges of which I am a long time fan. By that time you had already worked several years in film. How did you feel landing a small part being on the set of the two-million-dollar-per-episode production next to big shots and obviously great talents? Is there such a thing in cinema as a small part? What have you learned from the experience?
Larry Laverty: Nash Bridges actually represents far more of my life than just the three lines I uttered as a minor character in one episode. I don’t talk about it, but in need of money I took a low-level crew position on the show, starting with the first day of the first episode, and I worked regularly through the first two seasons and sporadically through the show’s sixth and final season. I hung out with Don Johnson, listened to Cheech play the guitar, and drove the Cuda. When I went in to audition for the little role I played, the episode was to be directed by the show’s DP, so he knew me, we joked around and I did the job. There really is no such thing as a small part in film or TV or theatre because it’s each actor’s responsibility to do their part in keeping the audience wrapped in the story. I learned more about TV production, celebrities and life from my time as part of the family of that show than I can ever put into words.

CS: What a story! Such memories are worth being put in a memoir. Tell me, if not films, what would it be?
Larry Laverty: At this point, some 25 years into this experiment of mine, I really can’t imagine doing anything else. But I’m not above sharing that I’ve second-guessed my choice to do this most every step of the way. My teachers in school when I was young in all the Advanced-Placement classes wondered why I wasn’t living up to my potential as I’d cut school to go hang out with the other long-hairs at the neighborhood rope swing or some other adventure of the sort. I’m sure they’d scratch their heads now too, with the way I’m putting my little brain to work. I actually did set out at one point years ago to work in a job where I could protect our environment and save animals and I’m sure that’s what I’d do today if for some reason I couldn’t do acting. I’d do that or produce documentary films like the one I’ve been working on for a number of years about the World War II generation, to try to raise human consciousness and make the world a slightly better place.

CS: That is a very noble aspiration, resonates with my own way of looking at things. To proceed, one word – theater. What did you take with you from its backstage onto the set? Would you consider actively acting in theater as part of your today’s career?
Larry Laverty: I marvel at what in the world came over me to want to try acting in the first place, let alone getting the idea to do plays and musicals up on stage in front of all sorts of people I don’t even know. I’d sang in various church choirs since I was 8 years old, and even studied singing, so I guess that was really my entree into professional acting, through singing. The size of the facility though, where I first got started and was a member of the company, was more intimidating in a way then performing itself. It holds 2,000 people and that’s a big space to fill up. But its funny how if you stick with something long enough, you can actually get good at it, despite yourself. I played in over 15 plays by Shakespeare and musicals by all the Broadway greats, and I was studying acting in a couple of classes at the same time. But in looking back, my years on stage really came way too early in my career for me to appreciate it all. I was up to my ears in my search for how to be an artist, how to play, and this didn’t come easy, especially since I’d shunned acting through my life to that point. I really didn’t know what I was doing and was learning something new every day about what performance is all about including tapping into the power of the imagination. Today, once every blue moon, it crosses my mind to do a play again, but the the long-time director at Woodminster Theater in Oakland, Jim Schlader, who I loved and looked up to, just passed away last year and I’m still making peace with that. I am lifelong friends with the family who manage that theater company I originally started with, especially as their roots are in Wisconsin. I lived in Wisconsin, and we’re all Packer fans. I still help out in any way I can with that company.

CS: I am sorry to hear about Mr. Schlader, I hope you’ll be able to find your peace. Where is Larry Laverty today, professionally and as a person? Are you growing, are there new goals, a new Mount Everest waiting for you?
Larry Laverty:  In the past two years, I’ve played a number of characters who were just hanging on to life by a thread. Their emotional states were so raw, so fragile, that within a single scene, I’d find myself sobbing and then later laughing hilariously. At the end of each day on these projects, including the soon to be released ‘Sisterhood of Death’, I knew I’d made it. I’d made it to the point in my career as an actor that I’d been searching for all these years. I now feel competent, at one with my imagination, able to play any character that comes along and do it as well as anybody else can, easing my own personal pilgrimage for artistic expression and legitimacy… I’d reached the mountain top. Now, the next peak to climb is on the business side of things. This means getting back to business in L.A. after having been away for over eight years, getting back in to TV and big-budget movies, working with the best of the best. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll always be looking deeper into humanity – and my own humanity – as I put my characters together. After all, growing as a person and living life as fully as I possibly can are the reasons why I became an actor in the first place. I anticipate working with them again in the coming year. I also expect to go to Canada to work with Derek Milton on a film that I’ll be co-starring with Brenda Bakke. One of the two films due out in early 2012 is Antony De Gennaro’s ‘Sisterhood of Death’.  It’s a comedy, set in Seattle, and has these humorous overtones of classical horror. The other film is Andrew Wiest’s ‘Treasure State’.  It’s a family drama, set in the wilds of Montana, about two feuding ranch families.

CS:  You certainly are very busy, and sound very ready for a leading role. I am looking forward to seeing your projects fulfilled on screen. You said once that you wanted to go work for a greater good, in the non-profit sector. As an actor, has your passion for charity faded over the years?
Larry Laverty:  On the local TV news in the past month here, I watched stories about how somebody had been killing ducks and geese at a local city park, somebody had thrown a dog from a car, and somebody with a nail gun had shot down a beautiful hawk. These events all took place near where I live and in the past month alone. They’re a drop in a deep dark bucket. Last week, I went for a walk at a nearby regional park that sits on a hilltop. As I neared the hill’s crest, I heard the sound of heavy equipment. Then, at the top, I looked down into the valley below. What had only a few months before been a peaceful oasis for animal life, dotted with majestic ancient trees, had been scraped bare to make way for still more giant, super-sized houses. And there in the corner of the valley, I spotted a deer, a lone deer, just standing there. Oh yes, I’m just as passionate as ever about the impact that man continues to have on our beautiful world. Many times I wish I could become some kind of an almighty character and right all the wrongs, inject a little more harmony into the song of life. Now that would be a character worth playing, and a Mount Everest worth climbing. I had intended to do something a little more mainstream with my life, affect in some way my passions of preserving what’s left of our environment and affecting animal welfare. So to this day, I support the Nature Conservancy and the SPCA among others periodically. I was a Sierra Club member years ago but tend to stay away from organizations that get to embroiled in their own politics.

CS: That is a very dedicated resolution, there are many professionals in film industry with similar humanitarian objectives and I wish you to hook up with these wonderful people and create more such wonderful projects. Good luck with your new Everest! Thank you for talking to CSReview, Larry.

Watch Larry’s Acting Reels – Official Youtube Channel of Larry Laverty

Larry Laverty IMDB

Follow Larry Laverty on Twitter @larrylaverty

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Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

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