BACKSTAGE with J. Gabriel Gates

12 10 2012

Today on CSReview we welcome an actor and a prolific writer in the horror genre J. Gabriel Gates, author of a sci fi thriller Blood Zero Sky.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Jake. When did you decide to become a writer? Did you feel like you had a story in you and it needed to come out?

J. Gabriel Gates: Like many creative kids, I started young.  After reading The Hobbit in third grade, I remember walking around with the first thirty pages of a fantasy novel I’d written in a dog-eared D.A.R.E. folder.  I’ve taken some detours since then, but I really never wavered from wanting to write books.  If I didn’t have lots of stories I needed to tell, I’d be in some easier profession.

CS: What is the difference between an actor and a writer? How do you manage to balance your career in both fields?

J. Gabriel Gates: There are probably more similarities than differences. Both disciplines involve acts of creation that are wonderfully fun to participate in, and both are miserably difficult and heart wrenching fields in which to make a living.  The advantage of writing over acting is that, in acting, you require someone else’s permission to practice your art.  You have to find an audition and win the role.  You need a theater or a movie camera, a cast, a set, and—generally—a budget.   Basically, you need the sanction of a director or producer to do what you love.  There are gate-keepers for writers, too: you need a decent publisher to get your books marketed and distributed into the hands of readers, and you probably need a decent agent to get a decent publisher, but the great thing about writing is that it lasts.  I wrote the first draft of my most recent book, Blood Zero Sky, seven years ago, and it just came out last week.  Unlike an acting performance that’s so ephemeral it disappears the moment it’s happened (unless it’s captured on film, which costs money) once you write a book it exists forever.  No one can take it away from you (as long as you back up your files!) and somewhere, some time, if you’re lucky, it can find its way to readers.  It’s that feeling of creating something relatively permanent that can give a writer a feeling of satisfaction even if they haven’t managed to get published yet, and actors don’t get that.

As for balance between the two fields, right now I’m concentrating much more on my writing than my acting.  When I was younger and living in Los Angeles and trying to get some life experience under my belt, I concentrated more on acting, but the scales have gradually tipped to the point where now 99% of my energy is devoted to writing, simply because it’s the craft that I’m best at and that I love the most.  I did, however, just start teaching an acting class once a week in the evenings, and I’ve found it to be a lot of fun.

CS: Do you ever cast yourself for the role of any of your characters?

J. Gabriel Gates:  As I’m writing I inhabit the bodies and souls of all my characters—even the girliest or the nastiest of them!  As for actually playing any of my characters on TV or in film, I haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.  Right now there’s a deal coming together to make a Web series based on my teen urban fantasy series The Tracks, and there’s a small role for a young theater teacher named Mr. Brighton that would be fun to play.  We’ll see if it happens.

CS: Your sci fi novel has already drawn much attention. What is the message of Blood Zero Sky and why should we care about the story?

J. Gabriel Gates: At its core, Blood Zero Sky is a patriotic American story meant to cause readers to examine some of the systems of thought that, I feel, are limiting and endangering our way of life.  Specifically, it examines the relationship between corporations and the government and poses the question “can we trust corporations, which are basically systematic engines of greed, with the responsibility of governing people?”  You can guess what the answer is, but I think it’s a question that bears some serious exploration, particularly given the current political climate and the influence of money in politics.  Because of its themes, Publisher’s Weekly called Blood Zero SkyA Brave New World with a consumerist edge.”  I think that sums it up pretty well.

CS: What is your source of inspiration? Do you have a muse?

J. Gabriel Gates:  I believe in taking my inspiration wherever I can get it, so I can’t say that I have any single source.  I listen to NPR a lot, read as much as possible, watch the news, and try to stay conscious of my own life experiences and relationships.  Spirituality and metaphysics are also important to me, so I read up on those things whenever I have the chance.  But when you’re creating whole worlds, as one does when writing a novel, you can’t afford to be one-dimensional.  I just try to suck everything I see and experience into my subconscious, and hope that when it comes out again in my work, it has a coherence and a resonance that will affect people.

CS: Tell us one superstition common in the acting profession. And one common among writers?

J. Gabriel Gates:  Most of the superstitions among the acting community are pretty well known. You say “break a leg” instead of “good luck,” for example.  For people who are acting in productions of Macbeth, it’s also supposedly bad luck to say the name of the play.  Actors usually call it The Scottish Play instead.  I haven’t run across any pervasive superstitions like that among writers, but there is definitely a great deal of nervous hand-wringing in both professions.  The common thread in both is that preparation, hard work and professionalism go a long way toward creating success—and reducing anxiety.  In writing, the main thing is to make sure you’ve revised your story to the point where it’s as polished as you can possibly make it—then revise it again. After a certain point, though, you’re invariably just sitting there wishing and hoping for a phone call from that agent or editor who has your fate in her hands.  For that, I’d recommend some stress-reducing remedies like exercise, prayer, meditation, and the occasional brimming glass of wine.  That’s about as close as I come to superstition.

CS: Most interesting observations, Jake. What are your future plans, projects?

J. Gabriel Gates:  I’m currently writing the third and probably final installment of my teen series featuring magic, kung fu and star-crossed love in a gang-torn small town, The Tracks. It’s called Shadow Train, and it will be coming out in the spring from HCI books.  I’m also doing some final polishing on a new teen horror novel in the vein of my popular horror book The Sleepwalkers. It’s a project that I’m very excited about, so I’m hoping to get it published and into readers’ hands soon.  Stay tuned!

CS: Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jake. I wish you all the luck in the world fulfilling your dreams.

J. Gabriel Gates is the author of the teen fantasy series The Tracks (Book 1: Dark Territory, Book 2: Ghost Crown), horror novel The Sleepwalkers and the newly-released sci-fi thriller Blood Zero Sky. For more information on him and his work, please visit his website:

You can also “like” him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @JGabrielGates.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.


30 01 2012

Returning from the set of the upcoming movie American Girls, actor Josh Hammond visits CSReview, talking about his multifaceted carreer in the film industry and highlighting crucial aspects of professionalism in his line of work. Josh appeared in a number of well known movies and TV series such as CSI: NY and Scrubs.

CS: Josh, why acting? Is it really just about the sparkling Hollywood life style, or is there a deeper meaning to acting that attracted you?

Actor Josh Hammond. ©Carl Kalamon

Josh Hammond: Hmm, well I think that typically there is a little bit of the “glitz & glam” dream of Hollywood that initially attracts any artist to L.A. I think that dream fuels the passion that anybody has to be an artist to some degree. However, after working in the entertainment industry for 13 years it becomes deeper than the façade. I believe that an artist’s job is to show people what it means to be human. After that many years you realize the streets are not paved with gold and becoming professional is not easy. Hard work, dedication, and an unwavering focus on your goals are necessary to succeed in the industry. You have to continually re-invent yourself to stay on the leading edge.

CS: A universal formula for success in just about anything… What is it about the horror genre that appeals to you as a professional actor?

Josh Hammond: I really enjoy the concept of no consequences between “Action” and  “Cut”. Especially in horror, because as an actor you really get to cut loose and go crazy when at work. Scare the grass out of people, kill, rape, and pillage…..all while having fun and getting paid. I feel very fortunate to have such an amazing job.

CS: Trying your hand as a film producer and screenwriter do you see a difference in approaching film production from how you do it as an actor? Is there a common base for all three?

Josh Hammond: A lot of times I think that “actors” have this sense of entitlement, “I’m here! Appreciate me!” I think that’s a load of rubbish. Acting is a job, an awesome one – but nonetheless a job. I’ve always considered everyone as equals, no matter how “famous” you think you are. So I go to work and shut up, until I’m told it’s time to act. However as a producer and a writer I felt as though I had more of a hand in the creative process that I didn’t have the right to as solely an actor. But I will say that the experience of producing gave me a new and more refined approach to the entire process that I hadn’t had before. I think the common thread between all three is that making a film is a TEAM effort. Every department is working toward a common goal – making a piece of art. No job is more important than the others, because without one, NONE of the others are possible.

CS: In your opinion, what are the essentials for a film crew to work well together on the set?

Josh Hammond: COMMUNICATION. In any profession, the ability to relay your ideas and listen to others is crucial in the success of a project. I’ve also found that working with the same crew is also very beneficial to a great teamwork; relationships make a huge difference in the working process. When everybody is comfortable, appreciated and made to feel important, it improves the quality of their work.

CS: Please describe your trademark roles and why you think you are the best man for playing such parts.

Josh Hammond: Fortunately, and unfortunately, I have been known to play the “sick and twisted”. I am spontaneous and inject a sense of humor into all of my characters, which allows the audience to relate, even if just a little bit. Because let’s face it, not everybody out there is a serial rapist or mass killer, LOL. So I think that my upbringing makes me a great candidate to portray these types. Having been raised in a very religious home, I can play the polar opposite, because I know how the astringent rules are best BROKEN.

CS: What can you say about your character in American Girls? What was your initial response to the character?

Josh Hammond: I’m playing Scott Salazus (who is based on a real character), a confused and easily persuaded individual with a low IQ. Put into a situation that has a violent and gruesome outcome. Fueled by drugs and peer pressure, my character makes some very bad choices. My initial response was surprise. I couldn’t believe that the actual news story didn’t get more media coverage, considering how mainstream media thrives on sensationalism. This story was ripe with material to capitalize on. The events therein are pretty unsavory as well.

CS: Is it harder to play in a movie that is based on a true story, knowing that these things aren’t fictional and people really got badly hurt and brutally killed? Does it make you reflect on the human nature more, think what we are doing, where we are going, as a human race?

Josh Hammond: Great question. I do believe that playing in a non-fiction film is much more psychologically challenging, because I’m not “inventing”. It’s more RE-creating a persona and trying to do someone else justice, whether they deserve it or not. Stepping into someone’s shoes that is not “clinically okay” is difficult. A lot of questions must be asked to fully understand where this character was, in his mental space. At some point my character Scott must have felt justified in his actions, if only because of the drug use and the low intelligence level. However, there must have been some reflection on his actions, because Scott went to the authorities and confessed the crimes that were committed. Reflecting and asking difficult questions to explore human nature is necessary for all of us. Understanding what makes us tick is imperative as a member of the human race. I don’t know where we are headed as a society, but I do know that with love and positivity we can salvage our humanity, and become more than we are now.

CS: How do you see yourself in the modern cinematography, where is your place, what is your mission?

Josh Hammond: I believe that my place in modern cinema is as a leading man with an edge. Think Jack Nicholson or Woody Harrelson – in other words, a likeable, every-man, someone you can see as your neighbor or friend, but liable to snap at any moment. I’m a decent looking guy, but I’m no heart throb, and I’m okay with that, because I think that’s what makes me tangible. Plus my sense of humor will win over any part of you that may not be attracted to my looks. So, my mission is to continue working on great projects and become a more evolved human and artist.

CS: A great resolution, Josh. What new horizons have you established for yourself for the year 2012? Where do you see yourself in five years after that, in a decade?

Josh Hammond: I’m not a big fan of resolutions, I don’t like to make promises, or set standards for myself, because then I can never let myself; or others down. Also my dreams and goals change on a daily basis, so I’ll continue playing for an audience of one. Me. I have only set one rule for myself – to keep evolving. In five years I see myself in a mankini, chillin’ with my wife and children on a rowboat, anchored off the south shore of the Salton Sea (look it up on a map –it’s shaped in a peculiar manner, LOL). And ten years from now, I’ll be at an internet café on Mars, smoking sherm…(cigarette dipped in PCP) and trying to fully understand the Fibonacci Sequence! JUST KIDDING, I have no idea. I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. But I know it’ll be interesting.

CS: Thank you for a very etertaining and insightful interview, Josh! Wishing you more great projects in the future.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.

Josh Hammond on IMDb

Josh Hammond on Twitter

American Girls Official Trailer  *WARNING: Graphic Content.*


28 09 2011


Interview with Monique Yamaguchi, Producer

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Monique. Let’s talk about NYPDM, a web series that you and Nick Rossier have worked on. First of all, what attracted you in the script that you decided to produce the series?

Monique Yamaguchi: I thought the mix of genres would be great to see on screen and was excited when Hal Jordan brought up the prospect of writing the script.

CS: Events in the series take place in New York, a city with a social climate of its own, a very unique and recognizable atmosphere. What would you say was most challenging during the filming and production of the series in terms of modeling the setting for NYPDM and re-creating the feel of the city?

Monique Yamaguchi: We were definitely concerned about re-creating such a well known environment, but as luck would have it, meteorologists in the Los Angeles area announced a few days before us starting principal photography that we would be hit by “The Storm of the Century,” which was a rarity since it generally does not rain in Los Angeles and especially with that kind of intensity or for that length of time. We thought the rain was going to be a setback for production, but it turned out to be quite the contrary if anything-the rain that we met with that first day of shooting became the establishing look for the show.

CS: Talk about a lucky accident… How would you describe the cast and crew of NYPDM and the cooperation on the set?

Monique Yamaguchi: Just amazing. We had to overcome all kinds of obstacles with the weather, but there was never a moment when the cast and the crew did not come together to make sure everyone was safe and comfortable. We truly had an amazing cast. Actress Jamie Bernadette got into a pool towards the end of principal photography that was about thirty degrees, actress Grace Bannon laid down in an abandoned pool in the pouring rain where umbrellas barely provided shelter for the actors standing around her, and leads Janelle Giumarra and Jilon VanOver spent every shoot day in either rain or cold and sometimes both.

NYPDM: Shooting during "The Storm of the Century"

CS: The horror genre, supernatural elements, crime, mystery to solve and an evolving drama…What is essential for putting all these components together into a well paced and engaging product, designed specifically for the web television?

Monique Yamaguchi: This is not possible without a good story. Director Hal Jordan was able to hold on to his vision from pre-production all the way to post-production. Director of Photography, AJ Raitano who incidentally happens to be a transplant out of New York, was then able to take Hal’s script and bring it to life. All in all, Hal did an amazing job of adapting the traditional episodic television structure to the three minute episodic format of the web.

CS: The trailer alone is a testimony of all your collective hard work-I can’t wait to see the first episode! Monique, what appeals to you as producer in making content for web television, this new medium that is becoming quite popular quite quickly?

Monique Yamaguchi: I think it’s filmmakers’ second nature to explore and utilize mediums that become available to them so they can share their stories and ideas with the world, and web television certainly allows that. It’s exciting to work with these up-and-coming directors to see their visions come to life with immediacy as they are able to create original content, and distribute their work shortly thereafter.

NYPDM: Director of Photography AJ Raitano (left), Director Hal Jordan (right)

CS: Speaking of technology, what innovations have been used for NYPDM?

Monique Yamaguchi: Technology has allowed our production to utilize members of our crew that are not based in Los Angeles. Our sound designer Adam Hawk for example is now based in Texas, our titles and graphics designer Anthony Hahn works out of Hawaii and Kyle Walling, our second unit director of photography/camera operator, was out of New York.

CS: Last but not least, what can we expect of NYPDM when the show goes on air?

Monique Yamaguchi: An amazing quality show that delivers every episode that we hope will leave viewers wanting to see a Season Two.

CS: Wonderful! Thank you for sharing NYPDM’s behind-the-scenes story with CSReview.

NYPDM: Lt. Spiller (Natalie Turpin), Grimm (Jilon VanOver) and Det. Andersen (Janelle Giumarra)

Monique Yamaguchi, graduate of USC School of Cinematic Arts, produced over three dozens films, shows, web series and music videos.

More about Monique’s work on

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

View NYPDM Official Trailer:

NYPDstarts airing October 11, 2011. Follow the series on their site:

Camilla Stein’s series SPACE SCRAPERS now on Amazon Kindle

 C A M I L L A  S T E I N  S C I E N C E  F I C T I O N


9 08 2011

Dream House

Readers, attention on all decks-a new ghostly story is on the publishing market and it’s literally haunted! Author Jim Melvin offers us a novel where a soul is being tested and a body is being tempted and the mechanics of making a choice between right and wrong is being explored.

This thriller is composed in the tradition of the horror genre. After having seen them all, this novel here is fresh, nerve tickling and personalized. Draws you in, places you on top of the mental game of speculation and deduction, your mind trying to solve the mystery as your eyes absorb the written word.

The idea that something in your home can threaten you is scary to most. The idea that you can do something about it is just as frightening and occurs to a selected number of candidates. To find out who and why is chosen for the experience, read Dream House by Jim Melvin-the book that gets under your skin.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 310 KB

Publisher: Out of Bounds Press; 1 edition (July 15, 2011)

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services

Language: English


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