BACKSTAGE with Jade Valour

23 06 2013

IMG_5849Today on CSReview, is Jade Valour, a native New Yorker, a professional actor and classically trained singer who has worked in theatre and music for several decades, both on stage and behind the scenes. Jade’s new book Salomé is an exploration of a myth, a religious belief and a cultural fascination with a female character.

CS: Welcome to CSReview, Jade! You are a public person, active and very busy. What prompted you to become a writer?
Jade Valour: Strangely, my desire to write developed out of my fascination as a young music student with Richard Strauss’ opera Salome with its exotic music and its evocative text from Oscar Wilde’s drama of the same title. I have always loved mythology, and Salomé captivated me as only a myth can. But the Salomé we know is usually depicted as a femme fatale: wanton, depraved, lusting after a prophet who rejects her and whose head she finally demands on a silver platter. Although I adored both opera and drama, I found these images deeply disturbing – an interpretation of this mythical figure that I felt compelled to rectify. It was then more than thirty years before I could define how I wanted to do this. ‘My/Our’ Salomé was envisioned as a film, and I began writing the screenplay with my co-author Sharlie Pryce in 2001. Two years later, during my first visit to New Zealand, I spoke to a publisher about the screenplay, and he suggested we write the novel. In January 2004 we began to do just that – and now it’s published!
CS: Publishers, they love keeping their authors occupied. So, in all this, how would you describe your journey so far?
Jade Valour: It’s been an amazing adventure. Sharlie and I have had some fantastic and even hilarious times, just in the actual writing of Salomé. We’ve been to the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Berlin Film Festival together. As a result of the film festival, I ended up going down to Cologne (Germany) for the premiere of the film Klimt, where I actually met its totally charming star, John Malkovich, and gave him our script (we originally pictured him as our villain)! Salomé took me to Wellington, New Zealand in 2003 for the world premiere of The Return of the King, a journey on which I not only met Elijah Wood, the young actor who inspired our male protagonist, but also two people from the production who have been incredibly kind and supportive of the project over the past nine years – Sir Richard Taylor, director of Weta Workshop and producer Barrie M. Osborne (The Lord of the Rings, The Great Gatsby). Their encouragement has often kept us going through hard times.
I was privileged to be in contact with Prof. Helmut Ziegert, professor of archaeology at the University of Hamburg whose excavations of the palace of the Queen of Sheba in Aksum-Dungur in 2008, to my astonishment and delight, mirrored an important ‘historical’ element of our story. It was incredible hearing about the excavations – literally like talking to Indiana Jones!
I’ve been living in Wellington for five years now and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to meet people in the film industry, to hone my skills in screenwriting workshops with a Hollywood script consultant. The Emerging Artists Trust here has provided me with a wonderful mentor: a producer who has been advising me with regard to putting the project together. I’ve directed two film shoots for a promo-film we’ll be putting together to pitch the screenplay version of Salomé (something I never anticipated doing!) and worked with a very talented artist, Matt Donnici, who did the beautiful illustrations for the novel cover and promo-film.
Now the novel is available to the general public – a milestone in an ongoing and inspiring journey.
Salome - Novel cover e-book
CS: Fascinating. Hard work pays off, and I bet you’re feeling very proud of yourself. Do you have a special message to your readers?
Jade Valour: If I have a message for my readers, it is connected to what set me to writing in the first place: to be able to give young people different role models. Salomé and Elijah are not your conventional protagonists. Particularly Salomé, whose name means ‘the Peaceable One’ (from the Hebrew and Arabic root of ‘Shalom’ and ‘Salaam’). She is not your typical heroine. She never uses her power to destroy only to defend and protect. That she must watch as the consequences of some of her well-intended actions result in death – this is part of the tragic element of her character. Without having to be an aggressor, Salomé is still incredibly proactive, driving the action of the story all the way. And although she comes from the upper castes, she has a deep-seated and all-encompassing social conscience – she cares. She is willing to risk everything for what she believes in. Angelina Jolie speaking at the recent G-8 on behalf of women in war zones comes to mind. These are the kind of women our society needs.
CS: I can see where you’re coming from with this. Indeed, positive role models are much needed at all times. We’re all connected, we breathe the same air, walk the same earth. Where do you see yourself in the cosmic mosaic? Do you know your purpose?
Jade Valour: I prefer to see this simply as where my passions have taken me. Perhaps the following story will answer this in part: in 1977-78, when I was singing at a theater in Germany, two things crossed my path that were to have a major influence on my life and interconnect years later in an unexpected way: 1) I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and, 2) a new recording of the opera Salome was released. I was immediately swept away by both and they have remained my great loves – literary and operatic – over the past several decades. The recording drove/inspired me to want to write Salomé in the first place. In 2001, when we began to write the screenplay, the first of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, The Fellowship of the Ring, came into the cinemas. My love for these films would eventually take me to New Zealand in 2003 with an early draft of our screenplay – a journey that was to change my life and influence the development of Salomé profoundly. Thus, two events that happened in 1978 formed a single thread that brought me to New Zealand – where our Salomé was completed some 35 years later.
Joseph Campbell – who is certainly one of my own heroes – called it ‘following your bliss”. I believe this is no seldom occurrence. It is, in the end, our passions that guide our lives, transform them and make us grow.
CS: 35 years… Very impressive. Now to geography – New Zealand vs New York… That’s quite a change of setting. What is special about New Zealand? Do you miss New York? Do you have a favorite place on the planet that you’d love to be in the most?
Jade Valour: It’s actually New York > Germany > New Zealand. Germany, mainly Hamburg, was a huge chunk of my life. I went to Germany to be an opera singer and came to New Zealand 35 years later because I wanted to be involved in the film industry. Easier said than done. I don’t miss New York, but it does feel like ‘home base’ when I visit. Germany was cultural bliss and most of my close friends are there. New Zealand is my love of nature – mainly the proximity to the ocean. A favorite place? As long as it has empty beaches to take long walks and decent weather to take them in, I’m in heaven!
CS: Jade, this was a lovely walk on the beach, quite refreshing and what a wonderful, deep story that you’ve shared. I wish you and Salomé the sucess that you two deserve. Thank you for being on CSReview tonight.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2013. All rights reserved.

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BACKSTAGE

28 09 2011

NYPDM

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 http://moniqueproducer.com/

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

View NYPDM Official Trailer:

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

www.nypdm.com

Camilla Stein’s series SPACE SCRAPERS now on Amazon Kindle

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