Lions Makes TOP 50 for Academy Nicholl Fellowship

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The script for The Lions of Mesopotamia, a feature I wrote (and just had the absurdly good fortune of workshopping at NY Stage and Film), has been shortlisted for the AMPAS' Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Every year, the organization that curates the Oscars, also awards this fellowship to a few emerging screenwriters.  The award attracts some major talent, and I feel extraordinarily grateful to be counted among their TOP 50 selections, out of the 6,915 have moved on for further consideration.  That's just.... whoa.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who makes the time and puts their love into developing new work.  From the readers writing coverage to the forty or so incredible souls at NY Stage and Film last week-- the love, the support, the thoughtfulness, the generosity and the energy you put into cultivating new voices is MAJOR, and it has had an impact on me for sure.

I'm really looking forward to sharing this film with the world someday, and hopefully letting it speak for the people whose voices so far have been drowned out by violence.

You can check out more about this year's Nicholl and the fellows here

COMPATIBILITY Wraps Production

How lucky am I to have spent the past few days on set with this cast and crew?

About a year and a half after Jack and I decided to make this film a reality, it has wrapped principal photography, and man... it is beautiful.  I cannot extend enough gratitude to the amazing Ruya Koman, who headed into the fire with me without hesitation.  She's a force of nature, and I hope to be making films with her for years to come.  Daniel Katz, Stew Cantrell, and our entire crew brought this film to life so stunningly, and John Kroft is going to charm the pants off of our future audiences-- mark my words.  It was a dream to work opposite him.

 On the set of COMPATIBILITY with John Kroft.  Photo: Ramy Mam.

On the set of COMPATIBILITY with John Kroft.  Photo: Ramy Mam.

Jack and I spent a long time developing this script together, and finally seeing it come to life in such talented hands was really exciting.  We had a top-to-bottom fabulous group of people who went the extra mile to be there and help make this film that much better than it would have been without them.  Can't wait to share this film with an audience!

COMPATIBILITY Starts Pre-Production

Pre-production has started on the short film version of writer/director, Jack Marchetti's, feature Compatibility.  Jack and I met last April at Tribeca Film Festival when our films premiered in the same short film program back to back.  

I loved his writing since day one and, when his script was shortlisted for the Academy Nicholl last summer, we decided to try to make it a reality.  Currently that's taking the form of a short film/proof-of-concept version, and I'm really looking forward to officially kicking off the journey toward the future.   Jack's script is relevant, smart, and fun, and we're putting a lot of love into this film!

Keep up with us as our team grows here.  

 

LIONS to be Workshopped at NY Stage and Film

So, here's something totally jaw-droppingly insane:  I have been invited to workshop my feature script, The Lions of Mesopotamia,  at New York Stage and Film's Screenwriting Lab this summer.  Given NYSAF's long history developing the work of so many people I've admired (let's face it-- idolized) for years, I'm kind of at a loss to accurately express how cool this is.  

Having early development support and feedback is such a blessing.  This film took me almost two years to research and write.  But it took many people's lives to create.  

For the Iraqis who have been generous, brave, and open enough to share their stories with me, thank you, and I hope I make you proud.

More about The Lions of Mesopotamia here.

More about NYSAF here.

 

New Series: MIRAGE

I've recently signed on as a series regular to a brand new indie show that is nothing short of awesome!  MIRAGE is an action/crime series that turns the superhero genre on its head.  I'm stoked to be playing Kate Dempsey, a completely bad ass undercover cop infiltrating one of the city's most ruthless crime rings.... Yeah.  It's crazy cool.  I can't spill the details too much yet, but I'm tough.  Really, really tough.   And this ain't your momma's superhero/cop show....

We start shooting in about three weeks, and it's shaping up to be a pretty wild ride!  

 

 Photo by Alexandra Turshen.

Photo by Alexandra Turshen.

Aphasia comes to United Airlines!

Just in time for Spring Break, Aphasia has joined a prestigious list of blockbusters and indies on United Airlines' March entertainment lineup (yes, that's Star Wars and Creed on the same page as us!!!  WHOA).  I wrote, produced, and starred in this film, and it had the honor of making its world premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival last April.  

One more reason to hop a flight to Miami for the weekend!  As though you needed one....

RushCard Campaign Launched

One of my favorite places to be is inside a vocal booth (at least when I'm not on exotic beaches).  In a former life, I was a rock singer, and every time I step into an iso booth, I feel a rush of creativity-- like being in a vacuum with a whole bunch of sweet artistic potential.  

I'm really digging getting to know the commercial VO world and had the good fortune to book three spots for RushCard, one of Russell Simmons' new products.  If you haven't filed your taxes yet, I'm sorry for the reminder.  It hurts me too....

Treat someone to the surprise of a lifetime. When you deposit $3,000 from your tax return, you could earn $30 back. Spread the love. http://bit.ly/1UbI1kN

Posted by RushCard on Thursday, February 4, 2016

No matter how old you get, there's no place like home. Let's get you there. When you deposit $3,000 or more from your tax refund onto RushCard, you could earn an extra $30. http://bit.ly/1UbI1kN

Posted by RushCard on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SHORTLISTED: "Interference" makes the ScreenCraft Semifinals!

"Interference," my newest script, has been shortlisted for a very generous and exciting production grant from the wonderful souls at ScreenCraft and BondIt.  The grant is decided by Alice Khalroubi, head of the Cannes Film Festival Court Métrage, and Ira Sachs, an incredibly talented filmmaker who has taken many films to Sundance (including this year's Little Men), Berlinale, and more. 

If awarded, "Interference" will be my directorial debut.  It tells the story of a couple that encounters a traffic stop between an African-American civilian and a police officer that leaves one man dead.  They must decide who to believe and what they are willing to risk to do something about it.  It's a film that's very close to me emotionally and one that I feel absolutely needs to be made.

A very kind, anonymous reader from the BlueCat Screenplay Competition (which it's also still in the running for) returned this note on it:  "Tackling a topical social issue, this script shows the fear and complications that arise from murky circumstances where prejudices hold more weight than truths.  Without preaching or reducing people to stereotypes, the story reflects a nuanced and critical understanding of the ways a situation can spiral out of control despite the best of intentions."

Feel free to send along some extra good vibes.  I won't be mad at you for it.

 

Five New Shorts!

 Operation Toy Drop with Captain Malloy.  Photo by Benjamin Kanes.

Operation Toy Drop with Captain Malloy.  Photo by Benjamin Kanes.

What a way to end the year, working on FIVE new projects back to back!  It’s been a wild ride with some of the most diverse storytelling I’ve ever done in such a short period of time, and man, am I proud of this lineup.

Here are a few first glimpses of these projects as they start to roll out:

OPERATION: TOY DROP, a short documentary about the 82nd Airborne’s combined airborne operation and charity event, written and directed by Benjamin Kanes.  I was fortunate enough to head down to Fort Bragg with Ben’s company, Vision Pictures, (along with his partner, John Welsh) to capture some incredibly moving stories of life as a paratrooper. 

 Madame Helena will see you now. "The Seance." Photo: Leigh Scott.

Madame Helena will see you now. "The Seance." Photo: Leigh Scott.

THE SEANCE, a short 1920’s black and white horror film written and directed by Leigh Scott.  I play Madame Helena, a spooky psychic with an accent that’s impossible to place.  I channel spirits on behalf of the ladies who seek my skills in communicating with the dead, but someone seems to have an ulterior motive… 

CORNELIA, a dramedy web series about a Latino family’s experience with gentrification in the neighborhood they’ve loved for decades, Bushwick, Brooklyn, directed by Eric Lommel & Adam Lowder, written by Rose Gutierrez.   I play Tori Cruz, the conniving wife of the main character’s old high school flame (yep, I'm kind of a bitch!  Fun!).  This is a heartfelt and relevant look at the way we navigate cultural differences and changing times, plus the cast is sooooo goooood.

ENTANGLEMENT, a short narrative drama directed by Jeremiah Kipp, written by Joe Fiorillo.  Two strangers in New York City meet in person for the first time and may just change each other’s lives in a poetic meditation on relationships and infidelity.  I play Jenny, the female lead, who has an affair with a mysterious stranger.  This is my second collaboration with Jeremiah and Joe (after last year’s “The Minions”), and my third time on screen with the inimitable Lukas Hassel, an actor who I love, trust implicitly, and am forever grateful for.  It’s always refreshing to work with a DP who knows how to make women shine on camera-- I had been looking forward to working with Dominick Sivilli for a long time, and it was worth the wait.

 Still from Entanglement.  Photo: Dominick Sivilli.

Still from Entanglement.  Photo: Dominick Sivilli.

INTERFERENCE, a short drama about a couple who happens upon a traffic stop between a police officer and an African-American civilian that leaves one man dead, written by…. me.  I finished writing the script for what I hope will be my directorial debut.  Taking on a controversial topic like this made me incredibly nervous (and still does)--it's important to me to get this story right. 

The first professional coverage of “Interference” included the best screenwriting note I’ve ever gotten: “Tackling a topical social issue, this script about racism shows the fear and complications that arise from murky circumstances where prejudices hold more weight than truths. Without preaching or reducing people to stereotypes, the story reflects a nuanced and critical understanding of the ways a situation can spiral out of control despite the best of intentions.”

All in all, it’s been a wild ride these past few months.   The fun thing about shorts is that you get thrown into a world packed with the “greatest hits” moments of a story.  It's fast and intense, and there's less risk involved for the filmmakers, so as an actor I get a lot more leeway in the types of roles I play and the way I play them.  Not a bad way to round out a beautiful year!

WRAPPED: 7th Secret

What an incredible shoot. 

Serious shout out to the unbelievably talented cast, crew, and creative of 7TH SECRET, a saucy new indie feature I am proud to be a part of.

I play Brooke Kelly in the film, the black sheep of the conservative Kelly family.  Brooke is gay in a family that refuses to acknowledge her sexuality and accept her for who she is.  I had an absolutely fantastic time playing a girl who is resilient, funny, and wise beyond her years.

 On the set of 7TH SECRET. Photo: Nando Del Castillo.

On the set of 7TH SECRET. Photo: Nando Del Castillo.

 7TH SECRET with Amanda Figueroa.  Photo: Joe Hennigan, snapped from the monitor by Nando Del Castillo :).

7TH SECRET with Amanda Figueroa.  Photo: Joe Hennigan, snapped from the monitor by Nando Del Castillo :).

Low budget features, even union ones, can sometimes be rough around the edges.  This one was about as smooth as a warm jar of Skippy.  

Much love to writer/director Bridget Smith, writer/producer Mike Walsh, and the entire crew they put together.  They know how to pick em!

The cast truly couldn't have been more perfect-- best film family a girl could ask for! 

Check them all out here!

FEATURED: FilmInk Magazine

This month I'm proud to share a couple of pages with some incredibly talented people in FilmInk's feature "New York's First Women of Indie Film."  (Click on the cover to check out the full article.)  I've looked up to a lot of these artists for awhile now, and it's crazy to me to even be mentioned on the same page as them.  Their films are fantastic, and they should absolutely be at the top of your watch list.

It takes a special kind of soul to make a living in filmmaking.  That goes for every department from production to catering to the (horribly under-recognized) stunt teams.  I like to think that's what makes us more ideologically similar than we are biologically different.

There are some GREAT people in this industry.  Really.  Substantial human beings who want to make meaningful, exciting work.  I've been lucky to deal mainly with the ones who recognize me as an individual and not a demographic, but it's not always like that, and many of my friends (again, of all genders) have faced different experiences.

It's been over fifty years since Lucille Ball (and all the network execs who greenlit the show) put interracial marriage to an immigrant on national television, and we're still sorting this out.  I guess people are slow to "officially" change.  Personally, I don't know any other way to do it than to just do it.  

To me, the best art comes from anger, rebellion, injustice, and tragedy, way more often than it comes from comfort.   I do think that fighting for your place in the world is healthy and makes you a better person and artist.  Hopefully, that philosophy will not one day bite me in the ass.  But I can't make any promises.

FESTIVALS: Aphasia at Hell's Half Mile

Here we come, Bay City, MI!  Stoked to bring Aphasia to a jam-packed-with-talent lineup at the festival with perhaps the coolest name ever bestowed on a film festival (until Metalocalypse starts a film festival).  

No, but seriously, this fest is a huge supporter of indie film and is launching a pretty cool initiative to help fund films shot in the Great Lakes area and/or films made by festival alums.   Which is pretty darn nice of them.  More news to come!  Check out the festival here: http://hhmfest.com.

COMPATIBILITY Shortlisted for Prestigious Academy Nicholl Fellowship

I am so excited to announce the first major milestone for my collaboration with writer/director Jack Marchetti, his brilliant and timely film, Compatibility.

His script has been named a quarterfinalist for the incredibly prominent, Academy Nicholl Fellowship, a screenwriting award selected by members of the Academy Awards voting body.  In short, this is a massive honor, and one that this script truly deserves.  

Jack and I met at Tribeca Film Festival last April, when both of our films played back to back in the same program.  I was immediately struck by how he managed to take me on a journey through my life as a music lover, and all the ways that changing music technology has unwittingly impacted my life, with his film "Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser."  (The soundtrack, by the way, is rad.)  My sister and I STILL to this day talk about the time we spent hours jumping on her bed in oversized hoodies to the Rage Against the Machine CD on repeat, pretending we were Zach de la Rocha.  I STILL remember downloading Black Rob and every Metallica album, plus all the live stuff, and thinking I had hit the jackpot (sorry, Metallica.  It was Limewire though, I think, not Napster, if that helps.)  And I STILL remember going back to actually purchasing music on iTunes and feeling like I was somehow doing right by... someone.   Mumford and Sons, I guess? 

Compatibility is yet another skilled and incisive look at our relationship with the modern technology that powers our lives.  It's an exploration of love in the age of information, a time when ignorance truly is a choice, thanks to a world of data at our fingertips.  Moreover, though, this film is a vibrant, high-stakes journey into the lives of two strong characters torn between their personal ambitions and their relationship.  

We are looking forward to sharing more exciting news about this project and all the talented people and supportive organizations that are coming on board to bring it to life.

Workshopping a brand new script with Sundance Institute!

KRIS AND FITZ TAKE AMERICA, one of my two screenplays-in-progress, is spending the next five weeks in intensive development as part of Sundance Institute's new screenwriting lab!

I'm so thrilled to have the opportunity to not only work on the script with some truly incredible advisors, mentors, screenwriters, and colleagues-- but also to give feedback and input on the program itself to help shape it for future writers.  I even get to help choose a name for it!  Wild!

I really cannot speak highly enough about the nonprofit arts institutions in this country.  Without programs from the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, San Francisco Film Society, Film Independent, the Sloan Foundation, the SAG Foundation, and several other wonderful organizations-- American filmmakers and actors would be screwed.   The guidance and support these programs offer is INVALUABLE to emerging artists.  

Check them out and consider membership!  I became aware of this writing program because I was a Sundance Institute member and had already been to a bunch of readings of Sundance-supported screenplays.  Supporting the work of fellow artists is one of the best ways to learn about your own craft.  It's been a truly inspiring experience so far collaborating with the writers and learning from established artists in this program.  

Very, very grateful!

 

 

FESTIVALS: Aphasia at Palm Springs!

 Luke LoCurcio (director of "Aphasia") and I, at Palm Springs 

Luke LoCurcio (director of "Aphasia") and I, at Palm Springs 

After an unbelievably special world premiere at Tribeca in April and fresh off the Court Métrage at Cannes in May, Aphasia will be making its West Coast premiere at Palm Springs this Friday, June 19!

All the glorious details on our screening are here!  Join us for some fun and sun in the desert and an inevitable pool party or two.

 

Booked! SHOW ME A HERO (HBO)

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Thrilled to have spent a day on the new HBO miniseries, SHOW ME A HERO, from David Simon (creator of THE WIRE), starring Oscar Isaac, Winona Rider, Alfred Molina, and many more incredible actors.

It will air later this year and is a fantastically poignant (and very timely) drama about the 1980s housing desegregation battle in Yonkers (yes, I can apparently do a native-sounding Yonkers accent!).