Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Celebrity Interview - Jane Espenson!


Collaborate-y Jane

This week I was afforded the honour of questioning the life and career of US Television Writer, Producer- and Creator, Jane Espenson. A veteran of the industry, Jane has occupied many ‘Writer’s Rooms’ with many more teams of writers. As her own “Star” shoots off into the proverbial- partly thanks to the success of her online series; Husbands the Series, Jane made this Aussie’s day recently when she took the time to revisit various highlights- and lowlights- of her eclectic career thus far, including the age old question; can she Sing?! Useless disclaimer: Certain words jump between US and UK/AUS spelling based on the speaker.

Aaron Ware: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me; I'd like to turn back the clock, could you tell us a bit about young, school-yard Jane? Were you the quiet wall-flower or social butterfly?
  
Jane Espenson: Wallflower, absolutely.  I lived very much in my own head, read a lot, watched a lot of TV, spent a lot of time with my parents.  My best friend was much, much quieter and shyer and more intellectual than me, so I never thought of myself as terribly introverted compared to her, but I was absolutely on that end of the scale.
  
AW: Was it around that time that you started to take an interest in writing? Who were the people that inspired you to put pen to paper?
  
JE: I loved to read and my mom introduced me to Jane Austen pretty early while I was also reading spy thriller novels that my dad brought home from the library for himself.  But I also watched lots and lots of TV and that's where I saw myself fitting in.  The episodic TV thing, where you follow one set of characters through a potentially infinite series of stories – that encouraged me to make up my own stories in my head.  So it was ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’, more than ‘Pride and Prejudice’, that led to me wanting to write.
  
AW: Did this include a teenage crush on the Barbarino?
  
JE: Ha!  Definitely not.  I almost never liked the alpha lead of a show.  I liked the short funny guys -- Horshack forever.
  
AW: How much of your own childhood, your thoughts, feelings and experiences have you put into your writing? If any, could you name a particular moment/episode/scene that stood out?
  
JE: Hmm.  Well, Riley Finn, the character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is from Iowa because I am.  I was rewriting a scene very quickly – there was some kind of urgent need for it – and I didn't have time to make anything up, so I put an Iowa experience in there.  And sometimes if I'm looking to give a character a last name, I'll pull one from my elementary school, but that's tricky since the roster was pretty much: Espenson, Iverson, Johnson, Benson, Swenson...  Oh, and Dawn liked anchovies because I do.  But I think you're actually asking a much broader question to which the answer is "all of it."  I think our basic personalities are there from the start, and so everything I write is informed by who I have been since childhood – my take on the world, the traits I admire in people, my dislikes – they all find their way into the writing.
  
AW: Can/Does that also apply to dialogue, your own mannerisms in speech; would there be a character that has most sounded like you?
  
JE: Anya on Buffy sounds a lot like me -- there's a certain efficiency in her speech.  And Brady on Husbands, probably.  I think the character that's funny because they're a little bit literal, that's often me speaking.
  
AW: Having been motivated by the very idea in your youth, TV series such as MASH and Star Trek accepted unsolicited submissions for scripts. Do you think that's an avenue that modern productions should attempt, as a way of keeping their audience hooked and involved- Or do you think the sheer numbers of submission would be a turn-off for any series?
  
JE: My memory that MASH did this is entirely based off an interview I read when I was 12, so I'm not entirely sure about that.  Star Trek: TNG and later Trek incarnations did this, but not with the intention of producing the scripts.  The scripts were samples used to select writers to come in and pitch episode ideas.  This was useful for an idea-driven show with a long history that had depleted its store of in-house ideas, but probably not very useful for any other kind of show.  A character-driven show with a complicated story arc and a busy room, bursting with ideas already, would be slowed down by pulling writers from the room to hear pitches for other ideas.  And I bet that on many shows a lot of prospective writers would come in with overlapping ideas, which could be a legal nightmare.  For a certain kind of show, outside pitches could work well, but not for most of the shows that are working right now.
  
AW: Still within the area, with the communal aspect of the Internet and the oft-fast turnaround of many shows (Glee for example) do you think we'll ever see a long-running show on USA TV that is audience influenced- plot points, characters, cast etc. from voting online? Reality shows aside, of course.
  
JE: Oh, perhaps, but I dearly hope not.  Having that kind of control sounds like fun, but imagine a roller coaster where you dictate each turn or swoop before it happens.  I think you get beautiful shows like Battlestar and Buffy when you're treated to the singular vision of a smart creator.  I think a ship without a pilot won't have the same soul.

AW: Memory recalls an Aussie show called Fat Cow Motel, but I'm unsure of it's depth of interaction. In a way, it's a little bit along the lines of officially read/produced Fan-Fiction, was that something you enjoyed as a teenager? If not, what would be a TV-Show or Film that would've, even; would now inspire you to write fan-fic?

JE: The internet has made fan-fiction much more of a phenomenon.  I have no trouble with it – after all, writing stories based on characters I didn't create is how I make my living.  If I wasn't writing for Once, I imagine I might be somewhere writing Once fan-fic. Romantic stories are a great fit for fan-fic because the prose style lets you get into the characters' inner voices in a way you don't in a script.

AW: Speaking of the Fans, your past work in iconic, cult shows such as Buffy have afforded you a very loyal fan-base, many of whom you would meet at Conventions; what has been your most heart-warming moment meeting a fan so far?

JE: Oh, there are so many.  Recently, I've been out meeting the fans of Husbands (HusbandsTheSeries.com), the online show I created with Brad Bell.  That's a really heartwarming experience because here's this show that's a very pure representation of what we set out to do, and the fans who love it really connect with us.  Initially our audience was very female, but in the last year it's really diversified and our favorite thing is when we meet someone who says her boyfriend or husband found the show first.  That's lovely.

AW: That sort of fan reaction to Husbands must be the ultimate validation, especially given season 1 was self-financed, then the Kickstarter campaign for season 2- Is it the type of moment that makes you sit back and think "Wow, I'm so glad I followed my gut instinct!" - What goes through your mind during a moment like that?

JE: Well, my good gut instinct was to listen to Brad Bell, who has a great sense of story and also of the shape of things to come.  I knew as soon as we landed on the idea of a newlywed comedy that the content would be good, but it wasn't until that season two Kickstarter that I knew for sure that we had reached people in the way we'd hoped to.  Looking back, I'm so thrilled that we made Husbands – from the very beginning I kept using the phrase "a show that deserves to exist," and I believe it.  It's been an adventure and a half.

AW: How would you describe Husbands the Series to the uninitiated?

JE: I like to just say it's a newlywed comedy and then let them gradually put together that both the newlyweds are men.  It's a very traditional comedy – very funny, very romantic, and the whole point of it is that every new couple makes the same mistakes.  In the end it all comes down to the love.  It's a very sweet story.  Brad Bell and Sean Hemeon, along with Alessandra Torresani are the core cast and they're amazing.

AW: The character of Brady (played by Sean Hemeon) is a recently 'out' Baseball player, was giving him such an -for lack of a better term- 'alpha male' occupation a deliberate choice to help bring home the message of Equality? Even today in 2012 there aren't as many openly Gay sportsmen as what there could be if many were comfortable in 'coming out'?

JE: Well, yes, we liked the idea of an out athlete because that would highlight that scarcity, but actually we were more focused on making a career choice for Brady that would generate the most diverse story options.  If they were both actors, or even both performers, we would run the danger of having their issues be too similar.  This way, we could tell stories that started from Brady’s unusual situation in a way that would be sure to be charged and full of conflict.  Which is exactly what we did draw on as the starting point for season two.

AW: We've all recently enjoyed the Husbands comic series, published through our friends at Dark Horse Comics, if you could translate Husbands into a Broadway musical, which actors would you have playing the parts?

JE: The same ones!  Sean, Brad and Alessandra can do anything!
 
AW: Will we get a DVD/Blu-Ray release?

JE: YES!  We are getting ready to make Husbands DVDs available!  Anyone who follows @TeamHusbands will be kept up to date on things like that.

AW: What sort of special features can fans look forward to? Do you find you have less or more deleted scenes being in control of your own project?

JE: We will have special features – an interview with Joss, all our backstage footage, even a thing or two that hasn’t been seen yet.  We didn’t have any deleted scenes – we cut and trimmed the material in the normal way.  The editing process was very similar to other projects I’ve been on – you keep trimming until the very best moments are left.

AW: Husbands was the first online show to be hosted at the Paley Center.  Fan reaction aside, can you tell us what that meant to yourself and Brad?

JE: It was huge.  We felt incredibly honored.  They set up a gorgeous screening and event for us and we were grinning all night long.  Ben and Jerry supplied free ice cream – it was a glorious launch for season two.  I think Brad and I really looked at each other that night with a sense that this was a whole new deal – so much bigger than season one had been.

AW: With having full control of your own product, was there any times writing/developing that you found yourselves crossing the censorship line? Can you share with us anything juicy that was omitted?

JE: I don't think we've ever omitted anything for that reason, but we moved something.  There's a punch line, "no gag reflex," in season two, that used to occur much earlier in the script.  It was our brilliant director and EP Jeff Greenstein who suggested that it might be a little off-putting so early in the story before the viewers were invested in the characters.  We saw that he was right and reordered some events.

AW: Who would be among your ultimate guest stars for Husbands?

JE: Well, we were already so thrilled to get Joss Whedon and Jon Cryer and Mekhi Phifer and the rest... It's hard to imagine anything better.  I guess I'd love to give them a cadre of out celebrity friends – Johnny Weir and NPH and Jesse Tyler Ferguson... that would be fun!

AW: Does your writing style change - writing for something that is very quick-witted, but also in such short form, compared to writing for shows such as your current hit, Once Upon A Time?

JE: Well, sitcoms rely on what are called "hard jokes," – set-up followed by punch line, and almost every line is either one or the other.  In an hour drama that pace would feel forced.  But other than the density of the jokes, I think it's very much the same.  You're still listening to the characters' voices and finding the rhythm of the scene and making it all as emotionally true as you can.

AW: It's my knowledge that there wasn't as many hidden messages within Buffy- even Joss' work altogether- than his fans seem to find; OUAT seems to be littered with them- Are as many deliberately placed by the production team as have been spotted? I realize a lot has to do with the connection to LOST, something which seemed to have equal parts deliberate and mistaken hidden messages.

JE: If people do see more than we intended, are they wrong, or are they spotting things our subconscious impulses make us do?

AW: Suddenly I feel discombobulated; Coming up with those moments at the writer's table - even the more intricate plot connections; is there a sense of "Light bulb above the head" - or does having a room full of writers take away that almost-self-surprised element?

JE: Not at all – it isn’t lost at all.  It happens all the time that one person at the table will have that insightful moment and will solve everything all at once.  That’s why it’s so useful to have a full staff; you maximize your chances of a light bulb moment.

AW: Was it your idea to put Buffy's Scythe in Rumplestiltskin's collection?

JE: Yep.  That was me.

 AW: Nice work! If you could cross-over OUAT with another, completely unrelated show, which characters would you have the most fun uniting?

JE: Hm.  Well, Once is already built on crossing characters over – it's our premise, but it sure would be fun to see the Husbands guys move to town!

AW: The cross-over of F'tale characters is what inspired the question- Would Brady and Cheeks befriend our heroine Snow White, or would they swing towards the dark side?

JE: I think Brady would love Snow White.  Cheeks… I can see him more likely to team up with Regina.  But I’m sure they’d work through it as a couple.

AW: Heroic TV characters, especially ones with a shady moral compass, still (mostly) end up with their happy endings each episode- is there ever the urge to write negative outcomes for characters that are loved by the fans- or perhaps just 'too nice'? Tara in Buffy was one moment where we were delivered that, but are there instances when you're writing that you get that urge to teach them a definite lesson or two?

JE: Hm – I can think of many, many episodes where you give the hero a disastrous ending.  Overcoming those moments is what makes them a hero.  In terms of punishing the nice – I'm reminded of Melanie in Gone with the Wind -- I guess that's a thing a writer can do.  But of course it was the writer who chose to make them nice in the first place!  Moral complexity is generally something you want your characters to have.  If I had a character who was "too nice," I'd sooner write them a little more complicated than kill them.  But that's not the only reason to kill a character.

AW: I guess I'm reminded of Buffy- in the end she may have saved the day, but you guys certainly made it difficult for her along the way; - Angel, Riley, Spike- the arch with Faith didn't really have the happiest of outcomes until she returned rehabilitated- Was there many arguments about "No! Stop! She's can't take anymore!" in the writer's room, or was the trust in Joss too strong though her roller-coaster ride?

JE: I trust Joss, always.  And the more a character overcomes, the bigger the victory.

AW: Still on Buffy, If you were tasked with creating a new Slayer- What would her name be, and what would she be like?

JE: In fact, I just did this.  His name is Billy and he’s the first male Slayer.  He wasn’t “chosen,” isn’t part of the Slayer mythology, but has made that choice himself.  He’s very brave and was inspired by so many young men who have told me how the Buffy saga helped them.

AW: Of course! Billy! You've mentioned previously that working on BTVS was an excellent training ground- with lessons each writer took into their future work; What would be the device/lesson you've most commonly used?

JE: The best advice from Joss is to always know why you’re telling the story.  To know what you’re saying with the story.  That is absolutely crucial and I take it with me to every project.

AW: The following Joss' work gained through BTVS seemed to be the first time in a while that the writer's room seemed to be receiving as much attention as the actors- Did that feel like it was the case on your side of the proverbial fence? That the writer's room suddenly gained a mass of fans and respect?

JE: Absolutely, the Buffy writers were recognized and celebrated by the fans.  Part of this, I think, was that Joss was a very early adopter of the kind of fan contact you now have routinely over Twitter.  There were online message boards at a site called The Bronze, and there was even a yearly party where we could go meet the fans.  But even without this, I think science fiction and fantasy fans are more aware of the writers, of the whole process, than a lot of fans in other genres, so a certain amount of curiosity about us was natural.  And wonderful – my life has been vastly enriched through contact with viewers.

AW: When hearing audience reactions- which do you most enjoy; having made people Laugh, Cry or Hide-in-Fear?

JE: Laugh.  I love to make people laugh.  That’s my fave by far.

AW: Ditto; What characters have been your least favourite to write for?

JE: The more complex a character, the harder they are to write for, since their reactions are more nuanced and hard to predict.  Buffy was a very, very complicated character who was a lot harder to write than, say, Anya.  It’s hard to call someone “least favorite” when writing for them is pure joy, but she was certainly a challenge sometimes through her sheer number of layers.

AW: As a writer, how do you feel about 'Spoilers'? Once upon a time we were able to watch Buffy and be surprised weekly, 10 or so years later and it seems no matter the twist, a preview or social media user will spoil the plot-point; does that ever get frustrating or does it make you want to work harder to shock/surprise us?

JE: It’s frustrating – to the viewers and us.  I think you do have to work harder, to make stronger misleads, and to avoid being led by the fans instead of leading them.  It’s all harder, but the trade off is getting to see the genuine reactions in the moment, and right now I think it’s a trade off worth making.

AW: Long-term employ aside, you've written 1 or 2 scripts for a number of shows such as The OC and Dinosaurs (nerdvana for me), is there any series which you would still actively consider yourself a fan of?

JE: Game of Thrones, I’d say.  What a wonderful show!  I was very fortunate to have been involved.

AW: I’ve still yet to get through the pilot of GoT! Warehouse 13 is another show you've created, that has also received a cult following- any word on a 5th season?

JE: I was only involved in the pilot, the show marches along very well without me.  I don’t get any inside word on developments like renewals.

AW: Oh, well there you go, we’ll move on then to an upcoming project; can you tell us anything about Star Wars: Detours?

JE: Sure!  I was invited to get involved by old buddy Seth Green and it was a magical adventure!  It was incredible getting to write for the iconic characters whom I’d loved since I was ten years old.  There’s nothing like writing a bit of dialog for Han Solo to make you very happy with your life.

AW: If you could pick any actor, living or deceased, to devise a television series for- Who would you pick, and what would the show be like?

JE: Brad Bell.  And it would be Husbands.  He’s a very talented actor – he has that trick of making a performance look absolutely effortless, but when you’re in the editing room you can look carefully and see all the little things he’s doing.

AW: What would be on your ultimate Road-Trip Mix CD?

JE: A lot of Weird Al Yankovic.  And audio books.  I love to be read to!

AW: I am right there with you on both of those! Any desire to move into live theatre? Your quick witted style would be highly suited to Musicals as well as Plays.

JE: I love the theater and adore musicals, but TV is what I grew up watching and it’s really very much my love.

AW: OUAT is Disney made, or at least supported- how much closer are we to hearing Lana Parrilla belt out something like Poor Unfortunate Souls in a Musical episode? I know it's been asked before- I am very much anticipating it!

JE: Musical episodes are amazing.  They are very difficult to do.

AW: Are you much of a singer yourself?

JE: Not at all.  There’s a reason that Buffy writers Marti Noxon and David Fury are in the Buffy musical and I am very much not.

AW: Are there any musicals you're a fan of?

JE: Into the Woods is amazing.  Book of Mormon.  And all the old MGM movie musicals, too.

AW: I should have seen Into the Woods coming! Finally; If there was a Musical written about the life of Jane Espenson, what would it be called, what style of music would it be in, and who would you like to play you?

JE: Oof.  That sounds awful.  I can’t imagine anything more uncomfortable!  I guess it would be all bubblegum pop and novelty songs starring Bernadette Peters and called “An Anagram for Openness” in reference to my last name.


Husbands the Series – Watch for FREE now at www.HusbandsTheSeries.com
Check your local listings for Once Upon A Time

You can find Jane on Twitter HERE

Interview by Aaron Ware

Celebrity Interview - Jane Caro


Celebrity Jane
New to the world of 'Celebrity', Jane Caro is a strong, out-spoken figure in the Australian media. Her many accomplishments lend her a number of titles too great for this swift introduction. At the beginning of our exposure to Jane, we had no idea the influential role model she would become to many Australians, through her numerous stints on popular shows such as Sunrise, Mornings and the very popular Gruen series, as well as her many public speaking events. These were merely our form of exposure, it was her ability of ripping a killer sound-byte that turned up our ears and spoke to- or for- us which got Australians to sit up and take notice. Whilst we know a lot of Jane and her political views, I was humbled recently to be given the chance to further share with you all the woman behind the passionate voice- her thoughts and feelings on the wide world of pop-culture, and if she likes being a role model.


Aaron Ware: We’ll start off with young Jane, coming to Australia, young, wide-eyed; can you tell us a bit more, any memories from then?

Jane Caro: My parents were really taking the risk there, and it was my Father who had been transferred with the company he had worked for… My mother was always game for an adventure so… we all came!

AW: You’ve confessed to having the ‘soul of an old gossip’, has that always been the case?

JC: Ah, yes, I do. I think so, I really enjoy people, they’re what interest me. And gossip is just a nasty way of putting down talk of people and their relationships and the way they live… Because it tends to be what women like to talk about, and that’s often despised. But I actually think, gossip, talk about people and how they live, what they do, is the soul of what it is to be human.

AW: Always gives me a bit of satisfaction. You work and meet a lot of interesting and famous people; does that make the gossip just that little bit more interesting?

JC: Oh, I supposed it does, except I’m a bit on the outside of that, its not like- yes, I meet lots of well known people, but I don’t have lots of friends that are particularly well known, and so often they’ll be gossiping about things and I’ll feel totally naïve. “Oh I didn’t know that!” “Are they really doing that?!” Because I’m a bit of a newcomer to this celebrity circuit, so I actually prefer the kind of gossip that’s about why people are doing what they’re doing, who they are…

AW: People you know personally?

JC: Yeah. Like talking to my friends about an event, and who was at it, and somebody who did something a little surprising, and why that might be, and how we feel about it, and… I find that kind of stuff fascinating.

AW: I find that helps with writing, building characters and their reactions to moments in the plot.

JC: Yeah, and also I like to understand, I like to get underneath…I like to… speculate about what’s the motivation, to be honest, I think that… My Grandmother used to say, to know everything is to understand everything, in other words, if you knew the whole story of a person, you understand why they did that seemingly inexplicable thing. I’m always interested in motivations, why did they do that? What caused them to feel about the world that way.

AW: Then you would have made a good lawyer.

JC: (laughs) If only I could have borne all that study…. Which I couldn’t.

AW: Tell me about it. You’ve described your teen years as quite rebellious; can you share some gossip from those days? Shaved head? Piercings?

JC: No, it was a little bit before that… I was just a terrible flirt. I loved flirting, I loved… I wasn’t actually a very brave teenager, I didn’t actually like to do anything illegal, but I was pretty good at pretending I might actually like to do something illegal without actually doing anything.

AW: Talking the talk.

JC: Exactly, and that fine like between being naughty and nice to be accepted by your peers as kind of cool and not a goodie-two-shoes, but not so naughty that I upset my parents and teachers.

AW: (laughs) that’s probably what I should have done instead of upsetting everybody. Do you have any gossip on former school mate, current Sunrise host, David Koch?

JC: Oh, Well, David and I went to school together, we were in the same year and um, we weren’t exactly friends because we hung out in different groups, but we certainly knew each other. It’s funny because he was the tallest boy in school, and I was the shortest girl, so that was a bit difficult in terms of just standing there talking to each other was always a bit awkward. But he was a really nice guy; he was exactly like he is now…

AW: A big dag?

JC: Yeah! The Big Dag. That’s what he was like, and I think that's a real compliment to him that he hasn’t changed.

AW: What would you say are the personality traits that have been cemented in you from your high school days?

JC: Very important thing from my high school days was when I was in primary school; I was a bit of a pain in the neck. I was, um, I used to read big books and adult books and use long words and I was one of those precocious, you know Manny in Modern Family? That kind of irritatingly, unnaturally ‘adult’ kind of child. And I was very unpopular with my peers as a result. I didn’t mean to be, but I was, so when I was moving from PS to HS, I consciously thought “how could I not be so irritating to my peers?” And I kind of worked out I needed to not use long words, I could still read big books, still be into what I was into, I just didn’t have to talk about it to my friends…

AW: You learned self control?

JC: Exactly, But I also learned how to pitch what I wanted to say in a way that the people I was talking to could hear it. I learned that… You can’t just go and say things the way you do in this environment and that environment and just except everybody to catch on, So I had to learn how to ‘pitch it’. So I swore and I hitched my skirt up, and I smoked cigarettes, I was a bit of a naughty girl – But I was still at home reading my Victorian social novels, and still interested in politics and all that kind of stuff, but I just learned who to talk about it with, and how to talk about it… And how to… How to have my own ideas but not threaten everybody with them. I really think that was… Some people might now call that “dumbing down”, I don’t see it as that, I think that was an incredibly important lesson.

AW: I see that as “Knowing your audience”.

JC: Yeah, and sort of a lesson in humility, if you want to talk to people you have to
think about how they’re going to respond to it, what their lives are like and you know, where they’re coming from, instead of just poncing around imposing your own style on everyone.

AW: Which a surprising amount of people do nowadays, unfortunately… Moving on, you went into University slightly on the “Right Wing” of politics…

JC: Oh, yes, you see my parents were in business, both stood for pre-selection for the Liberal party, fortunately neither of them won, but they got quite close, so you know, free enterprise, capitalism that kind of thing was very much a part of my family’s political background. I guess you could describe them at that time as being ‘Socially-Wet” my mother was a mad feminist, and economically dry. So that’s the way I went to university. I did English Literature, because that’s what I was interested in, but I didn’t want to teach, I had no interest in being a teacher, so people said what are you going to do? I said “oh I might get into advertising” and in the ‘70s, that was like saying you wanted to have babies.  So yeah, that was an interesting experience.

AW: Was it then getting into advertising what swung you over to the “Left Wing”?

JC: To be honest, I don’t think that my political views have changed so much, I actually think that I’m pretty much where I was then. I think if you were to describe my political views, I’m a classic, old fashioned John Stuart Mills liberal. I’m still economically on the dry side, socially-wet. But what I’ve seen is the world march past me to the right, so that I’ve basically stood still, when I was young, the world was much more left wing than it is now, and now the world is much more right. I’m considered radical left wing I’m practically a Marxist, purely and simply because I support public education.
When I was at school that wasn’t a particular left wing point of view, that was pretty mainstream, so, that would be my argument; that I haven’t changed much.

AW: Well, there you go! You said once that you had wanted to be an actor… What would have been your ultimate roles?

JC: (Thinks about it) Elizabeth I, I would have loved to play her… Jane Eyre… That sort of thing… Miriam Margolyes, she has the sort of career I would have loved.

AW: How about someone like Buffy or Wonder Women, even Ripley? Someone “Kick-Ass”? Would you have…

JC: No, no, I can’t see myself as an action hero, too much punching and hitting, sticking your leg high in the air, too exhausting for me. I’m much more your mental athlete not your physical one.

AW: Did you ever do the amateur theatre circuit?

JC: I did, I was in one production, I was in quite a few university revues. Being fairly well endowed I always played the bosom-y females, had a lot of fun doing that.

AW: What show did you do?

JC: Oh, I can’t even remember, it was some British farce, I played the maid, it wasn’t particularly exciting. It cured me, I gave it away after that.

AW: (laughs) Where do you think you’d be today if you followed that path?

JC: Probably starving in a garage and very disappointed!

AW: I was expecting waiting tables.

JC: Exactly, I think being an actor in Australia, particularly being a woman and an actor in Oz, unless you’re incredibly beautiful, is unbelievably hard. Because… there’s just not the parts.

AW: Unfortunately so… What are some of your favourite films?

JC: Somebody else asked this the other day… Cabaret’s one of my all-time favourite films, I must admit. Now Voyager, which I absolutely love, Bette Davis. Paul Henreid…  Oh I loved Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy… I see lots of films that I really, really enjoy, but I particularly think I enjoy films that allow you the audience to interpret them where they expect you to keep up rather than constantly telling you stuff. And I’m also not crazy about films that just want to entertain you, there needs to be something else. And I think that’s one of the things I like about Cabaret, it does it so well. Apart from the great songs, there’s a darkness to it, an underbelly, that I really like.

AW: It’s even gloomier on stage.

JC: I bet, and Chicago, I really liked Chicago actually.

AW: A pop-culture advertising curve-ball Question, if you could have controlled the promotional campaign for the Blair Witch Project, what do you think you would have done differently?

JC: I don’t think I would have done anything differently,  as an advertising campaign it was superbly successful, but it suffered from so many things that great ad campaigns suffer from- the campaign was just way better than what it was advertising.

AW: It’s held up somewhat, that baby crying gives me the willies.

JC: Oh well, I don’t think I would have done anything differently, they took a tiny low budget film and made it apart of popular culture, people still know about it, talk about it, quote it. And I think, yeah, well done.

AW: Do you think with that “found footage” fad it’s created, audiences have maybe grown a bit too weary of that sort of thing? With so many Paranormal Activities, has the gimmick maybe worn off?

JC: Well, I think if something’s a gimmick it’ll only last for a short time, so if it’s probably only one or two films then it’s done, but I think you can take just about any subject and create  a fantastic piece of communication around it and there’s no reason these Paranormal stuff can’t make a great film– but it needs to be more than just scaring you,, making you feel uneasy. There needs to be some other element, some more serious reasons for making the movie and then why couldn’t it work? Anything can work if done well.

AW: There are no bad ideas, just bad films?

JC: Yeah, there are no bad… Well, there are bad ideas, but there are no bad subjects.

AW: Uh-huh, much better way to put it. We’ll move onto advertising properly, I believe you got your start in advertising with Australian author Bryce Courtney?

JC: No, Bryce Courtney just helped me to get a job by encouraging me and forcing me to write ads, but he didn’t hire me.

AW: He sort of opened a window/door for you?

JC: Yeah, he certainly encouraged and was a mentor, helped me to get my first job. So yeah, I got in when it was really hard for women to get in. I was lucky because people knew who my father was so that certainly helped and it still does. You’ll get a hearing when some other poor kid wouldn’t. I was really pleased and creative seemed to suit me because I had spent a long time being bad at a series of other jobs.

AW: I know that feeling. Still on Courtney, did you ever come full circle and write any campaigns for any of his books?

JC: No, to be honest with you I really, really enjoyed his book April Fool’s Day which was about his Son who had acquired AIDS but I haven’t yet been able to read any his other books.

AW: Which of some of your own previous advertising projects have you really enjoyed working on?

JC: I used to work for New South Wales Police, and I really like an ad campaign I did there to combat domestic violence, I was really proud of that. I worked with the NRMA and did a few ads that I’m very proud of, a television commercial that I think is very terrific. Some print ads as well that I’m very proud of.

AW: What would be your biggest advertising blunders?

JC: Oh, I’ve done so many I can’t even think of them. I’ve done really bad ads, I’ve put forward terrible briefs.

AW: So no spectacular disasters?

JC: No, no.

AW: Are you like me and talk sassily back to the really patronizing commercials that speak at us, not to us?

JC: Oh yeah, I can’t bare them and there’s so many like that now. Everybody’s gotten really frighten and they won’t trust the audience to understand. So there’s all these people yabbering at us and you know, save your money, none of those ads are working. I always tell my students not to start an ad with a rhetorical question, you know “Sick? Of looking for Cold solutions?” because everybody’s going to go  “No”.

AW: What long or longish running campaign, Coles’ ‘Down Down’ aside, would you love to erase from Earth’s history?

JC: So many, anything by Real Funerals or Real Insurance, and all infomercials.

AW: (laughs) That lady telling us not to tell her age bugs me!

JC: That’s right… And that guy who’s like (puts on Aussie ‘ocker’ voice) “LOSE WEIGHT TODAY!” B\No, just can’t bare it.

AW: I’ve noticed you have an interesting taste in music, not unlike a lot of my own, what songs would be on your ultimate Road Trip Mix-CD?

JC: Well... Eyes of Lucy Jordan by Marianne Faithful, in fact anything by her… Any Rolling Stones song ever… Bobby Gentry- the Ballad of Bobby Joe- one of my all time favourites, love it. Anything by Lou Reed; Shiny; Walk on the Wild Side is probably my least favourite, Perfect Day, oh you, just anything by Lou Reed, Berlin. Who else do I love? Bowie, just about anything by Bowie; definitely starting with Heroes which is my all-time favourite Bowie song, I’m stuck in the 70s a bit, my youth.

AW: I’m stuck in decades I wasn’t even alive in… You love “story songs”, what would be the title of the Jane Caro “story song” be?

JC: Oh, crikey! Um, I’m not sure… (thinks)… I did give my Sister-in-law a book once; Getting In-Touch With Your Inner Bitch, I quite like that, she needed it, she was so nice… Something like ‘Straight-Talking Woman’, I think I do, say what I think!

AW: That’s the way I see it. Would this imply also that you dig show-tunes for that story-in-song element, the exposition compositions?

JC: I do like some show-tunes, Cabaret obviously, because they do tend to tell a tale, which I really do enjoy; Porgy and Bess- I love all that. I’m not such a fan of the really big… I love Chicago, because that also tells a real story and I love the darkness of it. I think I like  Country and Western a bit more. When I was young I hated it, it was the daggiest stuff in the world but now I actually  love it, the whole telling a tale and just… I love that lovely old, I think it was Tammy Wynette with My D-I-V-O-R-C-E Came Final  Today, I just love that.

AW: What would be in your top 3 musicals?

JC: Cabaret would definitely be there, and I suppose ‘Chicago’ would be one of the others… I do really, really like ‘Oklahoma’, I think because of ‘the dark’ that whole Pore Jud Is Daid- I really do love the darkness of all that.

AW: I have seen the movie of Oklahoma 100 times but never the stage production.

JC: Never seen it on stage either.

AW: You’ll should look out for the one with Hugh Jackman on DVD.

JC: Hugh Jackman just doesn’t do it for me, sorry to say, I like Mrs Partridge and Howard Keel, the old Hollywood run.

AW: You’re one of the directors of Bell Shakespeare Company, that’s quite a brilliant position to be in, is there any plays you are hankering for them to produce?

JC: That’s a very interesting question… They have already produced a lot of the plays I would hanker… I would like them to run ‘The Merchant of Venice’ again, because Portia is such a fascinating character, and Shylock, he takes a lot of stereotypes and deals with them in interesting ways. ‘As You Like It’ would be another interesting one, but they produced that quite recently, and this year I have to say I completely loved their production of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ which not a lot of people saw but absolutely fantastic John Webster play.

AW: You’re great at selling an idea, any desire to dip your toes into Directing?

JC: I would love to, but I don’t think I have the skills to do something like that so I’ll put my creative energies and continue to do so into writing novels... Because in a way that’s what you’re doing in a novel.

AW: What about plays?

JC: I’ve got an idea for a play. I don’t know, maybe! I’ve got a few books to write first. I think what I really like about writing books, having worked in advertising all my life is the novelist controls the novel, nobody comes in and re-interprets it, the reader does. But it’s a direct conversation between the author and the reader. Whereas when you direct a play, there are actors and all sorts of things between you and the audience and it’s the same with writing them. As with advertising as a writer you really don’t have a lot of control, it all gets moved away, and I think that’s what makes writing a novel so dreamy for an old copywriter is that it’s Me and the Reader, and I love that.

AW: You’ve said that you despise the word Aspire…

JC: I hate it.

AW: Does it make you laugh that people aspire to follow in your footsteps?

JC: (laughs) Oh, yes! (laughs) And I think; No, no, follow in your own, that’s all I ever I did. It’s really very lovely and quite surprising and I really appreciate some of the wonderful things people say to me, it’s really nice. Though I do think everyone should follow their own footsteps- Sometimes people come say “Can I have a coffee and pick your brain about ‘I wanna change my life’” and I ask “What is your plan?” - “I never had a plan”…

AW: …Oh…

JC: I just talked about what I believed in and used my skills as best I could to promote the things I thought were important and needed someone getting in behind them and lo and behold, it kind of worked. It may not have worked terribly well for the causes yet but it kind of worked in getting attention. So my view is always to follow your own starter, don’t aspire to be anything other than who you are.

AW: Awesome advice, What fictional role-models would you say are great for present day Women and Children.

JC: What a wonderful opportunity to plug my book about Queen Elizabeth the First.

AW: She’s not fictional!

JC: No, no, she’s not a fictional character but I’ve made her into one, because it’s written in her voice. Talking about her life and her experiences, how she survived and all of that so it qualifies… Also I’ve never met the woman she’s been dead for 500 years. So I’d say that ‘s one, but there’s so many fictional characters that women and girls can really relate to. Simple ones like ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and Jo in ‘Little Women’ and I’ve always loved Mary Lennox in ‘the Secret Garden’… She’s sour faced and stamps her feet and I’ve always loved kids like that. She’s not perfect- ‘Jane Eyre’, always just wonderful, Maggie Tulliver from ‘the Mill on the Floss’, just so many women girls that are strong, feisty but vulnerable and not perfect.

AW: How about modern day fictional role models?

JC: (thinks… for a while) … (and some more) See, I don’t really read books in that same way any more so there’s none that really stick out in my mind… Uh, any in particular I think… In a novel… No, I’m stuck on that one… I don’t really look at characters as role models any more just as interesting characters.

AW: How about Hermione Granger?

JC: Nyeh, I’m not really into the Harry Potters, it’s Ok…

AW: (looks at himself) I’m obsessed.

JC: Hermione’s ok, but she’s a bit of a smarty pants… And Emma Watson can’t act… She’s a bit wooden. I’m sure she can now she’s grown up but it was just a bit… Oh she’s smarter than the boys but she’s still not the hero, I get a bit bored of that, marketing, it’s all marketing. She (JK Rowling) did it because if you’ve got a female hero, boys won’t buy the book.

AW: I guess that’s the same as the circumstance with Joanne Rowling’s initials.

JC: Exactly, so the whole thing annoys me really.

AW: Is there any fictional characters/real people that you personally relate to?

JC: Well there’s plenty of characters and people that I relate to and I feel that I understand, not comparing myself to them, that they inspire me; Florence Nightingale, who has been utterly trivialized but was in fact just an extraordinary powerhouse,  and revolutionized sanitation which nobody really knows about but that’s what she did… Mary Wollstonecraft, obviously, and Mary Shelley, her daughter.  (thinks) Oh, Hilary Clinton who I’ve always admired. Ever since she came out in the early days and said about Bill Clinton, when she said; “Well I’m no Tammy Wynette” who stands by her man. Mind you she ended up, that she was, but I just loved it when she said that, was just feisty and fierce, uncompromising thing to say.

AW: What other projects have you got in the works?

JC: Well, I’m just finishing a book written with three other authors which is called ‘For God’s Sake’; an Atheist -that’s me, a Christian, a Muslim and Jew battle it out. And we’ll be looking at different philosophical perspectives from our own world view and discussing with one another why we see it the way we see it. That’ll be out next year through Pan MacMillan. Then I’ve got a contract to write a sequel to ‘Just A Girl’, called Just A Queen. Which will be Elizabeth I and the day she found out she was the head of Mary Queen of Scots, and she has a kind of walking nervous breakdown which is historically accurate. And it’s looking back on how she ended up doing the things she said she’d never do.

AW: There’s not yet an audio book version of Just A Girl, who would be your ultimate three choices to read the audio versions?

JC: I’ll start with myself, for the frustrated actor in me- I think I’d do a good job; otherwise Cate Blanchett, obviously, but for a young – it would be nice to get a young person, a 25 year old to do it… Mia Wasikowska.

AW: Would you want to write the screenplay for JAG if it ever happens?

JC: I would love for that to happen.

AW: Let’s put it out in the universe.

JC: There’s been so many movies of Elizabeth so it’s pretty unlikely. I would love to write it, happily, having written so many commercials I’m ballsy enough to think I can do it myself.

AW: Awesome, go for it! As an out-spoken  Atheist, if you could create a holiday for the Christmas period, how would it be?

JC: Well, it would involve copious amounts of food and alcohol and Men would do all the work.

AW: Hey! One last question; What would your drag name be?

JC: What would my drag name be? I don’t know! My daughter has a friend who’s a drag queen; Kitty Litter… (thinks about it) Lucy Girdle.

AW: Perfect. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today.

JC: My pleasure, thanks!

(I know that it was all mine- AW)

You can find Jane's books at Amazon.com HERE
Jane herself can be found on Twitter HERE

Interviewed by Aaron Ware

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Celebrity Interview - Steve Bastoni (part 2)


Following on from our quick chat back in April, I was recently privileged to sit down for a longer chat with Australian actor Steve Bastoni.
Currently starring on the Melbourne stage as ‘Barassi the Stage Show’ as the titular Australian Rules Football hero, humble Steve has the experience of someone who has sat through a lot of interviews, but with the warmth and banter of your favourite Uncle. Choice of football team aside, of course.

 Aaron Ware: Having seen Barassi, how did you approach the heightened reality of the show- Are you portraying Ron Barassi as a “character” or as the “real person”?

Steve Bastoni: It was a bit of a mish-mash, any theatrical production I do I look at really in the realms of heightened reality purely because that’s the nature of theatre. It’s unlike film where you do have to step into another dimension, it has to be a little bit bigger for the audience to read it, so really, the performance is based in realism but needs to be elevated. So automatically You can step into a realm of fantasy, whereas film you’re into a more real-realism –if you like- and with Ron, ‘cause he’s almost such a mythical figure and so many people know of him- enough has been written about him, it was a combination. I didn't have the luxury to meet him so I was going purely off uh-you know, what I've read about him and seen in terms of archival footage, luckily there was a lot of material available… on You Tube and stuff with Ron, so I had a chat with his daughter and stuff, so, there was a lot of research material available with was great… I didn't want to do an impersonation of Ron, I wanted to do my Impression of Ron Barassi. So, in terms of a style, I guess it was more impressionistic than more of a presentation.

AW: Looking at You Tube videos of him, I noticed there was an uncanny resemblance between yourself and younger Ron, did that play any part in your casting?

SB: No, not at all, without the moustache and my bald noggin’ I look nothing like RB.

AW: I saw it.

SB: Yeah? That’s interesting, ‘cause a lot of people have said that, but a lot of others have said the opposite… I think it’s more the mannerisms that create the illusion of Ron, certainly the moustache helps, the moustache and the hair certainly help put it into context.… We do have similar eyes; we have a similar intensity in the eyes. Ron’s trademark was intensity… I think that’s the passion for what he was trying to communicate via a level certain (of intensity) and I think that’s what they liked about my audition because I was able to deliver that.

AW: Ron came and saw the show recently, was this the first time you’ve played someone real who isn’t now dead or in prison- that would be seeing your performance?


SB: Nah, I have played other people that are alive, namely I suppose the one who comes to mind is Mick Drury and [MD] on Blue Murder was quite an interesting figure as well… He was an undercover cop so obviously there was no footage of him, he was very much a chameleon, but with MD I was lucky enough to hang out with him for a couple of months during the rehearsal process so that was, um,  that was incredibly useful for me as an actor to become “Mick Drury”. So yeah, it’s always interesting when you play someone who’s alive, you do feel a certain obligation to get it right.

AW: And they’re not in prison so you know they’re most likely to see it.

SB: Yeah, that’s right, we were really lucky and very relieved, happy when Ron came down to see the show, he came on stage afterwards and introduced himself and his wife and they all had nothing but high praise for the show and our efforts so we were all very happy.

AW: You must have been humbled by it?

SB: It was a humbling experience, we were all close to tears, and it was quite an emotional sort of experience for all of us, including Ron… It was very much a tribute to the man.

AW: You could feel that, more of a Celebration than anything, helped by the disclaimer at the start. Well, as a Carlton boy, do you feel dirty having to wear those bloody Melbourne Demons colours every show?

SB: (laughs a knowing laugh- that tells me everything) Yeah, look, my sense of shame about putting on the Melbourne Guernsey at the start of the act is overshadowed by my sense of pride that takes over when I put on the Carlton Guernsey.

AW: I can imagine. There was an interesting way of adapting the sport to the stage which I found to be almost dance-like. Did you explore other ways of executing it?

SB: No, no, that was always (Director) Terrence’s take on the action stuff of the play, the football stuff was always going to be interpretive, and was always going to be done without a ball which is always a unique approach. I was actually quite sceptical at the start, I thought it could go terribly wrong, I could see it turning into this ballet and I thought that’s not going to represent AFL well at all. But as it turns out, the way they worked it and honed it… it’s… I think it’s really evocative of the game. I think it’s a great way to portray it on stage because obviously you can’t put a ball on stage; there’s too many variables. But the fact we use that device of an imaginary ball it really allows the focus to go on the actors. And that’s a testament to their work to create that illusion too.

AW: Did you have to work-out much to prepare for the tiny short shorts?

SB: No, mate, I didn't do much. It’s funny with a show like this that requires so much adrenaline and energy you get fit doing rehearsals. I mean, I surf nearly three times a week so I manage to keep- and I've got two- three kids so that keeps me fit.

AW: Barassi was big in China, any chance of a tour?

SB: Ah, I don’t know, but we were on the cover of the local Chinese paper, the Epoch Times, which was interesting- I didn’t even know Ron was big in China.

AW: I thought the sport itself was? How would you describe Aussie Rules in 5 words to someone who’s never seen it before?

SB: Ah, someone who’s never seen the sport before? Ok… Um, well I’d have to say it’s a cross between Gaelic Football and Rugby, but that’s kinda not- you know, if you don’t know what Gaelic Football is then that doesn’t help you. (SB thinks)  A more athletic version of Grid Iron I suppose, with more of a kicking game. How many words is that?

AW: I’ll let it slide this time, it’s slowly on the growth worldwide, which 2 people from throughout history would you want to take to a game?

SB: If I could take 2 people to the people? From any time in history? Geez, well, um, well I’d have to say my Father, no longer with us, who was an Olympic champion in Kayak, and he appreciated athleticism so my Dad would be one, and um (SB thinking) and maybe Napoleon, Napoleon would have appreciated the battle-like structure that’s involved in the coaching aspect of the game.

AW: You've worked extensively across 3 mediums, any chance of venturing into a 4th and releasing an album.

SB: I already have had an album out.

AW: I should do my research better.

SB: I’ve ticked all the boxes, mate, I've done film, television, theatre and music. Because on Bad Boy Johnny the musical we released a cast album in 1992, I think… I had to sing a song called What U Want on it.

AW: Which I think was taken off your character in the recent London re-writes.

SB: That’s right, yeah, I very much enjoy singing, I find it a very satisfying creative outlet, so don’t be surprised if I do more of it in the future.

AW: Good, so what cover songs would you put on this hypothetical album?

SB: Um, (thinks about it) Stay Together by Al Green.

AW: That’s pretty slick…

SB: (still thinking) Maybe, ooh, geez, I don’t know… Stone Me by Van Morrison, maybe some Frank Sinatra or something like that, maybe some Witchcraft by Old Blue-Eyes.

AW: Interesting, would get some ladies and guys swooning I’m sure.

SB: (laughs) yeah…

AW: What theatrical roles, or shows, do you want to sink your teeth into?

SB:  Ah, look, I would love to do Glengarry Glen Ross, the Mamet play, would love to do anything by David Mamet. I would also love to do Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. And uh, John Osborne, I think wrote The Entertainer, I would love to do The Entertainer, which is a one-man show. I also want to write my own but I don’t know where to start.

AW: Well you've done everything from Neighbours through to a Marvel Comics movie (Man-Thing, 2005) – What was more fun to play; Steve Parker or –as you put it- “Native American Environmental Vigilante” Rene LeRoque?

SB: Rene LeRoque was a lot of fun,. Because he was kind of like the Phantom, he was kind of like this mythical dude that no one really knows anything about he kind of just appears and does stuff. I thought it was kind of fun, having that mystique, that veil, that mystique around the character which was really good fun.

AW: And did you get killed – a spectacularly corny death?

SB: Ah, yes, I got shot by Jack Thompson.

AW: Ah, really? Spoiler Alert! Did you get to meet Stan Lee, I know he likes to show up on Marvel film sets.

SB: Nah, he didn't come out to our set unfortunately.

AW: Bugger, have you seen the finished product? Was it good?

SB: I have, ehhh, you know, it was ok, nothing to write home about.

AW: Just my curiosity; I understand as an actor, an artist, you go where the work is, but when you watch back something like that is there a sense of embarrassment, like thinking “What have I done?!”?

SB: Nah, not really, no, the thing is, with everything I do, I don’t do it unless I believe I can do a good job on it, you know what I mean? If I don’t think I can walk out of something going “Ah, well, I did my best and it’s a good piece of work” – I've got no control over whether the film’s good or not, I can only bring my performance to it, there are so many elements that make a good project. Sometimes you make choices of work based on financial insecurity, other times it’s based on artistic merit, the reality of it is most actors don’t get to choose the work they do, sometimes I have to take roles that feed my family, so, I mean, but anything I do, I never walk away feeling embarrassed because I know I did my best.

AW: What are your favourite B-Grade movies? We all love a good B-Grade.

SB: Ah, Re-Animator was pretty good. Other B-Grade movies… Well, Scarface was kind of a B-Grade movie, and I thought that was fantastic…

AW: What have been your career highlights?

SB: Uh, Blue Murder, Oliver! (Bill Sykes, 2002-04 Australian Tour), 15 Amore (1998 Film) and Barassi.

AW: What was working on Prisoner like?

SB: Prisoner was intimidating, because those ladies were tough-arse bitches, you know they were really tough. They were in Prisoner mode, so it was really full-on. You know, the young kid going into that environment was really intimidating. They’re all sweet ladies now, I know them all now, but at the time it was… Wow, “Bea’s sitting over there, shit”.

AW: You did (hit Australian cop show) Police Rescue, do you still abseil?

SB: No, don’t abseil anymore. Not unless it’s an emergency.

AW: The entry period into your short film festival – Peninsula Short Film Festival (see below for details) recently closed, are there any that have caught your eye so far?

SB: Yeah, I've ear tagged about 6 films so far for finalists, and still have another 50 or so films to get through, we’ll have a very strong programme this year with some entries from America, some entries from Canada and one from China; entries from all over the world, so we’re very excited.

AW: One thing we share in common is we both have founded Short Film Festivals- I went through the local council to achieve mine but what advice would you give to other people wishing to create their own?

SB: Well, it’s a very difficult undertaking, there’s a lot of logistics to take into consideration, and you need a strong group of people, you know, trustworthy people around you, it’s a lot of work for no money. You have to have a passion for it if you don’t have a passion for it, don’t even try it.

AW: Do you think Tropfest has helped raise the profile of short films – especially in the past 15 years or so?

SB: Definitely, yeah, look, Tropfest was one of the reasons why I started this festival, I was around at Tropfest in the first years, the first couple of years, when it was just 30 people in a café and it was great. I loved the atmosphere, and I loved the possibility that anyone could make a film, I found that very exciting. And having watched it evolve into what it is today, I’m using that, very much, and I’m not too proud to admit, but it’s very much the model that we’re working on for our festival.

AW: No shame in that, so who would be your ultimate director to work with?

SB: Martin Scorsese.

AW: Let’s just put that out there in the universe. You’ve worked with a lot of cool people, is there anyone you’d love to work opposite?

SB: I’d love to work with Jennifer Jason Leigh… De Niro… Pacino… Malkovich, Sean Penn… Uh, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon...

AW: All the “Big Guns” aye?

SB: All the big guns, mate.

AW: Did you enjoy your time on Ramsay Street?

SB: It was work, it was hard work.

AW: I’ve heard a bit of negativity come from out of there…

SB: Ah look, it’s a difficult gig, you know, um, it is, Neighbours is not an easy job to do, it was perfect for me at the time but it was difficult.

AW: Any gossip from set?

SB: Nah, no gossip here.

AW: Bugger, what’s a soap opera without gossip?

SB: Yeah, I slept with everyone.

AW: I’m not surprised.

SB: They’re all awaiting my babies.

AW: Yep, that is just what the world needs, mate.

SB: (laughs) No, no gossip.

AW: What medium do you prefer to work in?

SB: Theatre and Music I love, but Film’s good too. I don’t know, I don’t \really have a preference it depends on the individual job, I suppose.

AW: Any desire to move into directing?

SB: Yeah, I’ve directed a few shorts, I’ll probably direct some more, I’ll probably direct a play in the near future.

AW: If you could have any other skill, what would it be?

SB: Teleporting. Would save a lot of time.

AW: Tell me about it… Taking it back a little, how did you get started in acting.

SB: I started when I was 8 years old in an amateur production that my Mum was involved in called “Minestrone” it was for the Melbourne University Italian Theatre Group. I did a 4 minute monologue in front of about 1500 people at the Adelaide Festival.

AW: Was it daunting?

SB: Yeah, it was- (SB ponders for a moment) Actually, not really, no, because at that age I didn't really know what I was doing and the audience just loved a little kid on stage.

AW: What were some of your earlier crappy jobs?

SB: I did a commercial for village cinemas once which was pretty crappy, I did a guestie on- I played a one-episode guestie on Neighbours a few years ago which was shitty.

AW: So no Table Waiting or Garbo? Toilet cleaner?

SB: Yeah, I cleaned bricks, I tended bars, done all kinds of things, restored antiques.

AW: Brilliantly dull, back to Barassi, what would the Steve Bastoni stage show be called?

SB: What would the Bastoni stage show be called? A Life.

AW: Which of the current 20yo actors would you have playing you in the future?

SB: Oh god, I don’t know, I wouldn't have a clue, I don’t know many actors… Firass Dirani.

AW: Awesome. Thank you for taking the time to talk to The Puzzle Hub, One last question; if you were a Super-Villain, what would your name and evil deeds be?

SB: The incredible Snowman!! Why? Cause you can't snow the snowman!

Barassi the Stage Show - Closes October 14th at the Atheneum Theatre, Melbourne
http://barassi.net.au/ for further details.

Peninsula Short Film Festival – November 10th, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Crossword; Stage to Screen #18!


Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Celebrity Interview - Rhonda Burchmore


This interview first appeared at; http://www.stagewhispers.com.au/news/rhonda-burchmore-putting-woman-show-girl

Aaron Ware: I’ll start with the generic question; what can our readers expect from Cry Me a River?
Rhonda Burchmore: Well, it’s a story that they probably haven’t heard before… you usually get your Judy or your Piaf or your Dusty… those Girls’ stories are done far more often, Julie’s never been done… I used to be a huge fan, still am, of her music since I was about 12. Down at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, David Campbell came to me and said “We love you but we want you in a different scenario to what people are used to” you know, the kind of leggy show-girl that drives me nuts. But that’s ok, so I said how about we develop a piece on Julie London? So there began the story, we researched her… wrote the original treatment, we got Gary Young, who is a wonderful writer and director, on board to direct it. We did sell-out business down there then went to Brissy.
The thing about the piece itself is that the music really vocally sits perfectly where I’m singing now… I think as you get older… I love; I’ve always loved that Jazz and Blues…  I’ve got the chance to sing the great American songbook, but also as an actress to tell her story. All the songs are placed specifically. It’s been re-developed for the Comedy Theatre here, bigger and better.
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is a wonderful platform to see where shows go; it’s gone from a 70 minute one act, to now two-halves. We start off in a Jazz club with a 6-piece kind-of-cool Jazz sound then the second half develops into Big-Band. So it’s all very glamorous.
These days that Big-Band sound is very rare. Everything’s so programmed and synthetic because of costs and all that stuff. To be given the chance to sing these songs is a joy.
AW: Even Michael Buble seems to have moved wholly into Pop.
RB: Yes, it’s one of those things that is “what’s old is new again”. In terms of, especially Michael, the song ‘Cry Me a River’, was actually written for Julie London, and everyone’s covered it from Buble to even Tina Arena. it was probably London’s biggest selling single and is still around; people are still downloading it today, so that’s great.
AW: Speaking of her music, she recorded 32 albums. By today’s standard that seems impossible. As a co-writer, how do you sift through 32 albums of music without stepping on that rich legacy of music?
RB: You have to put your performer’s hat on, your Cabaret artist hat, and work out what songs flow best in the show. You can’t whack five ballads in a row. Because her music is so easy to listen to, there was a slight fear that if the music was in the wrong order it might be a bit of a snooze fest. The songs are placed against her life story so they’re not just 33 songs I’m going to sing in any order, they’re matched to what was happening in her life, whether a break-up or alcoholism
AW: A true musical.
RB: Yes! A true musical, absolutely, and that’s been very carefully thought-out to put them in this order, especially for the value to the audience member so it’s spotted with, and not ballad heavy.
AW: And have you made sure to do ‘What’ll I Do’, the theme from the old British comedy ‘Birds of a Feather’?
RB: No (laughs) no, no, we do something from… she went into Emergency, the TV show. You’re probably far too young to remember but even though she did 32 albums, a lot of her Television audience that she won in 1972 (in Emergency) had no idea she was one of America’s most acclaimed singers.
AW: And a sex bomb.
RB: Absolutely! She had all those glorious record covers and I love that her record covers would often take longer to shoot than the albums took to record… and some of them were borderline - quite erotic for the times.
AW: She was married twice, only twice- also seems impossible by today’s celebrity standard, but the second lasted for over 40 years. Can her success in marriage be attributed to her retirement from the industry?
RB: What whacked her out of it, and we tell the story; because she was so popular in the 50s and 60s, and when Rock ‘n Roll came along, it was sort of the death of Julie London. She tried to… There was an album there and she did ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ and tried to get down and dirty with the Rock and Rollers, but it was just one of those things, you know, Rolling Stones, the Beatles…
AW: Perhaps the attitude that “Women can’t Rock ‘n Roll”
RB: (laughs) Yes, it sort of wiped her out. She made her last recording in, I think in the 80s, but not many people got to hear it because she wasn’t hip. Bobby Troupp, her second husband, was a song-writer and producer. He wrote Route 66 and others. She was really happy living with him until he died in 1999, and she went not long after  him.
She always said, you look at the photos of her and she’d think she wasn’t the glamorous one, Marilyn Monroe was. But you look at those photos and think “Come on, Girl, what are you thinking?” But yeah, it was kind of interesting that people either know her as Nurse Dixie McCall [from Emergency] or from her recordings, but very few knew that they were one and the same. That was crazy and I’m pretty sure we get that across in the story too.
AW: And what was your personal favourite of her songs?
RB: Obviously the title song, but I also love Fly Me to the Moon, Blue Moon, Black Coffee - she does a killer version of Black Coffee. What I really love about her music is that it’s really easy on the ear to listen to… Nice for the background - you can hear it in a café or somewhere - it’s very much the Great American Songbook.
AW:I’m guessing ‘Cry Me a River’ is your nightly “Goosebumps” song?
RB: Yeah, it’s one of those songs - it’s the ultimate song. When you look at the lyric; she was in love, he did her wrong, now she’s going to get even. It’s one of those “all in the one” songs; it’s a simple song but it’s a great one to sing… and with a bit of a sting in the end of it… Perfect…So it’s the title song of the show.
AW: It’s also one of the most well known.
RB: Well that’s it, I think a lot of people can relate to it too, and that’s the thing we try to do with the book. As I say, it’s a real life story peppered with these wonderful songs. Hopefully you go away having learned a lot more about her and (hopefully) had a nice music fest.
There are so many people out there who hear “Julie London” and go “No it’s not!” but then they hear the voice and they realize. She’s fairly mysterious; nobody knows much about her. That’s why this is a great avenue to get them [these songs] out there.
If you look at her record sales, she was huge in Asia.  Who knows how the show will go, but afterwards we hope to tour - Sydney Opera House and hopefully Asia.
AW: Looking at your past career, you did Easter Parade andInto the Woods on Broadway. You’ve done Sondheim on Broadway, I’m sure you realize now how desireable this is to so many people. Did you realize at the time?
RB: Well, you do, and it’s like working with Mickey Rooney and Anne Miller or Anthony Newley in my 20s. You sort of pinch yourself now and think, “Oh my god, I had that experience!” Standing opposite these people and they’re holding my hand. It’s all history now but I’ve been so lucky and blessed to have had many opportunities. I worked hard for it - it didn’t just happen - but I’m very lucky to have had those breaks and “still be here”, as the song says.
AW: There’s been a lot of World Premieres, or “tamperings of” in Australia recently, Moonshadow, An Officer and a GentlemanZhivago… Do you think it’s about time we had a proper theatre district in Melbourne or Sydney? Five to ten theatres, close to each other. Is there a market for that in Australia?
RB: The product’s there to put in them, definitely. When someone sees a great show they think “I’ve got to see another one, and another one”. We have in Exhibition Street, the Comedy Theatre and Her Majesty’s, around the corner the Princess, and they were always alive with shows.  Now they’re dark for huge periods at a time.
AW: It’s depressing.
RB:It’s really, really depressing. I grew up with my sister as a dancer, used to be a JC Williamson girl, and she used to audition for show after show. Now they’re… I’m one of the lucky ones, I can create work and have my fingers in so many pies, but there’s so many people - all those kids fromAn Officer and a Gentlemen - they thought they were going to be in work until next April. They worked for 3 months, not even, now they’re out of work for 9. It’s really quite depressing, the theatre scene. There’s such an abundance of it, a huge splash and then there’s nothing… maybe if we had a proper theatre district and people supporting. We don’t have the same kind of star system here as in the United States. We don’t really look after, nurture, the stars like they do in the States and that’s a problem.
AW: The talent is there, the casts are there carrying shows for long periods (WickedPoppins etc We have the talent, just not doing anything with it.
RB: Absolutely, I co-hosted Twisted Broadway recently and I knew quite a lot of them from things like Mamma Mia. I look at these kids, and they’ve got so much talent, but it’s sad for them out there. Where do they go?
AW: Exactly - reality TV.
RB: Exactly, but that’s another story (laughs).
AW: Mentioning TV.  You were a part of the final Spicks and Specks. How was it to a part of such an emotionally charged finale?
RB: This is a fun fact. This is my 15th TV series-finale that I’ve been on; Hey Hey, Bert, and I’m singing Cry Me a River on The Circle this week.
AW: They just want to go out with a bang, is all.
RB: (laughs) Yes!
AW: Final question, I know you’re a footy fan, Go Bombers. Any chance we can see you singing the National Anthem at the Grand Final at some stage?
RB: (laughs) I think it is your mission to plant the seed, young man!
AW: Yeah, how did you know? (AW is embarrassed). Why not put it out there in the universe.
RB :I would be there with bells on… Don’t pay me a cent; I will be there rain, hail or shine, singing that bloody anthem. I’m ready!  I don’t care what team is playing, I tell you, I would be there in a heart-beat.
AW: So would I.

Interview by @azzaware
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