Christy Cashman grew up the ninth of ten children, and her earliest memories involve riding bareback behind her sister on Shirley, their pony. “I was about three, and we’d go out in a group and ride on the trails and sometimes down the highway, but no saddles or anything. It’s like it’s in my blood. When you’re that little and smell how the horse smells and look into those big brown eyes, it’s a done deal. You’re hooked!”
While still a child, Christy dreamed of buying the dairy down the road and turning it into a horse farm. That didn’t happen. But Christy’s life has been full of horses, specifically field hunters, and she’s been riding ever since. So, it is no wonder she has spent an appreciable amount of time writing “The Truth About Horses.” It’s a subject she knows very well. A historic castle in Ireland is her home away from home.
Christy Cashman is no stranger to the film production community or to IMAGINE Magazine readers. She has been on the cover of IMAGINE twenty-six times, usually on our holiday issues. Christy has always been supportive of the Massachusetts film industry helping individual productions, film festivals and lending her talent to many films including one she wrote and produced herself.
She is an early recipient of an “Imaginnaire” Award presented for “Distinguished Service Advancing the Business of Film, TV, and New Media Production in New England.”
If all this sounds like a Hollywood screenplay, it’s a good fit: Christy has been an actor, writer, producer, TV host, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Most importantly, she has been an active member of our production community for over twenty years.
I would not be surprised if “The Truth About Horses” finds itself becoming a motion picture. Read my story about “The Truth About Horses,” and get the book. It’s a good read, just look at the blurbs and you will know.
Our cover photo is Christy’s choice, and our cover design is by IMAGINE’s art director and design editor, Monique Walton.
Bringing The Gilded Age to Rhode Island has been a decade-long effort of Steven Feinberg, the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Film & TV Office. In IMAGINE’s first issue of 2023, you can read his story, which we have been following, but we had no idea where it might end.
Thankfully, it ended in Rhode Island, the best ending possible. And according to Steven, THE GILDED AGE is what he always wanted to portray about Rhode Island, its history, its culture, and its connection to the success of the industrial age of this nation, which made us great and capable of facing our world’s future.
Here’s part of what Julian Fellowes based his story on.
(from an article in Tatler by Rebecca Cope.)
“Old Money vs New Money, Old World vs New World: the Gilded Age was a time of seismic change in New York society. The industrial revolution of the late 19th century led to an explosion in the middle classes, with the likes of railroad men and construction tycoons suddenly becoming extremely rich. As these so-called nouveau riche emerged into society, they inevitably found themselves confronted with the rancor and jealousy of the existing upper echelons, whose wealth could be traced back generations. Now, the merchant class were mixing with New York royalty, buying up the best houses, marrying their daughters to the most eligible bachelors, and sending their children to the finest schools.
This tension forms the basis of the central plot in Julian Fellowes’s drama, The Gilded Age, portraying these warring factions from the point of view of Marian Brook (played by Oscar-winner Meryl Streep’s daughter, Louisa Jacobson), a newcomer to the social scene whose guiding lights are her Old Money aunts, whose lives are at odds with her New Money friends.
Here, Tatler brings you a guide to the women who inspired these characters, from the warring Queen Bees who kept trying to out-do each other with their 5th Avenue mansions moving further and further uptown, to the most glamorous debutantes and dollar princesses.
The cover photo (courtesy of HBO MAX) shows an important party scene in Newport, Rhode Island. And, not everyone who wanted to go was invited.
Our cover design is by IMAGINE Art Editor Monique Walton.
Here’s a great live entertainment opportunity. If you, your organization, or someone you know is looking for live entertainment you’ll want to know about “Love Letters from the Front”.
The show was conceived back in 2017 when Massachusetts actor and musician/singer Robert DiCicco was approached by John O’Neil, who books musical acts for the Napoleon Room at the Club Café. “He offered me a few dates, and I decided on November 11th. I wrote it as a tribute to the veterans of World War II (1940 – 1945), which was my motivation, obviously. Suffice it to say they moved it to the larger room, and it was sold out,” DiCicco told IMAGINE.
Recently, Bob DiCicco and Wendee Glick have been performing tunes that were made famous by the likes of Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman and the big bands of the era, using high-quality custom tracks from a Bose LI Pro Sound System. They have been performing “Love Letters” mainly at Assisted and Independent Living facilities. The show is filled with mega-nostalgia and the story is the reading of the actual letters from our servicemen and women to their loved ones
Admission is free at assisted living centers (since the shows are paid for by the host facility). There is also a multi-media portion of the show.
Audience responses have been phenomenal. “In truth, everyone who sees it, always shows a great deal of gratitude and tell us how much it means to them.” Robert DiCicco says, “My goal is to present this to Colleges, Universities and any other venues that would appreciate this presentation and ultimately, I hope to perform the show at USO stages and military bases.”
The cost of hosting “Love Letters from the Front” is between $300 and $500.
Khara Campbell won the Grand Prize for Screenplay at the Rhode Island International Film Festival for SEAHORSE. I got to meet her at the RIIFF Film Forum sponsored by the Rhode Island Film Festival and hosted by its Executive Director Steven Feinberg.
I knew our readers would want to know about her, so I arranged for that to happen. You’ll find her unique, verbose, and captivating. The article basically contains her answers to almost every question I asked her. I could not have written it better.
She will tell us how she wrote the book first and then adapted the screenplay. “With passion, heart and powerful storytelling, Khara Campbell gives us our next great Boston story of love, life, and inspiration. Campbell’s knack for seamlessly mixing pop culture, modern romance and big picture life perspective is refreshing and heartwarming,” according to Dave Wedge, New York Times bestselling author.
She has returned to Boston after being in LA for seventeen years. She learned the business while she was there from top to bottom. But something happened and she felt a need to return to Massachusetts. She named her newly formed production company Mass Exodus honoring that special something that brought her home.
Read how she readies, along with her producing partner, her SEAHORSE screenplay into production in the manner she would like it to grace the silver screen. Yes, she sees it as a full theatrical release.
Michael “Mick” Cusimano, a native of Buffalo, New York, and a longtime resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, died on July 23rd, 2022, after a long battle with brain cancer. He was seventy-one years old.
He is survived by two loving families: his eight siblings and many nieces and nephews, and the people who collaborated with him on his film, theatre, music, and visual art projects in the Cambridge-Boston area. (The latter family includes this magazine; Mick was the staff cartoonist for IMAGINE.)
Here now are remembrances of Mick, from five of the many people who were privileged to have known him.
Mick Cusimano was as wonderful a human being as I ever have been privileged to have known. Every second spent with Mick was fun. Every project with him was a joy. I was so very blessed to have had him as a friend.
I first got to know Mick through IMAGINE, where I was a writer, and he was the cartoonist.
Thus began my entry into Mick Cusimano’s Wonderful World of Surrealism. From his tiny, cramped apartment in (non-Harvard, although he worked there) Cambridge, and occasionally using the facilities of Cambridge Community Television, Mick created a delightful alternative world that mixed animated characters with live-action humans. (I had the supreme honor of being asked to be among the latter.)
Mick was every bit the creative animation auteur that his somewhat better-known predecessors in Anaheim and Burbank were his rooster, who appeared in every one of his productions, was to him what a certain mouse (with a name similar to his) and a certain bunny were to his fellow movie cartoonists in Southern California.
But Mick’s real obsession was ancient Egypt. Pharaohs and pyramids constantly graced his visual imagery and his story lines. Disney could keep its Princesses; Mick’s ideas of royalty were King Tut and Cleopatra.
There were also his mermaids, his gorillas and his bad-guy philistine, Phil I. Stine. If you knew Mick, you got to know and love them all.
But Mick didn’t stop there. He created live shows that would combine music (written by him), animation and theatre. One of his songs was titled ‘Stuck in the Sixties.’ And so he was, but in a good way. Remember ‘happenings,’ such as Andy Warhol’s ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’? Mick made them happen all over again. His way.
How I remember, and will forever miss, those Sunday afternoons in Cambridge when, camera in hand, Mick would hand us scripts, tell us what to do and, in so doing, add to his legend. A Mick shoot was like a party you never wanted to end.
If this was a better, saner and funnier world, Mick would have been given his own movie studio, TV network and wheelbarrows full of Oscars and Emmys. He would have to be content, like so many other great American artists, with being far better appreciated in other countries than he was in his own. Film festivals all over the world gave him innumerable awards. (To be fair, so did many in the Boston area.) But Hollywood never called. Too bad. It was their loss—and ours.
As for me, being a member of his entourage was a great award in and of itself. There were many others so privileged; my apologies for not being able to name them all. But I must acknowledge at least two.
One was his late dear friend Dawn Reger. It really broke Mick’s heart when she left us. Mine, too. Dawn was wonderful to know and work with.
The other was his biggest star, Gosia Krzyszkowiak. Gosia was to Mick what Marlene Dietrich was to Josef von Sternberg, Sophia Loren was to Vittorio De Sica and Penelope Cruz is to Pedro Almodovar: his beyond-beautiful muse and inspiration. (Mick cast Gosia as Cleopatra in one of his films. No greater tribute from the Egypt-obsessed Mr. Cusimano could be imagined.)
So long, Mick. Give my love to Dawn. As you two look down on those of us who had the boundless joy of knowing you, please remember, in the words of the wonderful film you made together: DON’T SPILL THE EGGS on us!
Hartley Pleshaw is a radio show host, television producer and writer. He has written for IMAGINEsince 2007.
Today we lost the patriarch of our family, my big brother Mike, after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
He spread so much joy wherever he went, and touched the lives of hundreds of people, at Harvard, and all over Boston.
He never complained about anything, and instead made the most of the years he had. He always looked to the bright side of life, which he loved to the fullest.
I will miss you forever, my big brother. I love you very much.
Nick Cusimano is the Showroom Manager at Raymour & Flanagan Furniture in Clay, New York. He lives in Liverpool, New York
Our New England arts scene has lost its “Professor of Surrealism,” Mick Cusimano, after he battled with brain cancer for several years.
Originally, he was given a week to live, but he “forgot to die, and won a film award instead.”
He lived through the Hippie and Beat Generations, and squawked about it, whether reciting his outlaw poetry at his own Squawk Coffeehouse or on tour, or in his writing, cartooning and quirky indie films that mixed live action and animation.
Always a champion of the arts, he was never one to sit on flights of fancy. He ultimately landed in countless international film festivals (including Cannes’s short film corner), winning awards throughout his surreal journey.
He said, “The greatest lie in America is ‘You can’t do something if you’ve never done it before.’” He hammered home the importance of childlike excitement for making things, and made me feel like a peer, even though he was old enough to be my dad. It was important to see an adult being so prolific and imaginative, letting us know that it could be done.
Mick’s vision did not waver over outside opinion, and he wasn’t much concerned with money or fame. Ironically, that is what made him so widely celebrated. He was a genuinely nice guy who consistently did it for the joy.
However, he took his art seriously, and was tenacious in bringing it to its logical conclusion: a gallery, a comic strip, a zine, an open mike, film festivals and, later, in music for the people.
Mick’s Everyman quality is what made him most legendary. At age thirty he bumped into Vincent Price; later, he met Tracy Chapman and Hunter Thompson. He made his first movie at age fifty. He didn’t doubt himself when he stepped toward his next art venture, and he encouraged you to do the same. Ten years ago, Lawrence Hollie and I met Mick after seeing his art on the TV station where we worked. He befriended us. We acted in and screened films like DON’T SPILL THE EGGS. Mick gave misfits a chance to experiment. He told his story on 82 and 108 of my ExperimentallyILL podcast.
All hail the true underground surrealist! Mick’s vibrant enthusiasm for creating and bringing us together was boundless! His zest for art was matched only by his zest for life, even in the face of sickness.
Michael O’Toole is a filmmaker and podcaster in the Boston area.
My dear friend Mick Cusimano died peacefully yesterday morning after living with brain cancer for four and a half years.
After his operation in February 2018, the surgeons gave him weeks, and maybe a few months (to live). He got back to his routine of making live film animations, graphic art, performing poetry, jogging, biking, helping to run the open mic at Squawk Coffeehouse and midnight dinners at the Cambridge Common with friends.
At some point, I said, “Hey, Mick, what gives?” He said, “The cancer only got my real brain, not my surrealbrain.” Mick, a true bohemian and known affectionately as the “Professor of Surrealism,” did not live in his real brain. The doctors kept giving him deadlines. Instead, Mick madedeadlines, turned in films and collected nominations and awards: Cyprus, Paris, Toronto, Rome, Boston, etc. The doctors were confounded. The cancer, befuddled, called Time Out. More festivals, awards, ten-mile bike rides, midnight dinners, vacations—lobster & cigars on Martha’s Vineyard—another coin in his bucket.
I knew Mick for thirty-two years, walking into Naked City Coffeehouse on his birthday, September 20th, 1990. He was kind, humble and perhaps the most disciplined artist I knew. He didn’t wait for inspiration; he worked every day. And his muses rewarded him.
Visit his (Facebook) page and take in all the joyful, heartfelt tributes. We need them in times like this.
Bon Voyage, Mick!
Richard Cambridge is a writer in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A Star went to Heaven last week.
I remember Mick Cusimano, my friend, filmmaker/cartoonist/poet in Boston, who had a zest for life and art.
Mick brought people together for improv style, imaginative, whimsical short indie films which formed lasting friendships.
After a three-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer, he was given a week to live and “forgot to die and won a film award instead.”
We met by crossing paths in Harvard Square, Cambridge, after he recognized me form Boston social events. I helped him with films, including a mermaid movie. Gathering to film (with him) was fun on Plum Island Beach, Chinatown, subway stations, the Aquarium, Harvard Square and elsewhere.
All who knew him know how relentless and positive he was! He spoke of his experiences as a beatnik poet, working at Harvard University and attending events around the globe from the Coney Island Mermaid Festival to Paris and Cannes, France.
Overall, he was a nice guy with a heart of gold.
Rest in Peace, Professor of Surrealism.
Karen Ostromecki is an Interior Designer/kitchen designer and actress. She lives in Rochester, New York.
A Celebration of Mick Cusimano’s life will take place in the Boston/Cambridge area in September 2022.
The Annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival Celebrates its 17th year September 6th – 11th 2022
Welcome back to the cinematic celebration that is the Annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival! This is our seventeenth year. Wow—how’d that happen? It is because of you, film lovers!
We are ecstatic to be back with you again, with this full five days of top films from around our planet. Plus, parties, special guests, and more! From September 6–11 you’ll be treated to an array of narrative and documentary films, animation, and shorts. Something for everyone! These films demonstrate the wonders of film, the range of its ability to make us laugh and cry, to make us think deeply as we take in these works’ bold imagery, creative storylines, and unique characters. Sit back, let cinema wrap you in its warm magic.
For seventeen years, the Annual Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival has served as a culminating highlight of this Island’s culture-packed summer season. Each September we gather the best new films from around the globe, aiming to provide a path to bridge cultural differences and allow an exploration of universal human experiences.
The fun kicks off Tuesday afternoon, September 6, with A FILM ABOUT COUPLES (Dominican Republic) a dramatic comedy about a pair of film makers tangling with their marital problems while trying to make a movie about love. In the evening, shoe lovers and anyone who adores a great immigrant success story, will relish the chance to see the Italian documentary SALVATORE: SHOEMAKER OF DREAMS, about the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo.
From Spain comes OFFICIAL COMPETITION in which a billionaire businessman in search of fame and social prestige decides to make a unique, groundbreaking film. To achieve this goal, he hires the best of the best: A stellar team consisting of famous filmmaker Lola Cuevas and two well-known actors who boast not only an enormous talent, but also an even bigger ego: Hollywood star Félix Rivero and aging theater thespian Iván Torres. They’re both legends, but not exactly the best of friends. Through a series of increasingly hilarious tests set by Lola, Félix and Iván must confront not only each other, but also their own legacies.
This is the closing night film followed by The Closing Night Party!
On Wednesday, September 6, you can HIT THE ROAD with a new Iranian film that transforms the road-trip genre into something raw and moving. That evening do not miss PINK MOON, the Tribeca award-winner from the Netherlands.
Thursday, it’s the official opening party! Enjoy drinks and appetizers from the renowned Goldies. Immediately following, you can stroll over to the Film Center for the movie BROKER, the new film from Korea featuring Song Kang-ho, last seen in the Oscar-winning “Parasite.”
BROKER from Korea will screen Thursday, September 8th at 7:30 pm. Directed by Japan’s Kore-eda Hirokazu, the Korean-language BROKER scored a best actor prize at Cannes for male lead with PARASITE star Song Kang-ho. Playing like a scrappy road movie, more than a crime story, the film tells the tale of two chancers who are trying to arrange an adoptive home for an unwanted infant, the child’s mother who tags along, and two women police officers on their trail.
On Friday, September 9, you can choose from a film smorgasbord. First there’s WAITING FOR BOJANGLES, a French romantic dramatic, followed by the thrilling Guggenheim Foundation fellow Signe Baumane, here to show her animated feature MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH MARRIAGE, which infuses music and science into a personal love story. Then it’s our annual INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILMS JURIED COMPETITION. Come see the 10 finalists and learn who our expert jury selected as the best overall.
Saturday, September 10, starts strong with UTAMA, the moving tale of an elderly couple up against the Bolivian environment, a film that racked up awards including a grand jury prize at Sundance. And then Saturday afternoon—whoa-ho!—it’s the return of the “king of indie animation” with BILL PLYMPTON’S WORLD OF ANIMATED SHORTS. Don’t miss this special event with Oscar nominee Bill Plympton who’s been amusing (and startling) Vineyard audiences and the world for years. Saturday night don’t miss Italy’s THE GOOD BOSS, winner already of 30 awards, including “Best Actor” for Javier Bardem, playing the lead.
Sunday, September 11, there’s another strong line-up, starting with DOS ESTACIONES, a drama about an iron-willed woman determined to save her family’s famed tequila factory. Hop to the other side of the globe with the Israeli tale KARAOKE, and witness a middle-class couple being shaken back to life by the arrival of an exotic new neighbor. (We thank the Consulate General of Israel to New England for co-sponsoring this terrific film that’s gathered multiple major award nominations.)
Our closing night film is OFFICIAL COMPETITION, a comedy about a billionaire in search of creative fame who hires a top filmmaker and two big talents (and even bigger egos). Starring the incomparable Penelope Crus and Antonio Banderas. “Deliciously silly and wildly entertaining,” this film is the perfect way to close out our five days of fabulous film. Or is it? Because you absolutely should not miss our closing night party at FISH MV, on Vineyard Haven’s Main Street.
Welcome to our small island. And to the big world of film. All packed into five very special days.
“We’re so glad you’ll be here to enjoy them with us,”
says Festival Director/Founder Richard Paradise (with great gusto!)
I had the pleasure of being in Massachusetts when the Oscar-winning film, CODA, was screening at The Cabot event space in Beverly. (In fact, the ticket to the event was a gift from my mom, so I have to thank Terri Hansen for the opportunity to go.) I have been a fan of the movie since it came out last year and followed its progression as it made its way through awards season, gathering multiple wins until ultimately winning Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards. The movie is about a deaf fishing family in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and their hearing daughter (CODA stands for “Child Of Deaf Adult”) who is their sole interpreter to the hearing world and who loves singing. The event was a fundraiser for Manship Artist Residency which consisted of a pre-screening cocktail reception with locally catered food, a screening of the film, and an in-person Q & A with the film’s director and Oscar-winning screenwriter, Siân Heder, Best Supporting Actor winner, Troy Kotsur (Frank Rossi in the film), and actor Daniel Durant (Leo Rossi), moderated by local Oscar-nominated producer (for Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE) Sarah Green.
[This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity – Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant spoke through ASL interpreters]
I grew up in Cambridge and I came up to Gloucester every summer of my life, basically. So, Gloucester was just a really special place for me. I loved the feel of the town. I loved that it felt gritty, and it also was this sort of incredibly visual, cinematic place, but that the vibe of the people here was very working class and real and funny. I wanted this to be a fishing family in Gloucester, Massachusetts. I wanted to cast deaf actors in these roles. I wanted these long silent ASL scenes. I didn’t want Ruby talking through every scene. I didn’t want to use music to fill out these spaces. We made the movie on a budget and the ride has been absolutely amazing because it was a very scrappy movie, but we really became a family making it. So, it’s sort of extra special to have watched it kind of sneak its way through Hollywood and the ascent that it had because we fought so hard for it.
Have you ever worked in another language [American Sign Language (ASL)]? Is this a first for you?
I’ve never directed so much in a language that was not mine. I will say something else about making it personal. Not only did the place feel very personal to me, but I felt like I needed this family to feel like my family. So, they were out-of-line and dirty and having inappropriate humor and all the things that my family had. I felt like there were a lot of things that I pulled from my own life, and it made the movie very personal. So even though this family was different from me, and I was an outsider to deaf culture, I had sort of imbued Frank and Leo and Jackie, and Ruby with these very kind of personal memories. I started learning sign when I started writing the movie. I felt like the more I learned about deaf culture, the more important it became for me for certain aspects of the film. I really wanted ASL to be seen on screen because it’s the most beautiful language. I think a lot of the time, when you see even deaf characters on screen, their hands are cut off. It’s like a close up and you don’t even get to see the full language. So, it was really important to me to not only cast incredible actors but find a way to work with my cinematographer to shoot it in a way that we could really put ASL on screen.
Troy, talk a little bit about your character of Frank and what drew you to him, what you brought to him.
When I first read the script, it was so fun for me because I had never played that type of character because I’m from Arizona. We don’t have an ocean. I’m from the desert. I’m not a fisherman myself and I don’t actually eat seafood. I’ve never eaten seafood, it’s just not my thing. But as an actor, it was so fun for me to play and transform and dive into this character of Frank Rossi and to convince the audience to believe in my work as a fisherman. When I read the script, it really touched me because I felt very strongly that hearing people all over the world really need to see this movie. I was born deaf, and I’ve seen so many hearing people out there who don’t completely understand what deafness is. They look at us like lesser than, or someone to have sympathy for, a victim, and I don’t feel like that. I’m fine and I can prove them wrong.
And CODAs, the children of deaf adults, really represent both cultures, hearing culture and deaf culture because they can communicate verbally. So, a hearing audience can connect with a CODA character and this CODA character can communicate in sign language, so the deaf community can relate. The CODA was able to pull in that hearing audience into our culture, and that makes all of you change your perspective and think, “Hey, we’re just the same. Deaf people and hearing people have the same way of thinking. It doesn’t matter what race you are or what language you use. We’re all human beings.” So really the only difference between us and you is language.
Daniel, I was reading that you are also very into music and music is a big part of your world. I was thinking about the scene in this movie where Frank touches Ruby’s throat to feel the vibrations of her singing. I just feel like everyone’s experience of music is so singular and I’d love to hear about yours.
Okay. Well, really, I want to make it clear for everyone. There are so many different types of deaf people. Some people can hear well, some people can’t hear things clearly, some people can hear certain frequencies, but I was born completely deaf. I’m fully deaf, capital D Deaf. I think that’s why you asked me that question. So how I learned about music, is growing up I was driving with my mom in the car. One day she bought a system and she put a good sound system in the car. So, she went into the store without me, and I turned up the sound system and I was enjoying the music in the car, but I realized that I was listening to NPR. So, once I found that out, I understood the differences between the vibrations of talking and music and all those things, the beat with a song. So that’s one of my favorite scenes and one of my stories in CODA, when Frank shows up to the school to pick up Ruby and he’s banging music, he’s just feeling the bass, having a good time, feeling his music in his truck. He shows up to his hearing daughter’s school and she’s embarrassed. It’s like, “That’s how I feel.” I pulled up, doing that stuff to my mom all the time. And I love music and I love bass, but really, I just love feeling the music.
Daniel, you were part of a theater company in Norway for a while, right? You performed in various countries in Europe. Did you already know Norwegian and French sign language or, or how different is it?
Yeah, actually it was a great experience, going to Norway for seven months to work in a play. After seven months of learning a different language, I was fascinated with their culture because you know ASL is not universal. A lot of people think that, but no, every country has their own ASL.
There’s over 300 different types of sign languages worldwide.
Yeah, our ASL was born from French sign language. Someone went to France and learned sign language and brought it back to America and made that American Sign Language.
One example that most of you may know regarding sign language, in Japan, do you want to know the sign for brother? (he holds up his middle finger) This is the sign for brother in Japan. It’s true. That’s their sign. See what I mean. Sorry, I forgot, your kids are here, Siân.
Even my eight-year-old daughter tells everyone, “You should see my mom’s movie CODA, but it’s very inappropriate.”
But it’s still educational.
I love it. Well, one of the things I really loved in this film was the chemistry between the family. It’s really beautiful and it comes through so strongly. For any one of you, I’d love to hear you talk about how that came about. How much time you spent together beforehand, how you developed so closely.
All right. Well, really, I already knew Troy and Marlee before we started filming. So, the three of us already had chemistry. We already had deaf culture inside of us, and we connected and understood through that. But when it was Troy’s first-time meeting Emilia (who plays Ruby in the film), we all had to get up at 2:00 AM and we had to go practice being fisherman on a boat. So that was the first time we met Emilia, and she was so open minded and friendly, and she learned from us. I think she practiced for one-year ASL, right, Troy?
Yes. About a year.
Yeah. So, one year, so she knew what she was doing, and she talked with us a little bit and she could finger spell. I would teach her how to finger spell. She would finger spell something to me and I would teach her the sign and she remembered everything. We had so much fun, the three of us, learning how to fish and sign at the same time. Again, she was so open minded. She kept it all. And remember the weekends?
t felt like we had that bond, and on weekends during that time, it was football season. We would all argue about sports, but Emilia Jones was watching us, and she joined in on all of us joking around and kidding with each other, but that really benefited her during the weekend. We weren’t working, but it was like family time, sharing your meal, watching sports. I told the interpreters to just back off. Interpreters, go on a break and forced Emilia to have that experience with the deaf family. That really helped her grow and we brought that onto set. So, after the second week, again, we socialized on the weekend and really that bond grew even stronger, and so did that chemistry and you see that on screen.
You remember the last day of filming? When we had such emotional scene and I felt like, “How am I going to disconnect from you guys? How am I going to disconnect from my family?” So, you guys see us on screen, and we look like a family, but really, we’re a family behind the scenes. It was very emotional to let go of these guys. I want to thank you, Sian, for believing in us.
I think the boat was huge for creating this kind of bonding because as a director, your fear is you cast these people and I remember putting their pictures up on the wall of my office and being like, “Okay, they look like a family. How are they going to be a family?” So, we had a live rehearsal scheduled because I really wanted to spend time together, and we did it in the house. So, we had this crazy house out on Conomo Point and we had access to it. So, we spent a lot of time in the house, just kind of working the scenes and figuring them out.
But the boat was really the thing because none of these guys knew how to fish. Originally, I had fishing doubles that I had planned. We were going to come in with stunt doubles and fish, and Troy and Daniel and Emilia were so determined to learn it. They were like, “No, we want to know how to run this boat.” So, we never used the fishing doubles. And when we went out, we shot it almost like a documentary, we’d been out so much that these guys knew what they were doing. We could have operators on the camera, operators on the boat. These guys could run the boat. I mean, pull in the nets and pull up the doors and do all the stuff. It was really amazing to watch, and the chemistry that formed in this family was so special. When you start to see it happening on screen, it’s that thing that’s just this ephemeral thing that you can never make happen if there’s no chemistry. It started to happen with his family, and it was so exciting to watch because it felt real. It felt like we were a fly on the wall in this real family.
PUB: Truly this was the little film that could. My thanks to Carl Hansen who really gets it. He had been an advocate for treating disabilities in film in a way that encourages all people to view disabilities as normal, a great contribution to understanding our best selves. Often those with disabilities give us information by example that we may not otherwise take in. Carl’s films have won countless awards in this special category. Carl has been an IMAGINE reporter at large for over twenty years. And if my memory serves me correctly, Carl was a PA (production assistant) on the film of STATE AND MAIN (2000), which Sarah Greene (the moderator of this event) was the Producer! Isn’t that a fun fact?
When the major Covid Pandemic took hold, a shutdown took place, across the United States, and in most other Countries.
The shutdowns of schools, businesses, and government facilities created challenging times for everyone. People began to work from home, and parents began to home-tutor their children. Everyone was affected by this pandemic. Individuals now had to wear masks and keep social distancing. Everyone was encouraged to begin taking vaccines and regular Covid testing programs began. Supplies on store shelves began to dwindle. Tough times were ahead. Take, for instance, the film and entertainment industry, where my colleagues and I experienced shutdowns, and mandates. Strict guidelines were being developed, and put in place, before anyone could return to work. This affected all of us who work in the business because in most cases production basically shut down.
It was almost a year before production opened again. So, when it did, I knew that we would need to learn to cope with the new, and necessary changes. As an actor, my return to the business came, only when I felt it was safe enough for me to get back to work. As soon as that happened, I began to confirm “Yes” to my availability requests that came in from Casting Departments. During the hiatus, I honed my acting skills, getting myself into shape, painting, and creating personal vision boards, which became packed full of ideas. Visions of home-improvement projects began to float in my head.
Coping with all the changes became necessary. There was less time for socializing. So, basically, most of us spent more time at home with family. We worked on a myriad of projects around the house. We now had the time to do an array of domestic projects, which included inside/outside repairs to the house, and tons of purging, donating, and organizing household items. Perfect projects to tackle while we were housebound. We used some of our pent-up energy setting up a new Gazebo, doing yard work, planting flowers in the gardens. It kept us busy and supplied well-needed exercise. Our outings were basically for food shopping, stocking the shelves, so we could cook meals and eat together. This became our new norm. That is, until the mandates were lifted.
I remember how excited I was when I was able to begin booking work on several new productions. It happened for me during the last quarter of 2019, and beginning of 2020. when CHILI and the TV Series Julia came online. By then I had updated my resume and my photo galleries for casting. I took lots of selfies, bought a new computer, turned in my old cell phone, and managed to get everything up and running. I discovered that during Covid, it was necessary for me to cut back on social events and on travel plans. Reinventing myself has always been a way of life for me.
So, here’s what I did during Covid, in terms of work. I authored articles for IMAGINE Magazine. One of the articles I wrote was about Lau Lapidus, and her workshops on voice-overs and book narration. That was an exciting project. Before Covid, I was a guest on many television shows, including Messier’s Mantra, in Seekonk, MA, the Charlie Flannery Show, in Taunton, MA, and the Boston based, John F. Fahey Show. After several Shows with John Fahey, John, and I began to appear together on many Local Access TV Shows, as guests, where we would promote former Mayor Ray Flynn’s book/screenplay, “The Accidental Pope.” We would also have discussions about the film industry, and the benefits of the film tax credits.
Then Covid hit and our television appearances came to a halt. So, John Fahey and I turned to radio where we become guests. Aside from promoting the book, Evelyn encouraged me to tell her audiences about my experiences in the industry, and how I have managed to reinvent myself, throughout the years. Voice Overs, Book Narrations, Radio Podcasts, and Zoom Workshops/Performances became more relevant than ever before. They served us well during the Pandemic. They supplied us an exciting and necessary means of communication.
Director-Actor Sharon Squires contacted me about a new Shakespeare Zoom Performance project. I had worked on her Julius Caesar project as an actor playing a small but significant role as the SoothSayer. The project was successful. Sharon was ready to develop a performance of MacBeth. She was familiar with my artwork and was interested in having me create innovative sketches that would be introduced as background throughout the Zoom performances and keep the attention on each of the actors, as they spoke. Imagine, a Zoom performance of a Shakespeare play. How wonderful!
I also belong to a group called Actors Unite. We’ve been working together in person for several years on creating, reading, and filming content for ourselves that included script writing/reading, filming, and working to improve our auditioning techniques. Then the Covid pandemic made it necessary to discover another venue. Charlotte Dore and Doug Weeks created an effective Zoom platform. Both are very gifted people. Charlotte is a remarkably successful actor and puppeteer. Doug is also a talented actor and manages communications for the group. Doug and I were featured background on a small Globe Lobby scene in the award- winning film SPOTLIGHT. The participants of Actors Unite concentrate on helping each other to improve upon their skills. I love the positive and creative Zoom concepts that resulted from Covid. I believe Zoom is a great solution for those not able to gather in person. I hope we never lose concepts such as Zoom, and we continue to develop them. The Summer of 2019, before production came to a halt, I worked on FREE GUY starring Ryan Reynolds, and in Summer of 2020, Ryan returned to Boston again, this time, with Will Ferrell, when the Musical film, CHILI, was filmed.
And finally, Adam Sandler’s HUBIE HALLOWERN movie was released in October of 2020. Again, production became scarce and with Covid on the rise I personally was not yet prepared to accept work. So, I missed the opportunity to work on several 2021 award- winning films projects CODA, DON’T LOOK UP, and THE GILDED AGE. By the time Season two of the TV Series Julia came along (late 2021) I felt comfortable returning to work, particularly since production standards were in place. That’s when I began submitting again to casting directors. I was chosen to work on a number of TV and film productions, which included Julia 2, I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY, THE BOSTON STRANGLER, and Stephen King’s film SALEM’S LOT.
More recently, in 2022, there was more work that included THE HOLDOVERS, and CHALLENGERS. When I returned to work, The first thing I noticed was the “New Norms” that were needed to work and to be on set. PCR Covid tests, and in some cases daily Covid tests became necessary. A requirement on set is that everyone, including Cast and Crew, wears a mask. You wear your mask for every minute you are at home base. The only times you can take your mask off is when you’re eating, or filming. It’s always “mask off” while filming, “mask on,” while not. It’s the policy, and everyone is required to follow the rules.
I spent an entire year pretty much isolated from my friends. So, having work again is wonderful. I’m so happy to be back at work. I love the industry and always wanted to be an actor since I was twelve. I knew that I wanted to work in the film industry, and I’ve been in the industry since 2006. I’ve been a SAG Member for ten years and I sat on the board of directors up until the end of 2018 when I decided to retire from the Board. I served from 2018 to 2019. The fear of coming down with Covid kept us wanting to stay sheltered.
What I was able to do was concentrate on building upon my attributes. I now have, what I call, Covid hair. As I mentioned earlier, in the article, the pandemic inspired me to grow my hair out, from brunette, to natural Gray and silver. The change would require less maintenance. It also gave me the advantage of applying for a variety of roles that I would not normally audition for as a brunette. I’ve also been working on my wardrobe, as I’m organizing my closet and storage space to accommodate my needs. I have been donating and getting rid of clothes that I do not need to the shelters, throwing away clothes that I’ll never wear. When I work on productions, I usually get my booking text and call time, between 8:00 and 10:00 pm the night before I am supposed to arrive on set. That is when I put my wardrobe together with care. I begin to select my clothes, hats, jewelry, and shoes and whatever else is requested by the wardrobe Department. I wash and clean everything and place it in a carry bag, including my makeup along with personal needs. I would need to have my hair washed and set so that the Hair and Make Up Departments can help me develop my “look,” my character. That is the way I do it.
During Covid, I gave thought to my routine, and to some of the guidelines that I usually pass along to the young actors and new people on set when they ask for advice. I have always enjoyed mentoring others. It’s something I have done consistently for many years. It’s my way of giving back and being grateful for all the opportunities that I have been given during my lifetime. I decided to jot down what I have learned from my experience and pass them along, in this article. These are the rules I try to follow: Booking calls/texts usually arrive between. 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm. I may not not get to bed until after midnight. I set my alarm according to my expected call time. If it’s a very early call time I may set my alarm for 3:00 am or 4:00 am, so I can take a shower, wash and set my hair, make sure my clothes are clean and the bags, Passport and SAG card are all in order. That way, I can be on the road in time for the 6:00 am call time. This routine usually works out for me. When you love your work it makes it all worthwhile.
These are some of the guidelines that I follow, while on set. I would like to pass them along to the reader. The professional way to behave will be noticed. It is important to keep your eyes and ears open, and to follow instructions from the Director and the Production Assistants. And, for goodness’s sake, never look at the camera, unless told otherwise. Always pay attention to consistency. When they cut and reset you must always go back to your mark, stay on your mark, unless told otherwise. Never try creeping up to the camera. It makes sense. If you are not on your mark, when the camera rolls, it is difficult for the editor to connect the shots. Remember, time is money.
Finally, I would like to close with a comment about the ever so important Massachusetts Film Tax Credits, which have drawn so many new and returning productions to film in Massachusetts and other New England communities, including Rhode Island. Massachusetts is extremely fortunate that the Sunset Provision was recently eliminated. Thanks to so many people who have worked hard to make it happen. Carol Patton, Publisher, and Editor of IMAGINE Magazine, is one of those people. Bravo, Carol Patton for your insight and vigilant promotion of our Film and Entertainment Industry.
May we get safely through this Pandemic now that the Mandates are lifted.
Elaine Grey is a SAG Actor, Director, Producer, and guest writer for IMAGINE Magazine. Ms. Grey is also an avid Artist and Photographer. She and her family are longtime residents of Watertown, MA. Elaine can be reached on her Facebook page, as Elaine Grey or via email at [email protected]