Interview with Peeler: A Star Wars Discussion

A week after the release of Star Wars’ latest, and six months after the highly successful, while divisive episode 8, or The Last Jedi, here are some of the questions I had, answered by aficionado and hardcore Star Wars fan, Edward Peeler. You can check out his blog at or subscribe to his video reviews on youtube.

Image result for the last jedi sucked

Me: We spoke about how The Force Awakens stuck pretty closely to an old formula, echoing A New Hope essentially. We both agreed that we wanted to see some experimentation in The Last Jedi. How do you feel about what The Last Jedi did in terms of making its own path?

Peeler: Well, I think it did a little too much in making it’s own path. I think it kind of went off the rails. It feels like their making these movies with absolutely no plan in mind. J.J.
clearly had a direction he wanted to go in and then they just brought in Rian Johnson and let him do whatever he wanted with this one with complete and utter disregard to
everything J.J. had set up. It’s like they decided to handle the plot of a major blockbuster
cash cow franchise by doing one of those creative writing games where one person starts
a story and then another person writes the second part and someone completely different ends it. Those games are fun but not the kind of direction you need for a major film series like this. And Rian Johnson apparently hasn’t directed too many films. He did
Looper which everybody tells me is amazing, but to me looks like the most boring and
predictable time travel story I’ve ever seen, so I’ve never cared to watch it. He’s done
Brick which I’ve never heard of and a couple episodes of Breaking Bad including the
fly/contamination episode which admittedly was a good episode. But that’s it. So to
quote Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media, “They gave the 2nd film of this major franchise
to Just Some Guy.” Which is shocking. They let this guy do whatever he wanted
whether it made sense or not, whether it was satisfying or not. And it’s had a pretty poor
response from fans, including myself. Youtube is like on fire with Last Jedi hate. It’s
beautiful man. And the more Disney talks about it and tries to explain themselves, the
worse they look. And now J.J.’s coming out and saying if you don’t like the movie, well
that means you don’t like women. Which is bullshit. And we also have Simon Pegg
coming out and confirming that Rian Johnson completely ignored J.J.’s plans and did his
own thing but J.J.’s got to “support the party line” so he’s acting like it’s A-ok. My
personal experience I think echoes a lot of people. I had a good time watching it in the
theatre because it was Christmas time and I saw it with my Dad and it was a fun little
family event. I had an adult beverage. My theatre was offering a red drink if you
preferred the sith and I had A Blue Hope which I think was Dan Akroid Crystal head
vodka with a blue lightsaber straw in it. And so we watched it, and there were lasers and
explosions, so we’re having a good time and all the while I’m watching and asking “Where are you going with this? Where are you going with this?” And there were a lot of strange choices like the infamous “Leia Poppins” sequence, Admiral Holdo which was a character I absolutely detested, Luke drinking alien milk or possibly semen from an alien walrus, etc. The list goes on. I left theater having enjoyed myself, but when I started talking to my friends about it- in particular, my buddy Andy- I started thinking about it and I realized, I was not happy with what I saw. It actually gets worse the more you think about it. And I’ve noticed a lot of people saying similar things. It’s like the first stage of grief is denial and I’m noticing a lot of other people saying they initially enjoyed it but then it started falling apart for them. I think they were way too focused on “doing their own thing”. One of the early bad signs of this move actually predates the Force Awakens where J.J. announced the Expanded Universe, which is one of the major things Star Wars fans, myself included, adore, is no longer canon. I thought that was a terrible decision then, and it’s a worse one now. Disney wants the money from the fans of Star Wars without earning those fans’ trust and without respecting the material. They are also too lazy to hire an intern to skim Wookiepedia, so that they have a general outline of what the continuity of this series is. I think in an effort to do their own thing they have actually successfully killed the franchise. Nice job breaking its hero.
Me: Referencing Luke Skywalker’s dark story arc? So with the more surprising aspects of the film, you feel The Last Jedi was iconoclastic and undercut its old established momentum?

Peeler: They basically drove this car one-hundred miles an hour into a brick wall. I wasn’t too crazy about the mysteries set up in the Force Awakens but many other people were. I think you were in particular. I just kind of trusted that it would be good because I liked the Force Awakens and Rogue One. I love the Marvel Movies, and Disney in general was making me happy. My friend Josh introduced me to Gravity Falls recently and I’ve been digging that. They just bought EVERYTHING of value from 20th Century Fox, including The X-men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four, which as a comic book fan I’ve been anticipating for several years. I’m so happy about that deal; they’ve got Aliens so Ridley Scott can’t make anymore shitty Prometheus sequels. They’ve got Terminator. They’ve got so much good stuff. They could make Dodgeball 2 tomorrow and it would be awesome. And all of a sudden they just shit the bed with The Last Jedi. I did not see that coming. Whatever they were going to do, I figured it would be good so I didn’t speculate. I wanted to wait and see. And they just did nothing with it. Rey’s parents are nobody, so
that was pointless. Snoke’s a nobody, pointless. The Knights Of Ren are Sir Not-
Appearing-In-This-Film. And Luke Skywalker’s a bitch now. Just why even bother
making a Star Wars movie if you’re not going to do it right. I definitely feel the classic
characters got shafted in this film after the ABYSMAL treatment of Luke, Admiral
Akbar’s off screen death, and Chewie being reduced to a terrible running Porg gag, but
also what was the point in getting me invested in Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo if they’re not
going to get any decent development either? It doesn’t matter what generation of
character they were, they both got treated poorly.

Me:You were apathetic towards General Snoke before The Last Jedi. Were your feelings solidified after watching his demise?

Peeler: The best part about the movie for me was when he got his dumb ass sliced in half.  I’ve never been impressed with Snoke. And for the record, I’m super disappointed he wasn’t a giant.  I’m serious. I think they missed a unique opportunity to show a new unique alien species that we’ve never seen before.  He’s just a generic Sith lord. That’s it. He’s powerful and he can shoot lightening and whatever. Who gives a crap? And he’s old and CGI….because.  Why couldn’t you just put an old dude in a chair? Why not just put Andy Serkais as himself, for once, not in mo-cap gear, in a fucking chair? He was just in Black Panther as himself a week ago and he was fine…..all ten minutes of him which is a rant for another day.  Every Sith lord we’ve seen has got something going for them. The best of course is Vader. He’s the original big menacing bad guy played perfectly by David Prowse and James Earl Jones. Then you have Palpatine, who is deliciously evil and cunning and calculating played by Ian McDiarmid.  Maul’s got a cool look and badass martial arts by Ray Park. Dooku has the raw power of Christopher Lee. And even Grevious is an unsettling alien monster. And the Expanded Universe is ripe with kickass Sith with their own unique looks and personality, whether its Asajj Ventress from Clone Wars, Revan from Knights Of The Old Republic, The Grand Inquisitor from Rebels, and even Star Killer from Force Unleashed and Mara Jade (I think she started off as a Sith and then became a good guy).  Snoke just kind of blends in as a poor man’s Palpatine. I honestly don’t think there was anything there of value to begin with  but it’s the job of the writer, to make something. Word on the net is that Snoke was either supposed to be or people feel he should have been Darth Plagueis The Wise, the Sith lord who can allegedly create or restore life and whom it’s heavily hinted at in Revenge of the Sith was Palpatine’s master. Palpatine betrayed and killed him and became the new master of the Sith Order and then orchestrated his plan detailed in the prequels to take over the galaxy.  And honestly all the signs are there backing this up. He’s super old, he’s disfigured which suggests that Palpatine only thought he’d killed him but he survived. That would have been a more satisfying answer as opposed to nothing at all which is what we are given. It’s absolutely ridiculous that a Sith lord powerful enough to effortlessly bitch slap people with lightning and telekinesis without even getting up from his throne, powerful enough to link two separate people on other ends of the galaxy via a telepathic Skype, would need Rey to tell him anything about where Luke is hiding out.  A guy that powerful should be able to find him on his own. And second of all, he should be able to see an obvious betrayal happening right in front of his face. The only justification I can see for this (which I’m sure Rian Johnson or another mouth piece for Kathleen Kennedy will use at some point) is that the Jedi in the prequels were oblivious to a Sith lord right in front of their noses for years and Sith lords are kind of portrayed as stupid back stabbers that betray each other so regularly that their can only be two of them at any given time. But that bullshit falls apart with some simple logic: if the Sith are that retarded (which they are not supposed to be if you’ve played Knights Of The Old Republic or read the Sith novels) then how did they ever at any point in Galactic History become a force capable of taking over the Galaxy.  And also, if your mining the prequels to explain away your plot holes, your doing something wrong.

Me: You were also always apathetic towards Rey’s parentage as you mentioned. Do you believe Kylo when he says that her parents were these nobodies, or do you believe there’s more to that subplot? Do you care anymore about it or can it be salvaged in your eyes?

Peeler: I’m going to skip the first question for the moment and go directly to the second one. I don’t care anymore lol.  Again I didn’t care initially but apparently everybody else did.  And I was expecting SOME kind of explanation given how hard it was set up in the Force Awakens and it should have been addressed.  Not addressing it or claiming it was all bullshit is just bad story telling. Truth be told, there’s nothing wrong with her parents being nobody.  The galaxy is full of force sensitive people who have the potential to become Jedis and to me Rey was always just a role player playing the D20 Star Wars table top game who started play as a level 5 Jedi Guardian (which by the way is a class so powerful it will make a Paladin blush).  It also explains why she’s over-powered; sorry Finn. That’s what you get for leveling up as the Soldier Class. And poor Poe wanted to take the Dog-fighter Class from D20 Future but that’s a prestige class so he had to level up as a Fast Hero first and that’s why he sucks. That’s why all of them suck compared to Rey which is another problem with her lineage not being explained. Since the Force Awakens, the character has been accused of being a Mary Sue. These were concerns I mostly ignored and over looked since I liked the Force Awakens. But the fact of the matter is that in that movie, she’s a master of hand to hand combat, so techno-savy she can completely fix, fly, and expertly man the guns of the Millenium Falcon having never seen it before, is kind of a bitch to Finn when she first meets him for no reason, and can expertly use the Force and a lightsaber within approximately one day of learning she may have some connection to the Jedi.  In this movie she’s more powerful than Kylo Ren whose trained for years, beats up Luke Skywalker with a stick, and can break the ground and lift rocks with the force with absolute NO TRAINING. If that’s not a Mary Sue, I don’t know what is. That or the bitch is fudging her character sheet and gave herself 10 extra levels while everybody else is at 5 and gave herself 18s in all stats. Explaining that she’s the long lost child of Luke and Mara Jade or Han and Leia or Obi-Wan’s grand daughter or the reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker or Darth Revan would at least be a satisfying explanation as to where this unbridled power is coming from and I think it would have also made the fans who’ve been speculating for two years a little happier too.

Me: The biggest complaints I’m hearing, and you’ve addressed them slightly, have to do with Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill himself spoke about an uneasiness he felt towards this arc. What are your thoughts on The Last Jedi’s Luke Skywalker?

Peeler: The mishandling of Luke Skywalker is hands down the worst thing about this movie.  Sometimes the first reaction is the correct reaction and I 100% support Mark Hamil’s original criticism of the film.  The only reason he has “expressed regret” at his earlier comments is because Kathleen Kennedy told him to keep his mouth shut.  I have no respect for her whatsoever. To quote Mark himself “How does the most optimistic person in the entire galaxy just give up and stop being a hero?”  I don’t know, but I don’t buy it. I also agree that “This is not my Luke?” My Dad described Luke in this film as a pussy and coward. Not only do I agree, I think it’s worse than that.  You’re telling me Rian Johnson, that Luke Skywalker, the most optimistic man in universe who literally went through hell and back to bring his father back from the dark side, his father who was the 2nd most evil man in the galaxy and guilty of genocide, is also the same man who years later entertained the notion of MURDERING A CHILD, not just any child but his nephew and best friend’s son, because he MIGHT do something bad in the future?  This is the same guy? Bullshit! This is character assassination. I don’t know why Kathleen Kennedy doesn’t like Luke Skywalker but she’s in the wrong business if this is the best thing she can think to do with him. We’ve been waiting two years to see Luke back in action.  Actually longer than that. I’ve been waiting since like 1987 to see to see a new live action adventure with Luke Skywalker. I was 5 years old. Return Of The Jedi was my first and favorite Star Wars’ Film. I will never forget the heroic stand Luke made against the Emperor when tempted to cut down his father!  Looking at his father’s broken mechanical hand and then looking at his own cybernetic replacement. I will never forget as he threw down his lightsaber, looked the Emperor in the eye and said, “Never! I’ll never join the dark side. You failed your highness. I am a Jedi! Like My Father Before Me!” That’s a hero.  That’s Luke Skywalker. I don’t know who this homeless guy drinking space walrus semen is but it ain’t Luke Skywalker. Now I’m not saying Mark did a bad job. Mark Hamil was the best thing about this movie. Hands down the best actor and hands down the best performance in the movie. He was a professional and he performed their garbage script like a professional which is a damn shame because he didn’t get a chance to do anything cool in the movie.  He didn’t fight anybody. He didn’t use a lightsaber. He didn’t go on an adventure with Rey which would have made me love and appreciate both of them. Meanwhile, Harrison Ford got a chance to do everything he wanted to do. He got to shoot the bad guys, fly around the galaxy, be a cool dude, and finally kill off a character he’s been trying to kill of for years but do so in a cool dramatic way. Luke was too lazy to leave the fucking planet he was on.  And I’m sorry, but the moment he died and faded away at the end of the movie, I felt this sinking feeling in my chest and I realized that Star Wars had just literally died. To me it’s dead now.

A brief aside.  I’ve been watching the hell out of Ash Vs. Evil Dead recently and first of all, it’s an awesome show.  Go check it out! I had the pleasure of meeting Dana Delorenzo a couple months ago at Pensacon and she’s awesome.  I bring the show up because that’s how you properly do a legacy show. Bruce Cambell’s Ash Williams is just as awesome as he was in the movies, but also his supporting cast is just as awesome as him.  Dana Delorenzo, Ray Santiago, and Lucy Lawless play great characters that elevate Bruce’s performance and he elevates them. Their characters are so good that I don’t just tune in for Bruce, I tune in for them as well and fully accept them as heroes (or awesome villains) in this world.  The show is definitely a team effort and it shows. The Last Jedi does not do this. There is a genuine effort to make the classic characters look bad that makes everybody in the movie look bad. Classic characters don’t get anything to do. New characters have arcs that are either insulting or go nowhere and nobody develops.

Me: Reylo has somewhat of a weird cult following. Did The Last Jedi do enough to make you interested in their arc at least?

Peeler: As I said before, I did enjoy the movie while I was watching it the first time and well, yes.  I felt this was intriguing at the time. I definitely shipped Rey x Kylo Ren while I was in the theater.  I don’t know. Maybe it was Adam Driver’s sparkling abs, but yeah, I thought those scenes between the two of them were romantic and kind of sexy.  In the long run? No, because again, I don’t care anymore. But the real shame of it is, I feel this was a missed opportunity. Let’s ignore the obvious criticism that these two might be brother and sister (it was my speculation that they were Jaina and Jacen Solo from the real Expanded Universe).  I think what really should have happened is that after the fight with the praetorian guard, which I think is universally enjoyed even by people like me who didn’t like the movie, when Kylo asked Rey to join the First Order with him declaring that, ” she’s nobody but not to him. To him she’s special”……she should have joined him.  That would have been cool. That would have been compelling. That would have been unexpected. And they could have taken this series in a whole new direction that we’ve never seen before. Imagine, a Jedi and Sith Lord as not just lovers, but as the new king and queen of the Galactic Empire! Two people drawn to each other on the opposite sides of the spectrum of good and evil, learning from each other, compromising who they are in an effort to make a better galaxy one way or the other.  Maybe they could have focused on demilitarizing the First Order and turning it back into the Galactic Republic, building a new galaxy together but dealing with harsh opposition on all sides of the argument and completely outside (the Hutts, the Mandolorians, the Black Sun, the Yuuzhan Vong,etc) and struggling with the temptation to switch to either side of the force and perhaps never fully trusting each other. That would have been a great movie and it could have satisfied that bold new direction itch that they’ve been trying to scratch.  But you know, that’s a complicated and interesting high science fiction idea with no clear idea of who to blow up in the movie, so they’d never do it. At least this Brain Trust of a Star Wars team wouldn’t do it. So yeah, they just blew up the lightsaber. Rey stayed good. Kylo stayed bad. And my erection got bored. They killed any interesting romance for me before it got started. It’s a shame. I found Daisey Ridley very sexy in the Force Awakens and I could have written such lovely, nasty fan fiction about her and Kylo Ren. And just so you know there is plenty of great porn of Rey out there on the inter-webs if you know where to look.

Thanks again for having me here dude. Hope everybody enjoyed my rantings.  This is the Dreadpirate signing off.

-Walter Howard-





Winter Film Awards 2018-Lydia Fiore and Dana Marisa Schoenfeld: An Interview

The seventh annual Winter Film Awards starts later this month, February 22nd, in New York City, New York. I spoke with Lydia Fiore and Dana Marisa Schoenfeld about their short film, Swiped Right, which is competing in the festival. Lydia, amongst other roles, serves as producer, co-writer, and star of Swiped Right, while Dana, also balancing a number of jobs on the set, directs, co-writes, and stars in a supporting role in this film about two people-a woman and a man-who have given up on finding love, and resort to a meaningless hook up with each other through a dating site.


Me: I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about Bella Fiore Productions?

Lydia: There’s two production companies involved. My production company is Bella Fiore Productions and then Dana’s is Main Sequence Entertainment. The way Bella Fiore came about is I started the company in 2017-just last year-and I was involved with a film challenge at a school I was attending. I wanted to become a filmmaker. I had ideas for film, and so last February, I produced and starred in my first  film, a short film, called High Deny, and then a second film which became Swiped Right.

Me: Dana, if I could ask about Main Sequence?

Dana: Sure. I founded Main Sequence Entertainment in 2010 in Los Angeles, and then I moved the company to New York in 2016. Main Sequence has produced, I think around 8 short films, maybe 9, or been attached to other projects as well. Some I’ve financed on my own with the company. Others I get hired to direct or produce on other people’s project, but Main Sequence has produced East, which is an award winning  T.V pilot. Dead Drunk which is a short film that I’m going to make into a feature film. Sasha which is another short film that has won some awards, and I’m also going to make that into a feature. Then several others that I’ve either directed or produced or starred in.

Me: How did you two meet?

Lydia: We met through The Actor’s Green Room which is a school here in New York City that has film challenges that they run monthly. I started coming to the school doing interview workshops and acting classes, and that’s how I started attending the film challenges. I saw there was a woman who was extraordinarily talented, and I was like, “Oh, I want to work with her.” So when I came up with the idea of Swiped Right, I then approached Dana, and asked her to collaborate on this project.

Me: Dana, you’ve collaborated on scripts before. You’ve also worked solo. Are they two separate challenges? Do you prefer one over the other?

Dana: Oh, absolutely. I mean, both have their benefits. I love to collaborate with people, because it’s tough. Writing can be lonely. It does add a lot for me when I collaborate, but I enjoy both. It just depends on the project that I’m working on, and the people that I’m collaborating with.

Me: What was the collaboration between you and Lydia like?

Dana: It’s been great. Lydia’s had some really funny ideas. She’s very authentic in her approach to comedy. It was really fun to direct her and watch her step into this role which is very personal to her. Our collaboration on set was great. She was responsible for some of the logistics including the location. We both brought a lot of casting suggestions to the table, and we’ve pretty much been in agreement with these decisions.


Me: Lydia, you two are balancing a number of jobs on Swiped Right’s production. What was that during filming?

Lydia: It was exciting. It was definitely exciting because, you see, my background is I worked in fashion as a fashion executive, and ran a catalogue and website for a number of years, and so working on the film set was pretty much like my days working at my corporate job. I had to juggle many hats in my civilian life. Even the preparation before that, we would produce catalogues every week, and then I had the website running, selling merchandise every day. It was interesting though, I did like taking my producer’s hat off, when I had to act. You do need to separate yourself from the work that needed to be done on-set and then concentrate on where you were with the character. It was really nice because Dana ran such a tight set that I was able to do that. Then, the people that we brought in for the crew, everybody knew their job, and they knew it well. The set ran very smoothly.

Me: Dana, did you feel like you need to take off your director’s hat while acting, or is that something that never comes up?

Dana: It’s such an interesting thing, because I’m actually really getting used to both directing and acting, but it is a challenge, because there are, obviously, different skill sets, and to step into a role completely, you really don’t want to look at the scene from the director’s perspective. You really just want to get in the moment with your scene partner. So, it’s a challenge. I find that hiring people that I’ve worked with before, working with people I know and trust allows me to do the best I can taking off the director’s hat, but it is always sort of still there.

Me: Coming now to the film, dating can be an awkward, terrifying experience. Where did the idea for Swiped Right come from?

Lydia: The idea came from my experiences with online dating. I had a crazy date, and as I was telling my girlfriends at dinner one night about what transpired, I just looked at them, and I said, “Oh my god, this is a movie.” Once Dana and I started working together, Dana took that script and that original idea, and then transformed it into Swiped Right as we see it today.

Me: Were you interested in examining how the dating world changes with age, as your protagonists are both over forty?

Dana: The idea came from Lydia, so I wasn’t really interested in exploring that world until she came to me with it. It seemed more important to bring back some of the romantic elements, because so often, both characters happen to be over forty, but it goes to online dating in general and just dating in modern society, the romance sometimes gets lost in the tech and the apps. The “this person’s hot and this person’s not.” There’s something kind of sad about the lack of modern day romance. When I was relating the script, I wanted to bring some of that to it, and although these characters are over forty, I think it’s really a film for everyone. I think that can happen when you’re 23 or 28 or 33. At any age, people can lose sight of the importance of romance and love. I wanted to bring that to the surface.

Lydia: Also, it’s really about two people who’ve given up on finding love. They’ve kept searching for it. They couldn’t find it, and then, they just said, “to heck with it.” We’re just going to go on the internet, and just look for sex, because they still want human contact or intimacy.

Dana: We normally think that’s a very male perspective, but I think in today’s world, it’s very female too. So we run into the danger of, if both sexes are only thinking about sex, what’s the next great love story? Where’s that?

Me: You end the film on an optimistic note. You’ve talked about wanting to bring in romance, was this the direction you wanted to go in from the start?

Dana: It actually came to me during the casting process. I wanted to work with Anthony Grasso. I’d seen his work at one of these short film screenings. When Lydia and I were discussing the role of Angelo, I brought his name up, and we decided to cast him. After a conversation with Anthony, and seeing his work, I really wanted to create a character that had a lot more depth. That was important to him, and it was important to us. I remember getting off the phone with him, and I had this revelation. It was a love story. Once I understood this film was a love story, it kind of opened everything up for me. To be able to write these very authentic characters, and I asked Lydia if I could do it, and she said, “ Go for it.” And that’s really how that came about. Initially, the intention was not to make it a love story-it was to be crude and Lydia’s idea of this raunchy date- but then it just turned into one. Also, I had worked with Stephanie Weppler a lot, and she’s a really talented actor and also comedian. When we decided to develop Anthony’s role, I wanted to give him somebody that he could open up to, to make him three dimensional, and I immediately thought of Stephanie, and that kind of brother-sister dynamic.

Me: Lydia, your character, Ava’s, two friends are very different personalities. Do you find friends and family can make dating more confusing at times?

Lydia: I don’t know if I’d say confusing, but they definitely have opinions, and everybody takes their experiences and puts their opinions in on you. You know, where I have the one friend who is in the happy marriage, and everything worked out for her romantically. I have another friend who is very sure of herself and who she is as a woman, and, you know, you’re getting those opinions from two different directions, and here you are trying to navigate and figure out yourself and where you are in your dating life. Then, you asked about family, family definitely has a lot of opinions about your dating life. Sometimes you don’t tell them anything.

Dana: I never talk about who I’m dating and when I’m dating with my family. I just prefer not to, but your friends, it’s hard not to. You trust your friends and respect their opinions.

Lydia: The other thing about this is what different people need. What one person needs is different than what another person might need, and then people have an opinion about that, whether positive or negative, but I agree with you Dana, you don’t introduce them to the family for a while.

Dana: If ever. Sometimes, I’m like wow, it’s a good thing I didn’t bring that one home.

Me: Finally, online dating is a big part of modern society, how do you feel it’s affected dating as a whole? I know you mentioned that it’s taken some of the romance out of the process.

Dana: Yeah, well it becomes so easy to swipe left, right? People just become pictures and not 3-dimensional human beings that bring their personalities and chemistry to dates. It becomes really easy, I think, to say no, when maybe you should say yes. So I think the dating sites that have done a lot for a number of people, a lot of people have gotten married and met the love of their life, I also think it runs the risk of making everything very shallow. So I say proceed with caution.

Lydia: It’s because you don’t have that visceral reaction to somebody. You know, all senses are on when you meet someone. So maybe they don’t photograph well, but maybe their voice is just so sexy, maybe they smell good to you. There are so many other things when you meet somebody that you can’t get from a picture, or even if they do a video. Everybody’s presenting their best quality in a way that, like Dana said, is just so superficial. I find it, going from a time  when you used to just meet people out and about at a bar or whatever to this, almost kind of lonely. You’re on your computer and swiping, and they might have written one thing that turns you off, and then that turns you off. Where when you meet somebody, that one thing might not be a deal breaker, but for some reason when it’s in print and online, it’s a deal breaker.

-Walter Howard-



Questions with DREADPIRATESITE: The Last Jedi

It is never too early for me to be thinking about the next Star Wars movie. Any guesses on when the first trailer will drop? I’m predicting it will come out with Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 which means a week before that May 5th release, people will be circulating a leaked version, if I’m correct. The point is that the powers that be over at Disney have centered there marketing campaign on a cloak and dagger-like operation of doling out info, and it works. They give people merely the subtitle of their film, The Last Jedi, and the internet blows up. So at this stage, any Star Wars discussion is going to be pure speculation. Nonetheless, I consulted with Edward Peeler, author behind the DreadPiratesite blog, and, I say this with affection, the nerdiest person I have ever met, about the numerous possibilities that lay open to the Star Wars franchise.

  1. The first film in the new trilogy stuck pretty close to the original’s formula. Where would you like to see the second installment kind of veer off and form its own formula?
    EP: Pretty much anywhere.  I don’t want to be a stick in the mud or a film snob.  I’m looking forward to the next film as much as anybody and I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it.  But if this movies is blatantly the Empire Strikes Back in a new package, I will be a little disappointed. The fans are there. The audience is there.  I think Rogue One is proof that there is room to experiment.  I would like to see a little more world hopping.  Maybe see some worlds from the Expanded Universe that have never been in a film yet or maybe something new and totally alien from what we’ve seen in Star Wars up till now.  A couple of years ago I picked up the original Knights Of The Old Republic Games and this year I picked up the Darth Forces/Jedi Academy games, so any references to those stories would be cool.  If there was a reference to Revan in one of the new movies I would totally fan boy out. Since I’m probably not going to see that, I would like to see Rey, Finn, Poe, Luke, and Chewie bopping from planet to planet, going on an adventure and following up on the plot from Force Awakens.  I don’t really care too much about some of the mysteries they’ve tried to establish.  I don’t really care about Rey’s parents.  Don’t really care about Snoke.  If they’re going to focus on that though I would hope that they continue to draw elements from Heir To The Empire and make this new trilogy about that.  I would confirm that Rey and Kylo are Han and Leia’s Jedi kids and either make this a newer version of that story or explain that those events did occur in Luke, Leia, and Hans’ history.  Either way it would be a great excuse to introduce Grand Admiral Thran into the movie universe and maybe even Mara Jade.
  2. 2. Do you have any ideas for locations that you would like to see featured in the Star Wars universe?
    EP: As I mentioned above anything from Knights Of The Old Republic games or the Dark Forces/Jedi Academy games.  That or stuff we’ve never seen before.  It’s a big universe out there and the Star Trek fan in me wants to see the Jedi do some exploration of strange new worlds.  And while I’m thinking about it, the nerdy whore in me would love to see them go to the Marvel Universe and the Star Trek Universe which they don’t have the rights to!  But it would be awesome!
  3. How much screen time are you anticipating Luke Skywalker getting in the Last Jedi? Do you see him following the Yoda or Obi-Wan character model at all?
    EP: He better have some screen time after that bullshit in the Force Awakens.  Easiest paycheck the man has ever received.  That’s the type of role modern day Bruce Willis lives for.  Show up for a day, do nothing, make millions of dollars, piss off Kevin Smith and Stallone!   I think he’s going to play a prominent role in this film.  He has to.  I think he will follow in the Yoda/Obi-Wan model.  I expect he will be mentoring Rey and teaching her about the force and how to be a Jedi.  I just hope he doesn’t completely follow down that path and wind up dead by the end of the film.  Not only is it because Luke is a beloved character and I don’t want to see him die but I think also at this point it would be cliché.  The Jedi master/mentor character always dies.  Han Solo died this last movie.  Do something different this time.  Throw us a curve ball and don’t kill the mentor character.  Also, if you kill off a character you can’t bring them back for other films and other adventures.  So hopefully he’ll stick around.
  4. The subtitle, The Last Jedi, is rather ominous. It sounds more like the last of a trilogy. Care to speculate on who the title is referring to?
    EP: I think it might refer to Rey.  I think she’s going to become a full Jedi after training with Luke.  This may also confirm my concerns above that they are going to kill Luke off.  Although it might refer to both of them.  At this point, Luke may be the last Jedi in existence until he trains Rey and then she will be the last.
  5. Is Kylo Ren being setup to for a future moment of redemption similar to Vader in Return of the Jedi?
    Yeah, probably.  It’s like Lucas said, “It’s like poetry.  It rhymes.”  They copied the first movie in plot and theme pretty hard so it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s where they went with Kylo.  It’s already been set up with him being a wayward son of Han and Leia.  Han literally died trying to bring his son back from the dark side, and as sympathetic Sith often do he may be experiencing regret or “conflict” with his past choices.  Also, I believe similar themes were explored in Heir To The Empire so the quest for the salvation of the Skywalker kids is probably going to be a big theme in these upcoming films.
  6. What would you like to see happen with Finn? He was seen more as comic relief in the first film.
    I want Finn to pop the fuck out of that coma in the first five minutes of the film and save everybody’s ass.  I thought he was a great fun new character in the Star Wars Universe.  He worked well with whoever he teamed up with whether it was Rey, Poe, BB8, or Han and Chewie.  He was a cool guy to go on adventure with and I want more of him.  I would love to see a possible romance explored with him and Rey or…..maybe him and Poe.  There is  a big push online to make those two a gay couple and although I’m not saying that’s necessarily where they should go, if the writing sells me on it, why not?  It would be a nice nod to Gene Roddenberry who went on record saying if he could have gotten away with making Kirk and Spock gay, he would have done it.  But whether Finn porks Rey or Poe or both, somebody should get laid in the Star Wars Universe.  I am in full agreement with Red Letter Media on this.  Star Wars needs more sex, more passion.  Lucas…..tried to give us a love story in the prequels and failed miserably.  We have never had anything comparable to Han and Leia’s relationship or even the triangle between them and Luke for a long time.  The closest thing we have gotten has been from the Expanded Universe.  Mara Jade and Luke, Revan and Bastila, Kit Fisto and Aayla Secura, all of their romances were explored in video games, novels, and comics.  And I’m sure I’m forgetting others.  Point is we don’t see enough romance in the movies only in other media which says to me it’s worth exploring.  One things for sure whether they make them gay or not, I do want to see more of the bromance between Finn and Poe.  Finn’s the Jay to Poe’s Silent Bob.  The Sam to his Frodo.  The Kirk to his Spock.  Finn and Poe versus the world man!!
  7. Poe Dameron? He didn’t feel as fleshed out as he should have been. Any thoughts on where to go with him?
    Bestest friend of, or boy-toy to, Finn, as noted above.  Aside from that Poe seems like a cool adventurer and ally that we should see more of.  I think we should see him more as a main character, running around, being a part of the team in this next movie and the character will blossom from there.  Beyond that Poe is a great character to explore the Rogue Squadron characters and series with.  We could see adventures specifically with him doing space combat missions in his x-wing with references to Wedge Antilles and the other Rogue Squadron characters.  X-wing and Rogue Squadron are beloved sub-franchise of Star Wars and it would cool to see them come full circle and maybe get their own movie.
  8. The death of Han Solo leaves a large void to be filled. I felt he was still the driving force in terms of charisma in The Force Awakens. Do you see anyone filling that void?
    Luke.  I have a feeling this is going to be Luke’s movie.  If not Luke, we might see more of Chewie.  For my money Chewbacca got the best development in Force Awakens.  When Han died I was right there with him angrily and mournfully blasting Kylo Ren.  He lost his best friend to his friend’s son who he helped raise like his own son.  Also, apparently he had some kind of romance with a Gollum alien with buttholes for eyes which is interesting.  Of course, I’ve always insisted that the Star Wars Holiday Special is canon so I’m just wondering whatever happened to Mala and Lumpy.
  9. Yoda was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. A successful sequel needs a fresh character to fall in love with. Have you heard about anyone joining the cast that has you excited?
    I kind of try to put myself in sensory deprivation when it comes to new movies I’m excited about.  I like to be surprised.  I did this for Star Trek: Into Darkness and I enjoyed the movie more so because of it.  Apparently I was the only person who didn’t realize Khan was going to be in that movie so when he showed up I was surprised and thrilled. I’ve tried to stay away from learning too much about the new Star Wars movies.  So for me, I’m just going to wait and see and let the movie wow me.  It would be great to see characters from the Expanded Universe that have never had a movie before show up or more classic movie characters.  Or see something cool and totally new.  The one thing I’m really not excited about is Snoke.  He was ok but it feels like the movie really super wanted me to think he was the new awesome mysterious villain, but I haven’t taken the bait, largely because it was blatantly clear that’s what the movie was trying to do.  But who knows maybe they’ll make him awesome in this next film and I’ll think he’s the best ever.
  10. Finally, how do you feel about the tie-ins/spin-off films in between each installment? Did you like Rogue One and are you excited about young Han Solo?
    I love the tie-ins and spin-offs, and I’m excited for more.  I adored Rogue One as can seen in my review of it on my blog here at
    Read it.  Enjoy it.  Love it.
    To reiterate some points I made in that blog, as a fan of various franchises, it kind of annoys me that we have to wait years for a new installment in our favorite film franchise only for them to come out and they’re not that good.  Prime example was Ghostbuster 2016 but you could point to others as well.  The Terminator movies come to mind.  It’s frustrating because the audience is there for any number of properties but it feels like the only way you can get Hollywood to make a new movie for an old property is to reboot it.  For example, I liked Kong:  Skull Island but there’s always going to be a part of me that is annoyed that it’s yet another reboot.  And we’re getting tons of movies this year that are remakes and re-imaginings of properties that have come before.  Off the top of my head we have Power Rangers, a new Stephen King’s It, and a live action Ghost In The Shell.  Ghost In The Shell originally WAS A FUCKING MOVIE but it was an anime movie so apparently that doesn’t count.  Now I’m not saying these movies are going to be bad or that it’s bad that we are getting a bunch of reboots in this way.  What annoys me is that the reboot needs to be done in the first place because the audience is there.  It’s always been there.  There are people that love this stuff and will eat it up.  So why haven’t we had more movies in these franchise up until now?  Why hasn’t Hollywood been marketing to us?  So many opportunities and money has been lost by not taking advantage of the fact that many of these series have large and loyal fan-bases.  So personally I like the Marvel method.  I like the fact that Disney and Marvel make their movies like comic books.  They make them good, they have more than one a year, and they tie into each other.  And I like that they are doing this with Star Wars.  Now, like I said in my review a lot of people notably the Red Letter Media guys do not like this method and they seem to feel like it’s becoming a factory and that somehow diminishes the artist quality of filmmaking and these movies will become boring eventually.  I thoroughly disagree, especially since I’ve seen what the alternative is which is the Lucas Prequel era.  No thank you.  Also, I am a firm believer in the Harlem Renaissance method:  there is no reason why art and business can’t work hand in hand with each other.  If done right, you can have a great work of art and a great product at the same time.  The only issue is quality control.  Also, long running series and regular annual movie going experiences have proven to work time and time again.  All you have to do is take a look at the 80s slasher movies.  Every year in the 80s you would get a Nightmare on Elm Street or a
    Friday the 13th or a Halloween and it was something audiences grew to expect and look forward to.  We saw this again more recently with the Saw films.  Now in my personal opinion the Saw films should have never made it past the 3rd chapter but they kept right on trucking every couple of years with four more sequels.  We’re getting an 8th one this year.  Someone’s seeing these things.  Paranormal Activity has the same story.  It works, it’s a proven formula, and as a fan I love it.  Disney, as long as you make them good, keep the Star Wars movies coming.  Give me a Han Solo movie, a Poe Dameron adventure, a crossover with the Avengers that ties into Infinity War somehow. I’m down for it.  I’m excited.  Keep these great movies coming.

You can read more from Edward “Dreadpirate” Peeler at his site


Winter Film Awards 2017- Alex Hardy: An Interview

The sixth annual Winter Film Awards will start on Friday, February 23rd in New York City. The volunteer-led festival will showcase 88 films from around the world competing for 16 awards. I spoke with Alex Hardy, British filmmaker and actor, about his new short film, Soldier Bee. The film stars Shauna MacDonald as an Army vet who returns home from Iraq to contend with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Walter Howard: I saw that you’ve been an actor for a long time. What brought you to filmmaking, and specifically, directing?

Alex Hardy: I was in a T.V soap here in England, and I came out of Drama school and was lucky enough to go straight into T.V acting. I pretty soon realized that I couldn’t do just acting for my whole life, because it became a job. The writing wasn’t particularly good, because it’s a soap, and I didn’t really get any fulfillment from it. One of the directors there I was friendly with let me see how he planned each scene, and how he used the multi-cameras, and I just became really interested. I’d always written stuff before then, and it all just came to me. I took myself to film school when I was 28.

WH:  How does your new film, Soldier Bee, compare to your previous works in terms of size of production; cast, crew? You’ve done a 7-minute short as well as a 12-minute short documentary. Did it present any unique challenges?

AH: Well I’d done music promos, I’ve done documentaries. I did a short film, which kind of came out of nowhere. Basically, we were given 650 pounds, and we were told to make something out of this. I did a found footage film called Initiation, and it did really well at festivals. It got into BAFTA screenings, and I was really surprised. From that, I did music promos. All pretty low budget. Soldier Bee was the first film that we actually got a good amount of funding for. That led me to be able to work with Shauna MacDonald, who’s a brilliant actress, and just such a great crew. I guess the difference was we just had more things to play with. I’m not sure whether that’s necessarily a good thing, having more money. Sometimes when you have less money, you just make things work.

WH: I heard a director (Robert Rodriguez) say, “when you have less money than you need, it forces you to be more creative.”

AH: It does. I totally agree. You have to be more creative. The trouble is now though, that we watch so much big budget T.V. You look at Netflix, everything is big budget, that now, when you’re making films, you can tell straightaway, oh, that’s really indie. They haven’t got much. But you know, who cares? As long as the story that you’re trying to communicate works, and you get your theme across. And I know you can do that with no money. I’m shooting stuff at the moment. We’re testing out horror ideas. And we have nothing. We borrowed a camera.

WH: What do you find rewarding about the short film?

AH: The short film is really tough. I have about four feature films that I’m kind of writing at the moment. I find them so much easier. You have so much more time. So much more space. You don’t get many decent short films. I think you’re getting more of them now a days. What’s rewarding for me is seeing the beginning of the film and wrapping it up at the end. Having a conclusion. If you set something up and end it well, that’s super satisfying. I want to effect people. I want to move them.


WH: Often you’ll hear writers say that they create characters and then let the characters determine the story. I imagine that it’s different when creating a short film, and yours had such a definite arc. At the same time, it is a character driven piece. How did you approach expressing Jodie’s story?

AH: So, with music videos, you just kind of write the premise, totally non-character based. With Initiation, totally character based. I wanted to follow one guy, and I wanted to stay with him all the way through. That’s how I wanted to approach Soldier Bee, but actually Soldier Bee was about a male character to begin with. My story idea in the beginning was more horror based. It ended very dark. It was kind of a fantasy. Then I interviewed people with Post-traumatic stress, and I realized I might do them a disservice. I didn’t want to cheapen it I guess. Then I interviewed a female soldier with PTSD, and I hadn’t heard anything about female soldiers suffering from it. When I changed it to a female soldier, it was much more character based. I need to, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m an actor myself, I want to know everything about the character, and the character, as you said, leads the story. I got a girl called Lizzie involved, because I didn’t want it to be a male’s version of a female.  We wrote together, and bounced ideas back and forth. We wrote every possibility with this story. We had Jodie seeing herself in the hotel room. So, there were two Jodies. We had a split personality thing, and then we realized the strongest thing was just seeing this woman put herself in this weird situation and relive what’s happened to her. It was so much more interesting. I also wanted to leave it with hope. I wanted to make people’s eyes open to the fact that these people need help sometimes.

WH: You touched on this a bit. I was curious about your collaboration. Was it something you’ve done before? Writing with someone else?

AH: No. I hadn’t done it at all. It was good. It was really good. Lizzie was a friend of mine. She’s quite young. I met her at film school. I was 28 and she must have been only 18 at that point. The stuff that she was writing was so much better than all of the other people there. Her writing was just awesome. We stayed friends, and then, yeah, I hadn’t done it before, but it worked out really nicely. The main thing, she steered my ideas in the right direction, and hopefully made the lead character believable. More believable than if a guy had written it by himself.

WH: Did the character of Jodie change at all from the page to the screen?

AH: Shauna’s so professional. She took this character and made it her own. I underestimated how stressful it was going to be for her. For instance, when we were shooting the sex scene in the hotel room, I underestimated how intense that was going to be. I underestimated how long Shauna was going to have to stay in character. I underestimated the power of what that character was going through.

WH: In working with your actress, Shauna MacDonald, did you find it difficult conveying a character that I would say doesn’t understand herself, or her own motivations?

AH: Yeah. We talked. She did loads of research. I pointed her in the right direction of people we were talking to when we were writing it. But it is a hard one. The beauty of having an amazing actress-I’ve never worked with such a good professional actress-I just kind of had to lead her to research that I had been doing, and just leave her to it. When we were shooting it, I would offer very tiny little things to her, but in terms of working with such a great character, she did it. I mean it was amazing.

WH: There’s a sense of violence lingering in the picture with the daughter’s drawings, the character of Lars’ brutish demeanor, and then the buildup in the cross-narrative (or flashback, more precisely) of Jodie as a soldier. When violence finally materializes in our present-day narrative, it partly feels inevitable, but, at the same time, it is still very shocking. How did you go about determining the tone of your picture, and then maintaining it?

AH: I mean the tone is, I think that’s one of my strengths is keeping this tone going. It’s a strength, and an issue sometimes to be fair, because as I said, I underestimated how grueling this film would be to watch. Once I’d written out this horror idea, I knew exactly what tone I wanted. Obviously so much of that is helped with the director of photography. The colors and the tone and the odd shots, the way we stayed behind her and focusing on the hair. I wanted her to be disengaged with life. But I think everything helps the tone. It’s the colors, it’s the lighting, it’s the acting, the score.

WH: Early on, we see this theme of the soldier bee appear, innocuously at first with the lawn decoration, later becoming more sinister with the daughter’s drawings. You use a lot of yellow hues during the film, and there’s a fragmented mirror sequence that resembles a honeycomb. What connected this story for you to this precise theme, and, I would say, ominous conception of the soldier bee?

AH: I forgot to tell you this, the concept of this came, I was reading my niece’s book, she had a book about bees, and it talked about soldier bees. I read a little bit about them. I read that soldier bees would go rogue and attack their own and other hives. I thought that’s really interesting. I wonder, with PTSD, I wonder if it’s linkable to human activity. That’s actually where the story came from. That bee at the beginning, that lawn decoration was just so random. We saw it in the garden of the house we were shooting in and it had a nail driven through the heart of the bee. I was like, “We have to shoot that.” The yellow hue was the most important thing for me in the hotel room. We hid loads of light and it gave it a sort of ominous bit. Yellow, I read a bit about what colors do to you, and yellow is a danger color. It makes you uneasy. I had the idea for that and then the DP and the set designer followed through with it. They did a great job.

WH: There’s a degree to which your female characters are forced to come to terms with violence.

AH: Yes.

WH: Jodie, obviously, with her experience in Afghanistan. The daughter, with her mother’s wounds corresponding with puberty, and then the prostitute’s witnessing of Lars’ attack. What brought you to this idea?

AH: Once we got our idea, then Lizzie and I went back and forth, we just wrote it how it felt. One thing that I really wanted to make sure we were doing was not putting women in the same box as weak. Always playing love interests.

WH: Do you find it helpful to watch other films in the process of making your own? Are there any films you looked at?

AH:. Definitely. Not so much for the story or the tone, but definitely for the use of camera. I love looking at the use of camera. You know, how did they make me feel this? How did the camera move? The acting. What affects me. I looked at war films. I looked mainly at psychological films. Getting in a character’s head. There’s a specific film called Irreversible. Have you seen it?

WH: Gaspar Noe?

AH: Yeah, there’s a scene in there where a character bashes someone’s head in with a fire extinguisher.

WH: Pretty rough movie.

AH: It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, but I can’t watch it ever again. I did watch the scene where someone’s face got smashed in, and it’s just so colossally violent, but it fits the film. If we were going to have this violent scene, I needed to put people out of their comfort zone, and that’s what we did with the face smashing scene.

WH: Where did you film the Afghanistan sequence? What was that like?

AH: The Afghanistan sequence, we shot in a place called Bedford, which was a quarry. Luckily, we filmed in June, and, yeah, thankfully we had loads of sun. They shoot loads of stuff there. James Bond, I think Casino Royale. Actually, the best thing about that day was the very end. We were just kind of wrapping up. I looked up, and there was an Apache helicopter, I think it was an Apache helicopter, flying over our head. We just managed to put the camera together super quick, and just managed to get this shot of this helicopter flying over, and that’s made it into the film. A little bit of luck.

Winter Film Awards 2017-Amit Biswas: An Interview

The sixth annual Winter Film Awards will start on Friday, February 23rd in New York City. The volunteer-led festival will showcase 88 films from around the world competing for 16 awards. I spoke with one of its participants, filmmaker Amit Ranjan Biswas, competing in the feature film category, for this interview. Biswas, from Calcutta, has worked in a number of different art forms including dance, poetry, and theater. He is also a neuropsychiatrist, working with children, who moved to London, England. The film, Bridge, his debut feature film and a passion project, tells the story of two people, an elderly man (played by Soumitra Chatterjee, a veteran of Indian cinema who has worked in over 200 films including 14 with legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray) and a young woman (played by Sandhya Mridul), who head to the top of a bridge over the Ganges river to kill themselves. Instead, the two find new life as a bond slowly forms between them.

Walter Howard: Where did the film start? What was the first idea that led to the movie Bridge?

Amit Biswas: Okay. Well, as you probably know from my background, I worked with children with mental health difficulties. I worked with a similar kind of difficulty with people with hopelessness and helplessness every day. So, in fact, in that way, I have no shortage of stories, but I have a filmic vision that I wanted to say a few things that kind of… in a way that leads to a story, the mythology of man’s or hopeless people’s journey that starts and ends with hope. People finding meaning in their life. That was kind of my filmic vision. To do not just medical input or psychological input, but how human kindness and compassion and bonds between two people is everything and all about really. So, I was planning to make this movie for about the last seven years. This was the story I wanted to write. It kind of matches with the vision I wanted to create. I started the film in 2015. It was shot in 2015, but in 2014, started writing about it. Initial format was about the interactions between two people and how things change. That’s kind of the germination of the idea, but one thing I wanted to establish is, I’m very rooted in my culture in Bengal and in Calcutta and in India, in fact. So, the story has to be deeply rooted in my culture, but at the same time, it has to have the power to break boundaries.

WH: You brought up having a filmic vision. I saw that you’ve worked in a number of artistic mediums. How long have you been interested in exploring filmmaking, and expressing yourself through film?

AB: Sure. I had been trained since childhood, as you probably saw, as a classical dancer. After coming to the west, one of my ideas is to make bridges between the east and the west, and through dance it was possible. I kind of had collaborated with, you know, people with ballet, contemporary dance for art forms. But it has been very difficult, because another one of my professional journeys has been in medicine, and it has been very hard to continue dancing. Then I had to find another form, and another bigger canvas where I can actually put all the colors in, my psychological insight about life. My understanding of arts through dance and acting and medium. And I had been writing for a long time. Some of my plays had been quite successful in India. So, film was a bigger canvas where you can put all these things together. It’s about seven years back, I had started learning about film and filmmaking from the Raindance Independent Film School in London. Since then it’s almost a film a day for me to watch. I started making short films and documentaries based especially on mental health. But obviously, you don’t become a proper filmmaker unless you make a feature film. So, I had been making myself acquainted with art and science of filmmaking for a while, but the journey I think started while I was kind of making the bridge between science and art through putting things together about seven years back.

WH: In that time, what have you found rewarding about filmmaking?

I believe it is probably one of the most important art forms that can not only move people, that can actually change society. One of my life visions is to bring awareness to the humane kind of things: compassion, kindness, as well as bring awareness to mental health difficulties. To create change in the self and society. So, I believe cinema is an extremely powerful medium. I feel that this is the modern mythology; modern storytelling. Cinematic storytelling is recreating myths that happened millions of years ago, with people sitting around a fire, and we are doing the same things in theaters sitting around strangers with larger than life figures talking to us; transporting us somewhere beyond our reality. In this way Joseph Campbell has been quite influential in my cinematic vision. His Hero’s Journey, heroes having a call. Kind of going through a circle, going deep down in the whale’s belly of difficulties, but coming out with the elixir of life. He’s dying. He’s resurrecting. That kind of Joseph Campbellian vision has influenced many filmmakers including me. That’s why film is a very powerful medium for me to work with. To say things I want to say and to move people. Transform people. It’s a transformative medium, I believe.

WH: Many people such as myself as an American, are familiar with Indian cinema mainly through Bollywood film. I have seen the Apu trilogy, but what’s something that you see that distinguishes East Indian cinema, or what’s something that you treasure?

AB: Bollywood has its own place. It’s not that I don’t see Bollywood films. I do see, but at the same time, I feel there is a very strong passion for arthouse cinema in India. And it started quite a while ago. You know Ray and Ghatak. And I kind of keep myself in that parallel space. Bollywood recreations and the films, the larger-than song and dance movies has its place, because in India, this is recreation. People go into movie theaters and feel transported by larger than life heroes, but perhaps I have to come to a place where it is realistic. It is down to earth. Not just we need to be happy and recreated about. Some Hollywood films are like that. It has its place and value. At the same time, I want to have a cinema, want to see a cinema that tells something about life and we transport ourselves. That is cinema for me.

WH: What was your visual approach for the film? You use a lot of straight-on shots and static camera. How did you go about visually expressing your story?

AB: Yeah, one of the things that was myself and Zoran Veljkovic (DP), we started the journey talking about the film before the script even finished. We knew that this is a process of healing. The base has to be right. We want to move through the film and the place that is right for these people to create healing in themselves and create a similar feeling within the audience. We planned the shots while we were shooting the film, but it has to be with the pain, and the pace, and the vision of the film itself. The Ganges is flowing and flowing and I kind of had to hold that in a way, because that’s the flowing of the life. You might have seen that I had a, the parson’s doing a puja in the Ganges with a lighted candle. That’s what the film demanded from me. That was kind of predetermined.

WH: The recurring motif with the candle, how did that materialize?

AB: The first shot was actually impromptu. What I did in the beginning of the film, the budget was tied and the time was tied, I took half of a day creating a space. A kind of scaffolding of connection within the cast and crew where this journey can take place. We did a very big meeting, talking about not only just the film. We put a candle in between. We had a full circle there together, and we talked about why we’re here. We talked about what is cinema. We talked about spirituality. Zoran said why not start with a shot focusing on the candle. The candle in the beginning and the candle in the middle is very much of a symbolic kind of thing. A symbolic archetypal presence I would say.

WH: Did you write with your actors in mind? You worked with Soumitra Chatterjee in theater.

AB: Yes. Absolutely. He is definitely the one I wanted to do my first film with. We collaborated on various levels. We connect very deeply. He’s kind of been my mentor. The inspiration for my film. I knew what I wanted to create. I saw him throughout my film. Not all of them were in my mind, but Mr. Chatterjee was.

WH: When we finally see Tanima break out of her shell, she covers herself in mud and then wades in the water. Where did this idea come from?

AB: Yes. We toyed with three possible endings. We thought about ending with the kid, because she lost a kid. Then I thought it has to be something more iconic. We toyed with this idea and everybody liked this. I had to go to this point where almost these two people died, and there really almost kind of first dead, but death is not the end. As I said, the Joseph Campbellian journey. There is a resurrection. And resurrection is a very important thing to me. I think for Jesus Christ’s life, his resurrection is more important than his death and crucifixion. So, he has to be resurrected. And the mud of life has to be washed away. And that’s hope. I wanted to have an archetypal scene in the end. There is the image of goddess Khali that comes a number of times, and Khali that represents darkness, that dark energy, but it represents both destruction and creation. Right hand has a sword, and left hand is kind of a blessing. I like this goddess and this darkness is not the end, and when the mud washes off we regain hope and blessings and fulfillment in life.

WH: The sun in the distance hanging over the Bridge is a striking image. Did you write the script with that image in mind or did it come afterwards?

AB: Yes, and that is important. The bridge was in my mind. The house this was shot in is my wife’s ancestral house. This is basically my in-laws’ house. I’ve kind of been there, walked around a number of times to conceptualize the rooms before even I started writing, partly because of the money and the budget. We had to use one location. This house is very near to the Ganges. It’s about 5 minutes. The bridge is a very iconic bridge, before Indian independence. It’s been there since British times. So, the bridge and the house were there from the beginning.

WH: You’ve said on your website that Bridge was made on a shoe string budget. Yet you’ve made a feature length film, canvasing past and present. What was that process like?

AB: The last seven years, I have been looking for money everywhere really. Both the East and the West. Independent cinema has a very limited kind of, people don’t want to finance and produce this kind of cinema. So, it has been a very difficult journey. In India, I couldn’t find money. In the west, it was difficult. So, end of the day, I tell myself, I have an inner calling. I have to make this, and I can’t just go into a deathbed saying what if. I had to break my pension fund. I had to self-finance. It was my retirement money, that I put in. But it was still not enough. I had to work and put money in. Bridge has come in stages. After the shooting had been done, for 28 days I had to wait until I got the money for editing. Post production like DI which was done in India. A lot of people came up and helped. I have been quite blessed.


You can find more information on Biswas’ website

-Walter Howard

Bond Girls: An Interview

James Bond made his silver screen debut in 1962 played by a then unknown Sean Connery. Connery became a benchmark in a franchise that continued with last year’s 24th entry, Spectre. The conventions of a Bond film are a never ending source of joy for many, but they can also be a source of eye rolls and head shakes for some. Perhaps the most popular convention of the Bond films is “Bond Girls.” I sat down with Emily Deering Crosby, a Ph.D. candidate in Communication and instructor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, to discuss “Bond Girls” and their function in these films.

The Bond Franchise is over fifty years old. It’s in its sixth decade. Outside of the Bond Franchise, in western culture, how has the representation of women changed over this time?

Emily Deering Crosby: You have some significant things happening in the 1960s where women were starting to recognize how media was portraying them in particular dehumanized ways- as props, as figures-never really a part of the plotline, but more so props to the male protagonist. And with more recognition of equal rights, gender representation, racial representation, you get a lot more diversity and you get the upswing of genres like Blaxploitation films, but with that comes recognizable backlash in some forms of representation. And women in media today, you see a lot more potential in T.V than you do in movies, because the movie industry is very much geared toward young white men, 18 to sometimes 25 or 34, so you see a lot of the highest grossing films fulfilling that need. So like this year the top films were Furious 7, the Age of Ultron, American Sniper, and so many of them are sequels. There just recycling these same narratives that really resonate with young men, because they’re the ones who are predominantly going to these movies. So it’s very consumer driven. You can think about it that way. There’s not as much room for women to star or write their own movies, produce their own movies, but you are seeing huge franchises that are changing that, like Hunger Games.

What stands out to you about the Bond Girls in what you’ve seen?

I find the camerawork of the Bond Franchise fascinating because it is routinely from the point of view of Bond, or pictures of Bond sexualizing the women. You never get the point of view of the Bond Girl, so she just becomes the object of our visual gaze. And more so in the earlier ones, I find the the issue of consent very interesting, because sometimes we get this notion of no means yes with women and Bond is so enchanting. That offers confusing narratives in regarding romantic exchange between men and women, especially when we have the powerful main character of James Bond who sort of represents the euro-centric or even anglocentric take what you want, it’s yours. You’re entitled to it.

That’s why I think the character of M in the most recent films has been fantastic, because she’s sort of an asexual female who’s a maternal figure but also a leader, so I think she offers a lot of complexity that we don’t get to see very much in film.

I can’t remember which film it was (Live and Let Die*), but there’s one with Roger Moore where he tricks a female character using a stacked deck in to sleeping with him. I don’t know if that would pass today.

Exactly. There’s kind of this notion that the Bond Girls were sort of all body, no brains. Kind of ditzy. When talking with a student who’s read the books, he actually said that he took a picture of a passage in Casino Royale. It was talking about Vesper and how she needs to stay with the pots and pans. She’s going to slow me down. It’s embarrassing that they would send a woman for a man’s job. And really hurtful and sexist remarks that hopefully you see don’t fly today. But there’s sometimes that engrained bias that why on earth would they send a woman to do a man’s job. And you see repercussions of that in the business world where people don’t take contract negotiations as seriously when a woman is sent to do it. Oh, they must not value me as a potential partner because they’ve sent a woman, when it’s in fact, they’ve sent their top person. It just happens to be a woman.

This is kind of a facetious question, but do you see anything in the Bond Girls beyond the superficial?

In the more recent installments with Daniel Craig, I see a lot more, but more so in the Vesper character the most because she’s a part of the narrative, and she’s not just the damsel in distress trope which we see in the two most recent ones Skyfall and Quantum of Solace. You see these ambiguously racialized women, whether they’re South American, Eastern European, it’s not very clear, but he has to save them because they’re beautiful, sexy. The character Moneypenny (Skyfall) is a little more complex because she is clearly a black women who has agency. Who has a role within the narrative, but still it’s not something that’s as developed as it could be. There’s a lot of potential in the recent ones, but still the audience knows what it’s getting with James Bond.

I remember my first experience watching a Bond film. It was Goldfinger. I remember there was a particularly suspenseful scene where you have your damsel in distress in a situation where I’m wondering how Bond can possibly save her, and he just doesn’t. He fails to save her and then moves on. I remember this being shocking to me. What is the appeal of this aspect of Bond?

I think in general, action films promote life as very expendable. It’s more shocking to us because we are so familiar with the damsel in distress notion that he’s going to have to save her and sometimes, he recognizes the sort of fleeting timeline of life and he just walks away from it. And I think that’s why sometimes James Bond is very relatable and likeable, because he’s a flawed guy. He has sort of a darkness to him. He’s ruthless.

I’d like to talk about a few specific Bond Girls: first Pussy Galore, a lesbian converted by Bond.

Of course. I think it hopefully shows our progress in regards to rights for the LGBT plus community. In regards to lesbians don’t just need a good man for them to arbitrarily change teams, but that it’s a larger issue than that. But you have to think, who benefits from that narrative? Potentially men watching the film who think, oh, all lesbians need is a man. They haven’t met the right man yet. Or lesbianism is okay as long as it serves men in a fetishized notion of sexual performance. I think that’s really tough. But they’re also constrained by their context of history. What year was that?


63. So you know that’s before even really the second wave of feminism and notions of LGBTQ rights even were on the docket. It’s just kind of a limitation of its time.

Halle Berry as Jinx in Die Another Day. She talks about the role as being empowering.

I think Halle Berry fills a very unique role just in contemporary pop culture where she’s able to diversify the visual of a movie where unfortunately, she’s black but not too black, and many scholars talk about how to traverse that very difficult line between racial representation and assimilation. And I do think there are empowering elements of her portrayal and I think it’s great that she herself found it empowering. But her famous scene walking out of the water is a great teaching tool in regarding the male gaze because I as an audience member may not have that perspective. But I’m encouraged to look at her first as this sexual being and then maybe as an empowered agent or empowered figure later.

Eva Green as Vesper in her introductory scene is sized up by Bond which we’re used to, but then she returns the favor.

It’s very reciprocal (her relationship with Bond) which you don’t see often because she introduced in a way where she’s his intellectual equal, or at least a sparring partner which shows nuance to her beyond just her looks. But then you argue, she’s the first women to be really an intellectual equal, is that why he falls in love with her? Is she only represented in respectful ways because he loves her where if he were to find her expendable, maybe we wouldn’t get to hear her speak?

How do you feel about the term Bond Girls?

I think historically girls is a term to dismiss women’s potential. It’s infantilizing, but when you look at 1990s feminism and the riot girl movement, you see the recycling of the term girl as a form of empowerment. So like rebel girl, guerilla girls, the way they’re taking a term that was historically used to dismiss women and reappropriating it into a powerful term. But historically girls has not been the best term for grown women.

What do you see happening with the names given to the female characters in Bond films? They are always at least exotic, and often pretty ridiculous. Anya Onatopp, Dr. Goodhead, Pussy Galore.

I think that shows the origins of the pornification of media. By pornification I mean how we can turn seemingly respectable, important figures into nothing more than fetishized objects for men. And even when Sheeler and Anderson in their 2013 book Woman President talk about the pornification of women in politics, where you’re taking some of the most powerful, arguably hardworking and educated women on the planet and really looking at them through the lens of porn and how ubiquitous it’s become. You know the porn industry is bigger the Amazon, bigger than google combined. It’s huge. So James Bond was the first franchise to introduce that in not so subtle ways.

Growing up watching Bond, I feel like I’ve allowed myself to be kind of a hypocrite watching these movies because there is a lot about Bond that I would despise in a real person, and yet there’s also a part of me that would like to be Bond. Is this something you’ve thought about at all, or examined?

Absolutely. I think that any cultural critic or media critic struggles with this notion of I understand there are so many problematic things about this narrative, but I also find it really entertaining. I do hope that the Bond Franchise is listening to contemporary issues in regarding representation and taking that into account.

-Walter Howard