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Sunday, 1 March 2020

Interview with Anis Makojia...Pursuing his dream in City of Angels.


My latest chat is with Anis Maknojia, actor, visionary, and creative from Texas and living life and pursuing his dreams in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. We talk about his transition from Lone-Star State to the City of Angels and his film Artifice. He also shares how he prepared for his role as Tony in the film.

Introducing Anis...

What do you love about your life right now?

 The freedom to pursue my passion and hobby as a business.

Alright, when I first talked to you on the phone the other week, I immediately knew from you saying ma’am that you were not from LA. When you made the decision to leave your home state of Texas was it easy was it to make the move and were there any challenges?

It wasn’t easy but I do adapt quickly to my surroundings and situations, but with the support from My parents and close friends back in Texas, I've been able to overcome a lot of the struggles I felt in transitioning from Texas to LA.
Just the fact of trying to adjust to an unknown place, with unknown people and uncertainty in the mind of where I’m headed was my biggest struggle.




Is there any advice you wished you knew before you moved out to LA to pursue your dreams in the entertainment industry?

After moving hereI quickly figured out it’s a big world out here and full of lots of talent which makes it highly competitive. But actually, I don’t see others around me as competition, more as an actual learning experience. I’ve found way to work alongside fellow peers and continuously to do so with more talented people in the industry.

You’re in the film Artifice, directed by Frederick Nah IVin the leading role as Tony, who is torn between a life in organized crime and the life he wants. Tell me a little more about the character Tony, and what does he want?

Tony is a guy that has made mistakes and done his fair share of criminal work for most part of his early adulthood leading into his mid-30s.
But the life of crime he was living didn’t feel right and felt things are starting to make sense in his life and wanted to live the life of crime behind. As fate would have it, a chain of unforeseeable events brought the dream of a better life crashing down into the ground and he ultimately felt it was his responsibility to make it right again. if he could, that is.



You had mention to me that the film was your idea and story. You’re visionary and creative behind it, what was your inspiration behind the film? 

My main inspirations came from my writing. I love to tell a good story. I think of creating a film as a canvas, upon which I paint my inspiration and my visions of a great story for the audience to enjoy and to be entertained by.

How did you prepare for the role of Tony?

I did have to prepare for it, being it was my first film, so I wanted to do it right. And with the help of Aaron Domingueza close friend of Frederick, he coached me into playing the role of Tony really well, actually better than expected.


 Was there a particular actor or film that inspired you to act?
Not really, the genre of action crime drama is large out there but I drew my inspiration from a lot of other films such as John Wick, Jason Borne, and actor Liam Neeson from their movies, etc. These characters helped me define Tony even more. 



What do you enjoy about acting and the challenges?

I just love being in the moment, and as an actor you’re able to let the moment take you away so you can give the best performance ever. I guess the thrill of it is what I enjoy, the personality and the characters that I play.

You’ve started your own film company Land Ahoy! Films and Artifice is the first one in association with Phoenix 4 Productions to be produced. What’s it like to see something that you visualize and then see it on screen?

It’s feels absolutely amazing, it’s a feeling like no other. Truly an experience of its own and can’t be substituted or replaced by anything else that you can experience in life. 

What’s next for Land Ahoy! Films?

 Currently as of this interview, I’m in post-production with another short film which I did with Frederick called With Interest, which is due to be out spring 2020. It's a short crime action-comedy that was written by myself and directed by Aaron Dominguez and produced by Frederick Tabiyus. It’s another Land Ahoy! and Phoenix 4 Production.



Keanu Reeves said, “Art is about trying to find the good in people and making the world a more compassionate place.” Do you agree and is that what you want to do with the art you make?

I totally agree with Mr. Reeves, the world is a big place but through compassion and kindness towards others it makes thworld feel a little smaller and brings us closer as a human race regardless of the race, sex, and even age, no matter where you’re in this world. 

How do you visualize your future within the next year?

I definitely want to do a feature film of my own and be part of a big production as a lead talent. 

Tell me three fun facts about you.

Humorous (sometimes dark humor), spontaneous, and out for the next adventure.



Describe yourself in one word.

Creativity 

I enjoy sharing quotes with my readers. Do you have one you can share that motivates you and inspires you?

 Don’t just think you can, know you can and you will see the difference that mindset can make physically and mentally.” Anis Maknojia.



Thank you for reading!
Follow Anis on social media
Instagram
Land Ahoy!Films

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Chat with Grace Aki...Find out what's popping for her in New York!


Grace is an actor, writer, comedian, and one of the best storytellers I have the pleasure of knowing. I wasn't surprised she decided to start her own podcast. I mean, if anybody should have one, she should. She's engaging, funny, heartwarming, and tells it like it is kinda girl. I talk to her recently about her show Tell Me On A Sunday which is premiering on Sunday, March 1, and here's what she had to say.

What do you love about your life right now?
I love getting to perform and premiere my storytelling podcasts. 

How excited are you for your upcoming podcast?
Very! I didn’t want to do one arbitrarily. Once I decided I wanted it to be about people telling stories I was ready to go. 

Was there a particular podcast or someone that inspired you to become a podcaster?
I certainly love Guys who like Musicals and Las Culturistas. They inspire me for sure. 
Tell me about the topics and what we should expect from your show.
Anything from theatre, film, and pop culture, to childhood. Because the guests are from different backgrounds, so are the topics! 
How do you decide which guests you’ll have on the show? 
I honestly decided based on well... who said yes and who I felt had an interesting way of telling stories. Just because someone has a good story doesn’t mean they’re good at telling it! 
If there’s any advice that you would give to someone who wants to start their own podcast i.e. myself among others, what would that be?
Don’t do it just to do it. Do it because you feel there’s a need for what you have to say. There’s a million out there, ask yourself “Why now, Why me, Why this” 
I’ve looked up info on podcasting, and the information is overwhelming. What advice would you tell someone to ignore if they want to do their own podcast show?
Don’t get scared that you don’t have a full recording studio. Do your research and if need be hire a consultant with a good track record, I have recs! 
Who are your biggest supporters?
My friends and family, of course, I built a little base in NY but the south will always be my home. 
What do you want listeners to get from tuning into your show?  
I want them to have a break from their day, whether that’s morning or night, and feel like they’re at a coffee shop with me and a friend. No agenda, just humor, and heart to hearts. 
In one word, describe your podcast.
Unnecessary 
Three fun facts about your show.

  1. You’ll hear from the guy who discovered Metallica.
  2. There’s a lot more insight into my life in NY that is very honest and funny. 
  3. I talk about my parents without their approval so that may be fun!
Subscribed to her podcast here! Thank you for reading!
Follow Grace on social media! I promise she'll be one of your favs!
Tell Me On A Sunday IG
Learn about her here in one of my other interviews with her.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Interview with Cheta Chukwu of Nigeria...Writer and Director


"To nurture talent is easy. Patience is the virtue you need to develop." Cheta Chukwu
My latest interview is with award-winning filmmaker Cheta Chukwu of Nigeria. We talked about the challenges and joys of filmmaking as well as was his inspiration behind his film Payday which is streaming on Netflix. He also shares with me his creative process and talks about the cast who he super proud of.

Introducing Cheta...


What do you love about your life right now?

I love that that I went from dreaming about wanting a career in film to finally making it happen. It’s something I’m thankful for every day and I definitely don’t take it for granted, as I know that not a lot of talented and hardworking people out there are lucky enough to fulfill their dreams. I love that I’m able to trust myself more these days and listen to my own voice. I’m also grateful for the type of people I’ve met in the past few years, both professionally and in personal relationships. It has helped to develop and form my growth.

How excited were you when you found out that your film Payday was acquired by Netflix?

I honestly don’t think it’s a feeling I would ever recover from. I still get geeked about it. Netflix is like one of the biggest platforms out there right now and to have my film on such a platform is such a blessing. We have had some really amazing support from people all over the world since Netflix acquired the film. Like I’m constantly getting tons of messages. Every time I get a message or run into a post about the film from someone, especially in a part of the world I’ve never being, on how much they loved my film, I’m always really speechless.

starting from the left — Baaj Adebule, Ebiye Victor, Bisola Aiyeola (lady by the window) and Meg Otanwa (lady with the book). 
Was there a particular film or book that inspired you to write screenplays?

The Harry Porter films inspired me to write screenplays. That was my journey into screenwriting and of course directing. Another film that left such a great impression on me was Steven Spielberg’s Color Purple. I remember after seeing it, I told myself I wanted to make people feel the same way I felt. 

What was your creative process on writing Payday and how long did it take for you to write it?

The creative process of making Payday was pretty exciting but challenging as well. As a writer, you’d come to know that comedy is probably the hardest genre to write and pull off. Luckily, I knew the story I wanted to tell and just had to figure out the way to best tell it. It took three months to get the first draft as I was serving in the National Youth Service Corps, a one-year scheme set up by the Nigerian Government to involve Nigerian graduates in the nation-building and the development of the country through voluntary works. And I had to juggle doing that with writing. But once I got the first draft out the way, the rewrites were pretty easy as I took my time, using the numerous feedbacks and notes from my producer and trusted industry contacts.

Tell me a little bit about your cast for the film Payday and how did you decide who to pick for the leading role?

This is a really great question as no one really ever asked me that. I love to talk about the team who helped me put the film together, and the cast was an integral part of it. Once I had the script completed, I sent it to my producer Orwi Manny Ameh. One actor immediately came to mind, and that was Baaj Adebule. After seeing the finished film, I can’t imagine casting anybody else in that role. We put talent over everything else, and I’m so glad that we did. The table read confirmed the decisions we had to make. I also love the pairing of Ebiye Victor and Baaj Adebule. We can all agree that they had great chemistry on screen. Another actor I loved casting was Meg Otanwa who played Kimberly, Paul’s love interest. From our first meeting in a café, she was really warm and had notes on how she wanted to approach the character. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to meet Bisola Aiyeola (who played Ngozi) like the other cast members until she came on set. She came on board pretty late but her first day of the shoot and her performance throughout the film blew me away. She was really chill and highly professional and had all her lines. I really respect that that in actors and people generally. The rest actors were also great too.

Baaj Adebule and Ebiye Victor

For you, what has been the challenges and joys of writing and directing a film?

One of the biggest challenges of this film were shooting on a tight budget and battling weather conditions and of course local street thugs in our shoot in Lagos city. It was raining season here at the time and most of our scenes were outdoors. But the cast and crew were pretty great and understanding. We all went out there and did what we had to do. One of my best experiences on this film was seeing it with the first-ever audience. It was at the 4th Real Time Film Festival in Lagos where Meg Otanwa was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I remember sitting there with some of the cast and watching the reactions of the audience in the hall while the film played. It was so overwhelming and I remember having tears in my eyes. I remember Baaj taking my hand in the middle of the film and squeezing it hard and saying "I’m so proud we got to do this.”
Throughout the theatrical run in Nigeria, we did a Meet and Greet with some of the cast at the theaters where the film was showing. We would sneak into the theaters in the middle of the film and just watch the audience respond to the film. It was so hilarious and heartwarming as well.
Another moment I am immensely proud of was our first-ever award from Moscow where we won The Jury Prize Award at the 20th True Detective Film Festival. We were the first African film selected since in its 20 years run.
 
Baaj Adebule and Ebiye Victor

Is there any advice you would like to offer to someone who wants to be a filmmaker?

I’d say just go out there and do it. Failure is only in the mind. Cos no matter how it turns out, you really didn’t fail cause you actually went out there and did it. Failure is when you never ever try. Also, do not be afraid of criticisms. No matter how they make you feel, they will form you.

I know you’re an avid reader, what’s on your reading list?

Honestly, I’m not reading at the moment as I barely have any time for myself, which is such as shame as I enjoy reading. But one book I plan to read is My Sister, the Serial Killer by a Nigerian author Oyinkan Braithwaite. I have heard really great things about it. The last book I read The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma left such a tremendous effect on me. I walked around with a heavy heart for days. I don’t know if any other book could do that to me.

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is but how good it is, is what matters” quote by JK Rowling. Do you agree with her?

I totally agree. It’s the exact way I feel. It’ not how far but how well.

Where do you see yourself in a year?

To build a team and provide opportunities for all types of people to tell unique, impacting stories.

Who inspires you in the entertainment industry and why?

Tyler Perry inspires me. One thing I love about him is his business sense and how he’s about helping people achieve their dreams. It’s the same thing I really want to do. Ava DuVernay is also someone I really respect. I love everything she represents. Nigerian Media Mogul Mo Abudu is someone else I respect for her drive and her vision.

Is there anybody in particular that you would like to work with on a film?

Viola Davis is someone I would die to work with. She’s totally on my top list of people to work with. Two other actors I would be really honoured to work with are Genevieve Nnaji and Christian Bale.

Tell me three fun facts about you.
     
       1. I can’t dance - A truth I’m still trying to accept.

 2. I really don’t like to hang out or go to parties but every time I do and have so much fun, I wonder why I don’t do it often.
3. Some days, I make some really mean dish. Other days my food sucks so bad I refuse to touch it. And one more...
4. I hate when I brag to someone I can cook and then they come over and I make something and the taste sucks. It makes me look like a liar. 

Describe yourself in one word.

Logical.

I share motivational and inspirational quotes share with my readers. Do you have one you can share?

1. To nurture talent is easy. Patience is the virtue you need to develop.

2. Spend more time talking to yourself than anyone else. Be comfortable being alone. That isn’t a bad thing. Self-awareness is key. Don’t be a stranger to yourself while being famous in the crowd.




   

starting from the left — Meg Otanwa, Ebiye Victor, Baaj Adebule, Bisola Aiyeola 


Thank you for reading and follow Cheta on social media:
Payday Movie
Instagram

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Interview with Judith Beasley...Actor and Director in Dalton.




Judith Beasley has been in the Dalton community for a few years and has acted on two stages: Dalton Little Theatre (DLT) and Artistic Civic Theatre (ACT). I've seen her performed as well as seen a couple of shows she has directed, and I haven't been disappointed. I'm quite impressed with her dedication to her craft as well as her loyalty to others who grace the stage as well. She's directing "Becoming Dr. Ruth" written by Mark St. Germain. It is a one-woman show chronicling the life of renowned psychologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer from her early days as a child fleeing Nazi Germany to her time as a sniper in Israel and beyond. I recently watched a documentary on Dr. Ruth on Hulu, and I'm fascinated with her story. so I look forward to the show. Judith shares with me her love of the stage as well as her love for the Dalton community.

Introducing Judith Beasley...


What do you love about your life right now?

In a relatively short amount of time, I have been able to become a part of one of the most giving and supportive communities I have ever lived in. Through United Way, I have met and gotten involved in a number of organizations and met a large number of generous, caring, smart men and women.
My contributions have been accepted and valued; a huge gift to someone who is well into AARP years! I find great joy in live theater as well. Both Artistic Civic Theater and Dalton Little Theater have allowed me to join their theater families for which I am more grateful than I can express. I, also, love that my only child and her family are local and that they give me reasons to celebrate every day; my grandchildren continually delight and surprise me with their successes and the good, respectful young people they are. 

You have been acting and directing for several years; did you start with acting first?

Acting in plays came before directing plays. Since early childhood Sunday School plays, I have loved being on stage. Throughout school years and my career in education, I acted whenever the time allowed and the opportunity was available. I was an adult before I ever directed a full-length play. 


Judith as Ouiser in Steel Magnolias

Was there a particular film or actor that inspired you to be on stage?

No. My greatest inspiration came from a woman named Carmen Morris. While I had acted in plays before I came under the influence of Mrs. Morris, I had not nearly begun to tap the depths of wonder that immersing oneself in drama can reveal. Mrs. Morris, my high school drama teacher, cast me in the one-act play that went to competition when I was in 9th grade, and we won first in the state! I tracked Mrs. Morris down in the Atlanta area a few years ago and told her what an impact she had made in life. 


Judith as Sissy in Sordid Lives


Of the two, which hat do you prefer to wear - acting or directing?

I cannot choose one over the other; I find so much joy and fulfillment wearing either hat.  I will say, however, that I don't want to act in just anything, and I absolutely don't want to direct anything for which I don't have a clear vision and a passion. 

Right now, I know you are directing Becoming Dr. Ruth which will be on the stage at ACT in the Studio. What was the inspiration behind wanting to direct this particular play? 

The choice evolved from a desire to be able to offer local audiences plays that aren't the usual fare for ACT.  I asked Tammy Rice to be my partner; I had seen what she had created with the difficult, complex play ART at DLT under her direction. It was brilliant. I asked the board to allow Tammy and I to share directing and producing duties for a two-show Studio Series during the 2019/2020 season, and the Board gave a green light. Tammy and I started searching for small -cast plays that could be performed on a small stage and found several.  We decided on two plays by Mark St. Germain about the lives of well known, interesting people of history: Becoming Dr. Ruth, which I am directing and Freud's Last Session, which Tammy is directing. 

Tell me the joys and challenges of directing.

A major joy is working with actors to be the very best they can possibly be and seeing the joy they experience doing excellent work. Several times, I have worked with playwrights on play development and then gone on to direct the premieres; that joy is sublime.  When I sit in an audience watching patrons watch my directorial work, my heart races and my nerves are all on the outside of my skin!  

The biggest challenge, for me, is getting done what has to be done that I am incapable of doing!  I am not tech-savvy, so I lean heavily on others to make my sound and lights and set provide what the show requires to be the best it can be.  

How did you decide to pick Eileen as Dr. Ruth? Was there an audition? 

There is not a large pool of small, Jewish, 60something, talented actors to my knowledge. We did not hold auditions.  Eileen was the first person I thought of after we chose Becoming Dr. Ruth.  When I called her, she was very excited? She knew the play and had actually run lines with another Atlanta actress who did the role a few years ago. She, also, has great admiration for Ruth Westheimer and the life she has made for herself. We talked and she thought it over and talked with her family. A couple of weeks later, she called nearly in tears discussing all the practicalities of living and working in Atlanta and doing a show in Dalton. After another couple of weeks, she said she just felt she could not do it. So, I started looking for another actor who fit the casting needs. I talked to someone local who had been recommended, but she said she felt she wasn't the right person to do the role. So, I kept looking and following leads; Eileen and I kept talking; and joy of joys, Eileen could not get her mind off the opportunity and committed to doing the play. She is perfect for the role.

With this being a one-woman show and Eileen as Dr. Ruth, I'm guessing it might be easier to direct just one actor versus a whole cast, right? 

No matter the size of the cast, having the right people in the cast is the key element. So, if I had cast someone who was not dependable or directable or committed, doing a one-person show could be my worst nightmare.  I do prefer smaller casts because I like to work one on one with each actor during the rehearsal process. One is not easier than the other; just different.

What do you hope the audience's takeaway will be from the play?

I would like for people to leave wanting to know more about Ruth Westheimer's last 22 years. In the play she is 69 years old; she is now 91 years old. She has not stopped making a difference in the world. She has written more than 40 published books on a variety of topics; she is always educating, always spreading wisdom as well as knowledge.



 Who have been your biggest supporters?

For this project (Studio Series), you have been a major supporter spending time with Eileen and me to help us to connect to a broad audience, and you have offered time to Tammy and Freud's Last Session in the coming months.  Other theater friends have been tolerant of my blathering on and on about the show, and several have offered very helpful suggestions. The ACT Board has given me the opportunity to stick my neck out and do this project; each will be supportive in his/her own way, I know.  Eileen’s significant other, Barry Zipperman, has been incredibly supportive. He is bringing in family and friends from Atlanta, Toronto, and Chattanooga (to name a few locations), and he is renting a condo for the guests to stay while they are in town. 


Judith with her grandchildren, Kennedy and Garrett.


Tell me three fun facts about you.

- At one point in my life, I was into drag racing and helped someone build a drag car piece by piece.
- This is the first time in all my life I have been without some sort of pet in my home. 
-Education was my calling. I loved all my jobs in education, and the feeling of doing what I was put on earth to do was intoxicating.

Describe yourself in one word.

Sincere.


I share motivational quotes with my readers. Do you have one that has encouraged you that you would like to share? 

This comes from a Garfield comic strip showing Odie sitting in a tree: "It's amazing what one can do when one doesn't know what one can't do."




Tickets are on sale now for Becoming Dr. Ruth at ACT. The first performance is on February 14, 2020. Next, if you haven't already, read my interview here with Eileen Koteles who is playing Dr. Ruth. 



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