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FLB: I know you are a musician (harpist?). How does that training help your filmmaking?  What music  do you listen to and how involved are you in picking the score for your films?


DE: I think that my background as a musician gives me a strong sense of pacing. This has certainly helped me in the editing room. I often edit my own films and I usually cut to music - either temp tracks or original score. And when I write, I usually prepare long playlists for each project - to evoke the mood of the story. So music is an important element to me at every stage of filmmaking.


FLB: When did you first know you wanted to make films? What is your training?


DE: I came to filmmaking later in life - after earning a history degree and after a career as a musician. I did not grow up around filmmaking and so it took me a while to stumble upon this career and to discover that it was what I was meant to do all along. I started my training at a quirky little film co-op called The Winnipeg Film Group. Then, while making my own independent shorts, I went onto more advanced training at the National Screen Institute. And, finally, I trained at Canada's top film school -- the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto.


FLB: We share an interest in dark retellings of classic fairy tales. What do these tales mean to you? You’ve based work on Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood and The Snow Queen (as well as Bluebeard in The Singing Bones). What do these specific tales represent for you? What other tales are important in your  life? Who introduced you to these stories?


DE: My mother read fairy tales to me and encouraged me to be an avid reader. So I have her to thank. She has always liked ghost stories, too, so I grew up hearing a lot of fabulous scary tales. But what I love about retelling fables is the power of layered meaning that becomes possible when a story is ancient and well-known. The audience is already familiar with the characters, with the plot, so you have a shorthand for communicating ideas. You can draw attention to important themes in a powerful way. And I love to take a story where the moral is all about a woman's need to conform - to turn that upside down - and make it about empowerment.

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Here are the beautiful, intelligent, sensitive and highly gifted Katie Polley and Michael Klinger as "The Girl" and "Derrick Blue."

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I wrote the story "Bones" as part of my collection of fairy tale retellings, The Rose And The Beast.  It is an emotional story for me  because the nameless main character represents the sense of loss, isolation, and loneliness, and the self-destructive tendencies, of my late teens and early twenties.   When Danishka Esterhazy shot her adaptation The Singing Bones in Oakland this last weekend, I was transported forward into the world of her fairy tale and backward into my past.  As I sat behind Katie Polley, while Michael Klinger seduced her with blue cake, blue drinks and his blue gaze, tears filled my eyes. Katie's stunning, fine-tuned acting skills and the fascinating way I was situated made me feel I was reliving my painful past through her, facing my seductive self-destruction embodied by a gorgeous, charming and intelligent young actor playing a Bluebeard-like character.

The cathartic aspect of theater is something I've never been so fully aware of.

This is one reason I want to work in film. Perhaps nothing is more powerful.

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Adam and I went to San Francisco for the filming of The Singing Bones. Here we are on the plane. This is before my eyes get really tired.

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These roses were in a small shop in S.F. called Urban Flowers. They are the prettiest I think I've ever seen.  Remind me of a mix of peonies and roses. My mom would have loved them.

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This weekend I went to San Francisco to watch Danishka Esterhazy shoot a short  film based on my story "Bones" from The Rose And The Beast.  It was one of the best weekends of my life. I am so grateful to Danishka, her husband Jonathan, our beautiful actors, Katie Polley and Michael Klinger, and the crew from Scary Cow productions. plus incredible make up artists and background. Here's a video of the house.

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Raw  Strawberry Cheesecake

I love to eat raw, vegan food but there wasn't a beautiful, affordable place near my house. Then Make Out opened on the downtown Culver City plaza next to the movie theater and across from the Culver Hotel.  The idea behind Make Out is to provide convenient, mostly raw, plant-based food that you can grab on the go. I asked why they chose Culver City for their flagship store and they cited the close proximity to Sony but also the unique beauty of the space with its high celings, natural light and foot traffic accessibility.   They painted it white, including the one raw brick wall, and installed white marble  table. There are always fresh flowers.

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Fresh Flowers On Marble Every Day

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Little Marble Tables With Hydrangea and Lilies

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Denise Hamilton is one of my favorite people and writers. I love what she had to say about Los Angeles, writing fiction, journalism and life in general when I interviewed her, below. Read and enjoy! Then check out her books!

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FLB: We both grew up in Los Angeles. In what specific ways does this city inspire you? If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

DH Ah, Los Angeles is my muse, my femme fatale. She inspires everything. She's like the bad boyfriend that you keep trying to leave, and when you walk out she woos you back each time with her natural beauty, her design and art and architecture, her robust and varied tribes, her energy, her promise to make the traffic go away and the air better, her glimpses at how we might all get along. Besides the mountains, the beaches and the beautiful old architecture and history and neighborhoods, what inspires me is the mix of cultures and all the secret places in LA - the hidden alcoves and waterfalls, the Native American hot springs in the middle of the city, the night-time outdoor plays and music, the tidepools and coves that only reveal themselves at low tide, the  canyon roads that say 'dead end' but aren't. I love the ethnic neighborhoods, the tiny storefront eateries, the places off the beaten path. And the secret histories, of Hollywood and the Native Americans and Ranchos and old Pueblos and people who only arrived 5 minutes ago. I have lived many other places but have this fantasy of spending a year writing and eating in Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean coast. They are 5 tiny villages perched high on a cliff, accessible only by rail. Melancholic off season and lovely.

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About a week ago I was at Govinda's, the Hare Krishna temple vegetarian buffet where I've been going for years and years (I used to nurse my daughter in the booths) when I ran into my beautiful friend Marisela whose sons went to pre-school with my kids. She asked me to joiin her and her friend, the Tibetan Buddhist monk, Tenzin Lama, for lunch.

With his sweet face, compassionate eyes, maroon robes and wise, radiant demeanor, Tenzin Lama is the real thing. He was  born in Nepal, educated in India and now lives in the states where he travels, practices Reichi healing and teaches meditation.  I had a lovely conversation with him and Marisela and told them I'd host a meditation class in my home.

Last night, my gorgous, brilliant and talented friends Lauren Strasnick, Sarah Herrington, Adam Greenberg, Amanda Yates Garcia and Tracy DeBrincat all came over for class.  Tenzin Lama's friend Steven joined us. Tenzin Lama began with a guttural, mysterious chant that cleared the energy. Then he discussed the benefits and basic principles of meditation.

"When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it. Instead, be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once." -- Tenzin Lama

So many of us are struggling with sorrow and stress which can turn into anxiety and depression. Perhaps "creatives" feel these things a bit more.  Meditation is one more tool to help us handle our challenges. I think perhaps the greatest healing, though, comes from kindness. Last night my house was shimmering with it as you can see above.

 

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Here's the new anthology I'm in! My dear friend, the wonderful, brilliant author, editor and critic, Michael Cart, who has championed my work since Weetzie Bat came out in 1989, asked me to write a story about guns for him. My story was based on the incident in which Antoinette Tuff convinced a teen to put down his gun. I'm so honored to be in this anthology with such great writers. And I'm especially excited to be in a colletion with Joyce Carol Oates! Her novel Blonde about Marilyn Monroe is one of my favorites and I use it a lot in my teaching to talk about switching points of view in a poetic and meaningful way.

Taking Aim: Teens and Guns feels especially important and timely because of all the horrible incidents involving gun violence going down these days. I hope this book will make a difference.

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Mary Pauline Lowry interviewed me for the Huffington Post and I developed an instant girl-crush on this radiant, powerful, smart, kind, beautiful woman.  We became friends and I'm honored to have her in Jessa Marie Mendez and my upcoming anthology

FLB: Tell us about your novel Wildfire.

MPL: Wildfire is about a young woman who starts work as the only female on an elite “hotshot” crew of wildland firefighters that travels the American West battling wildfires. It tells the story of her struggle to fit in and make her way on the crew. It’s essentially a coming-of-age story that explores the insular, masculine world of wildland firefighting.

FLB: I know that you worked for two years as a forest firefighter. Can you tell us more?

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We had the most fun doing a photo shoot for the new Weetzie Bat "What's In Weetzie's Bag?" Tote Bag. The beautiful and amazing Emily from Fete photographed Weetzie personfied Augusta Gail styled by the fabulously talented Aurora Lady in front of the magical Culver Hotel in downtown Culver City, my stomping grounds.

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