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The Indie Collaborative Earth Day ConcertVarious ArtistsApril 25th, 2022, 8pmCarnegie HallBox Office: https://www.carnegiehall.org/Events
Indie Collaborative co-founder Eileen Bluestone Sherman likes having her hands full. She’s a playwright, lyricist, young adult novelist, television writer, theater/music producer — and producer of events such as “Celebrating Earth Day in Song.” The Indie Collaborative Earth Day concert returns to the Weill Recital space in Carnegie Hall on April 25th. More than 20 award-winning IC artists perform, featuring a unique blend of musical genres (rock, classical, jazz, Americana, theatrical) at this legendary venue. Not only will each artist offer a unique contribution to the concert, but in the true IC spirit, artists will cross genres furnishing additional musical accompaniment for many of the songs.
And Sherman herself is no stranger to such stages as Carnegie Hall. In one way or another, her music has been heard in such venues as Lincoln Center, The Bitter End, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Symphony Space, and on radio airwaves worldwide.
In writing musical theater, she collaborates with her sister Gail C. Bluestone. The Bluestone Sisters’ music continues to delight audiences of all ages. Eileen (book and lyrics) and Gail (music) began their musical theater collaboration at Hallmark’s Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, which soon led to them contributing scripts to Chicago’s popular musical children’s television series, “The Magic Door.” This ultimately brought their music to the New York stage and Broadway recording studios with a host of Tony Award winners. including such Broadway super stars as Elaine Stritch, Sutton Foster, Hal Linden, Andrea McArdle, Donna McKechnie, Beth Leavel, Lillias White, and Judd Hirsch.
As for her writing, Sherman has published her first two young adult novels including the award-winning titles Monday in Odessa and Independence Avenue. In addition, her new paperback, The Violin Players is also available as an audiobook, read by the author. Perhaps her most popular story is The Odd Potato, originally a picture book, adapted for the stage, television, and a CD, starring 20 Tony Award-winning performers.
Through the years, Sherman’s work received numerous honors, including two Emmy Awards for Chicago Television, the National Jewish Book Award, and The International Reading Association Teachers’ Choice Award.
The storyline for this three-act presentation of music celebrating Earth Day begins with the possibilities and newness of “Beginnings," continues with the “Reality” of the situations, and concludes with "Wisdom" acquired. Originally scheduled for April 2020, the show was put off to April 2021, and then once again to April 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The artists are looking forward to making this dream a reality.
Here is Sherman’s response to a set of questions about the IC and this upcoming event.
Q: How did this whole thing start?
ES: The story of the Indie Collaborative is quite remarkable. But let me tell you a bit about my own background to explain how it all came about.
My career has taken me in many different directions. From New York stages to Chicago television to book tours throughout the USA, it ultimately led me into the recording studio. Honestly, no step along the way was specifically planned. One just seemed to evolve into the next, and that’s a fair description of how I became the co-founder of the Indie Collaborative with one of Billboard's top-charting Americana Roots singers/songwriters, Grant Maloy Smith.
It goes without saying that the worlds of theater and music are, historically, "cutting edge." It's no wonder that both industries immediately recognized the power of social media. To my own amazement, my book and theater fans, as well as independent artists (initially all strangers to me), started to write to me via Facebook. Virtual acquaintances blossomed.
Suddenly, I was getting personal invitations left and right from performers who were appearing in all sorts of venues throughout Manhattan. Of course, I went! I wanted to meet these artists in real life. Without fail, I was blown away by the immense talent. Each and every one was so unique but all were superior musicians.
That's when this idea started brewing in my crazy producer's brain. What if I put together an event where independent artists from all different sectors of the entertainment world could meet one another to share ideas, inspire one another, and who knows, maybe even collaborate on new projects. I even knew where I wanted to hold this event, but I also understood I needed a partner in this endeavor.
Fast forward to December 2014, when I was invited to have cocktails with a couple of gal-pal musicians, I had met via Facebook. While sipping a cosmo, I nonchalantly mentioned my idea. "Oh, you should get in touch with Grant Maloy Smith," I was told. We had never met, but Grant's sterling reputation preceded him. All the musicians on Facebook adored Grant (and his signature cowboy hat). And why not? His daily posts were hilarious, and he had a kind word for everyone.
I messaged Grant and told him I hoped we would get a chance to say "hello" a few weeks later at the Grammy Awards in LA. Before that weekend, our worlds of musical theater and Americana Roots had no reason to intersect but on a fateful Sunday morning in February 2015, everything changed.
Thank goodness for that cowboy hat! Otherwise, I still might be searching for Grant in a sea of sequins, satin, and stilettos. When I finally approached him, I don't think I said more than two sentences, and he responded, "I'm in." What I didn’t know was that Grant was already contemplating a similar idea.
As fate would have it, Grant was scheduled to perform at New York's famed Bitter End in the spring. I promised I would be there to cheer him on, as long as he joined me the next morning at the new headquarters of the Drama League in Tribeca. I wanted him to check out the space and its sound equipment. Once he gave his blessing to my choice of venue, the two of us sat down on the sofa in the reception area, and in about 20 minutes, we outlined what eventually would become The Indie Collaborative.
Our mission was simple and clear-cut. Foster friendship and unique collaborations among professionals from every part of the music world — musicians, vocalists, promoters, publicists, engineers, educators, producers, radio hosts, photographers, lyricists, composers, conductors, arrangers, etc. and from every genre- classical, hip-hop, world music, jazz, children's music, spoken word, Latin, electronic, country, film scores, and so on. We would be a resource and a sounding board for one another.
We had no desire to create yet another glitzy award ceremony, or even, charge dues for that matter. We would leave that to the Big-Boy organizations. On the contrary! We wanted to provide an environment where serious artists, everywhere in the world, young and old, established, or still learning the ropes, could experiment with new ideas and not fear the consequences of coming up short. For us, this new community of independent artists would be solely about camaraderie, exploration, and creation among professional colleagues in the entertainment field.
Grant and I had no idea if anyone else would share our enthusiasm or even show up to our first get-together, but on June 8, 2015, the modest social hall at the Drama League was bulging at the seams with 77 (comfortable at about 60). We sat on metal folding chairs (which we had meticulously set up an hour earlier) and Grant called on folks seat by seat. Some at the keyboard, others with guitar, violin, sax, trumpet, or bass, in hand, performed excerpts of their original music; others just spoke. It was truly fascinating — a show-and-tell in a room of mostly strangers, who just happen to be award-winning musicians.
Honestly, Grant and I were simply relieved that our idea didn't bomb. We never anticipated what happened next. Once more, social media played the role of "Lady Luck." While artists performed, cell phones in the audience kept clicking and suddenly, photos of the event appeared online in real-time.
As Grant hosted, he continued to receive messages from artists around the country, asking when we would be coming to "their city" to produce an Indie Collaborative? Thrilled that our idea (and name) took hold, we organized similar events in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Nashville, and San Francisco. In no time, our 77 intrigued strangers blossomed into over 2000 caring friends and collaborators worldwide. Thanks to Grant's many talents, an impressive website followed.
It’s no exaggeration to say that every Indie Collaborative event offers the same promise. Independent artists enter as strangers and leave as new collaborators. Lyricists find composers; songwriters find vocalists; music producers find engineers. I am always delighted to see credits for an award-winning song or album that includes a combination of our talented members.
These amazing collaborations have resulted in many of Billboard's top charters, and even a Grammy-nominated project here and there. As Grant and I envisioned, our idea would also promote a natural inclination for members to share resources to help one another.
At that very first Indie Collaborative in June 2015, a very gifted cabaret artist, based in Pennsylvania, was describing her professional conundrum to folks in the audience. She wanted to break into the NY cabaret market. It seemed a New York music critic agreed to review her work if she got herself a gig in Manhattan.
Without any previous New York City press, however, cabaret rooms in town weren't interested. Another fellow overheard her frustration. Impressed with her earlier presentation, he made a call, and shortly thereafter, the Pennsylvania artist got her New York debut (and a fine New York music review).
Likewise, almost a year later, sitting next to me at an IC showcase in LA was a music manager. When he mentioned he lived in Bergamo, Italy, I started gushing about how much I loved visiting his fairytale-like town, outside Milan. We struck up a friendly conversation, and by the end, he said he wanted me to meet a colleague of his in New York.
That introduction led to a fabulous Indie Collaborative partnership with the dynamic host of Italian Radio Fantastica, Daniela Celella. Daniela regularly interviews our IC members on her show. It's a fun-filled two hours about the sights and sounds of New York for her many fans in Italy. She hosts in both English and Italian. In addition, she highlights our music, new releases, and upcoming concerts every week.
I feel very lucky. My work has been honored with prestigious awards. Broadway stars sing my lyrics, and my books keep popping up all over the world! But none of it came easy or without frustration, disappointment, and genuine heartbreak (and it still doesn't). No matter one's circumstance, talent, or measure of luck, a career in the arts is precarious. Everyone gets knocked around with lots of "bruising" along the way. We all have battle scars. Perhaps, that's the universal appeal of our IC mission.
Still, the ongoing evolution of the Indie Collaborative even surprises me. It's been my honor to help create an organization that celebrates the passion and perseverance of independent artists around the world, who cheer, commiserate, and continually guide one another.
Q: What’s the story behind this concert?
ES: In November 2018, the Indie Collaborative made its Carnegie Hall debut when top charting Billboard artist Grant Maloy Smith, Grammy Award winner Wouter Kellerman and I joined forces to share three very distinct styles of song in one evening. Grant and his Nashville Band treated the audience to Americana roots.
I invited my Broadway pals to perform the music from the Bluestone Sisters’ musical theater catalog, while the incomparable Wouter Kellerman of South Africa delighted the audience with his award-winning world music repertoire for flute. We were not quite sure if such an eclectic program would work, but the audience response was a resounding Yes!
We decided to up the ante and create a musical celebration at Carnegie Hall for Earth Day, April 2020. Then, the world shut down. All concerts cancelled, first in April 2020. Then, in April 2021. But we know the virtues of patience and tenacity and now we have our Spring concert coming up in 2022.
Q: How did you select this cast which includes classical, jazz, roots, musical theater, Latin, pop, rap, and more?
The Indie Collaborative not only fosters unique musical collaborations among independent artists but it also creates very supportive friendships.
As our international membership grows, (now 2000+) Grant and I have the good fortune to meet many, many extraordinary musicians from every corner of the globe. The many nationalities and cultures (not to mention musical styles) make each member singularly unique. That individuality guides our wish list when casting a concert.
Of course, who is available and in this case, can be in New York City on a given date, is a determining factor. For example, this particular concert will highlight the incomparable Leti Garza from Austin Texas, with her exciting Latin rhythms and poignant melodies, as well as award winning jazz artist Alan Storeygard from Arkansas, whose signature is reimagining classical piano for the jazz world. Joining them on stage is Broadway veteran, Ryan VanDenBoom (currently a featured performer in Broadway’s MJ), will add a bit of “song and dance” flair. In fact, we shall have over 20 award-winning artists.
Some will make their debut; others will be returning veterans to that beloved concert hall called Carnegie! We have top-notch Jazz and fusion guitarist Noshir Mody, Rapper extraordinaire Benjamin Lerner (the great grandson of Irving Berlin) whose driving spoken word (underscored with his classical contemporary piano) captures the pain and struggle of addiction recovery. For the more traditional music enthusiast, we have the multi-award winning Steinway Artist Sophia Agranovich plus multi-linguist, world-traveled artist David S. Goldman, whose versatility in music (Blues, Latin, Acoustic Rock, Pop/Jazz, World) matches his facility with language.
And of course, so much more! In brief, an evening with The Indie Collaborative offers something special for every musical taste!
Q: Why the themes?
Q: Our "Earth Day Celebration in Music" will be a first for The Indie Collaborative. In 2020, our concert was scheduled on the actual day (April 22, 2020). Two years later, we aren’t able to secure the official date, but our theme is important. We did not want to miss the opportunity to celebrate it in song. Besides, in the best of all worlds, everyday is Earth Day! And yes, we do like theme concerts.
Because our membership and music are so diverse, eclectic, and creative, we love to give a unique musical spin on classic traditions. For our show in April, we will explore the universal experience of all life on Earth… Beginnings (when all things are new, fresh, with endless possibilities) Reality (hardship, hard times, heartbreak) and Wisdom (using life experience to nourish the Earth and each other.)
Q: How do you plan your calendar?
ES: The Indie Collaborative produces both concerts” and showcases. Both are equally exciting and require lots of preparation but are rather different! A concert is curated and publicized to the public.
Grant and I choose a theme, a venue, and we select a cast from our membership. On the other hand, a showcase is about networking and introducing ourselves and our work to one another. If we have more than 20+ requests (which we always do), we use a lottery system.
Grant hosts the evening, and it always plants the seeds for new collaborations. Of course, it also “plants seeds” for Grant and me as to whom we might like to invite to perform in a future concert. When we first saw the exhilarating performance of Ricky Persaud, Jr. at a showcase, we knew we would want Ricky for our Carnegie Hall event.
Of course, artists’ friends and family are always welcome to join us at our showcases, but it really is all about meeting other artists. Our next showcase will be another IC first, when we co-host the evening (across the pond, as they say) with the amazing R&B artist, Trevor Sewell, in his hometown of Newcastle, UK in early summer 2023. Typically, we produce a showcase or a concert once a year.
Q: What collaborations emerged from all this?
ES: Indeed, many, many fabulous collaborations emerge all the time! A magnificent song, “ I See You,” which sheds light on the ugly truth about “ageism” will be performed at our concert. It was written by IC members, Mike Greenly and Grant Maloy Smith. Mike is an incredible lyricist and works with many different artists.
Likewise, Jazz and Cabaret favorite, Alex Otey, will not only perform his own work, “Love Matters More” but will serve as the musical director for the Bluestone Sisters’ Music that evening. Recently, Alex recorded (piano, trumpet, drums) for a new song, “We Talk Without Words,” written by the Bluestones and performed by “Jersey Boys” Tony Winner Christian Hoff and wife Melissa, which will be part of a new children’s album, “Arise Together,” (due for summer release) by two other IC members, Grammy-winning producer Kevin Mackey and international film director and producer Rupam Sarmah.
Sewell recently co-produced a Grammy-nominated song this year, written and recorded by another IC member — two-time Grammy nominee, Linda Chorney. When two-time Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari (recently seen at last season’s Lincoln Center concert) needed a choreographer for a new children’s video, she called on the services of IC member and Broadway and film veteran, Sonya Hensley. That’s just a few examples.
An on-going collaboration began some years ago at a small IC showcase in LA. I was seated next to a very friendly gentleman from Bergamo, Italy. He was a music manager, and his client (living in Hawaii) was performing at our L.A. showcase. We struck up a friendly conversation. By the end of the evening, he said he wanted Grant and me to meet a colleague of his in New York. That introduction resulted in a wonderful collaboration with IC member, Daniela Celella, who hosts Italian Radio Fantastica and features our IC and our music on her shows weekly.
Q: And what’s up for the future?
ES: Just like one of our shows, you never quite know what’s coming next from The Indie Collaborative. We do know our ranks keep growing and our members never cease to amaze (and inspire) with their glorious music.
To keep up with all the news, check out: https://www.indiecollaborative.com/
“CODA”Writer/director: Sian HederCast: Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant, Marlee Matlin, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Amy Forsyth, Kevin Chapman
In a major triumph for deaf representation in cinema, the ensemble of “CODA” (Children of Deaf Adults) clinched the top prize at the 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards winning the coveted prize for Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The acclaimed feature stars newcomer Emilia Jones as a hearing teen raised by a deaf mother (Marlee Matlin), father (Troy Kotsur) and older brother (Daniel Durant).
Taking place in Gloucester, Massachusetts, daughter Ruby Rossi is the only hearing member of her family; parents Frank and Jackie and older brother Leo are all deaf. She assists with the family fishing business and plans to join it full-time after finishing high school. But then she joins the Choir where she discovers she has a beautiful singing voice. This changes her life's trajectory.
Written and directed by Sian Heder, “CODA” is an English-language remake of the French-language film “La Famille Bélier,” which was released in 2014 and was a French box office success. Philippe Rousselet — one of the original film's producers — had the rights to do a remake. He and producer Patrick Wachsberger approached Heder to direct a remake for a United States audience. Heder said, "They were interested in adapting the film, but they wanted someone to make it unique and take the premise from the original and, also, reinvent it.
For playing Sarah Norman in the romantic drama "Children of a Lesser God," Matlin's 1987 Best Actress Oscar win made history as the only deaf performer to win an Academy Award as well as the youngest winner in the Best Actress category.
Additionally, Kotsur made further history on Sunday, February 27th, 2022, as the first deaf actor ever to receive an individual SAG Award for his supporting performance. As tender-hearted fisherman Frank Rossi, prevailing over hearing actors Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto and Kodi Smit-McPhee. And on Sunday, March 6th, at the 37th Independent Spirit Awards, Kotsur also won the Best Supporting Male Actor award for "CODA" and is the first deaf actor to win a Spirit Award.
The film has had further wins at BAFTA, Critics Choice Awards, PGA Best Picture and WGA Best Adapted Screenplay. CODA is streaming on Apple TV+.
This Q&A was held after a recent screening of the film just before the SAG Awards night.
Q: Marlee, when you read director Sian Heder’s screenplay, how did Jackie speak to you? What was the sense of her that you got about the character?
MM: When I first read the script, I went “Hel-looo”. This isn’t something that I typically get to read. So I looked at the script. It was as if I had experienced it myself.
My character Jackie, and I … One thing that perhaps we are the same about is that we’re deaf. Other than that, there’s so many things in this script that I found challenging. It really, really, really thrilled me to pieces. I knew that when I read about Frank, I thought of Troy immediately. It really was a script that I knew I wanted to do. And I went after it.
Q: Troy, when you read the script by Sian Heder and saw Frank on the page. What connected you to him and what keys to him did you find in the script?
TK: Well, so many reasons. I had so many connections with Frank. First of all, I told myself that “it’s about f***ing time.” Finally you all get to see Volker ASL (American Sign Language) on the big screen.
I had been waiting for so long. The two of us have already seen all of your movies, where we see the subtitles with all your swear words, and we’re like “Okay. But in sign language? Are you all ready?” Imagine what happened at the MPAA. They decided to give us an “R” rating at first. We were like, “Wow, we have to go back and forth and really fight with them with our whole team to get them to reduce their rating to PG‑13.”
And that’s a part of deaf culture: to us, we feel like that vulgar sign language is just a part of our culture. But are you hearing people ready? That’s why it was so cool. It’s fascinating to see that in the script, first of all.
Secondly, I was thrilled that CODAs, Children of Deaf Adults, have a relation to music. Really, the children of deaf adults do, but it has a double meaning. “Coda” has a meaning in music as a word, and also in deaf culture. I wasn’t aware of the music side but I was aware of the CODA side, and was happy to portray that onscreen.
There’s been a long history, as Marlee mentioned, 35 years. Typically, though, there will just be one deaf character’s appearance in a film. In this film we have an ensemble: there’s three characters, including our son, Leo, played by Daniel Durant. So that was incredible.
So thank you. I wish Daniel was here. He’s always here with us, right? History was made with this film, with three deaf actors authentically carrying the film. And I have to admit, I would not be here today without Marlee. And Sian, our director. I just give them all the credit. For Marlee’s 35 years representing the deaf community, she kept me inspired. Until now.
Q: Troy, you mentioned Daniel [applause]. This is an amazing family. And speaking of family, you guys filmed up in Massachusetts. Obviously, the bond between the actors on a film like this must be extraordinary. What was it like filming the four of you in an actual house the production found that they converted into the house they needed for the film? What were the close-quarters like in terms of bonding an ensemble as you have done here?
MM: Absolutely perfect. The house was ready to fall apart, actually. The furniture was here and there. It was amongst all these beautiful coastal houses, and then the Rossi family house is just sitting there in the middle of it all.
Actually, only a few of the crew and actors were able to be in the house at one time because structurally, it was not able to hold [everybody]. But it really was authentic. the house itself had character, personality. It was in Gloucester. The location manager found it.
The family was one among other hard-working people who did their best to earn a living and mind their own business. They were very supportive of each other. This movie chronicles the levels of all the things that happen in their family throughout the film. The journey that they go through.
There’s so much that this movie that entails changes. Like the fact that we as parents learn about our daughter and her dreams, desires and aspirations, which completely go in a different direction than we had ever anticipated for her in our world. She wants to go into music. We learn as parents to adapt to her dreams, to her desire to be in the music life. I fortunately had no involvement with any of the fishing things. But he can tell you about that.
Q: Troy, you guys on the boat — Daniel and Emilia — in some ways could have become commercial fishermen. You loved being on that boat.
TK: I had never seen a whale before. Where I grew up in Arizona since birth, there are just some lakes. You have very soft, rippling waves — not like out on the ocean bumping up and down in this fishing boat. I was not used to it, so I had to get my sea legs.
We got up at two o’clock in the morning because that’s one of the best times to catch fish. That’s a time of high activity where they’re feeding, and is a great time to get them in your fishing net. You hold them all up when the sun is rising and then you have to divide them. You have the lobsters, the squid, the monkfish with a little light -– they can really snap at you. And you have to sort them out.
It was a bit awkward for me at first, but our two weeks of training out on the fishing boat really helped me to become Frank Rossi as a character. There were a few things out on the boat where we improvised with a signs that would really fit that fishing culture or fishing sign language.
We had to wear really heavy rubber boots and clothing, heavy rubber gloves, and that affected my sign language. I had to adapt to it. It was a bit more like gesturing with the gloves on and that influenced my characterization of Frank Rossi.
Daniel really struggled with tying a fishing knot. It’s like a kid who can’t tie their shoe laces. So imagine untangling this fishing net -- he was really struggling. At home -– we were roommates -– and I watched him practicing these knots over and over again. The next day, he went out and he was still failing to tie these knots.
We learned so much about going through that experience being out on the fishing boat. These actual fishermen were being surrounded by Popeyes. The way that they walked and talked and behaved. So after they would finish work, they’d go to the bar in the morning – it was like 10 o’clock in the morning. That was their nighttime — their drink after work. That was their fisherman culture and it really began to immerse me into the character of Frank. So it was extremely fun for me to go on that journey.
MM: The cast had to learn a whole new set of experiences that they never really had. They weren’t interested in fishing. Or Emilia, who had to sign, she had to learn how to interpret, she had to learn how to be an artist, she had to learn to fish, she had to learn to sing. Daniel had to learn how to fish. Daniel had to learn so much — this is Daniel’s first movie.
There was so much learning going on in this set and we worked so hard as a cast, collaborating with everyone. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any cast work as hard as this one.
TK: We were really passionate and motivated to tell this story. It’s not often deaf actors have the opportunity that we saw in the script, and that’s why we really wanted to grab it, especially with Marlee Matlin there. It was such a blessing. It was just a matter of time. I still have to keep the faith and keep pursuing the craft of acting on my journey.
Of course we had a great director in Sian Heder. She stood up for us, she showed her big heart. In the Rossi family house, which Marlee mentioned earlier, Sian had to set everything up. It was the way that a hearing family would set their furniture up in a house. If you’re hearing, you can just talk back and forth, without looking and making eye contact, and that’s normal for you all.
But for deaf people, we have to make eye contact to communicate. And that is a deaf person’s setup of furniture. Our director realized that and they had to make the set more deaf-friendly — with an environment of sitting opposite each other.
I don’t care about my ears, I care about my eyes. I don’t want to become too exhausted. Right now, I’m sitting opposite the interpreter and I’m comfortable watching her as she’s interpreting, rather than, “Oh, I have to turn my head," “Oh, I didn’t know there’s an interpreter here” — that type of thing.
So they actually had to reframe the entire shoot with all the cameras to fit that cultural sensitivity and Sian’s respect for the culture was beautiful.
MM: When we walked in the house for the first time, we screamed “This isn’t right! This isn’t the way we set up the furniture.” They were like “What did we do wrong?” So we had to school them to set up the house for deaf people. They learned fast, though.
Q: You both bring up the levels of performance seen this year. There’s the scene where you’re out in the truck with Emilia, and Frank asks Ruby to sing for him. there’s so much going on in Frank’s face in his reaction. The acting there is so subtle and beautiful. You’re acting with your hands on her throat and Frank can hear it and then with your face and all the extraordinary reactions going on.
MM: Tell them what happened that night.
TK: Once I read that scene in the script, I knew it was one of the freshest moments that we had between father and daughter. I knew that when the schedule was getting closer and closer, I had that in the back of my mind.
I had to keep in mind that Ruby was singing as the family’s watching her recital. We’re seeing the emotional reactions of hearing audience members to the music. So if I saw someone as Frank Rossi looking at their phone or falling asleep during the recital, it would have meant that Ruby sucked at singing, and I’d have been embarrassed as a father.
But that was not the case. All of these hearing people were overflowing with emotion and joy which impacted Frank and led to the next scene. So as we sit next to each other -- maybe just a foot apart, on the back of the flatbed pickup truck -- Frank asks Ruby to sing. He gets even closer and still couldn’t hear her, even with that proximity. But he saw the emotion in her face.
What Frank saw was different facial expressions than he was used to seeing when Ruby was normally speaking. He was fascinated by the expressions in her face, which led Frank to want to know what her singing feels like. In the vocal cords it was a bit softer, so Frank asks her to increase the volume. He tries to disconnect from everything else and to really understand his daughter’s passion with his eyes closed.
When the vibration stops, he recognizes that has to look at himself and know that he’s missing something. He had forgotten about this part of life. He’d taken something about his daughter for granted, wanting her to help with his business and ignoring her talent. Suddenly that really strikes Frank. He realizes he’s been a bit selfish and now struggles to let go of his daughter.
it’s an extremely tough moment for him. Bit when there was eye contact -- no dialogue and no signs -- I let the energy of the eyes speak for themselves. I can let you as an audience make your own interpretation and feel those emotions. So of course, it was such a beautiful moment.
MM: That night we only had an hour left to shoot the scene and it was really hectic. The director decided to tell the DP to shoot with two cameras at once. The DP wasn’t a fan of shooting that way, at night in particular, without any lights: just to shoot two cameras at one time. They had only an hour to shoot it before needing to pull the plug on the scene. And they did it.
TK: When I read this script, there was a line in there that after Ruby finishes singing, Frank says “Thank you.” My gut feeling was that, deep down in deaf culture, we have emotional strength in our facial expressions. That sign “thank you” is more like spoon-feeding an audience who probably already know that sign.
I wanted to throw that thank you aside and focus on feeling those emotions. Instead, I kiss her on the forehead, which is equal to “thank you” – and I hope you’re smart enough to recognize that. Less is more, is what I believe.
Q: Marlee, the scene where Jackie goes to Ruby’s bedroom and there’s that conversation about what she was hoping for when Ruby was born, a sort of mother-and-daughter connection. Talk to us about what that scene meant to you, and about getting the scene right with Emilia.
MM: That’s probably the scene that, when I first read the script, I had no idea what it was like as Marlee to be able to talk to my daughter about that. For me, it meant that I had to imagine and delve into Jackie’s frame of mind. What was it that she felt? What was it that she was afraid of? What was it in her background that colored who she was and made her so terrified?
You have to understand, all four of my kids are hearing. None of my kids, to my knowledge, have ever asked me if I had wished that they were born deaf. They might have thought of it, but they never actually vocalized it to me.
So I had to jump into Jackie to express what was written on the page. I had to sit and talk with Sian: what was it that Jackie wanted to do? She said, “What do you think Jackie needs to feel?” All the things that actors do when they are getting into a character.
Emilia Jones, blooming as she is as an actress, allowed me to just do it. Any fear I might feel as an actor went out the window because of her: I just went with the scene. It’s easy if you experienced it, but Jackie struggled with that. I just had to trust myself in the end.
The other scene that I should point to is where we’re at breakfast and she says, “I want to be a singer.” And I say, “Oh? A singer? Fame - for selfish reasons.” That’s very early in the script: “for selfish reasons”. She says “Well, if we were blind, would you want to be a painter?” I just cringed when I read that. No, how dare Jackie say that. At the same time, that’s Jackie Rossi’s perception. Clearly, her journey took her to that place. But you could see at the end that she had transformed. Obviously.
TK: I’d like to add that it was fascinating for me to watch Jackie as a mother come in with that red dress to give to her daughter. For me as a deaf person, that red is extremely strong for my eyes. It actually makes me think that Jackie cares for her daughter as a mother. That line about how would you feel if I was born deaf? Or did you want me to be born deaf? The red evaporates that.
The focus of the camera approaches the conversation closer and closer, and it builds in intensity. It’s such a beautiful moment, from my perspective, when I see the angles that the camera is moving in, without words. Actually, that’s one of my favorite scenes, too.
The camera work, also the sound work, is extraordinary. It’s lots of space but the sounds that go along with ASL and how beautiful those are as well. So in that aspect, the film is just extraordinary.
Q: Actors build up backstories for their characters. Did you work on something that Jackie and Frank had -- an aspect of their relationship that we didn’t hear about? We see them fight, we see them in love with each other, in all sorts of parenting situations and all sorts of husband-and-wife situations. As you were building the characters, was there something that you found as connecting points, grace notes, that you had in the performances that maybe never shows?
MM: I envisioned Jackie caring for her family. We know she grew up where she was the only deaf person in her family. Mainly what I tried to do was envision what her parents did with her, and the fact that the only thing they told her was she was pretty. It was something that they attempted to do to make her feel good. You know, “you’re pretty” “you’re pretty” “you’re pretty” – and thinking that was enough, that was love.
TK: She’s still beautiful, by the way.
MM: I used that as an imprint on Jackie, knowing that there was not a lot of communication having to do with her family’s love. So maybe she went to a school for the deaf, and maybe she went home on weekends and lived at the school on weekdays. But her home was the school because that was her world. That’s where she was able to communicate with deaf friends and deaf teachers. It’s where she felt she belonged.
Naturally, she finished school, and then maybe [to TK] we might have met, maybe at a bowling tournament, and fell in love….
TK: And when she bent over to pick up the bowling ball [laughter].
MM: Anyway, that’s why there’s this idea of having hearing children imprinted on Jackie. Because she didn’t want to disappoint the hearing child or the people around her who would judge her as a deaf mom. But again, as you saw in the journey, she finally got rid of that feeling.
Q: How would you answer Troy?
TK: After our director offered me the role, she said, “Don’t shave or cut your hair for five months.” She sent me photos of fishing boats. There was a fishing captain named Paul Lee. I saw how they would chop up the fish and so on. That led to the future.
Sian told me that the character Frank was a dropout who never finished high school. The reason why was because he was running his father’s fishing business, and his father passed away. Frank had to keep it going for quite a while. That’s how he and the business survived, even when they were struggling.
So I looked up to Frank. I thought Frank was a hero. He was a hard-working man who wanted to protect his family, and was frustrated with those ignorant hearing people out there. He had to live with that. So I’m tired of being patient with hearing people. I want to turn the tables. Can you be patient with us?
Even while electronic media gushes over the impact of… Electronic Media, millions of people over the world still love an antiquated notion called books. And though many mainstream book publishers have been consolidated into a few major imprints, there are still hundreds of small publishers and publishing services out there. One recently came to my attention as I researched publishing options for a friend’s memoir. I decided to transform my discussion into a conversation with Red Penguin Books and Web Solutions’ publisher Stephanie Larkin, whose latest book, "Shared Wisdom," will be out at the beginning of March, 2022.
As its founder and president, Larkin has led the company for over 15 years, working with books of all genres and helping people to “unleash their inner author” through book publishing. She publishes over 100 books a year of all types and genres. They range from business to fiction, memoirs to mysteries, children’s books, textbooks, and more. The authors hail from six different continents around the world, along with most of the United States.
Larkin has also authored “Write That Book!”, “365 Reasons to Celebrate!” and “Score with Social Media,” in addition to many ghostwritten publications. She speaks before groups such as professional organizations and chambers, artists and authors on topics ranging from small business strategies to leveraging the “power of the pen.”
In addition to spearheading Red Penguin Classes — the educational wing of Red Penguin Books which offers online classes in writing and book marketing — Larkin teaches courses. Her topics range from small business management to sales and advertising in the Marketing Department at Nassau Community College, where she works with future entrepreneurs and marketing professionals.
She also hosts “The Author Corner” — a chance to meet authors you want to read — airing on Verizon, Optimum and QPTV. These dialogues are also featured on “Between the Covers,” a web show for readers, writers and lovers of books as well as on the “Once and Future Authors” podcast. Stephanie will be hosting a new show, sponsored by the Ahmedabad Book Club in India, which will feature writers and book lovers from around the globe. It will be released this spring.
Q: You run a company that does print-on-demand publishing but it's more than just that...
SL: I run an independent small press publishing company. We publish about 120 titles annually in print, digital and audiobook formats. Yes, authors who are not interested in the added expense of bulk printing generally opt for print-on-demand. Nowadays, the quality of the two is nearly indistinguishable, as is the price differential, so it makes sense to set up books for POD rather than print thousands in advance and have the added expense/issue of fulfilling orders.
Q: How do you find your clients?
SL: My clients find me. Most come through referrals, or through one of our anthologies, literary journals, media events, or other exposure to our company. We’re fortunate to have quite a bit of public/social exposure.
If the question is "what type of clients do we attract" -- well, we publish everything from children's books to paranormal romance, educational books to personal memoirs. Some people come to us for business-type books that will help increase their exposure and credibility in a particular field. Others have a wonderful trilogy of fiction books. Still others have a family history or passion project. We publish all sorts of books.
Q: How do you determine your price points?
SL: We have various packages and pricing models, depending on a number of factors, most especially the condition of the manuscript. Some authors have a finished manuscript, others are seeking guidance in working on their manuscript, and still others come to us to ghostwrite their book — thus at very different price points. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of small businesses, professionals and organizations, as well as authors on their websites and ebooks.
Q: Where did the name come from?
SL: We were originally a web company — Red Penguin Web Solutions, and our motto was "STAND OUT with Red Penguin!" Our first logo/website looked like an iceberg filled with penguins, and just one of them was red. That one stood out!
I had a vision — when forming the company — of a lot of things that looked the same, but where one stood out from the rest. I considered the Crimson Cow, the Lavender leaf, etc. — but I liked the color red (it is a bold, powerful color.) Penguins were "in" (think "Happy Feet"!) and I was broke, so it was easy for me to print in black and white, then take a red sharpie and simply color one penguin red. That's how we got the name!
On May 21, 2007, Red Penguin Web Solutions was incorporated. I started the company out of a desire to assist small businesses, professionals and organizations with their websites, digital marketing, etc. There is a crazy sordid story involving embezzlement and intrigue that led to this decision but that’s a tale for another day!
Over time, I was doing a lot more work for writers and the National Writer's Union. It was at a conference of the National Writers Union where I was a speaker that I had an epiphany moment — watching the speaker before me, I suddenly realized "I should do that! I should offer book publication to our clients, since I so often send them away to fend for themselves after I’ve worked on their ebooks, websites, etc."
Thus, Red Penguin Books was conceived in 2017. Our first publications were launched on December 31, 2017. There’s a lovely story about how I decided which book would be published first -- perhaps for another interview someday! I’m glad to say that our publishing division has grown exponentially each year.
We’re now an independent hybrid press with several different imprints, publishing over 100 books each year. Our first book was my beloved step-father's memoir which was handwritten and passed down to me. We published several books by Alberto Zuppi, an international lawyer responsible for extraditing Nazi war criminals and former Minister of Justice of Argentina.
We’ve published many books whose proceeds go to various non-profits, including mental health issues, military families, suicide prevention, drunk driving prevention, sexual assault, etc.
In fact we’ve published works from authors around the world and six different continents (everything but Antarctica) and have won dozens of book awards and Amazon #1 New releases among our authors each year. I’ve had multiple awards for my cable television shows "The Author Corner" and "Technically Speaking". Most of all, I feel pride and joy from helping people change their lives and make their dreams come true through their publication.
Q: As to publishing vs self-publishing? SL: Technically, self-publishing does not involve a publisher. The author does the editing, formatting, cover design, etc., and then "publishes" the book themselves. They use either a self-publishing portal (like Amazon/KDP - formerly known as Create Space), Book Baby, etc. A publisher does much the same thing but since there actually is a publisher, the person isn't "self-publishing.” I could equate it to hiring a contractor to do your kitchen, or doing it yourself. In both cases, you end up with a kitchen. It’s a matter of who does what (plus, since the contractor presumably knows their stuff, you'll end up with a better kitchen!) The contractor (like a publisher) probably doesn't accept all jobs — only those he wants to do. We have our books available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo (which, along with being the largest retailer in Canada also feeds into WalMart.) Also IngramSpark (which feeds into Baker & Taylor, the database/book repository for retail book stores and libraries) plus a host of smaller establishments.
In addition, we have our books available for wholesale/bulk printing on order. A number of these books go to schools, corporate shipments, etc. While in my view, self-publishing is the opposite of publishing, I guess the same people who think that they want to be self-published in actuality want to come to me (or another small press publisher) to do all of the work, get the distribution, handle the marketing, etc. Clients who say they want to be "self-published" probably don't want that at all since they haven't the foggiest idea what to do. I generally advise writers that, if they haven’t self-published before, they’re probably looking at about 100+ hours of work — after the book is written. My honest answer to the question "Why do so many people want to self-publish?" is "Do they really know what they are getting into?" But if the question is really, "Why do so many people want to BE published?" -- well, that is so true! Everywhere I go, people want to write books. I can't walk into a room without meeting people like that.
Q: And as to your life outside of Red Penguin...
SL: Before Red Penguin (heck, before the internet!) I was a musician and a high school music teacher. I’m still a musician. I play the piano, organ, guitar, violin, flute, sing, compose, direct choirs, etc.
I also love to travel and have been to all 50 states and 23 countries so far (adding 6 more this summer.) I’ve been married for 25 years and am the mother of three amazing kids -- a 24-year-old daughter who is an Air Force Intel officer, a 22-year-old son who runs our global and non-profit divisions and just returned from saving elephants in Sri Lanka, and an 18-year-old son about to graduate from high school. (My kids travel far more than I do!) I also love animals, nature, wineries, theater, good food and, of course, books!
For everything Red Penguin go to:
Facebook @RedPenguinBooks and @theredpenguincollection
Instagram @redpenguinbooks_ and @theredpenguincollection
Youtube Channel, Red Penguin BooksRedPenguinBooks.comBetweenTheCoversTV.comTheAuthorCorner.comRedPenguinProductions.com
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