Thursday, 17 August 2017

Interview: Tami Stronach, The Childlike Empress in NeverEnding Story

Have you ever wondered what happened to Tami Stronach, the Childlike Empress in Neverending Story? Well, wonder no more…

NeverEnding Story banner

In the summer of 1984, the most incredible event occurred that was to change the face of film forever: Neverending Story was released. Perhaps that is a little dramatic but to 11-year-old me it was a game-changer and I loved everything from the story to the soundtrack to Falkor the Luck Dragon and of course, Atreyu and The Childlike Empress. Naturally, we bought the video as soon as it was released on Betamax and later this was replaced by DVD. I’ve watched it more times than I can remember and throughout the years I’ve often wondered what happened to the young child actors that performed in the film (and where is Falkor these days!?)

I’m delighted to present this interview with Tami Stronach. Read on to find out where Tami is these days and the works she is doing in both theatre and dance.

Tami, you’re idolized by girls young and old. How does it felt to be playing role model to so many young girls?

I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to play the role of the Childlike Empress. I love that this story redefines how we normally think of courage and strength. The character is a small girl who is very sick--she is bedridden. So her power doesn’t come from brawn, she doesn’t smash down doors-- it comes from being wise, from being still, from being compassionate and patient. I think it’s really important to remind young girls that they can have a really powerful impact on the world by acting on their empathy and using their intelligence. Now…. I love a fantastic female ninja warrior as much as anyone, and it is really satisfying to win with muscle too sometimes against the baddies, but I think there is real value in expanding the notion of what being strong is to include characteristics that our culture should value more highly. Confident amazing little girls who trust their hearts, play the long game and win through love...I hope that what the Empress models.

Tami Stronach as the Childlike Empress in NeverEnding Story

Was The Never-Ending Story the first role in which you were able to play such a strong, positive female role? Had you acted before the film?

I did not act in a film before. I was doing theater and dance...I played a cat, a wizard, a witch, an English street urchin, and Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. Hmm...seems like a lot of animal roles... and then the magical category of witches, wizards and an Empress...I’ve always really enjoyed playing parts where I can step outside of my ordinary life and transform.

Did you get the role through an audition process?

Yes...three auditions--SF then LA and a final one in Germany.

How was Wolfgang Peterson to work with? Was he good with the kids?

He didn’t really treat us like kids. He treated us as professional actors who had an important job to do. I loved that about him.

Tami Stronach in NeverEnding Story

Was there any reason you didn’t appear in the sequels?

I didn’t sign on for the sequels because my parents were really wary of me getting chewed up by the Hollywood machine, which can be really hard on kids. We’ve heard a lot of stories from 80s child actors about some of the bad things that could happen in the industry. That was real, and we saw glimpses of that, and felt it was better I steer clear. I don’t regret that. I love that they wanted me to grow up with a good foundation.

What keeps you busy – besides answering fan mail!- these days?

I run two companies Paper Canoe Company, an entertainment company, and Tami Stronach Dance in addition to teaching choreography to undergraduates and being a mom. Paper Canoe has developed two theater projects in New York, and an album called Beanstalk Jack in the last two years. We just finished a music video from one of the songs on “Beanstalk Jack,” which is something we’ll be doing more of. So for Paper Canoe Company some music concerts in NYC in the fall, and several projects in development based on our theatrical work, podcasts, videos, and, I hope soon, some film projects. And, I’ve got a couple of contemporary dance concerts on the calendar for the end of the year as well with Tami Stronach Dance.

Why is it important to you that you largely stick to family/children’s entertainment?

You know, we started Paper Canoe Company simply because many of our favorite stories—whether they are movies, books, or some other kind of medium—are ones that connect with people of all ages. As a parent, I want to be able to enjoy a story with my kid. This is a really magical time watching my daughter grow up and so right now this is what I am gravitating to. I think many of the most amazing stories like ET, or Star Wars, or Harry Potter, and of course The Neverending Story  - are just as powerful for the adults as they are for kids. That’s when you have a great story. A big story. A deep and sticky story.

I’m not knocking stuff that is just for grown ups—as an actor, I’d love to be in some edgy mystery series or an intense sci-fi thriller—as a choreographer the dance theater pieces I make are not geared for children and that content can be edgier--but Paper Canoe Company projects we want to be the kind of thing you watch together, or listen to together, a hundred times in your living room or on a family road trip. That’s why it’s called Paper Canoe. We want you to use your imagination, climb aboard, and float downstream with us.

Tami Stronach 2017

To keep up with Tami:

Twitter: @neverendingtami  | Facebook: @papercanoecompany  | YouTube: Paper Canoe Channel

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Friday, 28 July 2017

New Music Friday: Team New Band - B.O.Y.S EP

Team New Band

A long, long time ago Pixies broke up and my heart broke into a million tiny little pieces. I didn't think I'd ever recover and spent the next couple of years trying to find someone, anyone that would fill the gap. Sure, there was Breeders, Belly and Nirvana but ultimately nothing filled that gaping hole in my soul and my tastes diverged into something completely different in the form of Cranes.

Fast forward a couple of years and I'm listening to "Freaks" by Team New Band. This is what I was looking for back then, this is exactly what I wanted to hear and it's taken this long to find it.

Don't let me mislead you though - Team New Band are ridiculously talented and absolutely original and certainly not a carbon copy of any band I've encountered before.

About

Hailing from Brighton, Team New Band boast not one but two lead vocalists, both with distinctive, unique voices. The band is made up of Maddy Jones on lead vocals, Mark Docherty on vocals and guitar, Tariq Khawaja on guitar and backing vocals, Jack Hall on bass and Luis Bezzi on drums (and one liners).

Listening to tracks like "Freaks" and "B.O.Y.S", which start off relatively sane before descending into multiple layers of guitar-drenched mayhem, it is not difficult to see why TNB are gaining a reputation for their energetic live shows and what they understatedly refer to as their "lively stage personas". I reckon they kill in on stage.

Influenced by The Pixies, The Talking Heads, The B52s, The Dead Weather "and basically else anything Jack White does", TNB like to "write for the outsider, those who feel they don't belong or have a voice in the mainstream". Mark Docherty explains that having two lead vocalists opens up a lot of options for them and their next releases will focus on couples and the things they go through together. If you're hoping for a sequence of power ballads, look elsewhere. Mark warns that it is far more fun to sing about the things that go wrong in relationships.

The EP

The brilliant news is that Team New Band have just released their brand new EP B.O.Y.S and all three tracks from the EP will be released as singles. The first single is the eponymous "B.O.Y.S" and you can watch the video for that below which was shot and directed by the band's own Tariq Khawaja. Be warned, there is some decidedly homicidal behaviour in there.

Mark Docherty has teased possible videos for "You Don't Know" and "Hate My Lover" too and I seriously hope that happens. The band obviously has a lot of fun making them and they are positively unhinged. All three tracks on the EP are banging and I do hope that it won't be a long wait before TNB release a full length album.

Talking about fun, I asked Mark about their photoshoot for the album because while colourful, it looked pretty cold. He shed some light on that:

"The photoshoot was very cold, we were doing a gig in Islington in the evening and while we put a lot of effort into planning our outfits, we didn't put much thought into keeping ourselves warm! Highlights include finding "Neil" our shopping trolley which helped us carry the gear and being told to clear off taking pictures in front of an angry lady's house... which backed onto a canal. We must've looked like a gang or something. Our very talented photographer was Ajit Dutta from Raid Studios, he's such a legend behind the lens"

B.O.Y.S is available to buy using the links below.

Team New Band

RIYL

Recommended if you like: The Hives, Buzzcocks and The Subways

Watch

Listen

Buy

Amazon | Google Play | iTunes

Links

Twitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | YouTube

Image Credits © Ajit Dutta from Raid Studios

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Author Jack Croxall on Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

I love post-apocalyptic fiction, especially those books aimed at the young adult market. Wye is one of the best post-apocalyptic books I’ve ever read and I gave it a glowing five-star review last year. Naturally I was thrilled when Wye author Jack Croxall offered to write a guest post on his love of post-apocalyptic fiction.


Why I Love Post-Apocalyptic Fiction – Jack Croxall

Jack Croxall Landscape Photo

Our world will end. This is not conjecture, this is a stark and unavoidable fact. Unless we can master interstellar space travel, the sun’s evolution into a planet-engulfing red giant will ultimately spell the end for humanity. Fortunately, it’s a few billion years before we have to worry about that. Unfortunately, there are several other things – asteroid strikes, catastrophic climate change, pandemics – which could easily finish us off long before the sun boils our planet alive.

When humanity begins to fall, it’s easy to imagine that civilisation’s rules will go out of the window. Resources will be limited, and those who are left will have to tussle against one another just to ensure survival from one day to the next. In a world like that, any person would surely show their true colours. This is why I love post-apocalyptic fiction so much. There is no pretence, a post-apocalyptic protagonist will act true to who and what they are. As a reader, this makes it easy to connect with them and their plight.

Knowing that civilisation will end (but not how) also generates lots of wonderful opportunities for storytelling. So many excellent novels have imagined the end in different ways, The Road, Runners and The Walking Dead to name just a few. For both reader and writer, it’s kind of morbidly exciting to imagine how you would act if you ever found yourself in a particular book’s situation – to consider just who YOU really are.

It’s also kind of refreshing. We were born into a society full of rules, rules we mostly weren’t around to help draw up. It’s interesting to imagine a world where all of that is reset. Of course, we First World-ers were also born into a society of medicine, education, technology and (relative) justice. It’s fascinating to wonder whether we would have it in us to survive radically different circumstances. Would we even want to survive them?

Wye (Jack Croxall) Cover

Jack Croxall is an author/scriptwriter living in Nottinghamshire. You can view his post-apocalyptic novel Wye and his other books by clicking here.

Website: Jack Croxall | Twitter: @JackCroxall

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Interview: Ryan Bellgardt, director of Gremlin (2017)

Gremlin (2017) shotgun scene

The fabulously fun new horror romp Gremlin is out this July from Uncork’d Entertainment. We caught up with director and writer Ryan Bellgardt on NBA aspirations, the CGI effects for Gremlin and his new project The Jurassic Games.

Where do you hail from, sir?

I'm from Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb just north of Oklahoma City.

Did you grow up with supportive parents – ones who encouraged your journey into filmmaking?

Yes they were always very supportive, but I really didn't start making movies until I was out of the house. I grew up wanting to be an NBA basketball player and they supported that even though they must have known I never had a chance to make the NBA! They are both very creative people and encouraged creativity. I never felt like me making movies instead of becoming a lawyer would disappoint them or anything like that.

What was your first project?

My first project on a bigger scale was a pilot for a TV series for children that I had written called Big Magic Book.

How did it go?

I had never done anything like that before and it was film school for me. It was a puppet show in the vein of Mister Rogers. I spent a year working on it and it eventually landed me in the office of the Disney Channel, pitching the show to them. I was really hooked after that. You can see and hear little parts of it in Gremlin. It's the show that Charlie is watching.

Did you do anything different on the new film, Gremlin, from what you did on that first one?

We did a lot of things differently. For one, I wanted to tighten the story and make a shorter, more concise movie. I also wanted to change the tone from goofy and campy (Army of Frankensteins) to dark and desperate. We tried to make a movie that builds tension and suspense. Those are all things I really wanted to see if we could pull off.

Did you use the same crew?

For the most part, yes. Producer/Director of Photography Josh McKamie and Prodicer/Editor Andy Swanson are the core members of the team and Producer Chris Hoyt's contributions really became even more invaluable during Gremlin. Nate Bright and Jenna Green were also back on special effects makeup and they did an amazing job. Also, returning are Composer David S. Hamilton and Sound Designer Ando Johnson. We added Stephanie Roach, our creature animator, to animate the CGI Gremlin. We could not have finished the movie without her amazing work. I really try to surround myself with amazing people and then stick with them. We're growing as filmmakers together and that's exciting.

What about distribution? Same distributor?

Scream Factory released Army of Frankensteins in the US and Gremlin will be released domestically by Uncork'd Entertainment.

You’ve clearly got a background in special effects, by the looks of the film. How was the ‘Gremlin’ created?

We acquired the Gremlin creature model from a CG artist who told us that the model was a reject concept for the remake of the "The Thing". We thought that was very awesome and went right to work rigging it up for animation. Stephanie animated about 150 shots of the Gremlin running around and then I rendered the scenes out of Maya and composited the shots in After Effects.

I've been doing CGI work as a hobby for about 10 years and finally decided I had enough skill to try to tackle a movie. It was pretty exhausting, taking about 6 months for Stephanie and I to complete all the shots for the movie.

How long ago did the journey begin for you on the movie?

I wrote the script in January 2016.

Did it take long to write the script?

I spent maybe a month in the notecard and outline phase and then wrote the first draft of the screenplay really quickly. I remember setting a goal of 10 pages a day for 10 days. I'm pretty sure I hit that.

Once the first draft was complete, I consulted our sales agent (Galen Christy with High Octane Pictures) and we worked together to polish it up and make it attractive as possible to distributors.

Adam Hampton in Gremlin (2017)

Were the cast attached from the outset?

The part of Adam Thatcher was written for my friend and great Writer/Director/Actor Adam Hampton. In retrospect, I maybe should have named him differently because nobody knew if I was talking about him or his character half the time!

How much have those positive reviews helped the film?

I'm not sure yet to be honest, but it's always nice to hear good feedback on your work. What matters to me is that we are able to use what we've learned making these movies and do it better the next time.

Are you working on anything new?

Yes we are! We just finished shooting our third feature film, The Jurassic Games. It's dinosaurs meets death row inmates in a fight to the death!

Gremlin (2017) poster

Emmy Award winning director, Ryan Bellgardt’s (Army of Frankenstein) highly anticipated creature feature Gremlin hits VOD July 11 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Godzilla meets The Ring in a thrilling, uniquely-scripted horror jaunt that boasts amazing computer-generated effects and from some of the best in the game.


Adam receives a mysterious box from a relative containing a creature that will kill everyone he cares about. The only way to be rid of the curse is to give the box to someone he loves. As the ominous timer on the box counts down to its end, he can only imagine the horrors that await. Does he give the box away to save his family, or unleash a monster upon humanity? He can’t destroy it. He can’t escape it. He can only give it to someone he loves…

Adam Hampton, Kristy K. Boone, Catcher Stair, Katie Burgess, Mike Waugh and Caleb Milby star in Gremlin, available everywhere on digital 7/11.

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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