CAT'S CORNER ARTICLE: HOW TO FORM
A RELATIONSHIP WITH A TOTAL STRANGER
DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS UP AND COMING FILMMAKER!
RICH HENKELS ACTOR, ROLE-MODEL, MENTOR
Welcome to the SPRING issue of Split/Screen Magazine! We made it! Back by popular demand we bring you independent artists from around the world. Filmmakers, musicians, artists, singers, dancers and photographers are only some of the beautiful talent you will be witnessing throughout these pages. With the independent artist always top-of-mind, we strive to assist in bringing new and unknown talent to light. In addition, we also pride ourselves on assisting small independent businesses at home and abroad. With the recent start-up of Diop productions - Atlanta, we'll be bringing you new artists straight from the ATL. I'm really excited just writing about it! Split/Screen Magazine will continue to be created as a place to spotlight those in the entertainment industry who would otherwise be passed over. We are artists. We are proud... We are Split/ Screen Magazine. Don't work for an Empire, Build One. Carona Davis Diop Editor - in - Chief
THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF A note from Carona Davis-Diop, Editor-N-Chief of Split/Screen Magazine.
CAT'S CORNER Actor and Producer Catherine Parish Article - How to form a relationship with a complete stranger...
ECLUSIVE: AWARD-WINNING INDIE FILMMAKER - TONI FERNANDEZ - INTERVIEW Multiple award winning indie artist Toni Fernandez talks filmmaking and learning the trade.
ACTOR MICHAEL HAWKINS - INTERVIEW. Michael Hawkins dishes on the ins and outs of acting.
PAGE 12 INDIE AUTHOR SHERRY GENGA - INTERVIEW THE SHATTERED OAK Sherry talks about her phenomenal book The Shattered Oak and the realities behind it.
MY DAY DON BREAK - INTERVIEW WITH AFRO BEAT ARTIST - BMAN. Music artist BMAN comes to us straight out of Nigeria, presenting the dynamic sounds of Afro-Beat music.
PAGE 18 EXCLUSIVE: RICH HENKELS - ACTOR, MODEL, MENTOR. Actor Rich Henkels takes us into a behind the scenes look into his life as an actor and mentor.
PAGE 21 INTERVIEW: TEKISHA WALTON SCREENWRITER. Tekisha Walton talks about becoming a screenwriter.
INTERVIEW: ACTOR, THOMAS J. O'BRIEN Thomas J. Obrien speaks on acting and staying focused.
INTERVIEW: DANCER - TEACHER - ALEXA VAN DOREN. Dancer Alexa Van Doren guides us through the extraordinary world of dance and teaching.
CAT'S CORNER How to form a relationship with a total stranger... almost all of the time. by catherine valentine parish
Comfortability, one of the most crucial tools to have in an actor’s toolbox. In almost every scenario we walk into, we know we are going to encounter someone new, someone who we have to familiarize ourselves with instantly. Yet, how do we get rid of our fears and gain enjoyment every time we approach a new opportunity? I say enjoyment instead of confidence because, it is true that the more we enjoy a moment, the more we are engulfed in it and the more we will extend ourselves to the individuals sitting across from us. The personality traits of one individual will connect with similar personality traits of another individual, and so on. This is why someone is called a “people person” because, aside from the fact of his/her outgoing personality, they can observe within minutes or even seconds how they can relate to the stranger next to them— they know how to ask the right questions and observe with an unbiased view. They also take a keen interest in the stranger’s life story, which I believe can break down that wall of fear—the fear of instant comfortability with a complete stranger. Listen, observe, and relate to the stranger’s story. Search for something that may connect your story with his. Let's say your first question is off, for example, you think he plays the guitar, but you find out that he is a total tech genius and has zero musical talents, then keep searching and keep digging because you never know if his tech skills can help you with your next website.
Of course, you will not know the stranger from A-Z after that first encounter. But if you find a quality or hobby you share you can begin to build your relationship and see where it takes you. You could just become acquaintances at the end of the day, but at least you broke the ice, learned a new story and, most importantly, acted truthfully as yourself in the moment.
Catherine Valentine Parish has acted in projects such as The Opening and Master's of Ascension. Her work can be found on: https://www.facebook.com/catvalentineparish
FILMMAKER TONI FERNANDEZ by carona davis-diop
Don't miss out on this up and coming filmmaker. She's trailblazing the Indie scene with no apologies.
SS: Tell us a little about Toni, the Awardwinning Filmmaker. Where are you from and why filmmaking? TF: Let’s see… My zodiac sign is Gemini, not on the cusp but right smack in the middle. I am from Boston, Massachusetts, where teams like the New England Patriots, Celtics, Bruins and Boston Red Sox stop at nothing to win. Filmmaking for me is more than writing and more than filming a visual. It’s a telepathic connection to those who are not able to speak the words that we, as filmmakers, at times are bold enough to write with little-to-no consequence. Filmmaking chose me. I was heavily into music up until my sister passed away. When she died my passion for music died as well.
SS: What is the hardest part of being a filmmaker? How did you get past it? TF: I would say the hardest part is casting. When I first started out as an up-andcoming filmmaker I wanted to give everyone an opportunity, even if they weren’t experienced actors. I‘ve casted experienced and inexperienced actors thinking it would balance the scales. At first it seemed to work, however, most of the experienced actors were much older than the the inexperienced actors. Still Got The Juice is marketed more towards a younger audience, our marketing plan was for the younger actors to be front and center. This can easily create conflict amongst actors especially when you spend a lot of time with certain people, SS: Talk to me about why you started writing and how your writing got you to where you are today? TF: My aunt, who passed a little over a year ago, was the one who always felt like writing and filming was my calling. Even before my sister died, she would always tell me that I had a unique way of telling a story through my lyrics. She suggested that I turn my songs into short films but, instead, I started filming other rapper's music videos and received some recognition from the treatments I would create for their videos. Writing and creating the visual became my therapy after my sister's death in 2015. I created Still Got The Juice in 2016. At first, it was something I did to take my mind off of grieving. The more people who saw and heard the stories from each episode, would then encourage me to take it further and that's when I decided to take my project to New York City. In 2017, I met C.R. Capers who is the founder and CEO of the Hip Hop Film Festival in Harlem, New York. She really believed in me and took the time to mentor me into becoming the best I can be in the industry. I could never speak about how I started Still Got The Juice without paying homage to her. Through her festival I met some amazing people who continue to inspire and give me guidance on how to continue being the best I can be.
Once I started going to New York and learning more on how to become a better filmmaker, I began to implement what I learned. Unfortunately, not everyone likes change and where this is a business I had to make the toughest decisions I could ever make. Do I continue to stay with people who don’t understand what it takes to make it in this industry or do I move on with the people who do? With a heavy heart I chose to allow those to leave who wanted to and walked away from those I felt didn’t want it as bad as I wanted it for them. I mean, don't get me wrong, some of these individuals were really good people who I knew for some time; we just were not meant to be on the same journey in regards to business. No matter what, I wished them all nothing but the best on their journeys and after taking some time to reflect on everything that happened, I finally understood that changed behavior starts with the leader. As I changed, I began to see more opportunities come my way on a more consistent basis.
"MY ZODIAC SIGN IS GEMINI, NOT ON THE CUSP BUT RIGHT SMACK IN THE MIDDLE."
SS: Most favorite film and why? TF: My favorite film in the whole world has to be Colombiana with Zoe Saldana. I love mafia movies and to have a young girl who has that much hate that she grows up and becomes a trained killer, murdering all who killed her family? That's my type of film, brilliant writing, action throughout and the acting was nothing less than AMAZING! SS: Favorite film genre(s)? TF: I love Sci-Fi, thrillers and drama. I am not a big fan of horror though. SS: Most exciting time as a filmmaker? TF: My most exciting time was when Still Got The Juice, When I Knew You episode was published on Amazon and when it won Best Screen Play at the Uruvatti International Film Festival. To have your work be recognized not only in the states but Internationally, really touched me in a way I can’t explain. My sister is on the poster. It's my way of honoring her memory. When I won, I felt like I did it for both my aunt and my sister.
"AFTER TAKING SOME TIME TO REFLECT ON EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED, I FINALLY UNDERSTOOD THAT CHANGED BEHAVIOR STARTS WITH THE LEADER. AS I CHANGED, I BEGAN TO SEE MORE OPPORTUNITIES COME MY WAY ON A MORE CONSISTENT BASIS."
SSS: You have created content for a younger generation as well as the older. Tell us more about that. TF: As people, we engage in things we can relate to. Without giving too much away, Still Got The Juice is a fun, hip, yet heartfelt story based in the 90’s where music told a story and fashion defined an era. Then we have Out on a Limb, Just by Chance and Acquired Love that are more for the grown and sexy. S: Any advice to other Indie filmmakers trying to make it? Don’t be afraid of rejection. Rejection not only helps you strive for excellence but it also keeps you humble. Surround yourself with people who are not afraid to tell you to do better, you don’t want a bunch of puppets around you. Plus, you want people who understand that everything takes time and none of us are perfect. Build a team that is receptive to bettering their craft, not just on-set but off-set. A team with knowledge, discipline and drive is a team prepared for success. 7 awards for Best Screenplay 2 awards for honorable mention 8 nominations for best screenplay Toni's work can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/StarScaleFilms https://www.facebook.com/Still-Got-TheJuice-421560568245801/ https://www.instagram.com/toni_filmmaker _fernandez/
BY FAWZIYYAH ABDULLAH
Split/Screen Magazine caught up with the talented gentleman, Michael Hawkins, for a sit- down.
SS: When was the first time you realized you wanted to be an actor?
MH: When I was a kid my favorite tv shows were Martin and Fresh Prince. I always wanted them to be on the same show together. So in 1995 when Bad Boys came out, it was the greatest movie ever to me. Seeing Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in that movie is what really made me want to be an actor. SS: Favorite genre to act in and why?
MH: Action/Adventure. I believe you could do so much in that genre. It really opens itself up to ideas that could push cinema further, in new and exciting ways. SS: What was the hardest/darkest point in your life as an actor? How did you get past it?
"KEEP GOING! TAKE CLASSES. WANT IT. DREAM IT. VISUALIZE IT. ACT ON IT!"
MH: I wouldn't say the hardest or darkest, but I would say that the toughest point as an actor for me, personally, was deciding to pursue an acting career. I let a lot of things get in my way, including myself, and when I finally took that step it was a major point in my personal growth.
SS: Do you see anything else in your future other than acting? MH: Writing and directing. I have soooo many stories that I need to write down, that I believe would be a great fit for a tv series and film. SS: Ultimate goals, where would you like to end up in five years? MH: To be at the Oscars winning those awards. SS: Most exciting time as an actor? MH: Anytime I get a new script and do my best to find the character, while also working with the director to bring the story to life, is very exciting for me. I love what I do. SS: What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on? MH: Escape At Dannemora for Showtime was a great learning experience. Even though I only had a featured background role, seeing Ben Stiller, Benicio Del Toro and the many other talented actors work on set was awesome. Getting a chance to talk a bit with them was so valuable to me. It was the best acting class I've done.
MH: Another favorite was getting a lead role in the short film INFECTED on Amazon Prime. Working with such a young team of hard working and talented filmmakers gave me more fire to keep going. And also doing theater for the first time. It was freedom! SS: Any advice to other actors trying to make it? MH: Keep going! Take classes. Want it. Dream it. Visualize it. Act on it! SS: What was your support system like when you decided to start acting? How did it affect your decision? MH: I had to support and believe in myself first and foremost so that the casting director would believe in me, then, for other people to believe in my work. Everything begins with you. If you don't have faith in yourself then how can you expect others to? SS: Where can we find some of your work? https://www.instagram.com/michaelhawkinsjmc/
SHERRY GENGA BY ANNE SCHMALZIGAN
SS: Why did you want to become an author? SG: I always knew The Shattered Oak, based on a true story, should be told; it was just a matter of when. I knew I wanted to become an author when Safe Goods Publishing approached me to write a book about this sensitive topic. Far too many men and women struggle with domestic violence, depression, nervous breakdowns, suicide and mental illness. The Shattered Oak is written in the first person to allow the reader to experience the behaviors of finding strength and hope. The narrator is a survivor and, in that way, also a role model. But more than just surviving, she is a student of life. She is someone who learns as she moves through life.
It's never about being right (as opposed to wrong) but she focuses in the present moment as much as it's humanly possible and does the next right thing. Her natural survival skills give her the ability to use her strength, determination, and courage that lead her on a path of recovery. SS: How long did it take you to finish The Shattered Oak? SG: Four months of pure dedication typing 2-5 hours a night. I learned not to skip any days of writing to help process my thinking. The more I kept my mind in character the better vision I had. I lived, slept, and thought like my character all day. For me I knew if I thought hard enough like the character, then I could duplicate her Tasmanian mind. I needed to be her voice, her narrator, by placing her words and story on paper. This is a story that needed to be heard! SS: What message are you trying to get out with your work? SG: The word integrity stands out to me because this book is a great resource to encounter and share the learning aspect to the readers. Readers can get into someone else’s experience and see things from a different perspective; they bear witness, from the inside out. I want them to experience the
"I always knew that the shattered oak based on a true story should be told..."
SG: I grew up in a quiet, small hometown. My house was about a 1/2 mile from the road placed on the top of a mountain. Pine and oak trees surrounded my yard. A tire swing dangled from a branch of a massive oak that stood in our center turnaround. The house was hidden from society. What took place in this log cabin is all relevant to this story,
enlightenment in the realm of empathy, and have the opportunity to get outside of him/herself. Also a tangible, valuable lesson that I want to share is to have healthy skepticism when consulting with health care professionals. Always get that second and maybe a third opinion. Beware of assumptions that shut down exploration for explanation, even with experts. SS: Favorite genre to read? SG: I enjoy stories that I can relate to. Reading for me takes me away from my present and brings me into a world of fiction. I thrive on the fact that I can be somewhere else. It takes me away from my present life, allowing me to escape and find a way to perceive like I am entering the book. I want to feel, hear, smell, taste and see my story right in front of me, within my thoughts. This is what I love the most about reading other authors' stories. Reading is a safe place for me to get out of the present moment and be able to step into a world of personal visions. SS: Where are you from (born and raised)? Tell us a little about your upbringing as it relates to your book.
SS: What has your book done for your life as well as the lives of others? SG: For my life it has enriched me by telling a story that others can relate to, knowing I have reached other readers by writing the voice of the narrator’s pain. Within her realm, she found out how to use her survival skills that ultimately found her peace and serenity. I enjoyed writing about the old oak tree which is the main metaphor throughout the story. The narrator’s fondness to this old oak tree became her inner connection, her lifeline, the gateway to her soul. This writing style provides readers a sense of comfort and a message that “You are not alone in this.” This, in essence, has been the most rewarding and fulfilling aspect of my journey as a writer.
As far as touching other lives of my readers I feel my Amazon reviews reveal the truth. I have been blessed to hear from many readers letting me know they use this book as a tool in group therapy sessions. This is the target audience or “The Bullseye” where the narrator's voice belongs. I couldn’t be any more lighthearted in knowing, this is the home for ideal readers. The thought of knowing that her voice helps patients with childhood neglect, domestic violence, depression, nervous breakdowns, suicide, and mental illness is the path of hope for a patient's recovery.
SS: Any advice to other authors trying to make it in, addition to others that grew up in your same situation? SG: My advice for other authors is really just about starting and sitting down and focusing on your journey as a writer. It's all about picking up your pen, or placing your hands on that keyboard, and beginning your imagination. It is all about taking action and the first initiative of taking the first step. Writing is a gift to create magical words that come to life. This only happens when the author takes initiative and places their first words on paper or the computer screen. Only then they will find the journey or path to create imagery for readers to step into. So, my advice is really about taking the first step and just write. The rest will play out with dedication, hard work and marketing.
Find out different ways to As far as others who grew up in the same revamp your plate. situation, my advice is to seek help. There are so many resources available today. Find a group or individual therapist to help sort out your thoughts. If you can’t afford therapy then I recommend journaling your thoughts down and use your written path for recovery. You will be amazed, if you write your thoughts down on paper, to see how you can accomplish your own results. My other advice, when you are feeling down, is to listen to music and the lyrics. Turn the channel to upbeat music creating a sense of happiness, not sappy songs that create sadness. Listen to the comedy channel. I do this all the time on my way to work. I promise you will find a laugh eventually. These small free tools help with our mindsets and uplift our souls, finding the pathway to freedom. SS: Do you plan on writing another novel? SG: Not quite yet. Writing consumed and enchanted me. I was in a room but not really present. My mind was like a hurricane, never stopping by my thoughts. I think to be a great writer you always have to place yourself into the characters' shoes. I feel like it's the same experience how an actor attends on stage. Youdough Make your own need to perform so your audience is present and and pizza sauce! engaged. With that being said, I put my own family and life on hold. I wrote every day to keep my thoughts and motivation active in my head.
PIZZA THE SHATTERED OAK https://www.amazon.com/Shattered-OakOvercoming-Domestic-Misdiagnosisebook/dp/B086BQ6MQH/ref=sr_1_1? dchild=1&keywords=the+shattered+oak&qid =1620683633&sr=8-1
Anne Schmalzigan : https://www.marykay.com/annes : 1-908-334-1444
"MY DAY DON BREAK" ALL THE WAY FROM NIGERIA, WE BRING YOU AFRO-BEAT ARTIST BMAN . BY CARONA DAVIS-DIOP
SS: WHY DID YOU WANT TO
BM: I would say that I’m a street
BECOME A SINGER?
ambassador because my songs are to all of those who believe in the pain
BM: First, I would like to say thank you
and gain of hard work. I’m a preacher
to the management and team of
of peace, love, and togetherness. I
Split/Screen Magazine for the
believe that if you are patient,
opportunity given to me. My Name is
everything you’re fighting for now, you
Onorute Brilliant but as a musician I go
will get in the end. My music and
by the name Bman. The efficacy and
everything you hear me sing about is
audacity of my sounds are traceable to
traceable to everything happening in
the pain I’ve had in life. So many
society at large. My day begins and
individuals who are happy are actually
ends with music.
not truly happy. So many pass through pain yet they appear to be happy, but
SS: WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU
within is a heart filled with darkness
and frustration, like a dying soul that needs help. Music I would say runs
BM: I’m an Afrobeat Star. Afro Beat
through me even if I’m not a perfect
singer nor the best, I never chose music. Music chose me, and so I
SS: HOW DOES MUSIC MAKE YOU
answered. Where communications
fails my music speaks for me. Music has introduced me to a certain realm in
BM: I celebrate every song but not all
life where I can look back from where I
music is welcomed on my desk. When
began up until the stage I am at right
I’m down I listen to music. It also
now, but with a grateful heart of
relaxes me. I feel that music brings
thanksgiving to God for where I am
out the best in me.
and where he is taking me. SS: WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND SS: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A
WHAT HAS SINGING DONE FOR
I have been a singer since I was 5. My
BM: I’m an African, a proud Nigerian
drive for the microphone started way
in a state called Delta State. As a
back when I was in a children's choir. I
"Warri boy" I come from an area
started my professional career in the
where I represent any time any day.
year 2010 and I recorded a few songs which I couldn’t promote. But, from
SS: WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF
2016 up until 2021 it’s been wonderful!
SOME OF YOUR SONGS?
SS: WHAT MESSAGE ARE YOU
BM: Convoy, Ikoyi to Alaba, Work,
TRYING TO GET OUT WITH YOUR
Onise Iyanu ft. Graham D, Dey for me
ft. Debhie and Guarantee.
SS: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER ARTISTS SUCH AS YOURSELF? I’ve not made it yet and this goes to me as well. Keep pushing and never you stop believing in yourself because after the tunnel comes light and no matter how dark the night may seem, we are certain of the dawning of a new day. In Nigeria we call this, "My day don Break." SS: What changes would you like to see in the music industry? We actually aren’t praying for bad days but when it comes you ain’t gonna see those you call brothers and sisters in the industry stand beside you during your days of distress. This is how terrible the entertainment industry seems to me. Too much of jealousy, no love anymore. All of that should change. SS: Where can we find your music? 1) https://audiomack.com/bman-dashocker/song/convoy 2)https://audiomack.com/bman-dashocker/album/man-like-bman-ep-1
HENKELS BY CARONA DAVIS-DIOP
SS: What made you want to become an actor? RH: As far back as grade school, I liked acting and playing out someone's life or story. On top of that, I was never afraid of a microphone or possibly making a fool of myself; so I guess it has always been "in" me. It wasn't until I was in my 50's, on the back end of a financially rewarding but not emotionally satisfying second career, that I decided to jump in with both feet. That's a long story but, suffice to say, I recognized that I can't expect my two sons to shoot for the stars if their memory of me was my complaining about a job! SS: Favorite genre and why? RH: As much as I love comedy and think I could do it well, I'm lured to dramas. Real life offers so many great stories, if we take the time to look at them. Great storytelling, by a great writer, can make the seemingly mundane so memorable. What I've enjoyed about the work I've done is how it's opened the door for emotion of all kinds to surface. Learning how to channel elements of my own life, my own reality, to create authentic portrayals of characters is my forever challenge! SS: What was the hardest/darkest point in your life as an actor? How did you get past it? As much of a cop-out as this may seem, I don't have a dark point in my career as an actor. The reality of this business is that it's hard. You have to fail a zillion times before you can expect success. But, starting so late in my professional life, I've found that easy to accept and I remain tirelessly optimistic and hopeful. At some point, I know I'll not get a role I really want, and will get back to you about that!
Actor, Educator and Mentor, Rich Henkels
SS: How far do you want to take your acting? What's your primary goal? RH: As this career opens up before me, I am exploring a lot of possibilities. The truth? I don't think the actor that says, "I'll try anything," positions themselves to succeed as much as the actor that has a laser focus on a specific goal, whether it is a role type, a specific TV show, a type of film or acclaimed stage actor. Thus, it is my "unproven opinion" that whatever success I achieve will come from a focus on two things: 1) my training and skill as an actor, and 2) my immediate goal of being a prominent cast member for a film that debuts and makes some noise at the Cannes or Sundance Film Festivals.
"IT WASN'T UNTIL I WAS IN MY 50'S, ON THE BACK END OF A FINANCIALLY REWARDING BUT NOT EMOTIONALLY SATISFYING SECOND CAREER, THAT I DECIDED TO JUMP IN WITH BOTH FEET."
"MAKE THE PERSONAL DECISION TO ACCEPT OTHERS, EMBRACE THEIR INSIGHT AND THE GIFTS THEY BRING TO A SET OR PROJECT AND EMPOWER OTHERS THAT SAME WAY YOU WANT THEM TO EMPOWER YOU!" SS: What does acting do for your personal being? RH: I love acting. When I do it right, I know I am channeling something inside me to make my character authentic and believable. I ALWAYS feel great after a day on set or following an audition when I KNOW I was immersed in what I was doing, and gave every other actor on the set my best effort. The truly great actors and performers bring out the best in others. I like to think that is something to aspire to. SS: Where are you from? What affect has acting had on your life overall? RH: I live in Philly, but I will always claim Salt Lake City, UT, as my home. It was high school drama teacher Rick Rasmussen that first really fueled my interest in acting and played a greater role than he would ever know in building my confidence overall. This being my third career, it has afforded me a chance to pursue something for passion as opposed to anything else. Future success, that's what I hope affects my life and being overall. Hey, I'm just getting started! SS: What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on? RH: While every project ends up meaning something specific to me, I'll touch on a few that stand out for very different reasons. 1- In 2017, trying to get my feet wet in the TV scene in NY, I decided to do some background work. I found myself on the set of Homeland four times. On successive February weekends, I had great conversations with one of the stars of that show, Mandy Patinkin. Crazy how it fell that way, but what stood out most was the fact that he and I never talked about acting or the show, but rather shared stories about our families and, specifically, our fathers, who had World War II European Theatre experience in common. A great guy, he now has a copy of the book my father wrote about that very experience
Actor, Educator and Mentor, Rich Henkels
"... ACTING. WHEN I DO IT RIGHT, I KNOW I AM CHANNELING SOMETHING INSIDE ME TO MAKE MY CHARACTER AUTHENTIC AND BELIEVABLE." 2- My first experience in the indie film world was in a supernatural thriller by the name of The Opening. I know it was my look and not my experience that landed me a role as the devil's brother. What makes this special was not just that it was a first but that I discovered just how diverse a cast and crew can be. I met wonderful people that have taken a personal interest in each other's careers and progress. A zillion things stand out about that experience. 3- In the Spring of 2017 I was cast for the show of Love Connection with Andy Cohen. A reincarnation of the old 80's show, hosted by Chuck Woolery. Love Connection gave me insight into the network production world. One of three suitors for Real Housewives of New York star Ramona Singers, I found myself ridiculously comfortable on set, which told me something about myself. On the one hand, you feel like a rock star on the set of such a spectacle. On the other, you realize how luck, preparation and a willingness to try something new are essential components to success. It was total fun and, of course, something most people ask me about.
SS: Advice to other actors trying to make it? RH: First of all, don't take yourself too seriously! I mean, everybody has dreams and ambitions, yours just happens to be acting. Embrace the motivation that is unique to your dream and run with it; but don't think it separates you from anyone else. We are all in the same boat here. I learned that through conversations with Kevin Bacon, Thaao Penghlis and other successful actors we've talked to during my sessions with Actors' Think Tank. Never see or present yourself as an example to follow, rather, share your experience freely and openly and let others decide whether it fits them. Successful actors seem to embrace challenge, demand the best from themselves, and prepare with a vengeance! Life balance, too, is essential! SS: What changes would you like to see in the industry concerning diversity and inclusion? RH: I've been fortunate to be on sets that reflected the industry's natural embrace of diversity, so I am not really the best person to ask about this topic. But I can add this thought to it; accepting others is a personal choice, not just an industry edict. Make the personal decision to accept others, embrace their insight and the gifts they bring to a set or project and empower others that same way you want them to empower you! SS: You mentioned in a prior interview that “Disappointment is the fire hose of life.” Explain.
RH: No matter what you've accomplished, another failure is right around the corner. That is just the way life is. We all get disappointed and, in those moments, our hopes, dreams and desires can be doused. I see that moment as the great equalizer and an experience we all need to embrace, as it offers a chance to reconsider who we are, what we are doing and create a new path forward! SS: You find the time to teach, act, mentor and assist others even with a busy schedule of your own. Why is this? RH: Every single great and/or valuable experience in my life is the result of an interaction with others. Many years ago, during what I thought was a personal crisis of sorts, my parents gave me advice I've since embraced fully: if you spend more time focusing on others and doing what you can to support them the more fulfilled and successful you'll become. First of all, it is liberating to seek happiness or contentment through someone else's success, achievement or happiness. Secondly, you never know what doors will open or what findings will arise as the result of "putting someone else first." I really don't do anything special, I just share what I have with those who ask, or offer help that can be accepted or declined. It's the way my parents have lived their lives and I can only hope to impact people the way that they have! Actor Rich Henkels work can be found at: www.richhenkels.actor www.actorsthinktank.org Twitter and IG: @richhenkels
SCREENWRITER TEKISHA WALTON BY CARONA DAVIS-DIOP
SS: When was the first time you realized you wanted to be a screenwriter? TW: The first time I realized I wanted to be a screenwriter was in middle school. One of my good friends wrote her own plays and wanted me to read them. After that, the rest is history. This was when I fell in love with theatre and writing. SS: Favorite genre to write for? TW: My favorite genres to write are romance and drama. These are my specialties. Even though, I feel like I may also be versatile in other genres. I enjoy writing horror and action films too, but overall I am passionate about romance and drama works. SS: How far do you want to take your writing? What is your end goal? TW: I want to win an Oscar one day. This is my ultimate goal.
Many people know this about me and it feels really good to have so many supporters on my side. I want my writing to be on the big screen. I want many people around the world to see my films in every movie theatre. This has always been my passion and I hope to accomplish that one day. Some people say I should be doing more than this, like owning my own writing company, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for that yet!
SS: How does writing make you feel? TW: Writing makes me feel peaceful. It makes me feel like I'm in my own little world because I am. When I write, I get to tell my own stories, and live in my box momentarily. When I write, I'm putting my ideas on paper, and showing them to the world. Writing is where I get to fully be myself and no one can take that away from me. I write because I have something to say. I write because it makes me feel wonderful. I write because it touches my soul and connects me to something bigger. How does writing make me feel? Well, it’s breathtaking. I get to share my stories with the world from my point of view which involves my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This is how writing makes me feel. SS: Where are you from? What affect has writing had on your life? TW: I am from Miami Gardens, FL. I grew up with my mom, dad, and three siblings. Boy, have I had an
interesting and hard childhood! What affect has writing had on my life overall? Well, writing has definitely had a huge impact on my life. In elementary school, I was bullied. Like, deeply emotionally bullied. And it was hard on me. I kept a diary and just wrote down everything that I experienced each day when I got home. It was my personal diary, one that I could tell my whole story to, and a book that I felt wouldn't judge me. Yeah, I was that kid. Yes, I had many friends, but still felt lonely deep down inside. Even though I didn’t do much writing in elementary school like I’m doing now, my diary was my life, and one where I would jot down my thoughts after a long day of school. It wasn’t until middle school where I really wrote the most.
Middle school was where I was introduced to screenwriting. That's where I started off writing feature screenplays... Can you believe it? It was an exciting time for me! So many friends read my works and fell in love with them. I also had regular readers and this made me feel more confident. Middle school was a little bit better than elementary school but, of course, it had its moments. I never joined any clubs or teams. I honestly should have at least joined the yearbook staff but I felt my writing wouldn’t compare. I felt it didn’t belong there because it probably wasn’t good enough to hit the school paper. I just kept my talents to myself and my friends. My writing actually made me fear myself as a person. I stopped myself from truly
embracing some school clubs that I probably would have been really good at. I guess in this sense, back then, my writing was a blessing and a curse to me. Wow! Then, there was high school. I actually wrote the most there and shared my stories again with friends. They loved my screenplays. Everyday during lunch,
TEKISHA WALTON - SCREENWRITER
I started off writing feature screenplays in middle school, can you believe it?! in the spill out area, some of my friends read my scripts and enjoyed them. I would also write during school when I finished all of my classwork. Most people knew me as the girl who sat in the back of the class and wrote during her free time.
Yeah, that was me, haha. I wrote every chance I could get in high school. I wrote about everything in my screenplays. I put a little bit of me and all of the experiences that I went through in high school in my screenplays. It had a huge impact on my life. Most people knew I lived down the street from high school so, yes, I put that in my writings. When I joined the dance team, I jotted that down in my screenplays, for it was a huge accomplishment for me at the time. SS: What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on? TW: Some of my favorite projects that I have worked on would be my action and romance screenplay called
War Bound, a TV show about one student’s experience during college at Florida Memorial University, and my remake episodes of Tales from the Crypt. SS: Why playwright and not screenwriting? TW: For me, it would be the other way around. While playwrights focus more on the dialogue in their works with structure, we screenwriters mainly focus on the action when it comes to structure. That’s all me. I have always wanted to share my action with the world. I want people to see the drama in the relationships of my characters while also experiencing the characters' feelings. My readers live in my world when they view my material. This is the best feeling ever!
THOMAS J. O'BRIEN bY cARONA dAVIS-dIOP
SS: When was the pivotal moment you discovered that you wanted to be an actor? TO: I fell in love with acting when I was working on a student film a long time ago. However, I put my academics ahead of my creative interests at the time and focused on my schoolwork. Somewhere in the late 2000's I gave acting another shot and I enjoyed it as much, if not more than, I did several years prior. I guess timing is everything. SS: Favorite genre to act in and why? TO: This is a hard one. I think I have numerous varieties of film genres that I am a fan of.
I do find myself leaning more towards thrillers because they tend to be a little more versatile especially, when combined with other genres. Thrillers can be adapted into a horror, comedy, crime, drama, mystery, as well as experimental. SS: What would you consider the hardest part of acting? TO: The hardest part for me was in the beginning when I was really starting out. I was in the midst of getting my feet wet while breaking in as an actor when I received a message of advice that stuck with me and still does until this day. “The first 2 years as an actor are the
hardest.” I learned and witnessed this to be such a truthful statement. The reason being is quite obvious, I was new when it came to having credentials on my resume. It was very difficult being a student actor who was looked at as a crapshoot to casting directors and filmmakers. The way that I survived this period of time in my life was by staying focused, consistent, determined and motivated. Over time I became better within my craft. I am a firm believer that improvement leads to progress.
"... I JUST DUG DEEP INTO MYSELF AND BLOCKED OUT ALL THE NEGATIVE..."
"it's always a good idea to observe. sometimes you can learn a lot by doing so."
SS: Do you see anything else in your future other than acting? TO: Honestly, no. SS: What are your ultimate goals? Where would you like to end up in five years? TO: I really don’t like to think too far ahead, nor do I like to say anything that would set myself up on a pedestal where I sound like I've got a huge ego, which I don’t. I like to focus more on the present. SS: When was your most exciting time as an actor? Darkest moment? TO: I've had numerous exciting times as an actor. For instance, I went to a film premiere in Wayne, PA, for an independent action thriller by the name of Vicious Thunder that I worked on. My wife and I seeing my name appear in the opening credits was an experience in itself. I also received an award from Italy for my performance in a horror/thriller short film called The Confined but, my absolute favorite experience was finding out that a feature film screenplay by the name of Mixxer, which I co-wrote with another screenwriter and filmmaker Caster Fagan, ended up getting read by celebrity actress Tara Reid (The Big Lebowski, American Pie, Sharknado).
As far as the darkest moments, I think there were a few. One particular time was when I first started out. I got hammered with negative criticism for my acting performance and told I was a mediocre talent at best. This really had me second-guessing myself on whether or not I wanted to be an actor. Somehow, I dug deep into myself and blocked out all of the negative criticism from naysayers and carried on. This is what led to me developing my own niche and style in acting. I think that’s when I really came into my own as an actor. SS: What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on? TO: The Confined by Christopher Picone and Darren Wallach, Vicious Thunder by Bradley Creanzo, and Redemption On Gun Hill Road by Christopher Picone and Robert DiBella. SS: Any advice to other actors trying to make it? TO: Yes, acting workshops and teachers aren’t the end all, be all. Learn what you can, but don’t go broke in the process. Never gamble anything you can’t afford to lose. Doubters are at all ends of the spectrum. Be persistent in knowing It’s always a good idea to observe. Sometimes you can learn a lot by doing so.
SS: What changes would you like to see in the industry concerning diversity and inclusion? TO: I think there should be more of a balance and fairer treatment in all areas of production for truer equality including gender, race, nationality, disability, age, etc. Everyone should get a fair shot. I’ve always believed that hard work, effort, dedication, sacrifice and talent should always be recognized no matter what. SS: What kind of a support system did you have when you decided to act? How did this affect your decision to act? TO: My family telling me to "Give it a shot." really kept me moving forward. This was definitely a nod of encouragement and, well, that’s what I did! I pursued acting! SS: Where can we find some of your work? IMDb: imdb.me/ThomasjOBrien Web: https://www.actorthomasjobrien.com/
IN THE SPOTLIGHT:
ALEXA VAN DOREN about 13 or 14. I was thinking about different career paths and realized that I wanted to pick a career that was going to make me happy. Dance has always been a safe space for me because I can express my feelings, thoughts, and ideas through movement rather than spoken word. Years later and I'm still so happy that I knew at a young age I wanted to be a dancer! SS: Who is your favorite dancer and why? AVD: My favorite dancer is probably Travis Wall. I remember watching him on season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance and always looked forward to watching him dance every week. His range of movement is so versatile, which in my opinion, is one of the best qualities a dancer can have. SS: Any advice for other dancers trying to make it?
SPLIT SCREEN CHATS WITH THE BEAUTIFUL ALEXA VAN DOREN. SS: How old were you when you started dancing? AVD: I started dancing when I was 5 years old. SS: At what age did you know you wanted to be a dancer? When was the pivotal moment you knew you had to be a dancer? AVD: I remember one day when I was in kindergarten my mom and I had to go to the bank.
There was a dance studio right across from it and I told my mom I wanted to be a prima ballerina! I then remember seeing The Rockettes perform on television and going to see The Moscow Ballet perform The Great Russian Nutcracker at the State Theatre in Easton (PA). I was just amazed! Ever since I was 6 or 7 years old, I knew I wanted to be a dancer. The pivotal moment when I knew I had to be a dancer probably occurred when I was
AVD: My advice for other dancers trying to make it would be to have confidence in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will either! This is something that I truly had to work on when I was a dance major in college. I saw my classmates advancing in their dance technique where I had to work harder to get there. I ultimately just had to overcome that obstacle and believe in myself that I can do this. Once my self-esteem improved, so did my dancing. I would also say never give up on your dreams! The journey may be hard, but the end result will be worth it!
"IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, NO ONE ELSE WILL EITHER." - ALEXA VAN DOREN
SS: Discuss the physical aspects of dancing.
SS: Where would you like to take your dancing career?
AVD: Being a dancer brings both positives and negatives when it comes to the physical part of dancing. Dancers are very flexible as we are constantly stretching our muscles. We also have toned legs and arms from all the studio training. Dancers also have a high level of stamina which helps us for long show weekends. The downside to all of this can lead to muscle soreness. Ice, heat, foam rollers, and Ibuprofen are our best friends!
AVD: My ultimate goal has always been to teach dance, which I have been doing for 4 years. Over the course of those 4 years, I have taught ages 3-18 in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, modern, theater, and hip hop. Instilling the love of dance, as well as being able to make a positive and inspiring impact on someone’s life, are the most rewarding aspects of teaching dance. In the next 10 years, I would love to be able to open up my own dance studio and learn the aspects of what it takes to be a studio owner!
SS: What are some of the places you've performed? AVD: Aside from performing at my studio's yearly recital from age 5 until I was 18, the majority of my performance career was during my time at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Throughout my four years, I performed in dances choreographed by myself, my classmates and professors in the Faculty and Guest Artist Concert, Fall Concert, Winter Concert, and the Senior Synthesis Concert. I was fortunate enough to perform the works of my college professors including Ursula Payne, Jennifer Keller, Thom Cobb, and Jaya Mani, as well as guest artist Matt Pardo. Upon graduation, I attended the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company summer intensive and performed their repertory at Kean University. SS: Favorite dance movie? My favorite dance movie is either Center Stage or Step Up!
SS: Other than ballet, what other types of dance do you like? What other types of dance have you studied? AVD: I really like all types of dance. I don't think I can pick a favorite! Over the past 21 years, I have studied ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, tap, and hip hop at my childhood studio, Slippery Rock University, and Broadway Dance Center (NYC). SS: Favorite type of music to perform to? AVD: My favorite type of music to perform to is instrumental; either classical or contemporary. Although it's sometimes easier to choreograph to music with words, it's always refreshing to choreograph movement for movement's sake especially if I hear music that speaks to me. A few of my favorite artists that I have choreographed and performed dances to are Ludovico Einaudi, Ólafur Arnalds, Jorge Mendez, and Peter Broderick.
"DON'T WORK FOR AN EMPIRE... BUILD ONE." - carona davis-diop