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February 17, 2017

Meet Arielle Cimino!
by Katie Conway - 0

Meet Arielle Cimino!
by Pamela Ross 

Arielle Cimino is an emerging film director, producer, and improviser based on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Originally from Waltham, Arielle studied Communication Arts at Gordon College and directed its improv troupe “The Sweaty-Toothed MadMen” (whose ranks once included Pete Holmes).  After graduating, she continued improvising with Cape Ann Improv (and now serves as its Artistic Director) and joined the FirstNames Films team as a director and producer.  They screened their feature-length debut YouthMin in Salem last year.  It documents a self-centered youth pastor’s attempts to dominate that summer’s Bible Camp competitions while contending with his group of teen charges, a new co-worker, and a rival church.  I was fortunate enough to attend the screening/Q&A and adored the film’s mockumentary-style storytelling and endearing characters.  Arielle graciously answered some questions about filmmaking challenges, strategies for aspiring creatives, and why improvisation keeps her sane.  

Q: What motivated you to continue pursuing improv after college? For a lot of people it's just a fun activity they abandon after graduation. 
A: My older sister Tori has always been a huge motivator for me when it comes to performing! With her being an actress, I grew up watching her perform and she was the one who pushed me to audition in college. After college I thought about taking a break but my sister didn't think that was a good idea.  She knew I had to continue improv because the year after college is ROUGH and making new friends can be really hard.  It’s so easy to find yourself just scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck—all work, no play. Part of taking care of myself mentally and physically is providing myself with a balanced life; improv for me kills two birds with one stone. It feels super cliché to say, but improv for me is therapy.  Not only does it bring me great joy, but it also challenges me and forces me to explore myself creatively; it keeps me artistically awake. It gives me a wonderful family of people who can split my sides while simultaneously being some of the most genuine and trustworthy people I've ever met. Improv is something I'm not sure I can ever truly abandon at this point.  It supplements my life and career in numerous ways. 

Q:  You shot all of YouthMin locally on a modest budget, as far as films go. What challenges did you encounter during production? Would you do anything differently the next time around?
A: My co-creator Jeff Ryan and I have been working together since college and have developed a network on the North Shore of Massachusetts. This network is filled with so many talented young people that we felt we could film a feature in roughly 15 days and for under $15,000 (not including the major post-production expenses).  And we did it! This was only possible due to that amazing network of artists who were so willing to put in the time and talent for free. To them I am forever grateful. 

Even with an amazing community supporting us, Jeff and I still had our producer/director work cut out for us. We found ourselves wearing not several but rather dozens of hats. There were times when the cast and crew would be taking a much needed break and Jeff would be logging footage or solving mic issues while I made runs to the store and cooked ziti and broccoli for 30-40 people.  Having only a few key people wearing that many hats increases the chance of sloppiness and poor time management, which can really break a movie production. 

We could have avoided wearing some of these additional hats if we were able to fill more of those jobs on our production team sooner. So next time: put more time in pre-production organizing and finding people to take on specific responsibilities and making sure they are equipped to handle those roles. Adding those people would have made our production so much smoother and more efficient! For the EXTREMELY independent filmmaker, you can never be too organized and you can use all the help you can get.

Q: Does the skill set you've developed as an improviser feed into your skill set as a filmmaker and vice versa?
A: The skills I've learned from my six years of improv have been invaluable when it comes to producing and directing.  While studying film in college, I never thought of myself as a director. I would always jump at the more specific jobs, like cinematography or editing. I thought the role of directing was a self-serving job. I hated the idea of being someone who said things like "Well, MY VISION for this PIECE is more like this or that.” It didn't seem like a job for someone like me who always thought of herself as more of a collaborator or supporter. For one of my classes in college, my film professor Toddy Burton told me she wouldn't let me do any other role than directing. I was mortified. I felt like it was too much pressure. She told me I would be surprised by how wrong I was about directing.  She recognized I had a gift for getting people together, getting them inspired and making sure everyone was heard and happy. She was right.  While directing my first short Scientific Research, I discovered that directing was totally something I had the tools for.  

The director's job is not to be a dictator.  It is about seeing the big picture and inviting a team of artists to be part of that big picture.  A good director listens and says “Yes, and...” to her team of collaborators.  A good director thinks, “If that's true of this world, then what else is true?”  A good director is focused not only on visual presentation but also on characters, relationships, conflicts, the justification of actions and STORY, all of which you can learn from the world of improv. Jeff and I really started to get to know each other through improv in college.  It is in our blood.  

Jeff and I, being inspired by the heavily outlined and improvised movies of Christopher Guest (like Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman), we wanted very badly to make a feature length film that used a lot of improv. We had our writer Christopher O'Connell write a full script of the movie, which we would base the scenes on; then on set we allowed our actors to improvise based on the fully written script. Some of my favorite scenes in YouthMin were completely improvised. Improv gave this movie so much life and it was super fun to make.

Q: What's your dream creative job? 
A: My “dream creative job” is pretty much what I'm already doing. I made a feature and I plan to make more. I would produce and direct TV and I love the idea of directing sketch as well. I would love to one day make some money making movies... but I'm not about to let money get in the way of making compelling and fun stories. Don't get me wrong; if we get recognized by a network or company that would obviously be AMAZING. But in the end if Hollywood never comes knocking at my door, I'll be content knowing I'm doing what I love regardless of who is watching and who is paying me. For me the most rewarding thing is providing myself and my community of collaborators an opportunity to use their talents, and working together to make creative and compelling content. I'm not in this for the money, but it wouldn't hurt.

Q: What advice would you give to women interested in pursuing film?
A: I personally chose not to uproot myself from my hometown of Boston and move to New York or Los Angeles because I got a taste of “climbing the ladder” and personally I hated it. It probably works for a few people, but I didn't feel creatively motivated or encouraged when I talked to people in “the industry.”  I also saw that I had so much of a network where I was in Massachusetts. So if you are like me—a little rebellious and stubborn—and want to have some creative input in the projects you make, the best thing you can do is find some like-minded people and do it. It's not easy, but it’s totally worth it.  

PA jobs will get you knowledge and occasionally a solid contact, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to start creating your own content. You want to direct? Direct.  Don't wait for the opportunity to be handed to you.  Find people you trust and can work with and hold onto them. Make a network. Encourage and inspire each other. Invest in other peoples’ projects. Put your friendship with them before anything else. When things get tough, Jeff and I constantly remind each other about how our friendship comes first. When you have a network, you can expand your resources. Start small and get bigger. Make a 5-minute short for $0 (you have a smartphone, yes?).  I'll guarantee you will learn a lot and have a lot of fun. So many artists wait for someone to give them an opportunity. Why wait for you an opportunity when you can give one to yourself? This applies to men and women alike.

As for you creative-talented-funny ladies out there: there are many people (male and female) who will think of you as inferior based on your gender.  You don't need those people; don’t work with them.  It is also sad that many women suppress their sense of humor and believe they cannot be as funny as guys, or that they can't lead because they don't want to be perceived as a “bitch.”  That thought train stops right here. Male or female: make content, share content, trust and rely on each other to better your craft and better your network. Please don't treat other artists like competition; be friends instead! Don't follow the cattle in front of you. Don't be a cow! Help the creatives around you find options and paths.

A lot of what I believe is good advice for filmmakers comes from Mark Duplass's speech he gave at SXSW 2015:

Q: How can people keep up with your future projects?
A: We are planning a screening of our movie in NYC this summer.  Join our newsletter for details!
Website (where you can sign up for our newsletter):
IG: fnfilms
YouthMin site:

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February 2, 2017

New Girl and Feminism
by Simi - 0

When hearing about a TV sitcom titled New Girl, one would anticipate a display of humorous female-centric roles. After all, the word “Girl” is in the title, and therefore it would be expected that the strongest story arcs and humor would come from the “Girl” herself. The main character Jess (Zooey Deschanel) is best described as “adorkable” because she is dorky and weird, but cute at the same time. This comes from the idea that women are expected to be funny, yet beautiful while doing it. But, being constantly picture perfect is the exact opposite of what comedy is all about. The purpose of humor is to unveil the mask that we put on for society. This concept is easily seen when you look at Jess’s male counterparts who are able to be hilarious while not letting “cuteness” get in the way of their comedy. They are able to put themselves in visually weird positions and get ugly. For the show’s male characters humor is derived from making themselves as vulnerable on screen as possible. It’s time for women to break gender norms and allow themselves to look ridiculous.

We’ve seen it successfully done by plenty of female comedians before from Ilana Glazer on Broad City, to Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation, or Kristen Wiig on SNL. Humor is about letting go and this can’t be done if the women on New Girl are constantly stuck in the mindset that they need to look perfect at all times. Zooey Deschanel has always had the image of being the “quirky girl” who falls down staircases and trips because she’s “So clumsy that it’s adorable!” If this is supposed to be her only “negative” trait, then it becomes impossible for viewers to relate to her, thus making her less funny by default. We tend as audience members to laugh at what we can find relatable and there is nothing relatable about a seemingly perfect person because seemingly perfect people simply don’t exist. Winston (Lamorne Morris) on the other hand, is always getting laughs because even though on the outside he seems like a tough, put together masculine man who is an ex-basketball champion, he is always shown obsessing over his cat, drinking girly martinis with a swirly straw at the bar, or blasting Defying Gravity in his car when he thinks no one is listening. With the character Schmidt (Max Greenfield), although on the outside he presents himself as a total womanizer who rarely wears a shirt and has a different woman in his bed every night, he is also considered by his roommates to be the “mom” of the friends group due to his stereotypically feminine lifestyle choices. He is always doing the laundry for his roommates or motivating them to dress nicely and clean up after themselves. He is also one to throw out Yiddish slang whenever he feels a particular emotion, a language that one would not usually associate with the “f*** boy” character. These juxtapositions in character are precisely what make them so funny.     

Jess, on the other hand, seems to be more of a blank canvas when it comes to character development. Yes, she is always spotted wearing false eyelashes, what seems like five pounds of extensions, dorky glasses, and vintage dresses. Yes, she takes her anger out by knitting a bunch of pink scarves for her friends. Yes, she loves puppies and rainbows and glitter. But what about these traits make her unique or relatable? Where is her juxtaposition in character? Why don’t we get to see a side of her that is the complete opposite of what we’re supposed to expect from her outward appearance, like the rest of the characters? If she secretly went hunting in the woods or took up Knife Throwing classes once a week, we would get a good laugh out of it because it would be so unexpected. Unfortunately, for now, we are stuck with a character who seems to be so one dimensional that we as viewers quickly lose interest.

It is worthwhile to note that the writer for New Girl, Elizabeth Meriwether is in fact, female. If she is able to write all of this hilarious material for the male characters, then why can't she hand over some of the most laugh-out-loud lines to the women on the show? By Meriwether making the female characters more slapstick and less perfect, she would not be taking anything away from the already humorous male characters, she would only be adding to the comedy gold for the New Girl ensemble as a whole.

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January 27, 2017

Female Comedians Take On The Women's March
by Katie Conway - 0

 Youd have to be living under a rock - or cowardly hiding in the White House - to not know about the historic Womens March on Washington that took place this past Saturday, along with fellow Sister Marches across the country and around the globe. The March was in reaction to the elected - now President - Donald J. Trumps misogynistic and sexist remarks towards women, as well as threats towards womens health care, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, fair wages, racial injustice, etc. The March on Washington itself had over 500,000 attendees (almost 3x as many people that showed up to Trumps Inauguration), and an estimated 2.5 million marchers worldwide! With massive crowds like these, its no surprise when you see a celebrity or two exercising there right to protest for women everywhere. Here are a few funny females who made their voices heard on January 21, 2017.

Lauren Lapkus
Along with musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda and fellow comedian John C. Reilly! The trio met up across the pond in London, supporting womens rights an ocean away. Lapkus is best known for her role as Susan Fischer on Orange is the New Black, as well as Comedy Bang! Bang! and The Earliest Show.

Amy Schumer
Amy looked badass in her bright orange NASA suit during the March on Washington! Not only did she recently wear the suit to an interview with the amazing Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but she also wore it in support of gun control - something she has passionately advocated for after two women were shot during a screening of her film Trainwreck. Schumer also caught up with fellow feminist celebrities at The March, such as pals Madonna and Gloria Steinem.

Mindy Kaling
The Mindy Project star and The Office alumni advocated at a Sister March in Los Angeles, CA, with some awesome friends!

Fran Drescher
The Emmy Award wining Fran Drescher - best known for creating, writing, directing, and starring in the hit series The Nanny - was spotted in Washington, along with friends like Cher and singer Alicia Keys. Fran is also a healthcare advocate who started the Cancer Schmancer Movement - an organization that aims to help women with cancer diagnosed in Stage 1.

Chelsea Handler
The Sundance Film Festival wont stop these awesome ladies from marching! On a cold and snowy evening in Park City, Utah, actress and comedian Chelsea Handler lead The Womens March on Main - with more than 8,000 participants, including Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.

Jenny Slate
The ever-hilarious Jenny Slate - best known for her work on Parks and Recreation, The Kroll Show, and Obvious Child - also braved the cold and attended The Womens March on Main.


Samantha Bee
The fierce and funny Samantha Bee made it to The March with the rest of her awesome Full-Frontal with Samantha Bee crew! You can check out her video recapping the March on Washington above, along with a performance by the group of women who sang the viral hit Quiet. You can also purchase Samantha BeeNasty Women shirt here in support of Planned Parenthood.

Uzo Aduba
The Emmy Award-Winning Orange is the New Black star brought a sign to Washington that says it all.

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January 24, 2017

Four Hilarious, Heartfelt and Woman-Led Podcasts
by Paige Smith-Hogan - 0

There are so many great podcasts in the world that it can be hard to know where to start. Below, I picked my four favorite podcasts, in no particular order. They all feature women and diverse voices and are a great use of your time. Trust me.

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Bad With Money with Gabby Dunn
In Bad with Money with Gabby Dunn, Dunn personally examines something that makes many of us very anxious: money. This discomfort is exemplified in her first episode, where people are more willing to tell her their favorite sex position than how much money they have in their checking account.

Dunn grew up worried about money, and now that she is experiencing a level of success, she is analyzing her struggles with money through a feminist perspective. On her show, she talks about content creators on YouTube being undervalued for what they produce, the psychological drawbacks of the idea of success, and how to manage money if you are in a creative field. She interviews people like comedians and partners Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito, Youtuber Hank Green, comic Sara Schaefer, and Oscar short film nominee Lexi Alexander. The episodes clock in at about a half an hour, so it's a great podcast to listen to on a walk, running errands, or on your commute to work[. As a 20-something who wants to work in a creative field and worries about money, this podcast is relatable and a stress relieving.

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2 Dope Queens
This podcast is a live recording of a weekly stand up show hosted by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson featuring a diverse slate of comics, clocking in around about an hour per episode. One of the best parts of the podcast is Williams and Robinson’s friendship. Their hilarious banter in the beginning of the podcast is always a treat, with Phoebe and Jessica discussing what their role in the civil rights movement would be, being in love with Dwayne the Rock Johnson, or celebrating their birthdays on the show. Their obvious joy and affection for one another is one of my favorite parts of this podcast, and the fact that it features comics like Aparna Nancherla, Emily Heller and Jo Firestone is an added bonus.

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The Jackie and Laurie Show
Frequently, women in comedy are asked, " What's it like to be a woman in comedy?" The Jackie and Laurie Show is an in-depth answer to that question. Two standup comedians, Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin, conduct an honest and informative podcast for people who are interested in seeing how successful standups work. Jackie and Laurie are occasionally curmudgeonly, extremely engaging and constantly hilarious. Over the course of one show, they talk about their weeks, go over the strength and weaknesses of their sets, and dish on their industry. Their camaraderie and experience in their field make it a great podcast to listen to.

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Reality Bytes
Hosted by Stephanie Beatriz and Courtney Kocack, another pair of best friends, this podcast is about sex, love and dating in the digital age. The podcast premiered at the end of September and has featured guests like former family therapist and writer Emily V. Gordon, comic Beth Stelling, and the aforementioned Gabby Dunn of Bad With Money . Because Beatriz is a star of Brooklyn 99, they sometimes have substitute hosts for her. This makes for an exciting podcast, as some of the substitute hosts in the past have been Sofiya Alexander, a standup comedian and Shadi Petosky, a trans-rights activist and the creator of the Amazon cartoon "Danger and Eggs".

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January 23, 2017

Which Joe Biden Meme Are You?
by Katie Conway - 0

As our next President has been (unfortunately) sworn into office, almost all of us are feeling some form of anger, anxiety, or sadness. Take your mind off things with this fun and wholesome quiz about your favorite meme-loving former Vice President! Are you Ice-Cream Joe, Knuckle Sandwich Joe, or maybe even Prankster Joe? Take the quiz below and find out! 
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