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March 16, 2017

Get Ready to GLOW
by Katie Conway - 0

Netflix has brought us some of our most beloved original comedies to date - including Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None, Love, Grace and Frankie, and now - GLOW

It was announced earlier this month that GLOW  will be released for streaming on Friday, June 23, 2017. The show will be based on the popular televised program from the 1980’s called G.L.O.W - or the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”. The women’s wrestling program ran for 4 seasons from 1986-1990, and starred actresses, models, and dancers playing colorful characters in hopes of rising to stardom in Hollywood. 

This Netflix Original will take a closer look at the lives of the bad-ass Los Angeles women who performed on this zany, glitzy, and tough wrestling show. It will also star Allison Brie - best known for portrayal as sweet and quirky Annie Edison on the NBC cult favorite Community (2009-2015). Brie will be playing Ruth - an actress at the end of her rope, who takes a chance on G.L.O.W to help propel her to fame. Ruth must compete with former soap actress Debbie Eagan, played by Betty Gilpin (Nurse Jackie), who is returning to the scene after she left to have a baby. And all of the 14 women competing and starring on G.L.O.W will be lead by a beat down, washed up, former movie director named Sam Sylvia - played by stand-up comic Marc Maron (Maron, Almost Famous). 

Sounds like a cool concept, right? What’s even more exciting then a show about strong and talented women is the fact Jenji Kohan - of Weeds and Orange is the New Black fame - will be an executive producer! Orange is the New Black is one of the most diverse, dramatic, and funny shows we have available today, that not only represents women, but also realistically shows them as who we are, rather than what Hollywood wants us to be. I have full confidence in Kohan, along with other EP’s Liz Flahive (Homeland), Carly Mensch, and Tara Herrmann to pass this kind of representation and narrative excellence to GLOW. 

Can’t wait until June to see this sure-to-be Netflix classic? Check out the sparkly leotard filled, female-driven, 80’s pop-sounding, pink neon flushed trailer for the series below! (Or just re-watch episodes of Community and Orange is the New Black in the meantime…)

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March 6, 2017

That Fuzzy Feeling of Rejection
by Katie Conway - 0

That Fuzzy Feeling of Rejection
by Kathleen DeMarle

Here I am at a karaoke party at the local dive when I see my crush walk in. I take a swig of
my stale beer and ask the bartender for a scrap of paper. Scribbling fast, I jot down my phone
number. Taking a deep breath I adjust the collar of my jacket, flick my hair and zone out the bad
rendition of "Killer Queen" being sung in the background. I was ready to get rejected. I have a bit in my set in which I talk about how frequently I get rejected in dating. It happens to me a lot! A lot more than other people I know. Back in my college days, I had a no holds bar mentality when it came to dating. If I saw a guy I was interested in, and he hadn't approached me yet, I would go up to him and attempt to use a cheesy pick-up line, or leave him my number on a slip of paper. These tactics hardly ever worked. Okay, they never worked. It got to the point that I just embraced it as part of who I was. Rejection just became my expected outcome. I think once I accepted that, I stopped worrying about it. I decided to just start having fun with it. I would take bets on using bad pick-up lines and I would be my friends designated wing-woman. Rejection is bound to happen to you at one point or another. There's no good way to avoid it. So, why not put yourself out there?

Now, post college, I think getting rejected in my dating life has prepared me to deal with
comedy show bookers. Having only done comedy for a year makes me an "up and comer" or a "newbie" in the stand-up scene here in Boston. That being said, many people find the idea of talking to bookers scary and nerve racking. I think this is the first hurdle to overcome going from open mic shows to booked gigs. But, if you want gigs, you have to talk to bookers. But, if you talk to bookers, you run the risk of getting rejected. That's all part of the game.

For me, asking a booker for a spot is almost the same process as asking someone out on a
date. Okay, that sounds creepy, now that I've typed that thought out, but it's true. Either you awkwardly send a message, stalk a show you want to be on, or have an awkward conversation at an open mic. There is no pretty way to go about doing it. I always try to think positive. Sure, you're asking for a spot, you might get rejected, but you might also get a spot. If you don't ask, you'll never know. Rejection isn't the end. It might just mean that timing isn't right, or your material isn't the right vibe for that particular show. It doesn't mean that you should stop doing comedy, that you're not funny, or that a particular booker hates you. Don't use rejection as a reason to create excuses, and don't burn bridges with those who reject you. Rejection doesn't mean it's over. It just means you need to take a breath and push on.
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March 3, 2017

Which Celebrity Are You Reacting To Moonlight's Best Picture Win?
by Katie Conway - 0

This past Sunday was 89th Annual Academy Award ceremony, a.k.a “The Oscars”. After a pretty tame evening of performances, speeches, and awkward Jimmy Kimmel jokes, the night took a dramatic turn when La La Land was incorrectly awarded for Best Picture. After a tremendous envelope mix up, La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz immediately cleared up the mess and announced Moonlight as the actual Best Picture winner, proudly holding up the correct card for the whole world to see. The Dolby Theater went crazy! Never-mind the Internet - which wasted no time in satirizing and creating memes based on the biggest flub in Oscar history.

While La La Land was fun, colorful, and nostalgic, it felt all too done before. It was mainly reminiscent of Old White Hollywood and didn’t push any boundaries, or bring anything new or revolutionary to the table. Moonlight was the underdog to beat - a new American classic about metamorphism, sexuality, race, and identity. Though it was unfortunate La La Land was given a victory only to have it taken away from them moments after, it felt so right to see the cast and crew of Moonlight respectfully given the Oscar they deserved.  

With that being said, here’s the real question: Out of the variety of celebrity reactions to come from the most shocking of live television twists, which one are you? Take the quiz below to find out! 

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February 27, 2017

Why You Should Be Watching "The Good Place"
by Katie Conway - 0

Hey you! Ya – you. Have you heard of this new show called The Good Place? Yes? Are you watching it? Well you should be! 

The Good Place is a new comedy created by Michael Schur that premiered on NBC this past September. It’s about a woman named Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) who finds herself in the after-life when she, rather unfortunately, is struck dead by a row of grocery carts, then a tractor-trailer, after she pursues a roll-away bottle of Tequila Mix in a parking lot. She is then greeted by Michael (Ted Danson), a neighborhood architect in a utopia called “The Good Place” (a.k.a “Heaven”). Michael congratulates Eleanor on all her accomplishments and humanitarian work she achieved during her life on Earth, and introduces her to her soul mate, Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper) - a deceased Nigerian ethics professor. Eleanor realizes there’s been a huge mistake - she’s not the Eleanor they think she is, and she actually belongs in “The Bad Place”. With the help of Chidi, Eleanor attempts to learn how to be an ethically moral and “good” person so she can earn her stay. But of course, chaos ensues…

Are you hooked yet? Here are even MORE reasons why you should start binge-watching this “forkin’” great show! 

1. Michael Schur’s Writing Is Brilliant
Just a glance at Michael Schur’s resume is enough to assure any person of his comedic brilliance, originality, and creativity. He was a writer on Saturday Night Live from 1997-2004, a writer for The Office from 2005 - 2007, and is the creator of the beloved Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And now we have The Good Place - a show with whip smart dialogue, unique storytelling, and fascinatingly complex characters.  
2. All The Actors, Both Well-Known and New, Have Stand-Out Performances
Ted Danson and Kristen Bell both carry a lot of star power. Bell is best known for her time on Veronica Mars and Frozen, but she has also proven her comedic chops in films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bad Moms. Danson was none other than Sam Malone in the pop-culture classic Cheers, and he brings a charming complexity to his new role as the creator of a “Good Place” neighborhood. But aside from those well-established careers, the show shines a bright spotlight on newcomers William Jackson Harper and Jameela Jamil. Harper plays a delightfully quirky, warm, and intelligent character whose asking most of the hard-hitting questions the show is trying to answer. Jamil - an English writer, DJ, model, and radio host - enters her first onscreen acting gig as the beautiful, charming, selfish yet kind Tahani Al-Jamil.
3. The Good Place Features Parks and Recreation Alumni  
Do you still miss NBC’s Parks and Recreation - the television equivalent of hot waffles for breakfast or a warm hug from a good friend? Not to worry, Parks alum Adam Scott and Marc Evan Jackson have reoccurring roles in The Good Place! Scott plays a devilish figure from “The Bad Place”, while Jackson plays an unemotional judge from the “Medium Place”. And if you don’t remember, Kristin Bell herself was on Parks and Rec as Ingrid De Forest. In fact, it was confirmed that The Good Place and Parks and Recreation take place in the same universe, based on Easter eggs spotted by hard-core fans.
4. “Lost” Was A Big Inspiration
It’s no secret that Michael Schur is a huge The Leftovers and Lost fan. Such a fan, that Shur took Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof out to lunch while still developing the concept of The Good Place. He wanted the show to reflect Lost’s infamous major cliffhangers, world building, and plot twists. Bonus: There’s a Leftovers Easter egg in the pilot episode, and a Lost reference in the 12th episode. And for fans who want to take it the next level, Schur also drew major inspiration from the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. 
5. Janet Gets The Biggest Laughs
Honestly, the best jokes of the series come from Janet - an “intelligent personal assistant” played by D’Arcy Carden. Her robotic, cheery attitude and deadpan answers to every question are the cherry on top of a show with an already A+ assembly of actors. D’Arcy herself has been in comedy for quite some time - a regular performer for Upright Citizens Brigade, with appearances on Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, as well as Crazy-Ex Girlfriend

6. Frozen Yogurt!
There’s literally a Fro-Yo Shop on every corner, and thousands of flavors to choose from. N’uff said. (FYI - The actor’s aren’t eating Fro-Yo in those scenes. It’s actually mashed potatoes!) 
7. 90% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes 
Out of the 49 reviews for Season 1, 44 found this “absurd, clever, and whimsical portrayal of the afterlife” certified fresh. As for the audience? 85% fell in love with their new comedy obsession.

8.  It’s Already Renewed for Season 2!
So you can comfortably watch Season 1 knowing there will be more to come. So what are you waiting for? Start watching The Good Place today! 

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February 23, 2017

Kate McKinnon Is The New Ms. Frizzle!
by Katie Conway - 0

Your favorite 90’s educational Saturday morning cartoon is making a comeback! The Magic School Bus, a popular television show amongst students and teachers alike, is being rebooted by Netflix. The show ran successfully on PBS from 1994 to 1997, and was adapted by the popular children’s book series by Joanne Cole and Bruce Degen. It’s about an eccentric elementary school teacher named Ms. Frizzle, who takes her class on fantastic and educational adventures via the “magic” school bus. The new series will be called The Magic School Bus Rides Again, and the infamous Ms. Frizzle will be voiced by none other than the fabulous Kate McKinnon!

Adventures on the Magic School Bus go as far out as outer space, as deep as the darkest corners of the ocean, as far back as ancient times when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and even inside the human body! The series made science fun and accessible to children everywhere, and inspired many to pursue fields of study in meteorology, astronomy, and even children’s education. And in this new era of American politics where people like the President of the United States can be “anti-science” and dismissive of facts, it is especially important to have a show like this for the next generation of big thinkers and curious intellectuals. As Bill Nye the Science Guy would say, “Science Rules!” 
While it won’t be airing on cable television (a format that would have been available to most everyone), Netflix still has a massive audience and is quite accessible. With a subscription, kids will be able watch episodes any time they want, and teachers can stream episodes into their classrooms. But what’s even more exciting then magic and science returning to our TV sets is the fact that the Emmy Award-Winning, Saturday Night Live All-Star, Kate McKinnon, will be voicing the already iconic zany science teacher with the frizzy red hair and a color-changing dress. The role is being passed down to her from another comedy legend, Lilly Tomlin, who voiced Ms. Frizzle for the full 4 seasons The Magic School Bus was on air. 
In the past year alone, McKinnon has gained some serious attention for her portrayal of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, and for her spot-on impressions of other newsworthy political figures - including Kellyanne Conway, Elizabeth Warren, Betsy Devos, and Jeff Sessions. She also became a fan favorite in the all-female Ghostbusters (2016) movie, as the funky Dr. Jillian Holtzmann. With her full resume of crazy characters and award winning performances, we know McKinnon will do a more than stellar job as she takes on voicing The Frizz!

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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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