Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seven Questions: Cheri Waterhouse

Cheri Waterhouse is an actor, a writer, and a film producer. Her hilarious, insightful independent film Young, Single, and Angry is out on pay-per-view and On Demand, and is available on ITunes and Amazon. A recent emigree to Las Vegas, she blogs at What Happens in Vegas Goes in My Blog and has a column called Cheri’s Sin City with MyVegasScene. You can find her on Twitter here and on Facebook (She’s that one with the big smile on her face…yeah, that’s her).

1. Congrats on making Young, Single, and Angry and getting it onto Video on Demand and Amazon and ITunes! Please tell aspiring filmmakers how you managed to turn your screenplay into a finished film.

Wheewww, it was a long process, Nina. I had never written a screenplay before and started to take screenwriting classes with Pilar Alessandra at On The Page after I wrote the first draft (where I learned that everything I was doing was, well, backward and much harder). I was lucky enough to have amazing actors as friends and did many readings of the script. I found this very helpful, because you can actually hear things that are clunky, pieces that are missing and parts that just don't work.

I tried to sell the script for about one year (without any luck) then decided that if I was going to be successful at anything, I had to make it happen myself. I asked my close friend, Cathleen Alexander, who had produced an independent feature and my older brother Richard Waterhouse, who is an acting teacher and a very good theatre director, to help me bring it to fruition.

We begged and borrowed funds, used friends’ houses as locations, used the actors' wardrobes as costumes and really relied on all (I mean all) our friends to help out. We shot for approximately seven months (on nights and weekends). Everyone had day jobs and other paying acting gigs, so we had to accommodate everyone’s schedule.

After the film was finished, we hired the amazing Peter Belsito and Sydney Levine from Film Finders to help us find a sales agent to get the film distributed. We attended AFM (American Film Market) and the Berlin Film Market. At Berlin, we were lucky enough to catch the eye of Imagination Worldwide, who took us under their wing and found us international and domestic distribution. Film Finders and Imagination have been so good to us. They believed in our film, and really worked hard to make this all work.

We also worked our asses off. This was truly a labor of love and we literally downed hundreds of cases of wine to keep from feeling those pesky “labor pains.” This has been a five year process, and we are excited to move on to the next project.

(Photo: Cheri Waterhouse [right] and her fellow producer, Cathleen Alexander)

2. What advice would you give aspiring screenwriters and independent film producers?

Writers, just write. You can fix it later. Sometimes you’ll write a load of crap, then you’ll pull a gem out of your bum. Just write.

Also write down all your ideas. I put mine on an Excel sheet. You may not want to write about them now, but later, they may really strike you as your next exciting project.

Producers, know your vision. I made so many mistakes. I mean soooo many.

Click with your director, DP [director of photography], editor, get to know them. Know in your heart that they are on the same page with you or else the film won’t work.

If they don’t understand (“get”) the script or have their own vision that is different from you, it will cause a big conflict in the process…. It’s a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario.

I was really fortunate in some instances. And in others…not so much.

Then when you know they’re right for the project, take a deep breath and surrender a little bit. Micromanaging is not good, for anybody.

P.S. this is from watching other people’s low budgets in process: be nice to your crew. You’re paying them practically nothing. Feed them well, respect them and be kind. They are there for you. But they won’t be if you abuse them. I loved my crew. They were the best.

(Here's the trailer for the movie)

3. What would you say are the best and worst things about trying to lead a creative life?

The best thing about leading a creative life is that it’s fun. I look forward to it. I surprise myself, crack myself up and I am constantly amazed how dark I get sometimes. It’s really like therapy. I’m grateful that I get to reach the highest highs and the lowest lows and then I turn off my computer and it was all in my imagination. Exploration is exhilarating. Figuring out that missing piece of the puzzle is also a big high for me.

The worst: finances. Being independently wealthy would really help my situation. Oh well. Finding day jobs, juggling paying work and writing. I feel guilty if I don’t spend equal time on either (that darn Midwestern work ethic. Phooey).

My dream is to be able to finance my own films, so I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. Or find a lovely benefactor who believed in me to finance me so I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. If you’re interested, talk to Nina and she’ll give you my info. Hee, Hee.

4. How do you jolt yourself out of it when you're stuck, creatively? Or maybe you never get stuck! In which case, please allow me to poke you viciously.

This is going to sound a little twisted, but it really works for me. I expect it to be bad. I lower the bar so far that I assume anything that goes on the page will be crap. No expectations, no blocks.

Or if I get to a part where I can’t figure out “how” it will happen, I skip it and keep writing. Figure it out later. It will come to you eventually. I usually write “Then he/she magically gets to this place” or I write something that is boring or lame so I can just keep on plowing through. You will figure out something brilliant later on down the line.

5. What books, movies or other media inspire you?

I love movies (even the ones I don’t care for took an amazing amount of work, so I appreciate them). Hedwig and the Angry Inch was SOOO exciting to me, Sweet Hereafter, Old School (cracked me up), Princess Bride. Starting to like zombie movies (being nudged to the dark side by a friend). Plays by John Guare, books by Anne LaMott.

Music: Love Rufus Wainwright and Bonnie Raitt (and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age).

Most of my television watching is fueled by my twisted sense of humor or my libido(sorry, over share): True Blood, Hung, Burn Notice, Nurse Jackie, Weeds, Rome, Deadwood, Dexter, The Mentalist, What Not To Wear, The Daily Show…You can decide what shows belong in which category.

6. What creative project are you working on now?

I’m writing a web series with my brother called “FU Public Relations.” I also have a script about a transvestite called “RocknRoll Hootchiecoo. ‘ I write show and restaurant reviews for I have a blog What Happens In Vegas Goes In My Blog. I’m discussing peri-menopause right now, which I’m sure is so exciting for all your readers. Then my first drama, that I am scared to talk about (I’m expecting it to be bad. See, it works).

7. Obligatory silly question: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Ok, I would really need two (sorry to be so demanding…but I will anyway).

1. Reading people’s minds (Now that’s power).

2. Transporting from one place to the next instantly (Pub tour in Europe, no problem. Photographic Safari in Namibia…sure! Lunch with Anthony Bourdain in Thailand. Poof, I’m there.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Cheri! Readers, please check out Young, Single, and Angry on Video on Demand or on ITunes and Amazon.

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