INTERVIEW WITH ANGEL KATHERINE TAORMINA AS SEEN IN THE OCTOBER 23RD 2022 ISSUE OF LA INDIES MAGAZINE
("Thank you to LA INDIES for doing this interview and promotion with me. Life in the Arts has given me some incredible stories in the past and I’m looking forward to making new memories over the course of future projects." -Angel)
1. What draws you to the language of cinema?
Cinema is a universal language. Whether a film is silent or talkie, people can understand film throughout the world because everyone has, can convey, and can comprehend, emotions. The truer the heart of a story, the more it can resonate with the soul on a universal level.
2. How and when did you start studying films?
I started out in film 25 years ago in 1997. I did study with NYFA and with various private schools for a time but, for me, the thing that taught me the most was being out there, making films, being at the helm, and having to be a good captain to my cast and crew with no safety net and armed with nothing but my intuition. In that way, you learn about yourself, how to trust yourself, and how to surround yourself with the best possible people. When I was entirely alone with nothing but my instincts and a camera, that was when I emerged successful. I had learned film. But now, I knew that I had learned Angel Katherine Taormina. Now, no matter what I do, I am always confident in the one consistent factor- myself. For that confidence, I am then permitted to build confidence with the people and situations around me and to grow into a unified front with every project I enter into and to create the surroundings, the safety, and the creativity necessary to bring each new world we create to full bloom. I love collaborating with casts and crews and bringing things to life. I thrive on the energy of a crowded room. But at the end of the day, none of it would be possible if I hadn’t successfully learned to know myself.
3. When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you created?
I wanted to get into film since as far back as I can remember. From day one. From the first time I saw a camera, I wanted to hold it, be in front of it, be behind it, and create the ideas that would pass through it. The first time I was on camera professionally was at a Janet Paschal concert in 1997. My first film credit came the following year when I was an extra in the Denzel Washington thriller “The Siege.” I created an educational children’s film in 2003. The first film project that got me noticed at the film festivals was “Guilt” in 2008. The first documentary I ever filmed, and my first time working overseas, was “The Grand Era” in 2009. It began my love affair with Paris. My first award for a documentary came in 2012, which was also when I started writing the novel “The Saints of the Rue Scribe”, which I adapted into a screenplay the following year and shot as my first feature film between September 2018 and February 2020. “Saints” was my feature film debut and it ran the film festival circuit between September 2020 and December 2021. It won 29 awards in 13 countries. It even played in some theatres. It was the happiest moment of my career to date. In tandem with “Saints” was my original “Cinétage Series” of short stories and live performances, which finally reached its climactic conclusion just this very year. Some of the original Cinétage work ended up being used in “Saints”, which is why I consider “Saints” itself, in a way, to be a Cinétage in its own right. Also in tandem with “Saints” was its “legacy film", entitled “Cristabelle”, which was released on May 24th 2022 on Amazon Prime and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Tubi, YouTube, Google Play, and Plex. The concept of creating a legacy for the character of Marie Charpentier centered upon the concept of “what if the life of this girl in the past can influence someone’s life in the present? What would it look like? What would the story be? Who would the person in the present be? And how could she be helped by the legacy of Marie Charpentier?” And thus the story of Cristabelle Joy was born. It was fun playing a dual role in “Cristabelle”, of both Cristabelle and Marie, and then also directing, filming, writing, and editing it, as well as selecting all the costumes. All said and done, though, I’m looking forward to working on my next film hands on, shoulder to shoulder, with the biggest and most talented team of all kinds of creatives as possible. I believe in the shared and collective experience, both in filmmaking and in film viewing. There is always something that one person can glean from another person for the betterment of all. I will never forget the beautiful experiences I’ve had over the past ten years, from the first time I opened a blank page to write “Saints” to the final triumphant notes of “Cristabelle”.
4. Which directors have been influential in your work and why?
I have been influenced by people in all art forms, including film directors. You never know where or how inspiration will strike. And, as artists, we are all family in some form or another. My all-time influence was Charlie Chaplin. I’ve taken more than a nod or two from his work in my projects and his ability to do everything and do it well never cease to fascinate me. Jerry Lewis is another genius who did it all. And when something didn’t exist, he invented it. Now THAT’S the answer to ANY problem right there. Fred Astaire- okay, so he wasn’t a filmmaker, but cinematographers’ outlooks on dance sequences changed radically because of his influence. I love the film “Days of Wine and Roses” because Blake Edwards was daring enough to set up the camera and capture the action of Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick like birds in flight as they gave arguably two of the greatest performances ever captured on screen. I fell in love with James Cameron after seeing “Titanic”. Not because of its opulence and grandeur and fantastic technique and the chemistry between the incomparable Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. All of that is true. But what I loved about James Cameron was that whenever he wanted to do something that hadn’t yet been invented, he would just invent it and then move forward. Also, it has been said that his actors trust him because he never puts them through anything that he isn’t also going through himself. There’s a picture somewhere online of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio hanging on the top of the ship 200 feet in the air, with James Cameron 100 feet above them hanging over them from what looks like a wire as he holds the camera and frames the shot. After seeing that photo, I said to myself “yeah, exactly, that’s the kind of director I always want to be- a million percent invested at all times.” Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino have both been influences on me in that they make films true to their lives and minds and hearts and that connect on a personal level to their viewers. They create worlds that they, and so many others have seen and can relate to, and then take it a new level and explore new ways of seeing it and feeling it- in essence, their films offer a new and different way of experiencing life. They challenge the viewer, and the viewer who accepts the challenge gets rewarded with a great- and honest- film and a broader world perspective and interior perspective.
5. How difficult is it to find the right audience for an indie film and what is your distribution strategy?
I don’t really believe in a “right” or “wrong” audience. If a person likes a film, they like it. They become your audience. Even I can’t explain why I like something when I like something. But I like it and so I go with it and I become that person’s audience. And it’s the same with other people watching me. I do what I do and when a person likes it, they go with it and they become my audience. For example, I loved the first Rian Johnson “Knives Out” film. (As of the writing of this interview, “Glass Onion” has yet to be released. I’m looking forward to it). There is no scientific quantification for why I love it and have watched it about 40 times. I just do. I think that anyone creating a film should just be true to what they have to say and the audiences will find themselves right there with them and will remain fans. Get out there, get into the thick of it, and we all have our place to find and to claim and, side by side together, we are filmmakers, actors, writers- we are entertainers. This is what we are made to do and what we love to do. I always hope that my films find the biggest audiences possible and that every piece of art will be respected, accepted, and seen for its true worth. In the case of my next film, “River Lights”, part of what I hope to achieve in a universal release is connectivity and healing through the potential light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel of hope and peace.
6. What was the inspiration behind the making of your latest project?
The film will be called “River Lights”. Adapted from my 2019 novel “The Anniversary”. It is a story very close to my heart. I was 8 days shy of my 12th birthday when 9/11 happened. Technically I was living on Long Island but my dad and I were in the city two or three times a week doing things to help build my career. I know that could have very easily been us that day. I had a hair appointment downtown for the 11th. I’d switched the date. My dad had an office downtown, but he didn’t go in that day. If we had gone there together that morning, we would have very likely gotten there a bit after 8am and would have gone up to Windows on the World for a carton of milk, to look at the spectacular views, and to recreate some pictures of me standing at the window like I did when I was four years old. We weren’t there that day. We didn’t lose anyone that we knew personally. But, from that day, the “what if” was burned into my heart. The characters of Valentina and Jace explore survivors’ guilt in varied ways in this screenplay. Circumstances could have made my dad and I just like the characters of Valentina and Marcus. So many people have so many different stories. So many others could easily have had the same stories, but didn’t, because of some variable or another. For all the Jaces and Ellies out there. For all the Valentinas and Marcuses out there. For all the Jaces and Valentinas out there. For all the hearts torn apart that day, this is my offering of healing. I hope I can finally help you. The story does not belong to one person in particular in order that it can be embraced by all. It is what unites us- our desire for healing and peace, freedom and love, a day beyond the ashes, a day- even a lifetime- of joy. I hugged people. Over the months after 9/11, I was living in the city again and I would hug people who walked up to me and needed a hug. On the Promenade. On the corner of Cortlandt Street. Anywhere where there was a reminder of the tragedy, there was a desire for people to reach out peacefully, come together, and try to find a moment of hope and healing. That is what I hope this film will bring. Hope and healing. In the story, Jace had lost his girlfriend Ellie on Flight 11, Valentina had lost her father Marcus in Windows on the World, and Jace and Valentina, now a Hollywood power couple, are dealing with the pain 20 years later, as new revelations about their pasts come to light and those truths can help others to heal as the 20th anniversary draws near in a 2021 Manhattan filled with the hope of moving forward to a bright future of what they can make it to be. We can choose our today. We can choose joy. We can heal. That is the story of “River Lights” and the story of the desire of the human heart. Peace. That is what I’m looking to bring to the big screen. The hope that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel of darkness caused by that day, and the peace of the human heart that brings healing, joy, and love. If Jace and Valentina can make it through then, yes, there is a tomorrow. And there is peace.
7. How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
Be honest. Whatever honest is for you. Whatever truth is for you. Be true. Never lie- your audience will know. Be real and the heart of your film will connect with other hearts. That is what filmmaking- that is what entertainment- is all about.
8. Please tell us about your next project.
“River Lights” will be a film unlike anything I’ve ever done. I finished the screenplay adaptation of my 12th novel on February 14th 2020- the same day I shot the final shot for “The Saints of the Rue Scribe” and almost two whole years before I’d be shooting scenes for “Cristabelle”. A new journey was beginning in the middle of another journey but, in fact, the journey to “River Lights” actually began long before most of my other journeys. On 9/11, I was about to turn twelve years old. Imagine the world as you know it falling to pieces around you and being powerless to help. Then, imagine that, one day in the future, your creative voice puts you into a position where you can finally help. You would take the helm and fly away- onward and upward to help as many people as you possibly could. And that is what I did. I found a way to help, I grabbed hold of that way, and I am taking that way to the absolute extreme. This is going to be my biggest project to date. I want as many people as have connections to that day to get involved, to get their input- to get their blessing- to get their understanding, to help to heal, to point to hope, and to introduce the potential for a light at the end of the tunnel. “River Lights” takes place in a 2021 version of Manhattan that I created in 2019- a Manhattan preparing for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 through a “20 Years of Stories, 20 Years of Hope” campaign. Involved in this campaign are performers and people from all over the world who either had direct connections to 9/11 or who somehow came to aid on that fateful day. Promoting the campaign are typical residents of the city, including a Central Park artist, a retired NYPD officer, and a dance troupe led by a perky young girl performing throwbacks to the year 2000 on a subway train. On a typical day, these people might not be aware that they have anything in common but, when Jace Hudson and Valentina Vey- Hollywood’s biggest power couple- are in town filming during the course of these events and are sent out by their concerned director into the heart of Manhattan to reconnect with what made them talented in the first place, each of these people will change this couple’s lives for the better and will bring them closer to the confrontation and the healing of their pasts regarding 9/11, survivors guilt, the damage it caused them, the parts of their lives that it destroyed, and also, the road to healing that is now theirs to take and to show others that they can take as well. I’m a New Yorker by birth. New York is where I got my start. I will always love my home city. When I was back up there for a visit in 2019, I knew it was finally time to write the story that had been in my heart for nearly 20 years. I knew that 20 years was long enough. I knew my city was ready. I knew it was time to heal. So I wrote. And now, it is going to be a film that everyone can experience together so that help and healing may abound. This is my gift. This is the good I choose to do with it. This is for everyone. This is for peace. My version of Manhattan as I see it is pretty close to the way most people see it- except perhaps that subways are a bit cleaner, more people wear orange, and pizza is one of the most frequented topics of any discussion. All are, in a way, homages and reflections of my own childhood and what I saw growing up in New York. So it’s all there. It’s just all about taking the time to see it. Seeing the good. And, also, seeing what good can be created as people choose to heal and let themselves live life. The story of Jace and Valentina is a microcosm of all of us and is just as real yesterday as it is today as it will be tomorrow. This is a tale of courage, of love, of rising up against all odds and breaking free to find life. That is what we all need- freedom. And, for all of us who have our stories of that day, it is time- it is for us, to heal. After being necessarily alone for “Cristabelle”, it is pertinent to me- both metaphorically and in actuality- to be surrounded by a new film family for this new endeavor, “River Lights”. I hope to join forces with the best of the best in crew and cast and create a tour de force for Jace, Val, Benedicte, Martina, NYPD Man, and every character in this amazingly deep and beautiful project. Everything I have learned and everything I have done has led to this. All the people who have reached out and helped before me has led me to help, too. And, I promise, I will do right by all of you. This is my type of film. I have never felt more comfortable at the thought of being at the helm and taking everyone beyond their limits to the heights that will make us all better than we ever were before and give this story the epic telling it truly deserves. I’m all in. And I can’t wait to see who’s with me.