the traveler's resource guide to festivals & filmsa FestivalTravelNetwork.com site part of Insider Media llc.
Who: Katie Boyle When: Sunday, April 30 8pm, Doors at 7pmWhere: Littlefield 635 Sackett Street Brooklyn, NY 11217
For upcoming headlining dates:
Follow her on instagram for weekly show details
Though the cliches abound about dark Irish humor and the Gaelic gift of gab, a list of comedians from Ireland doesn’t instantly pop into mind. Well, Kildare native Katie Boyle is working hard to modify perceptions about the Irish comic cavalcade.
Offering a demonstration, the 30-something now celebrates the release of "I'll Do It Myself!” Her debut album drops this April 30th at Littlefield in Brooklyn. A new, hour-long show based on her experiences in America —how she navigated a different culture, went into therapy, tried dating and, of course, dealt with shame — will also be on display. And Boyle throws in a few bits about favored sex positions.
She also asked fellow immigrant friends to join her — Atheer Yacoub (Comedy Central) and Mohanad Elshieky (Conan) — with Cansu Karabiyik (BBC) as emcee. So to find out about positions or anything else from a non-American perspective, Boyle’s offering a fun night of comedy.
As the Irish person living in NYC, Boyle performs frequently all over the city and has been seen regularly at New York Comedy Club, Stand Up NY, Eastville and many other amazing clubs. She’s also headlined clubs around the country and brought her hour-or-two sold out shows to Dublin this year. Through her podcast, “The Shift,” guests talk about sex and dating from an Irish perspective. She also runs the monthly Transplants Comedy Show, Fridays at 7.30pm at QED. Boyle recorded this debut and special, “I’ll do it Myself” with Pinch Records and New York Comedy Club. She was also featured in the NY Funniest showcase for the New York Comedy Festival 2022. And she’s performed at festivals all over America — Asheville, Cape Fear, Laughing Skull Atlanta, The Women in Comedy Festival, Kansas City Irish Fest — and on Sirius XM. She joined the Real Irish Comedy tour, as well.
“I’ll Do It Myself” is titled after what every Irish parent constantly says. Boyle decided her show will start off with audience participation, crowd work and then an hour of standup. Also, Boyle will be the first Irish comedian to film a full length special in NYC.
Q: What are the inherently funny things about people of Irish descent?
KB: Irish people have always been storytellers who use humor to deal with hardship. I think that’s been passed on through the generations and produced some amazing comedians from Ireland.
Q: Who do you think are the funniest people — Irish men or women or the American variants?
KB: I don’t think anyone could answer that since humor is subjective. But I do think through the internet people globally now have access to Irish humor for the first time and Irish women are getting a platform they didn't have before. Women in general are getting stage time that wasn’t accessible before and they’re now breaking the stereotype of “women aren't funny.” I wouldn’t say that any one group of comedians -- men, women, Irish, American -- are funnier than the other since each individual does the work of writing, performing and presenting their unique style. I will say Irish people are all very witty and the best craic and every person back home is hilarious!
Q: When did you first realize you were funny?
KB: When I moved to America. Everyone at home was hilarious and I think I just enjoyed it and laughed along. But when I moved here, I met so many people from different countries and cultures. When I told stories of home. They laughed and told me I should be a comedian! The friends who made me feel funny are the same ones seven and a half years later at the back of the room for my comedy special taping!
Q: When and how did you make the leap to be on stage and stick to it?
KB: There was a show at the Creek and the Cave that let audience members tell jokes on stage. I did that one night and then was doing mics the very next night. I started a show a month later and that was that. From what seemed like a fun way to tell a story and work on my own anxiety with public speaking became an instant “I’m going to do this forever!”
Q: What was the funniest moment of heckling?
KB: There's been so many. I perform nearly every night and there's always at least one guy who heckles me at some show and I just roast back so it's hard to answer. But there's lots of examples of clips on my instagram. It's mostly men trying to be funny but not being funny.
Q: Who was the coolest person you had in the audience?
KB: No idea! Really depends on what you mean by cool but the coolest audience members to me are the ones that laugh!
Q: When you were living in Ireland, did you really think you'd move to the States and carve out this career here?
KB: No, I'd never have dreamed of trying standup. If you told me a decade ago I'd be living in NYC living off that comedy, I'd have said you were mental!
Q: What would you have done if you hadn’t done standup comedy?
KB: I’ve a degree in art so I would have stayed in the art world or managed a bar since I also worked a lot in bars.
Q: Talk about this new show and your guest comedians.
KB: The new show is about navigating a different culture. When I moved to America, I had to slow down my speaking, learn new words, how to take a compliment and say “Yes” when I actually want something instead of the Irish polite of “No, I’m grand” three times, because here they won’t ask you again!
My biggest culture shock was with the people I met here and their openness to talking about sex and mental health confidentially — and at any volume. I’d have never gone to therapy in Ireland. I wouldn't have known how to, but going is the best thing I ever did. I felt inspired by the “Who cares what people think?” A New Yorker's attitude is so different from “What will the neighbors say?” So in the show, I talk about that journey -- navigating America, therapy, relationships, sex and childhood trauma. My three comedian friends will open the show. They’re all so talented and are also immigrants who talk about their journey and life in America.
Q: How did you prepare for this show?
KB: Running the material on showcase shows and planning it out so it flows for the hour.
Q: Talk about the different formats for your routine — podcast, video live and recording...
KB: I do stand up in a conversational tone. I want the audience to feel like they’re listening to a friend. I do a little crowd work; just have fun chatting with the crowd and playfully slagging them or myself in the interaction. Additionally, I record a weekly podcast, “The Shift,” which is about dating, sex, anti-shame and the chats. My Patreon has a work in progress stand-up and also solo eps about my life and the movies I watch.
Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals and what would be your dream show? Who would you like to be performing with [living] — your all time guests?
KB: In the short term: I’d like to headline more and keep growing my audience. As for long term — be as successful as I can be. I’d love to make a movie, a TV series and gig theaters one day. As for my dream guest, I’d ask Colin Quinn, Nate Bargatze, Dara Ó Brian, and Zainab Johnson to join me.
Q: Is there any book or film you'd like to perform and any place you'd like to play that you haven’t yet?
KB: No. not really. Maybe my own but who knows. I enjoy acting but I’m a better stand up. As for the ideal spot — the Gramercy Theater would be amazing.
To learn more: katieboylecomic.com
Photos Brad Balfour
Actor, teacher and now director Thomas G. Waites doesn’t shy away from taking chances or courting controversy. For his first directorial outing, he pushed the envelope creating “Target” — a gender-bending, sexually provocative dark comedy which doesn’t shy away from challenging audiences with extreme language or suggestive scenes (though there’s no nudity).
Born January 8, 1955 in Philadelphia, Waites ultimately found himself in New York City. A member of the Actors Studio since 1984, the upper eastside resident runs his own acting studio in New York City which is named after him. The son of Michael and Anne Waites, this Philly native completed grade school at Immaculate Conception and then high school at Bishop Egan in Fairless Hills, PA. After a year at Bucks County Community College, he received a full scholarship for acting at New York City’s Juilliard School. Once he had a B.A. degree in Writing from The New School, he got a Masters of Fine Arts in Playwriting from the University of Iowa.
Then the 21-year-old Waites was offered two movies simultaneously: “Snowbound” and “Pity the Poor Soldier” (the title has subsequently changed). Despite being offered twice the money for the former, Waites chose the latter because it was celebrating the American Revolutionary War centennial. He’s inevitably a man driven by ideas, not necessarily money.
Waites then played Oliver Treefe in Simon Gray’s world premiere of “Molly” -- at the First Annual Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. After this acclaimed performance, he returned to NYC to be cast in the Joan Micklin Silver-produced “On the Yard” (1978), co-starring John Heard. Subsequently, he was offered a three-picture option deal with Paramount Pictures.
After strong critical notices the rambunctious actor auditioned for and got a part in Walter Hill’s “The Warriors" (1979) playing the character Fox. After disputes with the director, he was fired. When the studio asked him where he wanted for his billing he told them to remove his name completely, a decision Waites now regrets. He has since reconciled with Walter Hill.
Bouncing back, Waites auditioned with Al Pacino, and was cast in Norman Jewison’s “...And Justice for All” (1979). This began a long relationship with Pacino — the two worked together again in Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and he got strong notices again. Waites originated the role of Mitchell in Alan Bowne’s “Forty-Deuce” Off-Broadway at the Perry Street Theatre. In 1982, Waites competed with Matt Dillon and Kevin Bacon before landing the role of Bobby in David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “American Buffalo.” Kurt Russell and John Carpenter saw his performance and cast him as Windows in “The Thing” (1982).
It was during this time that Tom met his namesake, singer Tom Waits, who generously taught Tom the song “Jersey Girl.” Out of deference to musician Waits, Tom added the G. to his professional name to offset any confusion between the two talented artists. Waits even played the bass drum on a demo tape of G. Waites’ music. Tom G. began writing music and formed a band called The Push Ups, playing gigs around NYC in clubs such as CBGB’s, Limelight, Trax, The Bitter End and even opening for The Smithereens.
And that’s just a part of the first couple of decades in his long career. There is much more, but now, he grapples with the next big challenge — releasing his directorial debut.
Q: How did we land here? What are you doing, what are you going to do and what have you done?
TW: Well, that’s a loaded question for me because I’ve done quite a lot. But the most important thing I’ve done [lately] dropped April 18 on all the video platforms -- Amazon, Apple, Google, VUDU. It’s called “Target” — a playful sex comedy. I wrote it during the pandemic when we were trapped inside here. I am sure you were trapped inside your crib too. I just said, “You know what? I want to make a movie, Goddamn it, and I’m gonna fuckin’ make a movie.” So I proceeded to write 27 drafts.
Q: Wow, 27 drafts — and do you have them all [laughs]?
TW: No. They’re somewhere I guess. But then I found a great script doctor who really whipped it into shape and I got a shooting script. Then, of course, when you get there everything changes because — that’s the Movies! It’s sort of a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” meets “The Big Lebowski.” It’s wacky.
Q: You wrote the story during the pandemic shutdown. But did you shoot some of it during the pandemic, or was that after?
TW: No, we didn’t start shooting until May, 2021. Then we spent a year editing and scoring. I wrote almost all of the music along with my producer, Tony Daniels — who is par excellence. I think the music really helps the film a great deal. It helps to pull people in, at least that’s what some people feel. They like to get a soundtrack of just the music. So we are going to try to work that out. We are being distributed by Deadtalk Live Films on Deadtalk Live Media. It’s a chance to laugh at ourselves. I think it’s important that we get to have a good laugh at ourselves, at our sexual idiosyncrasies shall we say.
Q: You have a special position in the cinematic universe having been in “The Warriors” — a cult classic. You can do a lot of movies, but a film that helps define an era –– a movie where you’re a character in a film that plows through genres –– that’s rare. “The Big Lebowski” is one that has and certainly, so does “Taxi Driver.”
TW: Or, in doing John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” I may have made just as much money signing autographs for John Carpenter’s remake. It is still terrific — and still holds up. [When I was doing] “The Warriors” was an interesting time period in my life. I was 23 and had just signed a three-picture deal with Paramount. It was supposed to be my name above the title — “Thomas Waites in ‘The Warriors’” — but I pissed off the director so badly that he fired me after seven weeks. And I deserved it. I was a bit of an angry young rebellious ... you know. “What are you rebelling against, Johnny? Well, what have you got?” That was my story. I stepped over the line and paid quite a price for that erroneous behavior. Since then, I’ve been able to make amends to Walter [Hill] and make things right which is really good. It was hard kicking back. After that, almost two months after I got fired, I booked “And Justice For All” with Al Pacino which didn’t hurt my stage career because I went on to do “American Buffalo.” You can see the poster over there ....
Q: You are a little more chastened....
TW: I was immediately chastened, went into therapy and studied karate for discipline. I really put myself under the knife so to speak.
Q: At what point in the script of “The Thing” did you die?TW: I guess about halfway through... No, a little more than half, make it 3/4th of the way. Q: Oh, that’s good. That helped your therapy. [You remember] the blood test thing [where they expose the alien].Q: Your therapy, could you apply it more effectively then?
TW: I’ve gotten along great with every director since. It was just that one false step. You know we all make mistakes but I happen to have made a pretty big one at a young age. The good thing about that is, I am also an acting teacher — TGW Acting Studios. One of the beneTts of that is that I can help young people not to step into the same bear trap that I did.
Q: Young people that are actors — they get the idea in their head that “Yes, you’ve got to have It, that motivation and energy” but you also have to get rid of yourself, let go of your ego. That has to be one of the biggest lessons you have to teach.
TW: To be of service to the story and the director is the conduit to the story. He/she takes the writer — and sometimes that’s the same person — but it’s their job to convey the writer’s intent and it’s your job [as the actor] to follow that. I guess I just asked far too many questions. I think subconsciously I wanted to be making my own movies [laughs]. So I stepped out of bounds. But I’ve been able to bounce back and have made 30 Tlms. I’ve done seven “Law & Orders.” I was on “Oz” for six years. And I have been on Broadway five times. It didn’t stop me.
Q: In being an actor or musician, you can go back and forth but they are very much two sides of the same coin. Yet they still are these very different sides. A musician has to articulate some vision of themself whether it’s “I am the rockstar” or “I am the gritty underground guy” while the actor has to let go of articulating that. They have to get out of themselves.
TW: Yeah, I’ve never thought about that. That’s true.
Q: It’s a great exercise for a musician to do acting and vice versa. Look at David Bowie. What made him successful was he could move from one to the other. You’re a musician as well ....
TW: That’s right, he absolutely could. When he did “The Elephant Man” on Broadway, The New York Times said, “Bowie Is Splendid.” You know how often that happens. Very Rarely. It is an interesting shedding of the skin in order to be subsumed by the character and allow it to come from your subconscious mind. Whereas a stage performer / musician / songwriter / singer, which is basically what I am. I’m more the storyteller — the Irish storyteller with a tale to tell. There is suffering involved in that, as well. And redemption. And love and children and romance and all the great wonderful things worth living for.
Q: Which one takes the most pain? You exemplify somebody else’s pain or your own pain? At the end of the day, a song isn’t great if it only respects one state of mind.
TW: If it’s not universal ... It’s like poetry, what makes Walt Whitman so brilliant, what makes Shakespeare so brilliant, what makes Hart Crane so brilliant is their capacity to reach the universal man and that’s art.
Q: They are also reaching into their own inner pain. Where do you think an actor has to go to reach into the character’s inner pain — to understand it and such? In Method acting they pull something out of themselves ....
TW: Lee Strasberg definitely stressed using oneself whereas Stella Adler stressed using the imagination. I was trained at Juilliard which didn’t stress either of them. I picked them up along the way and became a member of The Actor’s Studio in ‘85.
Q: Did you get a chance to join in with the reunion recently? With Al Pacino?
TW: No. I didn’t make it but a friend of mine did. He took a picture with Al and said, ‘I studied with Tommy Waites’ [imitating Al’s voice.] ”Tommy, How’s he doing? He’s a great actor. Give him my love.” We keep in touch. He was very helpful to me as a young actor. He was not just great on stage every night but we became very, very close as friends. We shared the same dressing room for a year. My God, you really get to know somebody [that way] ....
Q: Yet it’s funny. The acting and rock ‘n roll worlds are so strange. Everything you do is new — a movie, a play, or in going on tour — even in joining a different band — it’s like being reborn into a new life each time. It’s not like you have a consistent day-to-day thing. You might if you had a regular TV series or theatrical production, but, at the end of the day, you know at some time or another, it’s going to end.
TW: You’ve got to reinvent yourself every time out. You’ve got to sing for your supper — you know this. I mean, every time out you’ve got to outdo yourself from the last time or you aren’t really an artist, are you? You must be allowed to fail and, as Samuel Beckett has said, “If you fail, next time fail better.” And if you don’t adopt that kind of reckless attitude toward creating then you’ll never be any good.
Q: You’ve finally done this feature. Has it been a while since you last worked on a film? You’ve kept it relatively self-contained. What did it take to get it done and find the actors? Now it’s all the process afterwards. A lot of actors and directors don’t realize that if you are not involved with the production all the way through, you’ve given up a part of it. You’ve got to stay engaged in a way that you don’t realize till you are into the next phase.
TW: Yeah, it’s a lot more work than I had anticipated. First of all, I raised the money myself which is quite a challenging exercise. When you go to people and say, “Excuse me, can I ask you for help” and they say, “Sure.” Then you say, “I need money,” they change rather on a dime. But I was fortunate enough to be able to find, I guess, about seven or eight people who chipped in, and smaller amounts in exchange for points in the film.
Q: You didn’t go the social media route?
TW: No. I tried to do that. We raised $2000 and that wasn’t going to do me any good. I knew $2000 was nothing. I needed to get more. So I just went to fans that I knew who had money and friends that had money — people that believed in me — people that knew me well enough to know that if Tom does this he’ll do it right. And I feel that I did. Guess the audience will be the judge of that, won’t they?
Q: It’s a pretty provocative subject. You’ve got a couple who are opening up their marriage and are going to have sex with other people. And it doesn’t quite end up the way it sounds like.
TW: Right, we don’t want to give away the ending. Let’s just say It’s that five-year hitch [point]. After five years — as anybody that’s married can tell you — things hit a wall and people tend to either have affairs or try to spice things up. So the characters I created chose to spice things up and there are moral consequences.
Q: How did you find those two actors?
TW: My manager David Guss at Vanguard Management recommended them because I couldn’t afford a casting director. I had to just find actors. I’ve been working with actors for decades so I can read them pretty quickly. Then I found Jam Murphy. Jamie’s a lovely human being and an actress who’s great to work with. I found them and we did Zoom readings. It was [during] the pandemic. Although I had to meet Jamie in person before I could cast her. Her part was so integral — she is the fulcrum upon which the story turns. We met at Siena right here in the neighborhood. We sat outside wearing our masks and as far as I could tell I felt we had a great connection instantaneously. She’s proven to be not just an asset in terms of helping me get the film off the ground but on set, she was such fun. She was just like, “Let’s make a movie!” That’s the greatest attitude you could possibly dream of as a director. And there were tough conditions. We shot a 90-minute film. I had to go back and do a re-shoot, so it was really 15 days.
Q: You didn’t tap your students?
TW: I did not because none of them at the time were right for the roles that I was looking for. The vision changed through each rewrite. It kept on getting clearer and clearer. It was sort of like going to the eye doctor and they put on this fuzzy lens and it got clearer and clearer. Then finally I got into focus — “Oh I see, she has to be 30 years old; he has to be 50 years old” — in order for this story to work. I was lucky enough that I saw Jamie in a video, a video about dogs. I went, “There’s something about her that’s extraordinary.” She’s even more beautiful as a person – as a human – than she is physically. And she’s quite stunningly attractive, as you can see. But then I got the other two actors from David Guss and hired the rest. I did hire one student. Well, he was really a professional actor from Utah. Wilford Brimley had asked me to direct “Harvey” and he played the main character. Dr Lyman, I think that was his name. The doctor in the story of Harvey was this brilliant kid from St. George, Utah. He was a student of mine, and I cast him in the role of the cop.
Q: Is there a preference of doing theater, film or even TV for acting, but what do feel about directing?
TW: I have directed tons of theater. You see there on the wall — the poster of “Twelfth Night.” I’ve probably directed over 50 plays Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway and regionally. I’ve got a lot of experience directing plays which is quite challenging, You’re in one space. You can’t really change locations, but I’ve had some great set designers that have helped. I did a production of “As You Like It” where the set designer, a Japanese guy, painted the entire poor as the forest. The whole play is in different places but the forest is significant, the fulcrum! Directing theatre is exciting, challenging and motivating. People have to give the same performance night after night as opposed to film. There, it is really up to me where I put the camera, how I want this story to be told, who I want to focus on and why.
Q: Is it harder to find the right crew or the right actor?
TW: Finding the right actors is everything! And I had a great crew. A terrific crew –– Vinny Patricini, Steve Concha and Alyssa Rabinowitz. The three producers found the crew for me because I didn’t know where to find crews. I am an actor, for God’s sake. We’ve got great people and they worked long hours, under arduous conditions in the summer at night. But we had a great deal of fun which kinda makes up for it.
Q: You were 23 when you basically got this crucial role. Had you always known that you were going to be an actor?
TW: Actually, my first film was when I was 21. I did a film called “Pity the Poor Soldier” that had the actor William Sadler in it.
Q: Oh, I love Sadler.
TW: Yeah, Billy’s great. Then I did the lead in a movie with the great actor, John Heard. It was “On The Yard” produced by Joan Micklin Silver, whom you probably remember from “Hester Street.” Her husband directed this film. “On The Yard” was based on a book by Malcolm Braley who had spent 21 of his 47 years in prison. He wrote the book whilst Rafael Silver wrote the script. John and I starred in it. I had those two movies under my belt. “On The Yard” got great notices especially from The New York Times. So that got Paramount and Walter Hill’s attention. John Heard is the “Home Alone” dad. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us but he was a very underrated actor. As brilliant on stage as he was on film.
Q: Where did you grow up?
TW: I grew up outside of Philadelphia, a place called Levittown Bristol. I lived in a place they now call Crack City. It was a rough neighborhood and I knew that I wanted to get out. I was headed for trouble, myself, I was a member of a gang. I was not going anywhere but prison and I got hit by a car. In the hospital, I got addicted to Demerol. In those days you could lay in the hospital bed, light up a cigarette and just drift off to sleep.Then they stopped giving me Demerol because it was a week into this pretty serious accident and I wanted this pain medication. I pulled the chain for the nurse to come and would put on this big show of how much pain I was in. Then of course, they would give me the injection. A few days later, the doctors looking at my chart would be like, “Why are you giving him so much Demerol?” The nurse looked at me then at the doctor then back at me and she went “You ought to become an actor.” A light bulb went off over my head and I thought, “Well I can’t play sports anymore because I have no legs. I had gotten them both broken severely. So in the hospital, I started to read and watch films. I started to identify. Then when I came out of the hospital, I was in a high school play, then another. Then someone suggested I audition for Juilliard and I got a scholarship.
Q: Obviously, you got off the demerol.
TW: Obviously, yeah [laughs]. They took that away instantly — my addictive personality notwithstanding. But I also realized that Shakespeare — I’d seen [Franco] Zefferelli’s “Romeo & Juliet” — was God. I went to the library and memorized the entire balcony scene of both characters which, to this day, I can recite by rote. I knew Shakespeare would get me out of that neighborhood —it was my ticket out. I wasn’t particularly bright like my oldest brother with an IQ of 151. I didn’t have that going for me. I couldn’t play sports or fight or be in a gang anymore. I had to get out of this environment. It was bad for me. Sure enough, I dedicated myself to Shakespeare and still do. He is the greatest of all writers. There are a lot of us that have tried writing. He is God and we are all somewhere underneath.
Q: Sometimes I think Shakespeare is overrated and other times I go back to read it and find a particularly bizarre but logical turn of phrase. Then I say, “How did he come up with that?”
TW: And he did. 75% of it is iambic pentameter. He stuck to a very strict meter: beat stress beat stress beat stress beat stress beat stress. He made great characters and stories. He was a great comedian, philosopher and poet — all in one. Perhaps, he even invented us, I’m not sure. But he certainly stands out in the hierarchy of literature. Even Tolstoy tipped his hat to him. So did Faulkner. They were afraid of him. How could anyone be this brilliant and write 37 plays, two lyric poems, 146 sonnets and be dead by 52 — and do it all by hand?! If you go to England, and go to Strafford, there is an entire town that makes its living on his name. Shops, bars, stores, and clothing – the whole town would just be another small English nothin’ town except for the fact that he was born there in what appears to be the smallest bed I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s where his mom was. I guess people were really small back then. That’s why when you go to England the rooms are so tiny. They never expected us to grow up fat!
Q: I never understood how an actor can claim to be an introvert or shy because they have to be able to project beyond the stage. How does that work?
TW: Well, I am an introvert. In fact, I ACT. But truth be told, I am sort of a priest — really an introspective kind –– at least a Black Irish poet in my own mind. I spend a great deal of time alone, of course. To write songs, you have to be alone for long periods of time, or to write plays — of which I’ve written several — I got my MFA from the University of Iowa in writing.
Q: I think William Burroughs ended up out there...
TW: A lot of great people have gone through there. Some of our favorite writers have gone through there and taught there.[The school] teaches you craft and skill. Of course, nobody can teach you talent — that has to be born. Talent is work essentially. Because I spend so much time alone, when I have to be with people, like with you or out at a party, I just ACT.
Q: How much are you acting and how much are you giving me the real deal? TW: You’ll never know the real deal, will you? Having mentioned being Irish, tell me a little bit about your Irish experience. You’ve referenced it several times. What county is your family from?
TW: My family is from County Cork. My mother’s maiden name was Joyce. I came from an Irish Catholic family of seven. My oldest brother was a priest; my oldest sister was a nun. I went to 12 years of Catholic school and am grateful for the strict education I received there. I am still in touch with some of the priests and teachers from my high school days. But when I visited Ireland, I could feel that I’ve been there before. Crossing the Irish Sea, I stood on the bow of the boat with the Irish Sea spraying over my face and I just cried. Of course, I had a pint of Guinness in me. I’m Home. And I can’t wait to go back there. I’d love to go back there and perform. That’s my dream. Home is where you hang your hat. I want to note — I’m Thomas G Waites, not to be confused with the great musician, Tom Waits.
Q: You know him though...
TW: I knew him and we spent time together. I guess the first time we met was back in 1977. We were both at a production of “West Side Story” and I saw this strange looking person in the lobby. He was standing there in his leather jacket kind of rocking back and forth. I went up to him and said “Excuse me. Are You Tom Waits?” He didn’t say anything but just shook his head, “Hmm.” I said, “So am I.” Then he looked at me and went [in Waits’ gravelly voice] “So you are the guy out there impersonating me?!" We had a good laugh and went out to have a pint at Jimmy Ray’s that night, the old one on 8th Avenue. He gave me his number and we kept in touch. He moved downtown in 1980 for a bit, when he married Kathleen and we saw each other several more times. We met at the Broome Street Bar where I’m like, “Tom what are we going to do about our names? I mean, I was in the business first but I used Thomas.” He said, “Well, if you ever get a deal, my record company will ask you to change your name.” We went back and forth.
Q: This was around the time after “In the Heart of Saturday Night.”
TW: Right around then. I love that album. I love those songs. He is an extraordinary individual, the kindest man [again in Waits' voice] “Well it’s not like my name is Bruce Spring-stein [both laugh]” He’s a very, very funny man. Then he was generous enough to come to a recording session. At the time I was doing a demo tape. I was signed to a letter of intent by a publishing company called CESAC. There’s ASCAP, BMI and CESAC. They usually do country artists and Europeans but they wanted to break in here. I had a new wave punk rock band called The Push Ups. They liked my songs. So I was signed to them and we did a demo. Tom agreed to come and sit in. He found a big, gigantic VFW bass drum hanging from the ceiling and took it down. He played on it and taught the bass player how to play the bass line to the song that I was doing. But it required double fingering on the big standup bass which you had to have huge hands for. The guy had a really hard time doing it but he, Tom, very patiently kept showing him. He very patiently taught me “Jersey Girl” — how to play it properly. He’s been nothing but kind. We used to exchange; I would give him acting tips and he would give me music tips. He was quite extraordinary in terms of his kindness and intelligence really. I would say he affected me and then I met Kathleen. I had a play published that I wrote when I was in Iowa about baseball — I played baseball when I was a kid. I wrote this play and it was published. They sent the play and the check to Kathleen and Tom [chuckles.] She wrote to me with the play, “Dear Tom, here’s your play. I read it. I liked it very much and hope you are doing well.” Tom gets stopped frequently in the place that used to rent movies all the time...
Q: You mean Blockbuster...
TW: People come up to Tom all the time in Blockbuster and tell him how great he was in “NYPD Blue” [laughs]. And rather than dispute he just stands there and shakes his head [laughs]. He’s never done “NYPD Blue” obviously. But I’ve done two of them.
Q: How many cop shows have you done?
TW: Oh God, I don’t know. I always play the bad guy. I played “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” with Vincent D’Onofrio. I played a guy who kneecapped old Jews even though his daughter was Jewish. But I’ve never done SVU. They’ve never brought me in. I don’t know why. Maybe they just don’t like me but I’ve done the other two. I think seven of them I’ve done and then you know tons of other TV shows. “The Punisher.” “Homeland.” When I lived in LA, I did a lot of TV.
Q: Thank God for TV and the streamers now. Everybody survives by that.
TW: It helps. The residual checks have kept me alive and my family too. And having health insurance all those years for the children was a big accomplishment. So I consider myself a successful actor [chuckles] because of that.
Q: I could consider myself successful on one front just because I’ve had my apartment for 45 years.
TW: There you go. That in New York is an accomplishment.
With Oscar night fast approaching — this Sunday, March 12th — it’s time to get inside some of the nominated films in various categories such as Best Documentary Feature. Among those nominees is “Navalny” — which details the struggle of imprisoned Putin opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The film shines a new, brighter light on his plight in a way a basic news story can never accomplish. Along with the praise for the film, its cinematographer Niki Waltl has also garnered attention for his fine visual work.
Austrian born and bred, Waltl first picked up a camera as a teenager. As part of the ‘90s popular skate- and snowboard culture, its videos first sparked his interest. Once he started shooting his friends when participating in both winter sports, he got a taste of filmmaking. In 2010, Waltl moved to Barcelona to study Direction of Photography (DoP) at the Centre d’Estudis Cinematografics de Catlunya (CECC). Revealing a talent for camerawork, he got commissioned work for such major companies as Converse, Nike, GoPro and Vans. He also produced commercials and other productions for Habitat, Element Brand, Chocolate — some of the biggest skateboard companies worldwide. This filming took him to China, South Africa, Morocco, Kyrgyzstan and other parts of the world.
Through noted below-the-line professional Frank Berger, Waltl received training in film lighting in Holland, who was Robby Müller’s gaffer for several years and worked with legendary Danish director Lars von Trier. Today, Waltl went on to work worldwide as a freelance DoP, with a focus on character-driven documentaries and fiction films. “Navalny,” the 2022 documentary — which tells the tale of imprisoned politician Alexey Navalny, controversial dissident and Valdimir Putin’s arch opponent — has been AAC director of photography Waltl’s most notable work. After it premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best US Documentary and the Festival Favorite Award, it started racking up more accolades and nominations including the BAFTA award for best Doc. And now, “Navalny” is nominated for the 2023 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.
Q: How have all these awards and nominations changed your life?NW: Basically, we’ve been on a journey with this film since it premiered at Sundance last year, screening it at festivals and promoting it. With the recent nominations, this journey has kept going and I was able to meet many great people on the way. And sure, new doors have been opening for me as a cinematographer. I’m very thankful to be a part of this project. The success of the film is also bittersweet, as Alexey Navalny is still in prison, in solitary confinement in a Russian gulag. It’s because of him and his bravery that we even got to make this film.Q: Did you ever think the film would get such a reaction?NW: In a way, yes. As soon as I got the call to work on this project I knew that this is a defining story of our time and that a film about it will possibly find a very big audience. At the same time, it is all quite unreal. That the reaction would be as big as it is now, with the academy award nomination, and winning the BAFTA, I mean nobody expected that and I’m rather speechless.
Q: What do you think made “Navalny” such a contender?NW: I think it’s a combination of things. First and foremost, because of the urgency of the story and the popularity of Alexey Navalny, the whole world was following what happened with his poisoning, his recovery and the developments after. Also, the war in Ukraine has indirectly made our film more relevant. But I think it’s also a good film on its own merits. I really like the work of our director Daniel Roher and what he created with the team. The editors (Langdon Page and Maya Hawke) did a great job, the same with the music composed by Marius de Vries, and etc.
Q: What were the most difficult scenarios to shoot?NW: Maybe the phone call scene. We shot it at 4 am for logistical reasons and thought we’d be back in bed after 15 minutes of shooting as the prank idea probably wouldn’t work. What followed was the now almost infamous phone call that went on for about 40 minutes. I had the camera on my shoulder the whole time and was giving my very best to operate it as well as I could. 40 minutes is long for a handheld take!Q: What cameras were used and how was this alike or different from other films that you’ve shot?NW: It was shot mainly on RED cameras. I own a RED Gemini so bringing that to set was a no brainer. I think documentaries are more like that — cameras get chosen for practical reasons. On narrative projects there’s more time for testing equipment and choosing which tool is the best to help tell that specific story. I was very happy with the RED here though and we did rent the large format version for the interviews (RED Monstro) just to give the interviews an extra special feeling and look you know.
Q: What did you learn about the whole political situation in Russia?NW: On the one hand, I see the complexity of it. The current political situation in Russia is based on a long history that obviously dates back to the Soviet Union and times before that. There’s a lot to learn and it’s an ongoing process as things keep unfolding in Russia and Ukraine. On the other hand, things seem simple — I do think things can immediately change for the better the moment Putin’s regime is taken out of power.
Q: How has this whole experience influenced your direction professionally and personally?NW: I actually think that working on this film has changed me personally much more than professionally. The time we spent with Navalny, his family and team, the developments we were allowed to witness — this all has had a deep impact on me. It’s a bit like waking up to the reality of the world we live in right now. It does feel like it’s on fire and that it’s important to be aware of developments, to have an opinion and stand up for it.
Q: Do you think the film can affect Navalny’s future, good or bad?NW: I do hope and believe that it has had a positive effect for him. So many people know about his story now. I mean, he was in the news before that, obviously, but the film keeps him there. As we know, Alexey Navalny is still in prison, where he continues to be one of Russia’s fiercest anti-war activists and we can’t allow him to be forgotten in any way. The film definitely helps with that.
“BE-com-ing Authentically Me”, by Birgitta Visser
A new book, “BE-com-ing Authentically Me,” offers readers a chance to make a unique New Year's resolution: Be true to yourself. And its author, Birgitta Visser, says it could be the key to your success. Visser is a Soul Empowerment Coach. But what does that mean, exactly?
As a Soul Empowerment Coach, she aims to align the inner spiritual essence of life with the outer life. In Visser’s case, her outer life has seen difficult days and she’s often grappled with a turbulent journey, which served as a steep learning curve. Visser first made headlines as a model and was linked with celebs like Johnny Depp, Liam Gallagher of Oasis, and others. But this looker had other plans besides showing off her pretty face. Most notably, she’s written a book that has turned heads.
Visser has multiple intelligences besides having been a successful model. The relocated European has been a bartender, promo girl, dog walker, healer, web designer, created her own organic soap line, designed jewelry, taught holistic workshops, and worked many jobs in the corporate world. Being a nomad and a seeker, Visser travelled the globe extensively, leaving an indelible impression on all those she met, while making a home wherever she roamed.
In her recent book, “BE-com-ing Authentically Me,” the Dutch-born former model hopes that by sharing her many life experiences she may provide a guiding light to those who've had their own challenges in life. As she states emphatically, “I keep telling anyone who'll listen, the most important ingredient to success is to always be you, not what the world wants you to be. Life is really about being your authentic self, and not being led by the opinions and the judgement of others. Society conditions us and labels us that we are supposed to be a certain type of person. I’m here to tell you, you can be the person you want to be despite what society might be telling you. It doesn’t matter what people think of you or if they even understand you. It matters what you think of you. It matters that you understand you.”
Writing “BE-com-ing Authentically Me,” reinvigorated Visser, driving her to help others. So motivated, she declares, “We’re in this dot com world and people don’t even understand what ‘dot-com’ means. Believe it or not, 'dot com' is actually derived from Latin, meaning ‘being together.’ The idea of ‘being’ in turn leads back to becoming the person you truly are. It’s not easy for most of us to be true to ourselves. But I’m hoping I can inspire people to take a breath and re-examine the person they are, and give them the tools to become the person they want to be.”
For Visser, she has transformed her own life experiences — being abused, both as a child and as an adult — into becoming a better version of herself. And rather than let that painful history destroy her life, she wrote “BE-com-ing Authentically Me” to help educate people on how to deal with life's traumas. As the statuesque brunette notes, “My book has touched so many people from all walks of life and many of them have reached out to me. I hope my book helps people. There’s no better feeling when you're able to give inspiration and guidance to someone and it actually helps them improve their lives. And it all begins with loving yourself. Your ‘authentic’ self. Then you need to live life to the fullest and not just “exist. And you need to live NOW.”
The name for her spiritual outlook — Power Soul Healing — was given to her back in 2010. As she explains, “The wording speaks for itself as it is the art of healing and empowering your own soul back to the grid of remembrance of who you most authentically are. It is about taking back your I AM Power and unbecoming and BE-com-ing through the experiences slung your way. We are all Sparks of Divine Consciousness, co- creating in the experiment of the human embodiment, so Power the I AM as much as harnessing the I AM Power of your beautiful Soul into healing yourself. Life is like the sound of music. You've got to dance before the music stops."
She adds, “What could be more beautiful than expanding your awareness and living a life of bliss?”
“BE-com-ing Authentically Me” is available on Amazon
Page 2 of 63
Sign up for our weekly newsletter!