An interview with Catherine Mary Stewart about “Night of the Comet” (Cult Movies #1)


This time I’m bringing you a different kind of interview – the first one, in what will hopefully become a new cycle, devoted to cult movies. I’m starting with someone absolutely special – Catherine Mary Stewart. She’s one of my most favorite actresses ever and a person who definitely knows a lot about cult movies (she’s played in quite a few of them, including The Last Starfighter, Mischief and Weekend at Bernie’s). In this interview we talk about Night of the Comet by Thom Eberhardt (released in USA on 16 November 1984). The myriads of die-hard fans of the movie know its plot by heart. Just in case, however, here comes a little reminder of how that movie starts.

For the first time in 65 million years, the Earth is passing through the tail of a comet. After the night of the comet’s passage, two Valley girls, Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney) wake up in a completely new world, realizing that in the meantime most of the people had turned to red dust, and those who had survived are dying or turning into dangerous zombies.

We talk about getting the role of Reggie Belmont, first day on set, working with Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran and the director Thom Eberhardt, about unforgettable scenes, fighting a zombie, dancing, improvised lines and inspiring movie heroines – and, of course, that’s not all. These unusual times inspired me to add some questions to this interview, and thus Catherine Mary Stewart speaks also about living in the times of pandemics and her plans for the times when it’s over.

Łukasz Garbol: Do you remember how you got the role of Reggie Belmont, the girl next door turned heroine from Night of the Comet?

Catherine Mary Stewart: I remember reading with Heather Langenkamp. Heather and I were similar types. I know Kelli read with someone who was more her type. So, it was a surprise when they put Kelli and me together.

What were your first impressions when you were reading the script to that movie? What did you think of your character?

I loved that it was quirky with comedic elements and the character of Reg was a departure from the characters I’d been cast in before. I could relate to Reg. I grew up with two older brothers. I was never really a girlie girl. I loved that Reg was strong and independent.

And what about the first day on set? What are your most vivid memories when you go back to that time?

One of my most vivid memories is that on the way to set I had an accident in my car.  Fortunately, it wasn’t that big a deal. I slid into the side of a hill avoiding another car on a slippery, wet, windy mountain road. No one was hurt and my car made it to the set although the alignment was out and needed to be repaired. Incredibly, someone from transportation took the car into a repair shop and it was fixed by the end of the day! It was so cool that they did that for me.

First days are always a bit tense. Everyone is feeling each other out. The first scenes we did were post comet after I rode the motorcycle through town back to the house. I’m looking for Sam. It was the perfect scene to shoot on the first day. In the script on the set we were feeling everything out and trying to figure out what is going on.

As you’ve just said, you and Kelli Maroney, your movie sister Samantha, auditioned separately for your roles. Do you remember when you two first met on the set? What did you think about her when you first saw her?

As I mentioned, I was surprised when we were cast together because we weren’t necessarily the same “type”, but I think they saw that we would work well together in this story. Reg and Sam are very different, as are most sisters, and we fit what they wanted the characters to be.


In the movie the characters Reggie and Sam are quite an explosive duo, with different attitudes to life and different temperament types, although at the same time they are sisters loving each other and ready for sacrifices if need be. How did your cooperation as actresses look?

I think we approach characters and even acting quite differently. But again, I think that it really worked for us. Reg and Sam are very different people, but there is that sister connection. Our personalities may conflict, but our sister relationship is our bond, as it would be in real life.

I know that you and Kelli Maroney have sometimes a chance to meet during conventions, special screenings and Q&A sessions for fans. What is the best memory you two share, something you like to go back to and talk about when you see each other?

Kelli and I have different memories of the shoot. It’s actually fascinating to hear her recollections. I learn a lot! I enjoyed the comradery on the set. Thom Eberhardt was a wonderful director. We were given lots of room to play and explore our characters.

What about Robert Beltran who played Hector, a truck driver turning a post-apocalyptic hero? How was it working with him?

He’s a doll. I found him very talented, attractive and sexy. That also worked for this story. He was so generous, subtle and brilliant. He allowed Night of the Comet to be the sisters story.  He embellished the story and gave it a wonderful dimension.

And again, when you think about Robert Beltran, is there any memory from the set connected with him that stands out for you?

I loved watching him work. The scene where we are in the radio station was terrific for me. He wasn’t trying to prove anything, he just was. The quietness in his performance made the movie. He kept it real.

Do you have any contact with him nowadays?

I haven’t seen him for years!  It would be great to cross paths again someday.

What kind of director was Thom Eberhardt? How would you describe his style of work, of cooperating with actors?

Thom was lovely. This was his baby. He fought hard to keep the integrity of the script. There was some pressure to make it a straight-out horror movie but keeping it a little campy and funny along with the intensity of the subject is what makes this movie unique. 

Is it true that the scenes of Night of the Comet were played by actors (and filmed) in two ways: one was more serious, while the other more tongue in cheek style?

Some of the scenes were. The producers wanted to have it both ways in the can so they could decide which way they wanted to go after we wrapped. As I mentioned above, Thom Eberhardt convinced them that they should stick with the original more tongue in cheek concept.  I’m glad they did.

Did anything funny or unexpected happen during the shooting? Do you remember any hilarious moments from the set?

We did struggle with the MAC-10s jamming so we had to improvise or else there would’ve been a lot of wasted film. As an example, the scene where we’re practicing on a car, the MAC-10 kept jamming. Sam’s line “See that’s the problem with these things. Daddy would’ve gotten us UZI’s”, was not in the script.  I added, “The car didn’t know the difference…”.

Speaking of dialogues,  I would say they are among the elements that make this movie so enjoyable to watch. Was it a matter of Thom Eberhardt’s great script, of the improvisation you’ve just mentioned, or maybe the combination of both?

Apparently Thom did quite a bit of teenage girl behavior and talk research. He did invite improvisation on the set though. There was a real feeling of freedom in that way. 

If we talk about people crucial to making that movie, let me ask you about another important person – but this time someone important in your contact with fans. Tom Ryan is not only helping you run your social media, but also, as I could see visiting several web pages with texts devoted to Night of the Comet and your other movies, he is very active promoting your websites and interacting with your fans wherever possible. Could you say a few words about your cooperation? Is it true that everything began on the set of Mischief – another movie you starred in that is still very popular?

Tom Ryan has always been very enthusiastic and supportive to me. We did meet on the set of Mischief.  He was a stand in and extra. He was also going to college in Athens, Ohio near where we shot the film, and interviewed me several times for the school newspaper. He contacted me again a few years ago through a mutual friend. I eventually asked him if he would help me with my Facebook page as an administrator. He has been invaluable to me in that way. He also assists me at conventions on occasion.

Reggie and Samantha managed to become an inspiration for other movie heroines, but also for many young people (not only women, but also men, as you often say). It was possible thanks to your awesome performances as actresses, but also thanks to the way these characters were written. What do you think makes Reggie Belmont so special, so appealing to the audience?

I think Reggie represents a strong, independent, unapologetic female. You don’t see many of those in movies except maybe in female superheroes. The difference is that Reg is accessible and relatable. Audiences appreciate that. Male and female. I think she inspires them.

Reggie, like you’ve said, as well as Night of the Comet as a whole, inspired (and even now keeps inspiring) a lot of people. What were your inspirational movies from that time, from the 80s?

I thought Aliens was awesome. Sigourney Weaver was incredible. I’m not a huge horror, sci-fi fan I guess, ironically, but this movie was extraordinary. At the other end of the spectrum is Airplane with Robert Hays. It is still considered one of the funniest movies ever made!  I love all genres and all eras.

Belmont Sisters are tough women, action heroines, but at the same time they are not devoid of interesting personalities, intriguing backstory and of femininity (which are unfortunately elements of building the character that action movie heroines often lack in many productions). When you look for such movies and movie characters, which roles, which films do you find most convincing and inspiring?

I love the haunting quiet of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. I’m fascinated with end of the world movies. I find it fascinating how a writer approaches the idea. Another favorite is Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach from 1959. I’m interested in the exploration of the human condition especially in dire circumstances. 

Going on with the topic of well-developed characters, let me ask you: when you think of your favourite movie characters ever, which ones come to your mind? And what makes them so memorable?

I’m a huge Maggie Smith fan. I’ve loved her since The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and I just can’t take my eyes off her in Downton Abbey.  She is brilliant! One of my favorite movies ever is Sophie’s Choice. Talk about well developed characters. Meryl Streep is mind blowing in that movie and in most of her movies in terms of character.

I’d like to talk now about some of the iconic scenes from Night of the Comet. In the opening sequence Reggie is playing a video game. She is upset because she sees some “DMK” beat one of her high scores. In one of the scenes from the beginning of the second season of Stranger Things series Dustin, one of the main characters, finds himself in a similar situation when he discovers that his high score was topped by someone named “MADMAX”. I think that could be a little tribute to Night of the Comet, one of numerous easter eggs for fans of the ‘80s present in that show. Have you seen other similar references to Night of the Comet or to any other movie you played in?

Several of my movies from the ‘80s have been referenced in other shows. Weekend at Bernie’s has been referenced many, many times, from Friends to online political jokes. The Last Starfighter was acknowledged in the series Future Man. There was a Night of the Comet tip of the hat in the series The Walking Dead. One of the zombies was dressed and appeared exactly like the zombie that I fought in the alley. Joss Whedon has said that the character of Buffy in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer was inspired by Night of the Comet.

In many interviews you mentioned that you weren’t a big video games expert or fan. I’d like to ask about something connected with this topic. These days, more and more movie actors are cast to lend their voices to computer game characters. Have you ever had a chance to try this kind of acting work? Or, if not, would you like to try it?

I play a character called Moira in Red Dead Redemption II. It was fascinating performing in “motion capture”. I had never done anything like that before. It was wild! 

When we meet your character, she’s working at a movie theatre. Imagine that you run your own cinema and can decide which movies are screened there – and you can choose from all the films in the history of the cinema. Which titles would you definitely include in your movie theatre repertoire? Which are the most unforgettable movies you’ve watched and you would like to share with others?

Apocalyptic genre: Melancholia, On the Beach

Dance and Musical genre: Turning Point, Fame, Jesus Christ Superstar

Classic genre: Sophie’s Choice, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Romeo and Juliet, To Sir, with Love

Silent Era: D.W. Griffith

Wow! That’s quite a diverse list! Let’s get back to Night of the Comet. When the comet finally arrives flying close to the Earth and most of the people celebrating and watching this spectacle are wiped out, Regina, who doesn’t know what’s going on yet, is attacked by a zombie, fights back and escapes on a motorcycle. I know that you did that fight scene on your own, you weren’t doubled by a stuntwoman. Was that sequence more of a fun or a challenge?

I loved the fight scene. I’m a trained dancer so I was prepared physically. Plus, the Zombie was a really good stunt guy (ŁG: Alex Brown) so I felt safe. It was a LOT of fun.

What about riding a motorcycle? Was that you or a stuntwoman?

I did have a stunt double for the motorcycle riding.  

By the way, sometimes you have to play doing something that you aren’t really doing in front of the camera (like playing the video game in Night of the Comet scene already mentioned) or probably can’t even do in real life (like piloting a plane in a movie titled Sharpshooter). How do you prepare for such scenes? Do you know any tricks to make them look convincing on the screen?

To look convincing, you have to ask questions of those who know how to play, or fly, or whatever it is you are doing that you are not an expert at. The director, DP and editor make sure it looks realistic.

Going back to memorable scenes from the movie, I’d like to move on to the scene in which Reggie and Sam test their guns on a car standing near by. Some of the Night of the Comet fans have noticed that you don’t blink while shooting, which doesn’t happen so often in case of actors and actresses dealing with guns. Did you undergo any special firearms training before the shooting of the movie? How did this preparation look like?

We did target practice with the MAC-10s so that we were comfortable with them. To me it’s essential that if it’s supposed to be second nature that your character can fire a gun or smoke a cigarette, or whatever it is, you MUST look like you are 100% comfortable with it and committed to the action.

Another unforgettable part of the movie is the sequence of scenes in the shopping mall, including the one of you and Kelli Maroney dancing to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” song while trying on different clothes. Was that scene totally scripted and planned or were you allowed some spontaneity and improvisation?

We kind of made it up as we went along. It was a collaboration between Kelli, me and the director.


And how were those scenes filmed? Were you using an actual clothes shop during the shooting? And, if you were, didn’t you accidentaly destroy anything that wasn’t supposed to be destroyed?

We shot in an actual clothing store in a real mall, but everything that appeared in the movie was a prop.  I can’t speak as to whether or not we wrecked anything. I didn’t have to clean up afterwards.

Speaking of clothes, is it true that, going shopping with a costume designer, you had a chance to pick the costumes you were wearing in the movie?

All the clothes I wore I picked out with the wardrobe person right from the store. It was great!  I loved those clothes and got to keep what I wanted!

You say you could keep whichever costume you wanted to keep. Which one was your favourite one? 

I think I kept pretty much everything from my wardrobe, aside from the stuff that got destroyed or stained during the shoot. I loved those little grey boots I wore. I wore those for years after the movie.

I’d like to ask you about one more thing in a way connected with the scenes we’re discussing. There was a short dance sequence in the fragment mentioned – of you and Kelli Maroney dancing around the mall. You‘re an accomplished dancer. In one of your Facebook Q&A sessions with fans you mentioned that you’d love to dance in Dancing with the Stars. Is there any particular dance style you would like to dance? Or any particular song to dance to?

I love all styles of dance. I suppose I would be most comfortable with “modern”, but I would love to learn ballroom dance and would enjoy the challenge of learning the different techniques.

In the last scenes of the movie we see your character who, we could say, changed from “Reggie” to “Regina”, becoming, at least probably in her opinion, the model mother of a post-apocalyptic family (a moment mocked by her sister Sam). Have you ever thought about her possible future? Have you tried to imagine what her later days and years could have looked like?

She is probably in for a rude awakening in terms of the responsibility of her new grown up role. Hector has his hands full with her too! It was fun to portray Regina as a kind of antithetical character to Reggie. I’m going to assume that Regina and Hector procreate at some point, but she has some growing up to do for sure. I love that the movie ended with the kind of fantastical fantasy of the perfect nuclear family, except of course for the rebellious Sam.

And what would Reggie be like now if you could play her in a sequel? What vision of her does your imagination bring?

It would be fun to see what a writer would come up with.

I don’t know if there are plans for the sequel, but I’ve recently found the information that Roxanne Benjamin is working on the script of the remake of Night of the Comet. Do you happen to know any details?

I think it’s been shelved, thankfully. It was to be a remake. I’m not a fan of remakes, and I didn’t get the feeling her script would have had any integrity to the original concept.  That’s a problem to me.

If not a remake, maybe a sequel? What do you think of such a possibility?

If anything, I would vote for a sequel, but Thom Eberhardt has no interest in being involved so that would be the deal breaker for me. Only he could create a worthy sequel.

One more element that comes to my mind when I think of Night of the Comet is its really awesome soundtrack full of great songs. What are your personal favorites as far as music goes? Which singers / bands, which kinds of music or particular songs do you like most?

I’m a big 60’s and 70’s music person. I do like Cindy Lauper.

Night of the Comet is one of those movies that never get old, but instead keep gaining new fans from new generations of movie lovers. You often mention that fans tell you that Night of the Comet and The Last Starfighter are the movies the love to which they pass on to their children. Were there any movies that you wanted to share with your children, to pass on to them when they were growing up?

We are big Bugs Bunny fans from the old days. Some of those classic Mel Blanc characters are timeless and awesome.

And have your children seen Night of the Comet?

They have seen Night of the Comet. They were quite young when they saw it last, I think, so I don’t know if they have an opinion about it, or have much of a memory of it, really.

The recent events unexpectedly changed the shape of this interview making me add some questions I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Empty streets in the places that used to be crowded, the atmosphere of loneliness, the lack of contact with many people we used to see very often – these are not only words that could describe the plot of Night of the Comet now. All these, although hopefully to soon be gone in some places, are elements of our everyday lives nowadays, our lives in the times of pandemic. You once said that you would like to direct a kind of apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic movie some day. Do you think that current situation, which in a way makes us think about the fragility of human life, may be an inspiration for movie makers?

Absolutely. There are so many elements of the human condition that remain dormant when we just carry on in our “normal” lives. This pandemic has awakened all sorts of life dimensions that are ripe to explore. I think this time will inspire all sorts of interesting creativity.

What is your way to survive these hard times? What do you do to find your inner strength and not to lose hope?

I am struggling with not being able to move around and socialize the way I’m used to. Not only on a day to day basis, but normally I travel quite a bit. I’m feeling a little trapped at the moment. I’m trying to stay creative and busy. It will pass at some point so we all just have to hang in there.

A lot of people share their dreams and plans for the times when everything goes back to normal. Is there anything you particularly miss now? Anything you plan doing when the pandemics is over or at least under control? Anyone you’re looking forward to seeing?

My priority is to see my kids up close and give them a huge hug and to see my dad in Canada. 

And what are your acting (or directing) plans for the near future?

I have three projects I’m developing to direct at the moment. One of which I will also act in.  Of course everything is on hold, but I’m keeping them moving forward.

Thank you very very much for this remote talk. I’m really glad you managed to find time for this correspondence interview. I’m really honoured and grateful and I hope this won’t be our last interview for this blog 🙂

by Łukasz Garbol, May / June 2020

Check Catherine Mary Stewart’s pages and social media:





Catherine Mary Stewart – The Official Site

You should also definitely visit this awesome website:

The Ultimate Night of the Comet Fan Site

Photo 1 by Tilden Patterson. Photo 2 is a movie poster to Night of the Comet. The rest of the photos are the frames and stills from Night of the Comet (copyrights: Atlantic Releasing Corporation & MGM Studios). Photos 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10 from Catherine Mary Stewart’s archives used by her permission. All photo copyrights belong to their respective owners.

An interview with Petra Yared (“Sky Trackers”, “Mirror, Mirror”)

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Nikki Colbert from “Sky Trackers”, time traveller Jo in “Mirror, Mirror” and warm-hearted Layla from “MDA” – and these are just a few roles in her rich filmography. In our interview Petra Yared reveals some secrets from the making of the cult youth TV series, goes back to her significant roles and speaks about some of the acting challenges she had to deal with. You will get to know which costumes she kept after filming and which movies and series she watches with her children. All this and much more in my newest “remote talk”!

Łukasz Garbol: Some time ago a short clip appeared on Facebook where we could see your first ever TV appearance in a TV show for children called “Choices”, together with, among others, Zbych Trofimiuk. Do you remember how you got a chance to appear in it? What was your first impression when you entered the other side of the film world that we watch on the screen?

Petra Yared: Ha! I remember a lot about this considering how long ago it was!. I was doing drama classes and someone (I guess a casting person) came and watched a class and then invited me to audition. I remember my sister telling me I got the part. We were very excited.

And do you remember the first time ever you started performing in front of any bigger audience, maybe something that took place even before your first appearance on the screen?

Just doing school plays was a big buzz. I had to fill in for another student in the senior play at my school when I was younger than the other students and even that early I recall the camaraderie of a (student) cast and feeling part of something special as a cast member.

“Sky Trackers”, which brought your first really well-known role, is definitely one of the “cult” series, especially for viewers who were teenagers or around their teenage years back then. It was very popular in Poland and still has a lot of fans here, too. It’s also one of my personal favourites so at the beginning I’d like to ask you about at least some of the secrets I’ve always wanted to know 😉 Let me start from the setting. Great landscapes plus the huge dishes of the space tracking station created a really impressive surrounding. Could you say a few words about the places where you filmed the series?

We filmed all of the exterior scenes in Narrabri in New South Wales in the first couple of months of the shoot. The whole cast and crew were moved there from Melbourne and Sydney and filled all the motels and hotels in the town. It was my first time working away from home and it was really good fun. Then we filmed the studio scenes in Melbourne (home for me) and further exteriors all around the state of Victoria. The whole shoot was 9 months.

What did you think of Nikki Colbert when you read the script for the first time? What was your first impression?

I remember thinking Nikki was a bit of a grump sometimes! She was cranky with her little sister and Mike quite a lot but I liked her sass and intelligence.

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Do you remember the very beginning of the shooting? Which scene was that? How did the first day of filming look like?

I do remember it! We had had a couple of weeks of rehearsals with one of the directors and the “family” cast so we were familiar with each other but it was still different to be on set for the first time. I wish I could remember what the scene was about! I don’t but it was definitely on the balcony of the Colbert house.

How did you like working with Zbych Trofimiuk (Mike in “Sky Trackers”)? There was certainly a “screen chemistry” between you two.

Zbych and I fought like brother and sister! But both felt a genuine warmth and affection for each other. Particularly in years to come when we would bump into each other I know we cared about each other very much.

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The relationship between the characters played by you and by Zbych Trofimiuk (Nikki and Mike) had some quite dramatic and intense moments. For you as a young actress, were those more intensive scenes (for example Niki quarelling with Mike) more difficult to handle? Were they more emotionally demanding?

The quarrelling was the easy stuff!

What about Emily-Jane Romig, your sister in the series? The screen relation between your characters came in every possible shade of emotions: from sweet sisterly love to periods of bitter resentment. How did your relationship look in reality? What kind of duo did you make on set?

I remember Emily-Jane with the fondest love. Remember she was only 9 at the time so she needed a bit of extra support and patience. She felt like a real little sister to me. She was a darling.

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Did anything funny happen during the filming? If so, what was your favourite moment / situation?

I can’t remember now, I’m afraid…it was a LONG time ago!

In “Sky Trackers” you rode a horse, rowed a rafting boat and dived. Did you have to learn any of these skills in order to prepare for the filming? Or had you already had some experience in them at that time and making the scenes involving them was something that came naturally?

I was already able to ride a horse and row and dive enough to get away with it. As I recall the most difficult thing for me was looking competent on a bicycle! For some reason I’d rarely ridden as a kid and always wobbled along terribly in the show. The props guy would have to push me into shot so I’d have a bit of speed up and if you watch those scenes you’ll notice me wobbling along hopelessly!

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The series dealt with some important issues. A few times it presented ecological problems and in one of the episodes the main characters and their friend discovered an ancient aboriginal site. Did you feel that you added your little share to changing people’s awareness?

I think as children we were pretty oblivious to the messages of the show beyond knowing it was educational. We were more interested in what we got to do in each episode!

In the last episode the viewers could see the grand finale when Nikki attended Space Camp and made her dreams come true accomplishing her training mission with the help of Mike. Did you have to prepare for this episode in any special way? Did you train any of the camp drills and exercises in advance?

I don’t remember having to be able to do anything too well for space camp except sing! I was a bit nervous about recording the song.

Which episode gave you most fun? And which one was the most difficult (as far as acting challenges go or maybe for some other reasons) for you?

I’m afraid I barely remember them now. I should try and track them down and have a watch!

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Your character wanted to marry Keanu Reeves. Do you remember who your idol back then really was? Whose poster did Petra Yared put on the wall of her bedroom?

Johnny Depp, I think, would have been the one for me that early! A couple of years later I “loved” Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, too. I remember having their posters on my walls. And Take That! Robbie Williams…There were a few!

Soon after “Sky Trackers” you created another unforgettable role in “Mirror, Mirror” – the story of two girls from different ages whose paths cross beginning the story full of adventures and unexpected twists. Probably you’ve already been asked this question a thousand times, but maybe some people don’t know the „hair story”, so forgive me that I ask it 1001th time 😉 Is it true that you were supposed to play Michala Banas’ character from 1919 (Louisa), but because you had short hair when the filming was starting, you got the role of Jo from the 1990’s?

Yes, that kind of was what happened! I had auditioned for “Louisa” and then some time passed and I forgot all about it and chopped all my hair off (much to my agent’s dismay!) so they asked me to come back and audition for Jo.

How did you like working with Michala Banas?

Michala was lovely. Very sweet. We became close friends during the shoot.

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You played the 20th century character but please think for a moment about the world and the times your character moved to (1919). If you could take something (something material or inmaterial, like manners) from those times and bring it to our times, what would that be?

Perhaps a better relationship with nature and greater simplicity in our day to day life. Less social media and more face to face interaction!

In “Mirror, Mirror” you travelled back in time, but you also moved in time, so to speak, while studying for your degree, as you graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. Could you say which subject, which epoch you were interested back then?

I mainly studied contemporary history, so the last 200 years or so. I ended up with a bit of a focus on the Middle East. Terrorism in modern conflicts and the Arab-Israeli conflict were two subjects I was interested in amongst others.

And if you could move back in time and start a new life in another historical period, where and to which times would you travel? And why?

I think the 1960s look pretty fun! Quite liberal and progressive and but somewhat innocently so.

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Going back to the series mentioned before, do you keep in touch with any of the actors from “Mirror, Mirror” or “Sky Trackers”?

Michala and I cross paths a little. We are both living in Melbourne again now so we see each other at industry things, auditions etc occasionally. I think that’s about it from those very early days though. A lot of the cast of “Mirror, Mirror” were New Zealanders too so we lost touch a long time ago.

One of the things that “Mirror, Mirror” and “Sky Trackers” had in common were fantastic adventures. In “Mirror, Mirror” you travelled back in time and in “Sky Trackers” your character experienced an encounter with UFO. However, those weren’t your only encounters with fantasy and science fiction genres. Later you played in the TV version of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and in 2002 you appeared in one of the episodes of “BeastMaster” series (picture below). I’d like to talk a little about that last title. In your episode you had to move quite a lot, fight and work with animals. As for the physical / stamina side of your acting performance, you looked really well prepared for this challenge. Did you train, prepare in any special way for this role?

Gosh, no! I wasn’t particularly fit at the time and remember being mortified when I saw my tiny little costume and hadn’t been to the gym in a while! I absolutely loved working with the animals. Especially that monkey (although she did wee on me in a take once!)

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Talking about working with animals, I can’t forget about the dog from “Neighbours”. Was it a good acting companion?

Those animals are terrific! So well trained and obedient. I love dogs so I’m always happy to work with them.

The landscapes we can admire in “BeastMaster” look really amazing. Where did you film that episode?

It was very beautiful. In tropical Queensland.

And what about other locations where you had a chance to work throughout your career. Was there any place you liked really a lot? Any place you’d like to return to if you had such a chance?

New Zealand is a very special place. I’d return there in a heartbeat. And as mentioned, beautiful parts of Queensland. But all throughout Australia I’ve found myself in lovely spots. And even unlikely shoots like I did a car ad once where I had to do absolutely no acting. I literally sat in the passenger seat as “the driver’s girlfriend” and we filmed it all over South Austrlia in the most beautiful locations in the state. It was such a pleasant (easy!) job.

Going back to “BeastMaster”, did anything dangerous or funny happen on the set of the episode you played in?

Not that I can remember. Sorry! Again, it was a long time ago. What I do remember is that September 11 happened during filming that. I had a terribly early call time (like 5am) and my boyfriend at the time rang and woke me up to tell me to turn on the TV.

As we’ve said, you had quite a lot to do with such genres as science fiction and fantasy. And do you like reading fantasy or science fiction books or watching films of these genres?

Not so much. I’ve watched a bit of “Game of Thrones”. Who hasn’t?! And am enjoying revisiting all of Harry Potter’s adventures with my children now but I wouldn’t say it’s a particular favourite for me.

PEtra 10c - Starman

1996 brought a series in which you appeared in one episode, but with a really impressive performance. In “Ocean Girl”, another fantasy / science fiction production, you played a blind girl with overprotective parents. How did you prepare to that role? And did that experience change your perception of blind people?

Yes, that was an interesting little role to play. I met with a blind woman and observed her and chatted with her which was helpful in preparation.

Petra 11 - całość

The nineties was also the time when you played in “Neighbours” for the first time. “Neighbours” is a series in which several great internationally known stars used to play, like Margot Robbie or Kylie Minogue. It’s also a hugely popular series with a large group of loyal fans. Why do you think it’s been so popular? What makes it appeal to so many people?

I don’t know what it is about “Neighbours” but I’ve had a ball both times I’ve been a cast member on that show. I suppose it’s relatable, dramatic in a non-threatening way and easy-on-the-eye!

Another title on your rich list of TV series roles is “The Secret Life of Us”. It has become an important series for the people of the generation it was portraying back then (young people – 20 something). What would you say let it steal the hearts of these viewers?

It was uniquely real and quite edgy for its time. The characters were all doing the sort of stuff we were all doing as twenty somethings in Melbourne then. The scripts were good and the cast were great. What’s not to like?!

Talking about your significant roles, I think one of them was also your character in “MDA”. You played Layla – a warm-hearted and funny character who had her own, special style – also as far as the way of dressing goes. She wore diverse classy clothes. Did you have any influence on the look of the character, the kind of outfits she was dressed in?

Our wonderful costume designer on the first series of “MDA” had a lot of fun with Layla! She was the only character who didn’t have to be in conservative, corporate clothes so the designer enjoyed dressing her! I remember she had friends at fashion school and she would occasionally use their designs. I loved Layla’s earring collection too! I remember one occasion when a different designer dressed Layla for an episode that I felt I needed to remind the department that even though she was colourful, she was also religious! Things were heading in a wacky, very sexy direction for a minute!!

Petra 12c - Starman

And, looking back at your movies and TV series so far, which character’s costumes were your favourite ones? Which costume would you like to keep and take home if you had such a chance?

I kept quite a lot of Nikki and Layla’s clothes. You’re often allowed to if you’ve been a regular on a show. It’s a great perk! The most fun to wear are the period ones though. My “Mirror Mirror” dress and the costumes from a stage production of “Pride and Prejudice” I did were gorgeous.

Petra 14_The Dr Blake MysteriesThroughout your career you’ve already played several tough, resolute girls / women, starting from Nikki who consequently realized her plans and followed her dreams in “Sky Trackers” through Zoe from “Rescue Special Ops”, a tough woman who is not only good at guns handling but who’s also bringing up a 9-year old son on her own, to the lady – car driver Beryl Routledge in “The Doctor Blake Mysteries” (on the left). These are certainly the characters than can be role models for your female viewers. Have you ever had any messages from the teenage girls or women saying that your performance, the roles you created, inspired them or helped them in any way?

I have had a number of really lovely letters, emails etc from people who have been grateful, inspired or helped in some way or another by characters I’ve played. Often for totally unexpected reasons like they were very lonely and took solace in something one of my characters went through or they were young and religious and felt reassured by Layla being on a similar path or gay and loved seeing me play a lesbian in “All Saints”. It brings me great joy to hear those things although I have never thought of those things when I’ve been playing a character, only trying to make them appear truthful.

And did you yourself have any role model when you were a teenager?

I can’t remember who I felt inspired by in the media as a teenager. I’m far more aware of female role models on TV now that I’m raising a daughter and sometimes despair at the type of women celebrated in the media! But then we also have some terrific intelligent women on TV, too.

Playing positive heroines is one thing, but, on the other hand, you also had a chance to play nasty characters like Marcia Huntly in “The Genie from Down Under 2” (photo below). Some actors say that playing evil or nasty characters may be even more interesting than portraying positive heroes or heroines. From your experience, is it true? What do you think about it?

Yes, I’ve always enjoyed playing nasty. It’s fun!

Petra 15 - greg noakes

We’ve been talking mostly about your screen roles, but I’d like to ask you also about your radio and voiceover experiences. From your perspective, how much does it differ from the film acting? What did it give you? How did it enrich you as an actress?

I love voice acting. It is quite liberating to free yourself from any consideration of how you look. In recent years with young children at home I’ve been mainly working in voiceover and it’s a different skill. Complementary to acting but a little different and I do love it, too.

When you have some time to sit with your children and watch a film or TV, what do you watch with them? What’s your family favourite now?

I’ve just done a long haul flight with my children and loved my 5 year-old daughter watching the original “Annie”, “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Mary Poppins”! She loved them and they were some of my favourites when I was little. And my little boy is loving the Harry Potter films which I’m only seeing for the first time because I was all about the books when I was young.

Thank you very much for this ‘remote talk’. I’m really happy I had a chance to talk to you 🙂 And I hope we’ll see you in more great roles soon.

by Łukasz Garbol, August-October 2018

As usual, some useful links:

Petra 17 Petra 16 - Lisa Mann Cre

Petra Yared Official Website (great page, definitely check it!)

Petra Yared on Facebook

Petra Yared’s IMDb profile

I’d like to thank Daria, who runs Petra Yared’s official site, for all the help and support in making this interview and for the permission to use the photos  from her web page. Huge thanks, Daria! For the detailed information about the photos see the info below.

Most of the photos from Petra Yared official page
(once again big tahnks to Daria for the permission to use them):

Photo 1 Lisa Mann Creative Management website (courtesy of Petra Yared).
Photos 2 & 3 “Sky Trackers” Courtesy of the ACTF.
Photos 4, 7, 12 “Sky Trackers” – footage supplied by ScreenSound Australia, the National Screen and Sound Archive.
Photos 13 & 14 “Mirror, Mirror” – Courtesy of the Gibson Group.
Photo 16 capture from “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Starman*.
Photos 19 “MDA” (ABC), capture by Starman*.
Photos 20 “The Doctor Blake Mysteries”, episode “The Open Road” (December Media).
Photos 21 from “The Genie from Down Under 2” set by Greg Noakes.
Photo 22 & 23 thanks to Petra Yared.

The rest of the photos:

Photos 5 & 6 are frames from “Skytrackers” (ACTF). Photos 8-11 – frames from “Sky Trackers” (ACTF). Photo 15 – a frame from “BeastMaster”, episode “Dispossessed” (Alliance Atlantis Communications,Coote Hayes Productions,Tribune Entertainment). Photos 17 & 18 – frames from “Ocean Girl”, episode “Gamma Level: Radioactive” (Jonathan M. Shiff Productions, Network Ten, Westbridge Productions)

All photo copyrights belong to their respective owners.

An interview with Zan Campbell (Fell and Fair)

Close your eyes. Imagine Rangers of the North in their green hoods running through the dark wood with their bows ready. Imagine noble warriors of Rohan with the blades of their swords shining in the summer sun. Imagine a fair shieldmaiden of great beauty and courage equal to it. Now open your eyes and see how they all come to life. Zan Campbell and his fellowship, known as Fell and Fair, bring your favourite stories, legends and myths into reality. They make costumes and equipment, enrich their knowledge and gather people who share common passion, virtues and commitment. And they go on adventures. What are Fell and Fair? How did they come into being? Who can join them? The answers to these questions you will find in this interview. Zan Campbell will also tell you about Fell and Fair’s funny and dangerous moments, his first contact with Tolkien’s books, favourite literature and flying helicopters.


Remote Talk: If you were to describe Fell and Fair in one sentence to someone who doesn’t know anything about you, what would you say?

Zan Campbell: Fell and Fair is about preserving that which was lost, and bringing to life that which never was.

“Meet each other and go on adventures”, was a message to the fans I once spotted on your FB page. How did you meet one another? How did Fell and Fair come into being?

Many of us grew up together. In fact, Fell and Fair really started with three core families. We played and made “movies” which, though we did not really realize it at the time, were just reasons to make and buy costumes and armor. Instagram changed the game though. Once we began posing some stills from some of our projects, we were able to access a community that had hitherto been unreachable. I joke that the Internet let all the nerds find each other, but it is true.

Do you remember your first adventure with the Fell and Fair fellowship? What was that? Did anything strange, surprising or funny happen?

The first true “Fell and Fair” meeting happened in late 2012. I had met this cool blacksmith and armorer, Charlie Ellis, over Instagram. When we realized that we only lived about an hour away from each other, we agreed to meet up and trade some hand-made arrows for a custom knife. I gave him the address and when he arrived he met my sister and my girlfriend dressed as elves at the house. They had instructions to lead him down the forest path to where we were throwing our feast. So after putting on his own elf armor, Charlie followed them into the forest. We decided to ambush them along the way so we found our favorite “ambush spot” (did I mention this is a bunch of people in their twenties?) and lay in wait for them. However, our plans went awry when my sister, feeling something was up, accidently triggered our ambush too soon. She whistled and everyone ran out only to find our victims fifty yards down the path and not in our trap whatsoever. Despite this poor display of woodcraft, we had a wonderful feast, and it encouraged us to find more people who loved the same things.


Have you ever had any unexpected or dangerous adventures while roaming around with your companions?

I have a motto that goes, “It is not an adventure until something goes wrong.” So several times we have encountered issues that caused us to band together to overcome an obstacle. I remember especially when we found our usual river-crossing washed away in a flood and we had to get everyone, including three children and a pregnant woman, across in safety while keeping weapons and cameras dry.

And what’s been the funniest moment spent together with your fellowship so far?

The funny moments usually come in our battles. The one that first comes to my mind was when about five warriors from each side clashed while trying to defend, or slay, the bearer of a flag. Within about one second all ten were “dead” having struck each other with swords or arrows. The flag bearer was just standing with an amazed face as he looked at all the dead people laughing at how funny it was that no one survived to claim victory.


You once mentioned on Facebook that you sometimes receive strange messages or are asked untypical questions by people interested in your projects. Do you remember any weird or funny messages you could share with us?

Most of the ones we find funny are people that try and debate us about our pictures or tell us how we got it wrong. We find these funny because we never make any claims that we are historically accurate or that we copy movies/games exactly. In fact we really enjoy creating new ideas and designs. One time someone commented accusing us of inaccuracy in one of the photos because we had paired a Tolkien quote and a picture of a shield that he said “no one in Middle~Earth ever used.” I simply asked him to go search all of Middle~Earth and if then he could still not find one I would use a different quote. He never replied.

Where do you wander most often with your company?

We are blessed to have about 500 acres of property near the mountains in South Carolina that we use the most. We love it because it has hills, fields, streams, rock formations, and a variety of trees. All of these make for better adventures and, of course, pictures.

In Fell and Fair people with different talents and skills come together creating something exceptional. You also share your talents with others, for example with movie industry. Could you say a few words about this cooperation? In which films or series can we see the effects of your work?

We currently work with three organizations by providing costumes, props and consulting regarding modern and medieval/fantasy weapons and warfare. You can find our costumes in several of the Assassin’s Creed Parkour videos by the famous YouTube star Devin Graham, and you will see more in the near future coming from The Forge Studios in their Rangers series, and several internet shorts and web-series by various studios. You can also see our work in the award-winning short film The Password written and directed by our friend Will Stewart.

You and other members of Fell and Fair seem to be real history buffs, delving deeper into certain topics, having fun enriching your historical knowledge. Have you always been interested in history or did it all start when you gathered Fell and Fair group?

Ever since I was a small boy I have had a love for history and historical fiction. In fact, I was devastated at the age of six when I was told that I could not grow up to be Robin Hood. Our love of history was certainly a motivator in our desire to learn the crafts required to create our costumes at Fell and Fair.


You’ve already mentioned your cooperation with filmmakers. You also work as consultants for movies. Could you name a few titles you’ve worked on?

We are currently working on several independent films, nut we cannot disclose the names at this time. However, you can see our work in The Password from 9/8 Central and the world stage debut of Prince Caspian by The Academy of Arts (shows in the US and UK).

By the way, if you were to pick the most historically accurate movie or TV series you’ve ever seen, which one would that be?

In my opinion, there are two types of historical accuracy in film, costume and story. As to costumes, Master and Commander and Kingdom of Heaven to have done a particularly good job of costume design and by conveying the spirit of the times, although the characters are fictional. As to story, most productions fall somewhere on the scale of more or less accurate. I can’t say I have seen a historical movie that was entirely accurate in all the facts and dialogue. Often, because we have no way of recording everything, and often, shortcuts are needed for the sake of time. I understand this from a storytelling perspective, so it is far more important to me that a film convey the accurate costume, feeling and spirit of the period and people than actually being 100% factual.

And what about the one that has the most serious inaccuracies and mistakes?

The movie Braveheart. The whole thing. Still an awesome movie, but not accurate as to the people or to the costumes / sets / battles.

You make films and short videos with Fell and Fair, but they aren’t the only productions we can see you in. Some time ago you appeared as one of the main characters in UnSuper, “a comedy web series about the unfortunately normal people living in a world with super heroes”, a Flagship Comedy original series by Micah Taylor. You played a superhero named Speedfast (I think the name tells everything). How did you like portraying this kind of character, playing in a series that takes on a lighter tone?

UnSuper was a lot of fun to be a part of, but I definitely had to adapt from my usual surroundings. I played a character who was really not a very good person. Someone who was selfish, prideful and self-absorbed. I enjoyed it because it was so different. I got to act as Speedfast in a way that I would never act towards other people in real life.

As for superheroes, who is your favourite one? And if you could be a superhero yourself, would you prefer to be a speedster, like your YouTube character, or to have different superpowers?

Thor is definitely my favorite superhereo. A wonderful combination of history, myth and the modern world. I think if I could have any power it would be those of Wolverine. He can pretty much win any fight, is always in shape and can heal just about any wound quickly.


Together with Fell and Fair, you have, so to say, been to a lot of different realms known from literature, movies, computer games. Is there any realm you haven’t been to so far, but you’d really love to visit?

One of my favorite movies and book series is Master and Commander (or the Aubrey-Maturin Series) by Patrick O’Brian. If I could get a crew of sailors and sail about in an eighteenth century frigate, I may just die of happiness.

From what I’ve seen, I can say you have a really impressive collection of swords. Which one is your favorite one?

One of the oldest and most trustworthy is my Agincourt sword. It has a short twenty-eight inch blade which makes it easy to use with a shield, and it is very light and strong.

By the way, legendary warriors often give names to their weapons. Do you give unique names to your swords?

I have not. I guess I am not quite legendary enough for one yet.

Let’s talk a little bit about the technical side of Fell and Fair’s activities. How difficult is getting all the materials, clothes and accessories needed? How much of your equipment (weaponry, costumes, props) do you make by yourselves and how much do you buy as ready-to-use items?

We now make or modify everything ourselves. Some things, like chainmail or boots, we buy pre-assembled, then we just modify them to suit our purposes, in order to save time and money. It definitely takes time to learn each craft, and part of that is learning the secrets of obtaining the proper materials. We are still learning so hopefully there are some tricks we have not learned yet!


Do you remember the first element of costume, weapon or piece of equipment that you made on your own? And what was the first thing you created that you were really satisfied with?

I believe I made an archer’s hood. I had wanted one ever since my Robin Hood days as a kid, so I learned how to sew one. My first set of Gondorian Ranger bracers were the first thing I made that I could look as and say, “That looks just like the movie”.

You made costumes for the “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” (“Assassin’s Creed Unity Meets Parkour in Real Life”) and “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate”  live parkour trailers. How did that happen? How did the AC parkour team get in touch with you?

I actually met their lead costume designer over Instagram and she was having a baby the week they were needed. She had seen the Assassin’s Creed costumes I had made for myself and asked me to make them for the video.

Who can join Fell and Fair? What skills, what features of character should a good candidate possess?

Skills you can learn; character is far more important. We look for people who have a genuine desire to learn and a love for things that are good and wholesome. Often we find them because they do have skills and display them on Instagram. We meet people online or locally then after determining they would be a good match for the group, invite them to join us.


For those who would like to start and try putting together their own costumes and equipment, could you recommend any internet shops / websites worth checking?

YouTube tutorials are the best resource I have found. If you want to make something, it is highly probable that someone had made a video about it on YouTube.

Fell and Fair is deeply rooted in Tolkien’s mythology. Do you remember your first contact with Tolkien’s books? Which book was that? When did it happen?

When I was nine years old my mother gave me The Lord of the Rings book trilogy for Christmas. I was really disappointed because I wanted toys. However, she forced me to read them before she would allow me to see the movie a few years later. I cannot thank her enough for forcing me to read those books.

And who’s your favourite Tolkienian character? Why?

Boromir, Eomer and Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth are probably tied for my favorite. All are young men charged with the protection of their people. They all are exceptionally skilled in combat and honestly desire to be good leaders. As a young man, I saw them as the embodiment of all the virtues that a true man should exemplify.

From time to time, different fanarts and memes appear on the internet, titled “What I’ve learnt reading Tolkien’s books” or “What I’ve learnt reading The Lord of the Rings”. If you were to answer such a question, what would you say? What have you learnt reading Tolkien?

Tolkien taught me that dragons can be conquered. That you don’t have to win to make a difference and that sometimes things that people dismiss as trivial, childish or petty can mean more to people than money, power or popularity.


Talking about Tolkien, what do you think about Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings? Some readers are big fans of it, some totally criticize it, some appreciate the effort and enjoy watching it, but nonetheless see some elements that are in complete opposition to the spirit of Tolkien’s story. What were your impressions when you watched it for the first time?

I was twelve years old when I first watched it, so my reaction was, “I want this to be my life.” Overall, I really do love it. Going back to the discussion about costumes and accuracy, I think Jackson and Weta Workshop did an amazing job with costume, set and character design. There were several important characters left out, and several that were changed. I can remember the horror I felt when the elves showed up at Helm’s Deep! Usually, when I think about the story, I think about the characters Tolkien created with the visuals, actors and places that Jackson made for the movie. I find that a very nice combination.

By the way, do you have your favourite scenes from Jackson’s trilogy?

The death of Boromir and the charge of the Rohirrim at the Pelennor Fields: to me those are the great moments of glory in cinematic history.

Were there any Lord of the Rings actors or actresses who enchanted you with their interpretation of the characters from the book?

I loved Sean Bean’s Boromir, Ian McKellen’s Gandalf and Karl Urban’s Eomer. While I wish Boromir had been portrayed in a more positive light as in the book. I just thought Sean Bean was the greatest warrior one could imagine. Let’s be honest, Ian McKellen IS Gandalf. Karl Urban played an Eomer that was a man, flawed, but determined to do right by his king and people. That is a man I would follow.

Apart from Tolkien, who are your favourite fantasy authors? What are your favorite fantasy books?

I love Lewis’ Narnia series. That was probably my first introduction to fantasy. I also read and enjoyed the Eragon series as well as The Chronicles of Prydain series and the Game of Thrones series. However I have always been a lover of historical fiction more than fantasy in general. What I loved about Tolkien’s fantasy or, one might call it myth, is that it is so real. It is not too fantastic. You feel as if you could walk through the woods and see a hobbit or an elf and they would not be out of place.


And if you had to choose your top three (or top five if you prefer it this way) of your favourite books (of any literary genre), what would you choose?

The Silmarillian – Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings (that still only counts as one) – Tolkien

The Ballad of the White Horse – G.K. Chesterton

Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian

Henry V – William Shakespeare

What have you read recently (not necessarily fantasy or science fiction)? Can you recommend anything to our readers?

I recently read Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis’ autobiography. It really helped me appreciate fantasy and myth in a whole new way. It was also reassuring that an Oxford profession and world-renowned writer was just as much of a nerd as I am. I also recently finished Bernard Cornwell’s The Grail Quest series about archers in the Hundred Years’ War. It is most excellent if you want historical fiction about archery.

When I look at the photos on your page, they naturally remind me of my favourite books, but they also bring back the memories of RPG sessions I used to take part in. Do you play role playing games? If you do, what’s your favourite system?

I really do not. I have mostly stuck to tabletop games like The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (like Warhammer) and computer RPGs and games like Age of Empires and Total War. However, some of our battle scenarios do resemble LARP to some degree.

And your favourite character class?

Archer. Kill them with arrows and loot their pockets.


You’re a helicopter pilot and because I live in a town famous for its helicopters, I’d like to ask about that part of your life, too. How did you become a pilot? How long have you been flying helicopters? What types have you flown so far?

I became a pilot in 2012 while serving as an officer in the United States Navy. I flew both fixed and rotary wing aircraft. As to helicopters, I flew the Navy TH-57 Sea Ranger (a military Bell-206) and the MH-60R Seahawk.

Do you remember the first flight you undertook on your own? How did it feel like sitting at the controls of the helicopter back then?

I remember thinking, “Well Zan, you have done it. Now don’t kill yourself.” It was a combination of terror and excitement. I have never been so scared or so proud of myself as behind the controls of a helicopter. I also may have hummed Flight of the Valkyries the whole time.

Are there any skills or habits acquired while serving as a pilot that come in handy in everyday life?

Well, you get know a lot about the weather actually. A large part of a pilot’s life is understanding how not to be killed by the elements, so you know a lot about weather patterns, storm fronts and how long different types of weather last and why. You also become very good at paying attention to detail and developing a “scan”. That helps a lot while driving and looking after your car/house.

As our interview’s coming to an end, let me ask a little bit different question. “So many times throughout history, the people of the day threw up their hands in panic and cried, “This is the end of the world”. Whether it was the people of Greece after the last Spartan died at Thermopylae or the people of Christendom when Rome fell or the folk of England when Alfred fled and they thought all was lost to darkness and despair. But day came again. And often the generation that lost the keys to the kingdom gave birth to a generation that would reclaim them. Even as Húrin, last to stand against Morgoth, gave birth to Túrin the slayer of Glaurung the father of dragons… Day shall come again.” These are your words. Great words, I must say – words that are always worth reminding. When you think about the history of the world, is there any such heart-warming story, a story of hope never lost, that you could share with our readers? A short optimistic history lesson?

As a student of military history and a descendant of Englishmen, I think my favorite example of what Tolkien called a “Eucatastrophe”, or a sudden and unexpected resolution to a story, would be that of the Battle of Agincourt. Henry V of England had been taunted and provoked into invading France to reclaim some of his ancestral dukedoms. However after a long and costly siege at Harfleur he and his small, weary and sick army were marching as fast as they could to reach Calais and take ship for England. He was cut off by the French army which at conservative estimates outnumbered him four-to-one and was fresh and boasted the greatest of Europe’s chivalry in its ranks. The French demanded his surrender again and again but he refused. Henry chose to take his stand on a small hill near the castle of Agincourt. There his peasant archers slew the nobility of France in their thousands. With losses estimated at less than three hundred, Henry won a victory for the ages. Not only saving his army, but he forced a treaty with France and to top it all off, he married the French princess. Sometimes thousands of years of cultural development culminate and decide the fate of a single day. The fact that the English had the unprecedented skill with the war bow, the fact that the French were so arrogant as to charge on horseback, or even that the fields had been plowed and it rained the night before bogging, the French knights down in the mud. Even though the whole world thought Henry was beaten, when the sun set on October 25, 1415 A.D. he stood victorious on the field of battle and his name lives on forever because he had the will to press on and to fight.


Imagine a situation like this: on a cold, rainy, windy day, a company of weary travellers enter the tavern. They order a hot meal and a jar of ale and sit close to the hearth to get dry. Suddenly, an old man stands up and says, “Lo, listen to the song of an old bard, to the story of Fair and Fell!” What would this story be about? How would you like people to remember you?

I would have it be a story about people who found each other, saved things that were being lost and maybe brought a little more joy into the lives of people who would otherwise have remained alone in their love for history, myth and legend. That people were reminded through pictures, video and a few choice words that dragons may not be real, but that they can be conquered. That something does not need to be a fact to be true. Finally that people were reminded that nobility, truth and goodness were not lost to the world. But rather hidden in the hearts of a few bold folk, who were then able to remind the rest of the world of their existence.

Thank you very much. “A star shines on the hour of our meeting”, even though this talk is just a “remote” one.

by Łukasz Garbol, October – November 2016


As usual, links worth checking:

Fell and Fair on Facebook




Fell and Fair FB page

Nicolas Bruno (4, 14, 15)

All photo copyrights belong to their respective owners.

An interview with Jamin and Kiowa Winans – the creators of “Ink”

This time I would like to present an interview from my archives. It’s a written version of an interview I made via Skype in January 2011 with the creators of the movie Ink – Jamin and Kiowa Winans. When I watched Ink I immediately thought that I would like to talk to the artists behind it some day. Although the movie was made outside big Hollywood studios, it soon became very popular, gaining millions of viewers all over the world and very good opinions from the critics. Recently, they released another great, thought provoking movie, The Frame. You should check this one, too. What film directors inspire them? Can a small budget be helpful? Is it easier to make a soundtrack when you are both a director and a composer? How was a memorable scene with Jacob triggering the series of events made? What do they know about the Polish cinema? What charity project did they support i n Bulgaria? All these and even more you can find in this interview with Jamin and Kiowa Winans (respectively – first from the upper right and first from the lower right in the picture). Please check this blast from the past 😉

Jamin Kiowa and Ink Cast at Egyptian Theatre Hollywood Small

As far as I know, Ink has many fans in Poland, but there are probably some people who don’t have any clue about it. Could you say a few words about the plot of the movie?

Jamin Winans: It’s a good question. It is about a lot of things. It basically centers around the two worlds – the dream world and our conscious world. A lot of people asked us if we were inspired by Inception, but we actually made this before Inception. It’s basically about people who come out at night and give you dreams and nightmares and about the battle they sort of fight over your dreams.

If you were to encapsulate this story in one sentence, what would you say? What is it about?

JW: I would say it’s ultimately about redemption, I think. If we had to keep it in one sentence, that is what I would have got.

In many interviews you talked about the sources of inspiration for the whole story. I would like to ask about the particular name. Why Ink?

JW: You know, it’s funny. We get asked that a lot when we are touring around with the film. When we are doing screenings, a lot of people ask us about the name. We decided that we ultimately weren’t going to tell anybody why we chose the name Ink just because we didn’t want to pin it to one meaning to anybody, because we realized that a lot of people were coming up with their own ideas of what it was. We decided that we wanted to leave that to everyone’s imagination so, sorry, but I’m not going to answer this question. We really want the audience to determine the meaning for themselves.

Right, maybe it’s sometimes better to keep some things unrevealed. The first scenes of the movie when dreams of different people are shown probably demanded a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of people engaged in the project. How difficult was it to put it all together?

Kiowa Winans: The actual shooting of the entire movie was 83 days, which for a very small independent budget and crew is a lot of shooting days. Most of independent films are shot in 20 days or less, but then again most of people are not doing sci-fi films on independent budgets. So, it was 83 shooting days and the opening fight sequence, for example, that lasts about a minute, minute and a half, took, I think, five days to shoot and a lot of time to rehearse that particulat fight. A good friend of ours, Dean Bryan Taylor, and some of his friends, coordinated and designed all those fights and worked with our actors for four – five months to train them and to rehearse all the steps of this fight so that it looked really authentic and so that nobody would get hurt. So it took a lot of effort and a lot of people, just to have a really kind of passion helping us to step in. Day to day, we had an extraordinarily small crew – about ten people on set each day, which is also extremely rare. That’s why the production was so long and the post-production was so long. It was a really serious undertaking for just a few people.

Talking about complicated scenes, what about the scene that has already become very famous, the scene with Jacob triggering a series of events? Did anything in particular inspire you to make such a scene?

JW: You know, I’ve done this type of scene a few times. The first time I did something like this was in a short film that I made several years back called The Maze. It was this idea that everything is sort of connected. Then I used this idea again in a short film Spin which is about a DJ who can sort of alter the world with his turn tables. So, yes, I just keep on using this idea over and over again, I guess, but it changes. It gets more refined with every film, but then in Ink I kind of designed this character. It basically took several revisions of the script to become what it is. It took a lot of planning to get that scene down. I think it took us three or four days to shoot it, cause there are so many components to it. There are so many different elements and shots to that scene. We did an enormous lot of planning. We had to shut down a busy intersection in downtown. We basically ran through it and recorded it beforehand just to make sure that we really knew how all the pieces went together. Then I had to have the music done in advance, so that everybody kind of knew how the music was going to work. Jeremy Make, who played Jacob, had to count to the actual beat of the music, so it took an enormous amount of preparation and it’s interesting because we shot in a course of three months, but we started shooting this scene a couple of days after the beginning of shoot and we didn’t finish shooting that scene until the very end of the shoot. So this is literally about two and a half months in between some of the shots that we did because we would shoot some other scenes, then we would come back and shoot more of this. It’s really interesting to see how many components and over how very long period of time had to come together to make one scene.


There are scenes, like the one with “Jacob’s chain”, that demanded a lot of effort and probably asking for permission from the local authorities. How was it to make such scenes outside, in the street?

KW: We shot in Denver, Colorado, USA, which is not a typical place to shoot a film. That’s where we grew up, we know a lot of people there. We used every favour we accumulated over lifetime there to get the film made. Because not very many movies are made in Colorado, and in the city of Denver in particular, the people there are very nice. There is a nice film office and they were very cooperative. We had to reroad the traffic, put up barricades and hire a few police officers to help us with crow control and all of that. They were very cooperative and very nice and it didn’t cost too much. It’s a lot easier than shooting in Hollywood, Los Angeles. There’s much less bureacracy to deal with in Denver, which is very nice, so it was actually quite easy to shut down the street. That was the only time we had to shut down the street, which was nice, and it’s one of the biggest intersections in downtown Denver, which isn’t a very big city, but it’s big enough to look like a very big city, so that part of it wasn’t too bad. As for the scenes strictly with Jacob on a sidewalk and all the things happening, we just shot it in the pieces and parts in the course of about three days. Shooting these scenes was towards the end of the shoot and I think we only had a crew of four people to shoot everything in that Jacob’s sequence minus the car accident – we had obviously a bigger crew on that day. I guess, movie magic put it all together.

I’d like to ask about something that is connected with that scene, too. Jamin, is it easier or more difficult to make a movie when you both direct and write music to your film?

JW: Over those years, I worked with other composers and then I had an opportunity to compose my own music. I’m not much of a musician, but I’m enough of a musician, I think, and I understand very much what I need for the scenes that I write, that I’m able to pull off the composition myself. For me, it’s easier to know the music in advance and to know how the music is going to work within the scene. For instance, in this movie I had written about 50 percent of the music before we started shooting, so I was able to incorporate the music in the shooting process. So, I like this process. It also keeps the creative juices flowing, I guess, so I do like to write my own music, but at the same time when you do it, you don’t have the opportunity of geting other people’s interpretations of your work, so when you’re working with other musicians who are really talented, a lot of time you can get a really great stuff you hadn’t otherwise thought of. I think there are advantages to both, but for me the past couple of films I really enjoyed going back and forth between the music and the writing, and the shooting and the editing. It’s all one big thing and I like jumping back and forth, kind of wearing different hats.

The plot of the movie is jumping between the two worlds. Have you thought about making a story, or even maybe a movie, that would take place just in the world of the Storytellers?

JW: You know, that’s a question a few people have asked. The idea that we’ve created this big world that Ink takes place in gives a lot of opportunities to keep on expanding the other places. At this point, we haven’t really planned on doing any sort of sequel or anything like that. One thing we considered, that we approached potentially at one point, was doing a graphic novel. That was something we maybe thought about doing, we hadn’t considered it really seriously, but I think that door is still open. Now we are planning on making some other films. We’re not planning on revisiting this world. But you never know, maybe some time in the future…


Maybe it’s a little bit scary, but when I watched the movie I thought that Ink could be anyone, someone we know or even ourselves. Do you think about it in such a way, that there is a danger that there is some part of Ink in everyone?

JW: Yes, it’s funny you say that because I was thinking when I was writing it that Ink sort of represents what I’d be afraid of becoming and I think a lot of people understand a lot of things Ink is going through. I think, especially when you are sort of a career person, when you are working your way up, it’s really easy to lose the sight of what is important in your life so I think it’s very easy to sort of let yourself be corrupted, and to some degree it is what Ink is, it’s a tale of rise and fall of one man.

What about the visual side of the movie? How much was it based on your own ideas, on the ideas of both of you, and how much did it owe to the costume designers, make-up artists and so on?

JW: Well, the funny thing is we were in charge of most of the stuff, because we didn’t have money to afford a very big crew, so the production design and wardrobe were done by Kiowa. Basically, a year in advance we started collecting images on a board, cut out images from magazines, and gather our work and a lot of different things that inspired us and we just put it all on a huge board and combined a lot of images and ideas. It’s what became the visual part of the film. KW: So, much of the look was inspired to some degree by the small budget. We couldn’t do really elaborate set pieces and elaborate expensive costumes, which in a lot of ways, I think, contributed to the look of the film. We were forced to make some unique decisions, particularly with the way the Incubi had looked. That was achieved by Jamin and post-production, hours and hours of rotoscoping, actually I should say months and months of rotoscoping shot, frame by frame, to make those Incubi costumes come together. The masks in front of their faces and their eyes – that was all handled in post-production. We had really great make up artists, but Jamin and I concepted all of the look in the art direction and the costuming, you know, just the general look of the film, basically how we said, by a lot of preplanning and just kind of culling inspiration from all kinds of places.

Talking about small budget, can it be in any way helpful? When you have less money, you have to use your imagination more – can it help in any way?

JW: Yes, exactly. You know, it’s funny when we think about it now. What if we could have had more money? We had wanted it. We look back and we think Ink is the film it is because we didn’t have very much money. Not to say that we will always be making movies for no money, but I think a lot of creative choices we made really came out of not having any money. I think it would have been a completely different film if we had had a lot of money. So we really kind of like the way that it is, we obviously want to be making films with more money and having higher production quality, but at the same time I think it’s one of the things that really make Ink unique and it gives the film some charm.

Talking about the possible ispirations. Have you seen the Russian movie Nightwatch?

JW: Of course, yes, it’s a great movie.

I’m asking about it because, like in Ink, there is also something like urban fantasy and powers of good and evil fighting over people. Could you say that Ink is in any way similar to this movie? What about other movies that inspired you?

JW: Nightwatch… I don’t remember when we saw it, I think it was during pre-production and I said, “Wow, that’s a lot like Ink”, especially the sort of the finale of Ink when they are in the hospital and theye are bouncing back and forth between the two worlds, there is some similar stuff in the Nightwatch films. I wouldn’t say it was influence because it hadn’t come out by the time we were making Ink, but I definitely see similarities, I’m a huge fan of these films. As far as the inspirations go, probably my favourite film maker is ironically Michael Mann who doesn’t generally do any sort of fantasy type of stuff, but I just really like his style and his attention to detail. As for the influences, I’m a really big Terry Gilliam fan, I’m a big Michael Gandry fan, I like Jean Pierre Jeunet – those are, I think, more obvious influences. I always say that with Ink I try to rip off a number of different people, so that it doesn’t seem like I just rip off one person. So I rip off from so many people that it looks like my own thing 😉

I think what connects Ink and Michael Mann films is intensive emotions, because this movie is bursting with positive and negative emotions. Something is always happening, not only outside but also inside of the characters.

JW: That’s a good point.


What are your plans for the nearest future? The movie plans?

JW: Well, Ink just continues to spread, it looks like Ink is going to be opening theatrically in England in a few months, but now we are developing the next film. It’s very hush-hush so I can’t tell you what the name of it is yet but it’s another film. It’s sort of sci-fi fantasy. That’s about what I can say, but we are working on it now. Everybody is asking when the next film is going to come out. It’s still gonna be a while because it takes a long time to make a movie, but we are working on one and I think it’s gonna be great. Hope everybody can hang tight. We try to get it as fast as we can.

Ink is one of the movies you keep thinking about a long time after watching it. What are the movies that keep you thinking about , the movies that return, that are still in your memory?

JW: For me, one of the movies that really did it for me, especially when I was younger, was Twelve Monkeys, which is a Terry Gilliam film. I guess, not a lot of people talk about this movie, but it’s one of my favourite films. I just remember I went and saw it in a theatre and I didn’t even know what to think after I got out. I just thought, “Wow”, so I went back and saw it again and every time I’ve watched it ever since still new things unfold for me. I remember thinking, “That’s a kind of film I wanna make”. That’s the film that is infinitely many-layered, it just always makes you think and I can even head for films like that but it’s probably top one.

KW: That’s a tough question. The film I think about year over year is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That was a really well done movie. That’s a rarity. I would say that a lot of films that are being made now, especially the ones that are being massively promoted through Hollywood, are by and large very forgettable. Everything is a remake or an old TV show or something that is just very unoriginal. I think one of the most rewarding things about Ink is that a lot of people say that it really sits with them and I think it is by far the biggest complement you can get on a movie: that you actually think about it and it kind of sits with you for a few days afterwards and even longer than that. It’s very rewarding that people feel that way about Ink.

By the way, you’ve mentioned remakes. Have you had any offers from anyone to make a remake of Ink, for example with their own cast and with different director or something like that?

JW: You know, it’s funny. Early on, when Ink came out , I guess we never got any official offer, but there were certainly questions about that. Agents and other people just asked us if we were interested in doing a remake. We said, “Absolutely not”. I’m not a big fan of remakes either way and the last thing I would want to see is our film remade into something that I didn’t want it to be. So, yes, the idea was put out there, but we said, “No”.

I think it’s reassuring for most of the fans of Ink that no one else is going to touch it.

JW: That’s right. Don’t worry, we won’t let that happen.

What advice would you give to people who have some scripts ready, don’t have a lot of money, but would like to give it a try and make a movie?

JW: That’s a good question. I would say the best way I learnt how to make films was making short films and making very short movies, you know. I think that number one thing I would tell to anybody who is just getting into it is – don’t spend a lot of money early on, just practice making films making sure they’re one minute, ten minutes short films and get good at doing it first. Then, you know, expand to making a feature film. The other thing I’d say is just, “You know, shooting is very very difficult and before you shoot make sure your script is ready for the shooting, make sure it is very very good”. Writers have a good saying that if it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. In other words, if the script isn’t good, the movie is not going to be good, no matter what, so I think these are two biggest things: make short films and get good at doing short films first, because it’s very affordable, and secondly, make sure your script is really solid.


Are you in Bulgaria now?

JW: Yes.

Are you there in connection with Ink or with something completely different?

JW: No, we are actually working with a foundation here, in Bulgaria. We decided to take some time to do some charity work here. We have some friend who is trying to do some charity in Bulgaria that we are working with.

Could you say something more about this charity project?

JW: Yes, Bulgaria is a great country in general, but one of the problems they have here, and it’s sort of leftover from the communist times, is that a lot of disabled children that were born in Bulgaria are put in institutions and a lot of institutions are not well taken care of. They are government-run, but a lot of kids are not provided for carefully and are not aided appropriately. The organization we are working with is the organization that is essentially working on deinstitutionalising Bulgaria and getting disabled children out of these institutions to proper homes and making sure they get proper care.

That’s really interesting. Probably you travel a lot. And what associations do you have with Poland? When you think, “Poland”, what comes to your mind?

JW: One of the first associations is one of my favourite directors, whose name I always mispronounce, is Kieślowski.

And what’s your favourite movie by Kieślowski?

JW: Probably The Double Life of Veronique. It’s probably one of my favorites. I mean, I like everything I’ve seen. I’ve seen virtually everything he’s made, at least everything you can get in the United States. I’m sure he has early films that you can’t get in the United States, but over the past ten years I’ve watched his films so I always think of Poland and watching his movies. We were in Warsaw for about twenty four hours and it was a very very quick trip, but we liked it very very much. We obviously plan to return some time in the future. Poland is, from everything I have heard, read and seen, a thriving country. It’s just going to be great, so we’d love to visit it again as we continue to make films.

Thank you very much, it was a great pleasure talking to you two.

Interview by Łukasz Garbol, January 2011

As usual, a few useful links:

The Work of Filmmaker Jamin Winans



Photo 1 from Jamin and Kiowa Winans’ archives. Photos 2-5 are movie stills from “Ink”. All photo copyrights belong to their respective owners.