Darlene Love:
No Longer 20 Feet From Stardom

By Bridget Brady

Remember that great 60’s song, “He’s a Rebel,” by The Crystals? I’ve been a fan of that song, and The Crystals, for as long as I can remember. Little did I know, all that time, I was secretly a fan of Darlene Love. From the background to the foreground, Darlene Love is now an Oscar winner, with the incredible documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, the untold true story of the background singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Next up is even a movie about her life on the Oprah Winfrey network. An amazing journey, ranging from cleaning people’s houses to pay the bills, to working with legends like Elvis Presley, I got the distinct honor of visiting with Darlene and getting even more of her incredible story.
Congratulations on your big Oscar win!!  I loved 20 Feet from Stardom!! I thought it was so well done. I wanna' jump right into the nitty-gritty here..."He's a Rebel" isn't a Crystals' song?? They were lip-synching that?? How is that possible, how was that allowed, how did that happen?
That's because of Phil Spector. He had me under contract; he had The Crystals under contract. He wanted to get this song out immediately, and I don't know if he thought maybe my voice was the one to do it, or what, because I had not recorded any solo work yet. I knew his partner Lester Sill.  Lester came to Los Angeles and recorded that song with me and my group, The Blossoms. No one knew the difference of who it was. The record just ended up being a number one record. And that's when, as they say, "the crap hit the fan.” Phil Spector was able to do that because he paid me as a background singer to do it, and he owned The Crystals, so he was able to do whatever he wanted to do. Back in those days, they did that. They changed groups and changed names and changed lead singers, so it wasn't unusual back in the 60's.
So you were paid as a session singer, were the actual singer on the album, but it was given to the Crystals as their song?
Right, because [Phil] figured that was his group, and they already had a little success, so he just put it out. The worst part was The Crystals didn't know what was going on. When the record was starting to become a hit, they were out on the road with Gene Pitney, who wrote the song. I talked to Gene, and he said he taught it to the girls back stage at one of the shows they were doing. That's how they learned the song. Phil never even called them and told them that the record was out under their name.
Oh my gosh!! So, do you feel like Phil Spector was good AND bad for you? Do you feel like he ruined your solo career, or was it good that you worked with him for all those years?
It was good that I worked with him, because today I have a career because of all of those songs. The other song that was supposed to be mine was, "He's Sure the Boy I Love.” That was a top 10 record, but he put that out under the name of The Crystals too. But those songs (“He's a Rebel” and “He's Sure the Boy I Love”) and all the songs I did with Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans...and of course the song I did under my own name, have kept me going all these years, and have made me a success. That's why I don't get mad at him.  I had a career in spite of Phil Spector.
That's incredible. What would you say was the biggest moment in your life thus far?
Ha-Ha!!  That's an easy one, cuz' it's still on my mind. That's the Academy Awards!! I never in my wildest dreams thought that as being a background singer and doing a documentary, that I would be, not only getting an Academy Award, but when the movie came out, so many people gravitated to the movie. And the success of that becoming an Academy Award nominee, then WINNING it was way over the top!! (Hearty laughter) Standing in front of those 40 or 50 million people saying, "Thank you! Thank you fans! Thank you industry for allowing us as background singers to win an Academy Award!” That usually doesn't happen.
Right?! What was it like to work on the film?
It was really great. Unfortunately the gentleman who produced the movie died right after the movie came out. (Gil Friesen, with A&M Records) He was such a wonderful guy. Actually I started out doing this like, "Oh yeah, well, this is cute...who's even gonna' know I did it?" But they did such an unbelievable job. They really dug deep and found out about background singers. It wasn't a hit and miss, they dug deep. They didn't realize they were making an Academy Award winning documentary either. So, it was good all the way around for all of us.
Absolutely!  You say in the film, "God gave me a gift, and it's my job to make it a success.” What is your definition of success?
Success is right now. Knowing what I'm doing. I do believe that God has given all of us a gift. It's up to us to USE it.Then He'll help us along the way if we'll use it. Success to me is winning the Academy Award, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, just doing what I can do to improve on my talent. The idea that all of these millions of fans are out there is still unbelievable.
Speaking of millions of fans, including myself, what are you doing now? Where can we see you?
I'm in Palm Springs right now doing the closing of "The Fabulous Follies" which has been running for 23 years. I told them, "You really got me at the right time." They've been trying to get me to do this for 10 years. They hired me last year, when nobody knew this was gonna' happen. I have a two month spot here, then after this I'm gone. I'm going to Australia, and who knows where I'll land after that.
What's your biggest regret in life? If you have one.
Well, if I had one regret, I wish I would've started as a solo artist before I started out as a background singer with a girls’ group. Not that I didn't like being a background singer, because I love singing background. But I think if I would've started my career as Darlene Love, and not as a group, I'd be further along. But I'm really happy about what's going on in my life right now, so I don't have any regrets.
Who are your musical influences?  Past and present??
Who influenced me back in the day? I came up in a family where my father was a minister, and we could not listen to rock n' roll music, so we listened to people like Michaela Jackson, Marian Anderson, and those were my influences. Today, I have so many people like Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, who not only influenced me, but I think are fantastic, great singers. Those are the people I follow. I'm one of those old souls. I like the old movies and the old movie stars, and the old singers, like BB King. I just love listening to their singing, and their songs.
This might be a hard question, because like you said, you're living it...But now that all this happened, what's your new dream?
I would love to get with the younger talents like Kelly Clarkson, or Bruno Mars, and do a record. I've always thought about winning a Grammy. I've never won one. That's like getting into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I'd love to win a Grammy, but I'd love to win it with one of the younger artists who are out right now. Those two artists are two of the greatest artists singing right now.
If you didn't sing...what other passions do you have in life?
That's really a hard one because I've always sang, since I was 13 years old. But you know what I'd love to do? I'd love to be in a wonderful church, and be the conductor of a choir. Because when I go to churches and see these wonderful conductors and all that they do when it comes to a choir, especially when there are 50 or 100 voices...to control that, to have that sound come out of them, that's something I'd want to do.
You also say in the movie about Merry Clayton, "I don't know why she wasn't a super star. She had the killer instinct." So, what is the "special sauce"?? Why do some people make it, and others don't?
You know what? Everything has to be lined up right. It has to be the right song, the right producer. Nobody had as much as Merry had, and she does have that killer instinct. I don't have that killer instinct.  I have it, but not like Merry had it. She said, "I KNOW I should be a star, and why aren't I?" I don't have that in me. I want it...I WANT to be the star, I want to have people like me, but I think it just depends on all the elements lined up in the right place. Bette Midler told me, "You also have to have somebody behind you that believes in you without a doubt." I know managers who put their homes up for sale, just to keep their artists going. You have to have ALL those elements. Being in the right place at the right time is what it is. I never had that. Phil Spector recorded me, but he never pushed me after the events. He didn't want me to be that star. He wanted to be the person who MADE me that star. So, I always had them, but I didn't have someone fully, 100% behind me.
Who's your favorite person that you've ever worked with?
It would have to be Elvis Presley. I worked with him several times. I worked with him on his 1968 come-back special, and I made a cute little movie with him called Change of Habit.  I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd work with someone who's that big of a star, so that was amazing to me...that I actually worked with Elvis Presley.
How was Elvis...as a human?
39615887Actually he was such a sweetheart. He was very introverted. But he loved gospel music. I think that was the other key to working with him. When I found out that he loved gospel music, and that's my passion too, we got along great. So, I knew him totally as another person, not as "Elvis Presley" but Elvis the man who loves the same kind of music I love.
If you could give some advice to young singers, what would that be?
You have a passion, and I told you before that God has given everybody a gift. You have to find out what that gift is, first of all, then you have to have a passion for it, then you have to pursue it like nothing else.  Like you pursue life, you have to pursue that career that you want.
Would you suggest that up-and-coming singers stay away from doing background singer work, and really focus on their solo career if that's what they most want to do?
No, not necessarily...background got me where I am today. You have to take different roads to get where you're trying to go. You just have to keep that in mind. Stevie Wonder said in our movie, even though Judith Hill was singing with him as a back-up singer; don't forget what your dream is. You have to make a living to become a solo artist, and you're not going to make money as a solo artist if nobody's calling you to work. If someone's calling you to do background, you have to go there too, but you cannot forget what your dream is. There's nothing wrong with being a background singer. Better for me to be doing that, than sitting at home doing nothing.
What would you say was the hardest part of your life?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I think the hardest thing I did was to move to New York City, one of the hardest towns on the planet to be successful. But I did it, and I had a lot of down time, thinking, "Oh Lord, if I don't get money to pay my rent...how am I going to live from day to day?" That was actually the hardest part. Even when I had to do house cleaning, at least I could find something to do when I was in California...but when I moved to New York, where I knew nobody, that was hard. Just me and my husband, trying to make ends meet until we could both become successful.
That was a crazy part of the movie...when you were cleaning someone else's bathroom, and you heard your song come on the radio!! Was there some dramatic license there, or did that really happen?
That is so true!  It's a miracle. And it's amazing, that would be the song, or the time in my life that would turn me around. My time of the year is Christmas. I love that time of the year because everybody's in the spirit of giving, without getting anything in return. And that would be the song that would turn my life around. It doesn't get any better than that.
It's almost like it was a message from God, to remind you of who you were.
That's right. Exactly! My grandmother and mother were domestics, so there's nothing wrong with doing that kind of work, that's what kept me alive for almost a year. But then that message came, and it's like, "She made that up!" Baby, I don't think you can make nothing like that up!!
The movie also talked about you being one of the first black women ever in the recording studio.  What was that like?
Yes, 1958/59, The Blossoms were a black background group. There weren't any yet. It was all white singers, and they weren't groups. They were singers that were called through AFTRA, our union, and they would say, "We need three or four singers," and they could read music. The Blossoms couldn't read music, but we had fantastic ears, and we were a group. It was really amazing because they didn't even look down on us. They told us, "It would probably help you guys if you'd learn how to read music." And we were like, "uh...well...we'll think about it.  I don't know how we'd have time, but if we need to learn to read music, we will." But we never did. That's why it made it so great. We were the first who did it...we didn't realize it at the time.  We didn't realize until a couple of years later, we started a movement that we didn't even know we were starting. (Hearty laugh) We ended up getting a lot of other black background singers into the business.
Was there any racial prejudice against you being there, or no?
No.  No...Because of the musicians. I don't think they even thought about it. There were white and black musicians. It's just that they weren't used to seeing a group of black ladies doing sessions. Nobody ever felt anyway different. We didn't feel any different until we got ready to do the show "Shindig.” That's when our troubles started. Because it was a network television show and they didn't want three black ladies on that show. And the producer, Jack Good, who was from London said, "Well if you don't want my girls, you can't have my show." And he stood his ground and we ended up singing on his show as regulars. That's when we realized, "Wait a minute...there aren't any black background singers." It was the networks who had a problem with us being on that show. But as far as us being in the studio, nobody knew we were black or white, because we didn't sound black or white, we could sound any way record producers wanted us to sound. There was no back-lash for us singing in the studio.
Thank goodness that producer stood his ground.
Yes! It could've been a lot different if he would've said, I'm gonna' get some white singers, and then my show will be a success. But their show WAS a success, and they kept the black singers.
What's your next adventure?
I've been contacted by the “O” Channel, Oprah Winfrey, and we're going to do my life story; we're going to turn it into a movie. That's really exciting; I can't wait until we get started on that. Talk about going from the background to the front! That's it!!
Darlene’s beautiful spirit, generous honesty, and infectious laugh carried through our entire conversation. She surely left me an even bigger fan than I was before we spoke.  

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Animal Defender International's Founder
Tim Phillips Talks New Film ‘Lion Ark’

By Amber Topping

Tim Phillips has worked to expose animal cruelty through pictures and film as well as campaign for animal protection issues for many years. He’s the co-founder and Vice President of Animal Defenders International (ADI), and recently he made a documentary about the dangerous trek he made with his wife Jan Creamer (Co-founder and President of ADI) in Bolivia to rescue 25 lions from circuses (after ADI helped the Bolivian government to put a ban on the use of animals in circuses). A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure to talk to the warm, courageous and talented Mr. Tim Phillips about his film Lion Ark, Animal Defender’s International and why it’s important in our society to protect the weakest among us.


To start, can you talk a little bit about your background and how you became involved with both animal protection issues and documentary filmmaking?

Yes. Over 30 years ago, I went to see a film at a movie theater called The Animals Film. And this was 1982—it was a sort of a groundbreaking film in its day. It was the first time a big animal rights film had ever been made. And it got together what happened in factory farming, laboratories and all of these things. And I—it really touched me. It changed my life effectively. I was working finance and in banking and I quit my job. I got myself an SLR camera and began photographing and documenting how animals were treated. And that sort of led one thing to another. My wife and I, Jan and I, founded Animal Defenders International in '90.

And so we began campaigning and working for animals and communicating was also a huge part of that. So we've always made lots of short films and short documentaries with 30 minute ones on rescues and things that we've done. And lots of issue ones and so that sort of led to us then making a feature film. And in a way, the decision to make the film was just led by events. We were doing this huge rescue saving all of these lions in Bolivia.



Our first thought was we should document all of this and then…recover it. And then very quickly we realized here was an opportunity to tell a really serious issue but with a happy ending. That you would not need to dwell on the suffering of these animals because the more you see them living life as they should, the more you realize as the film progresses, just how wrong it was to keep them in those tiny cages and things.

For those who aren't familiar can you describe what Lion Ark is all about?

Okay. Well it's a story of how a ban on animals in circuses was secured in Bolivia. And it began with an undercover investigation. We placed people for two years inside the Bolivian circus industry and then after that time, we released the findings. And it just sent a shock wave through the continent. And Bolivia was the first country to ban the use of all animals in circuses because of horrific scenes that we'd uncovered. The circuses actually simply defied the law. Actually this is a big environmental and animal protection issue in that often well meaning laws are brought in, but the countries where they're most needed often have the least resources to enforce them. And so we said to the Bolivian government, if you pass this law, we will help you enforce it. So a year went by, the circuses did nothing. One circus handed over their animals to us and we relocated them. And the film Lion Ark very much begins at that point, a year later, here we are and we're tracking down the circuses…And in the film we track down 8 circuses—it’s quite thematic as we seize the animals. And we go through various trials and tribulations bringing the focus of the story which is 25 lions rescued from 8 different circuses. And we bring them together, bring them back to health. Then ultimately we fly them to the U.S. and we release them into these fantastic enclosures.


Throughout the documentary as a viewer and I just saw the film—I thought it was great, but you really feel like you’re there for the rescue from beginning to end. So was this purposeful on your part? Did you want to document the whole thing for the audience to really be there?

Yes, we did very much. We filmed it ourselves so it was absolutely sort of a no holds bar in the filming. And so, you know, I said to the cameraman, “You just film everything.” If something goes wrong we film it because ultimately we will get through the problems. And we decided on a few things with the narrative very quickly that we wouldn't do many talking heads, we'd just kind of speak as if the camera was a third person—if the viewer was that person in the camera watching these events.

And everything, all the key stuff in the film happens very, very quickly. So we filmed it with a very light, journalistic crew. People have been very surprised at the production speck of it, that it is a very high quality film. It's filmed on Red. Nevertheless, there weren't loads of people with boom mics walking in on circus seizures; so the cameraman, a few radio mics, and an extra backup small DSLR camera. So, you're very much in the thick of the action and I think that's very rare for people to see; that this is just how tense it can be and this is just how dangerous these animals can be in certain circumstances.


So, what were some of the most intense moments with either the angry circus owners or with the lions for you?

It was always quite tense when you were going in. It was very interesting because some just sort of said, “Okay, here are the lions.” And they'd even just leave the night before. There [were] others who were sort of—it was almost like a battle and the wheels of vehicles were...slashed and there was an awful lot of tension. You know, sort of, step them back and calm them down to actually hand them over with no one getting hurt. Some threatened us.

But the actual moments where I felt most at risk was one night we had a 14 hour journey through these mountain passes with these trucks laden with lions; great big cages up on the vehicles. And these were just like rocky roads hacked into these sheer precipice mountain passes. And I really thought we could die tonight because if we hit the bump, one of these trucks is going to start rolling down into the valley below.


The other thing that was sort of genuinely life risking I felt at the time, but was so kind of wrapped up in it…we were dealing with animals in cages where they were starving, so they were very lethargic. But then we'd get them and we'd begin looking after them, and they get much more energetic. [Laughs] So in a way they became more dangerous in the bit immediately after the rescue or the seizures. And there's a moment where we're trying to get a very, very angry lion—and in many rescues I've never encountered a lion just that angry. And we're trying to, Jan and I, are trying to get him out of this cage. And basically it's just fallen apart. It's rusted. He's been stuck in there 12 years, just as a sideshow. We'd no way of getting him in or out. And so we're having to break in and he is absolutely furious. If he can get at us, he would've killed us. But luckily we get him out safely. And that lion, it, finding peace, this lion called Colo Colo, he goes on to be I think the absolute star of the film…


…he finds peace at the end, and it's just great.


Yeah. It was fun actually seeing all the different lions with their different personalities. And it's just something as a kid (you kind of start to notice as you get older), you don't really think about the animals at the circuses. You just think that they're happy and having fun, and then as soon as you get older you go, wait a second, there's something wrong with that picture.


So, it was kind of nice to be able to see the different personalities with the lions.

I think as well when we try and show things rather than saying, “This is really cruel and it's really cruel because of...” And I think it's small things in the film that make people sort of sit back and go, "Wow that's amazing." And one example is they're in actually tiny cages on the backs of trucks and there's nothing in there for them. And when we first get them we just put some hay in there, some bedding. And you can see a sense of joy and pleasure in these animals as they're rolling about and playing and sort of having fun for the first time. I think that speaks volumes more for what they were lacking than you know, explaining in detail all the things that they need in their life.

What was that moment like when you witnessed the lions actually go out under the sun and play in the grass for the first time in Colorado?

Absolutely fantastic! I go there regularly and it just charges me up to see them free and to have traveled that whole journey with them. And it's a kind of strange moment actually, because it's a little bit bittersweet because you become really, really close to these animals. You look after them every day. And then the relationship changes in that you hand them over to the sanctuary and although we work with them and we continue to fund the care of the lions, it's all so very different than cleaning them out each day and feeding them and everything. So there was a little over hanging saying goodbye, but it was just glorious. When the cubs come out and they just ran and sort of energized the whole group. It was one of the best moments in my life really. And I will—when I deal with things as an animal campaigner that are distressing and frustrating and desperate in dealing with governments and things, those are the things that keep me going.


Yeah. Well it was a beautiful moment to even just watch in the film. So to experience it, I can imagine would be just amazing.

I went to see them—I’m going back there again in about a week and a half, so it's always great going and seeing them after you've seen the film. I went in there last year. It was a particularly favorite visit. We drove a vehicle in because these are very big lion enclosures. And the biggest is 25 acres. So you can drive in there in the summer and it's full of all these beautiful flowers and even not find the lions for like ten minutes. And then they come out and find you; kind of emerge out of the long grass. I'm lucky enough to have seen lions in the wild quite a few times and it's as close as we could have given them to that. And that sort of is what's perfect about the project. We really pushed it. We've put them in the family prides so they live in those groups that they should do naturally. They have the kind of space to express themselves. And we were stuck in the vehicle, and they began chasing it and biting the bumper. It was just fantastic to have that kind of role reversal. Those lions, that we take ‘em from such awful conditions.

So how did Bob Barker actually get involved with the Lion Ark operation, which ultimately led up to him financing the rescue?

Right. Well, we were doing all of these campaigns and we'd secured legislation in Bolivia (and ADI has secured many laws all across the world) and kind of our undercover work is sort of what caught Bob Barker's eye. We’re very evidence based, so he saw we were doing this work getting the footage, getting it out, communicating it to the public, building public support, and then getting laws through. And the law was very close to being passed in Bolivia. So he realized we had this tremendous momentum and Peru was on board. And out of the blue, he called us Jan and I were at home and one night we got this call. And Bob Barker said, “I'm gonna give you some money.” And we thought, “Gosh, wouldn't that be great to have a few thousand dollars?” And he gave us a million dollars.



We knew at that point we would be able to do something on this scale…he gave us subsequent money as the project went on as well. But we specifically set aside a million dollars so that we could go and empty this entire country. And he made it possible because we're a good frugal organization where if people read this and they want to give a donation, we will really work that hard. But once you're working on that scale when you're dealing with lions, horses, monkeys, dogs, all of these other animals we dealt with in Bolivia, it's a huge scale. I mean, the building and the enclosures for the lions alone accounted for almost half of that money. So it's fantastic what he's done…The first time Jan and I had ever met him was getting off that aircraft…


Oh really?

Which you see in the film which is quite remarkable! We had spoken many times and we said, “You've made this incredible thing happen. You must come and see these lions thrive.”


Yeah. It was a great moment too when he turned on his whole voice with the "Lion number 1 come on down," like the game show host, which is great. It gave a nice touch for the film.

And…just that amazing speech in congress that [he gave]. He really is a very remarkable articulate advocate for animals.

Something I loved also about the film was what Jan said about how when we protect the weakest, we all gain. So what are your own thoughts on that idea?

I very much support that view. I mean, that's very much Jan's and my philosophy. Jan says in the film, and it's something we both say, ‘cause we often say, “Why go around bothering these animals when there's so much human suffering in the world?” It's almost as if, you know, if you do this thing, you're kind of trivializing human suffering. And that isn't it at all. If we do protect the weakest and most vulnerable we do all gain. If we say that children shouldn't be abused in our society, then it goes without saying that others in society shouldn't be abused and so on. And the more right that we gain for the most vulnerable then we all get those rights if we ever need them. With animals, if we create a culture in a society in which we are saying suffering is wrong, violence is wrong, and in the context with the film animals just suffering in the name of our entertainment. It's clear that those things shouldn't happen to people either. And I think it if we can build a more caring society, then we will all gain from it. And it is a truism Ghandi said about that...you can judge the morals of a country by the way that they treat animals. You can put insert there, you can judge the morals of a country by the way it treats old people. You can judge a country by the way it treats disabled people or children. And animals. If the minute you go to the areas where society's vulnerable and where people can take advantage of, that is where you learn whether our society's there to just take advantage or there to protect and care.

That's a good point! So, what is the message you really want the audience to take with them after watching Lion Ark?

I think that suffering in the name of entertainment must stop. I think that's a very clear message for it and animals should be treated with respect and kindness. But I think the really big theme of it is that we can all make a difference. And I think one of the things meeting people who've seen the film at these festivals and things—I think it's a very empowering film. It shows that you can have success and make a massive difference on the world sometimes where you least expect it. If you've gone back ten years now or 12 years and said, well, what money would you put on securing laws as strong for animals as this in a country like Bolivia and being so effectively enforced and all those animals being saved, you would get incredible odds. And I think it shows that with the right message that there is a lot of good in human nature. You know, that people in Bolivia responded to this and wanted this thing to happen. There may be a lot of educating to do, but we can all make a difference.


How do you reach people when you're trying to get bills passed and everything about animal abuse when it's easier for people to just look the other way?

I think that's the biggest single problem actually. And I would suspect that any human rights organization would say the same too. It's the inertia and wanting to look the other way is probably our greatest obstacle to achieving anything. So I think you've just got to communicate it in different ways. I think ADI's methodology is to investigate and gather the evidence and present the case. And I think that we have success generally because we get the level of evidence to show this is a very, very serious problem. We don't just film someone who hits an animal and put that on television and go, "do something about this now."


Because people go: “Well, what happened? Who is that person?” So I think key evidence and communicating it. And this film Lion Ark is a part of that tapestry. It may be through news broadcasts, it may be through videos sent to schools, it may be through leaflets and petitions; I think all of these ways of communication are—of course the internet where we can show individual incidents, even sort of two minute videos through 30 minute videos showing things, explaining it, educating...I think education and evidence are the absolute key and then just solid hard work to get the actual legislation through.

So what are some of the various ways someone interested can get involved with the Animal Defender's International?

Well if they look at our website, which is ad-international.org, they can support the film Lion Ark…We're appearing all over the US at the moment at different film festivals. We're in Omaha next week. And we need help [with] those events with selling the t-shirts, getting people to sign up. At the ADI website, which is ad-international, there's a whole range of different ways that people can get involved from volunteering at events and actually doing things through to signing up to petitions and writing to members of congress and even meeting their members of congress and their local representatives, their city representatives.

People do not realize just the power that they have. I mean, bills don't tend to get through governments. They don't represent, certainly not for animals, if they don't represent the will of the people or a very big sector of the community. But they're often driven by very small numbers of people. It makes a huge impact to someone to watch our film, read our literature, and then go on, knock on the door of their local council member and say, “I'm one of your constituents, you can see I'm just an ordinary person from this town (or I'm involved in business here or whatever), and I would like you to help stop this.” That doesn't mean that conversation will instantly lead to something; it is those encounters where people actually get directly engaged that bring about the big changes.

Are there any specific bills that you're working on right now to actually get passed?

People will see on the ADI site that there's various local authorities, city municipalities which are working on legislation, ordinances to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. And later this year, in the coming months we hope, ADI will be working on the reintroduction of the traveling exotic animal protection act which is the congressional legislation that would prevent the use of wild animals in traveling shows through the U.S. And to get through a piece of a legislation like that can take many years. The price is very great ending this sort of suffering forever and you can see that in the film Lion Ark. And if these things can happen in Bolivia and Paraguay and Peru and Great Britain and Austria and Costa Rica and Taiwan, then certainly they can happen here in the U.S.

Yeah, definitely! So do you have any other projects in the works right now? Another documentary that you're thinking about making? Or perhaps another rescue mission?

The really huge project we have on our doorstep is the Peruvian government has asked us to do the same thing as we did in Lion Ark. So we've had our field offices out in Peru tracking down the circuses. Clearly it's gonna be different because they know that we'll be coming this time, so there could be different resistance. One of our senior field officers, Alexis, who appeared in the film, was quite badly beaten up photographing a circus and had his leg broken about six-five months ago.


Oh my goodness...

So we're also talking with the government and finalizing the legal paperwork on that and you know how we would seize the animals where they would be held and in fact, all of these Lion Ark screenings are going towards funding that operation. So anyone who goes and sees a Lion Ark screening and gives a donation or buys one of the T-shirts, well it will help get those animals out of cages in Peru.

Awesome! Before we go, is there anything else that you wanted to add?

I think just to say keep an eye on what we're doing. Lion Ark the movie is on Facebook and ADI, Animal Defender's international are on Facebook. The website for ADI is www.ad-international.org and the website for Lion Ark is lionarkthemovie.com and we've got screenings coming up in all the time. Please watch for it and support the film.

Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

It was an absolute pleasure.

If you watch one movie trailer this year, watch this one! 


Again, you can learn more about Animal Defenders International at www.ad-international.org and more about Lion Ark at www.lionarkthemovie.com

To learn more about Amber Topping, check out her vintage inspired (yet modern) media blogzine: www.silverpetticoatreview.com

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The Face of Film Music
Marcelo Zarvos

By Mary Carreon

Zarvos-151.jpg“I always kept an eye out for the film thing, and I had faith it was going to find me, which it did.” Beginning his music career at 10 years old, Marcelo Zarvos has become a critically acclaimed composer in multiple mediums. As his talent extends from composing concert, theatre and dance music to scoring films, the Brazilian composer has a style that emphasizes the power and beauty of the musician.

Leaving Brazil at 18 years old to study music in the U.S., Zarvos didn’t do anything with film until he’d lived in America for 10 years, ironically. But, his education at California State of the Arts broadened his knowledge in terms of music and the performing arts. “I studied classical music, jazz and a lot of world music,” said Zarvos. “[Cal Arts] had a fantastic program that had Japanese music, African music and Indian music, so it was a very interesting place.” He also invested a good amount of time learning about animation, visual arts, dance, writing music and playing jazz during his time at Cal Arts.

Immediately out of school, he got a record deal with a Japanese label and travelled to Japan to play his music. After playing in Japan, Zarvos moved to New York City, where good timing and fate provided him with opportunity. “A director heard me performing and asked me to write music for his short film,” Zarvos said. “It was a Brazilian film called A Soccer Story… and went on to be nominated for an Academy Award.” It was after scoring this short film that Zarvos began reaping the rewards of his dedication to music.

Zarvos’ latest score for the film, The Face of Love, was digitally released in the U.S on March 11, 2014 via Varèse Sarabande Records. The soundtrack has strong themes, heavy strings and piano, creating a timeless sound. “In many ways it’s a very old school film and score,” said Zarvos.

The score emanates with emotion and reflects the big orchestral sounds popular to older, classic films. “It is a very psychological love story—you don’t really know what’s going on in [Nikki, the leading actress’] head… but the music really plays to her anxiety and longing of her lost love.” While still maintaining a crisp, modern sound, the orchestra strategically hits the emotional, romantic and suspenseful elements of the story.Marcelo_Zarvos.png

The score was a collaborative effort between Zarvos and director, Arie Posen. According to Zarvos, the two had a blast creating the soundtrack. “It was a very sophisticated way of scoring and interacting with a director,” Zarvos said. “We had a really good time.”

The soundtrack was generated separately from the film, allowing for a more natural creation of music. “I had written a bunch of music before going to [Posen’s] house to play everything I had for him on his piano. As I played he would say, ‘ok I like that one, or no I don’t like that’...” Keeping in mind iconic films and directors, Zarvos and Posen looked to the mid-20th century for inspiration. “We talked a lot about Hitchcock throughout the process,” Zarvos said. “The score has that kind of thriller aspect to it.”


Another additional project Zarvos is working on is a score for the movie, The Humbling, based on the Phillip Rock novel. The movie, starring Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig, is another dark love story focusing on the blurred lines between reality and the imagination. In April, additionally, Zarvos will begin to work on the music for the second season of the Showtime series, Ray Donovan.

Regardless of what genre of music he’s composing, Zarvos’ method of music composition focuses on musicianship—a concept that’s been lost in modern music and society. Despite experiencing multi-genre success, Zarvos’ humble nature and genuine love for music will continue to breed prosperity.

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City of Lost Children:
Cambodia's Phymean Noun

By Mende Smith

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia has been called the city of lost children. Street gangs of dirty-faced kids run in and out of open markets, topple garbage cans, and sort waist-deep through the sea of trash at the edge of the industrial district looking for marketable rubbish and scraps of food for their families. Most work in the dumpsite seven days a week, from dawn until dusk. Many lose their lives to disease before the age of 13. One woman worked tirelessly with the people in the community to provide hope for these children and their families with education—and also enough rice to feed their families.


Phymean Noun ’s unique story is one of hope and absolution. In 2002, Noun founded the People Improvement Organization (PIO) and made it possible to pull street kids from gloom to schoolroom. Building a school for the children at the dumpsite itself—raising hope where there was nothing but sadness and dirt and shame. In her interview with Reap, she talks of her work and the ongoing mission to change the future of her native Cambodia by empowering the underlings and educating them free of charge through the twelve-years of her program. She has been a CNN hero in 2008, award-winning visionary, and organizer.


Traveling around the globe to seek funding opportunities for her mission, she has been welcomed with open arms. Of her journey, Noun says, she deplores a viewpoint of hope and determination that sucks in the world community and reminds us that all of these children are in fact, our children—in her country, it is most difficult for orphaned girls who are more likely to fall prey to human trafficking and housekeeping than education.

JWI visit SMC Oct13

“In Cambodian culture, they depend on the girls to stay home and have children and serve the family,” Noun says. “There are more people who believe there is no place in the school for a girl. Not like in America or in Canada, in Cambodia girls are second-class and have nothing to give their communities, people say. It is our mission to work hard for the girls, there are so many.”

So many lives can be saved through comprehensive education, basic hygiene, trust, and love. Noun says. “Nobody was doing anything for these kids, they were looking the other way, and so I had to do this for them, because it helps everyone else in the city too.”


Noun has been working with the children of PIO since 2002. The PIO has outreach centers at the city dumpsite, in the lowest areas of Phnom Penh and on the outskirts of the city where the people from the slums are relocated as the city is redeveloped. The program has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Education and also with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and work closely with social services now in Cambodia to support the governments’ education goals.


“We also run training for girls in dressmaking, cookery, and beauty and hairdressing at our training center in the city,” Noun says. “Many of these girls develop the workplace skills they need to feed themselves and to work off of the streets.”

Noun herself was orphaned at 15. She had already lost most of her family during the Cambodian genocide of the dictator Pol Pot. After so many years of unrest and the threat of war, her sister traveled to Thailand looking for a better life leaving her infant daughter in their mother’s care. Soon after, their mother died of cancer and Noun was left alone to survive and care for her infant niece. This is why Noun has a no-fail attitude and can relate so well with the children in her program.


Noun is delighted to give the opportunity to the orphaned children that she never had as a child of 15. Though bittersweet, her own search for work, education, and survival gave her the chops to take on the massive social challenge of living in a war torn country. Through education and training, the PIO equips the children and young people with the skills they need to access regular jobs and become self-supporting, improving their quality of life and that of their families.

Noun has been celebrated as a visionary in Cambodia. Having worked her way through school, earned a college degree and found a good job without the help of an organization like the PIO. The day she quit her job was also the day she realized that someone had to fight for the rights of the children living year after year in poverty.


“I could not take the time I needed to help all of the kids,” Noun says. “So I had money saved and I quit my job and started working to find the help for all of the children who were locked out of school, unable to afford to pay for school. We started with them.”

With Noun’s careful assistance, a growing number of schools and shelters offer alternative lives for children living and working at the filthy and dangerous trash dumps around the industrial city of Phnom Penh.

The PIO is aligned to the United Nations Millennium Development goals, which aim to ‘End Poverty.’ This work actively underpins the achievement of these goals and provides hope to a growing population of children in need. This is a locally based organization; run solely by Cambodians for Cambodians.


“We work hard to develop our workforce and empower the local people to become the leaders of the future, these children are our future in Cambodia.”

Today, Noun travels to and from her native country many times each year. When she is touring on fund-raising expeditions here in the states, she lives and writes at her home in Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of phone conferences, phone calls, and meetings fill up her schedule, which, she happily tasks as her life’s work and mission.Noun and her organization serve over 1,000 children a day through programs that include schooling, nutrition, healthcare, non-formal education and vocational training. Her work continues to inspire us every day.

“So long as people can see that there are so many children who need the chance to be a success, this school will keep on growing. I am blessed everyday with the work I do in my country and more people are helping us to make life better for the children in Cambodia.”

You can learn more about Phymean Noun and the People Improvement Organization here: http://peopleimprovement.org/.

Your donate is tax deductible. Donate now.

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Production Designer:
Martin Whist

By Tina Valin

Martin Whist has the best plan B story I’ve ever heard. After obtaining his Masters at Claremont Graduate University studying painting and sculpture, he started his fine art career showing his painting in galleries; but like many artists and creatives, he found he needed to find a way to make ends meet.  Fine art wasn’t paying the bills.  Already in the LA area, Whist recognized that movies need props, and he had the sculpting and construction experience necessary to build those props.  He picked up a telephone book, called a set shop in East LA and landed a job sweeping floors.  Eventually, they handed him a few projects to work on.


Whereas the normal plan B story involves settling for that boring desk job or becoming a teacher, Whist’s plan B began his slow and steady climb up the Hollywood ladder to his current position as Production Designer on major Hollywood Blockbusters.  “Super 8,” “Cabin in the Woods,” “Warm Bodies,” “Cloverfield,” and this year’s “Robocop” reboot are just a few of the films that have benefited from Whist’s creativity and imagination.


In case you’re not familiar with what a Production Designer does, Martin Whist has a great explanation.  If you take all the actors in a film that you see on screen, have them drop all their props and walk off set, what’s left is his domain. The props, the sets, the ‘look’, the visual elements of the story; these are all the result of the Production Designer and his team’s efforts to manifest the Director’s vision of the script.  If you talk to Whist for only a few minutes, it’s quickly apparent that he loves his job.

Whist’s body of work proves that he’s also pretty darn good at what he does and that he’s not afraid to take risks.  Once news of the reboot of “Robocop” hit the internet, a certain amount of backlash was expected.  For Whist and those involved, there was the realization that by just agreeing to do the film they had already failed in the eyes of critics and skeptics who wondered why anyone would bother rebooting the much loved original.  With that, they were free to just get to work and do their job.  I expressed my pleasantly surprised enjoyment of the film.  With a chuckle, Whist agreed that’s the response he’s been receiving the most.  Not bad for a film that  has made $220 million at the box office.

Whist’s success has allowed him to be more selective with his projects, and I wondered if there was a particular genre he favored.  I expected his answer to include any of the high-concept genres, Sci-Fi or Horror; genres he’s worked in before that allow for a lot of innovative and original design opportunities.  Although relishing the opportunity to anticipate and manifest sci-fi and technological trends in a film like “Robocop,” he derives equal satisfaction from creating more practical and reality-defined worlds: taking us back to the 1980s in “Super 8,” for example.  Each and every film offers it’s own original challenges and set of rules regardless of genre.  For Whist, it’s more about trying something new.  He’s never worked on a period piece and that would be a new challenge he’d like to tackle.


As a result of his continued success, Whist is often asked for advice from those interesting in pursuing his line of work and admits that it’s a tricky question to answer.  Not a lot of Production Designers come from laborer’s background as he did.  Many start off in architecture and set design or begin as illustrators.  Production Designers come from a whole myriad of backgrounds following a number of different routes to the role.  First and foremost he recommends finding a film school with an excellent production design program.  Beyond that, it’s a matter of diving in and learning as much as possible about all aspects of making a film.  Designing is only the first task of ensuring that your design is made through to completion and shot on budget.  Of course, hard work is a large part of the equation as well as the willingness to let the business take you where it takes you.

Martin_Whist.jpgClosing out our conversation in the midst of a busy day on his next film, “Night at the Museum 3”, I asked if there were any specific phases of the process he relished the most.  Laughing, he said, “I love when we strike a set. When the bulldozers come in.  It’s like Picasso, the creator/destroyer.  A huge part of it is destruction.”  He expounded saying that symbolically the bulldozers signify completion for his part of the process.  He loves every part of the process from the initial spark of the idea to the illustrations and consulting with the director through to the physical construction of the sets; and that once the actors take their places and the scene is shot, the whole process is nothing short of amazing.

I’m sure we’ll continue to see amazing work from Martin Whist starting with “Night at the Museum 3” and beyond.  Accompanying the creativity and skill that’s allowed him to reach this high level of success, Whist is a warm and appreciative man with whom anyone would be fortunate to collaborate.  And yes, he still keeps his private art work going, bringing his work with him as he travels.  He’s working in a digital format more and more for convenience and hopes to start showing his work again sometime soon.

For more about Nathan Edmondson check out reel9productions.com or follow him on twitter @edmondsonnathan

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