Harold Ramis & Sid Caesar

By Dale Angel

Famous words: Dying is easy ... Comedy is hard. Harold Ramis, actor, writer and director has died. He was 69. His films include Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Analyze This.


Earlier in the week the great Sid Caesar also died. In a strange way its fitting that Sid went first, he was always the ground breaker, the inventor and mentor. He was best known for his work on TV's Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, both groundbreaking sketch comedy shows that created an entire new comedy form leading to such shows as Saturday Night Live. John Belushi's samurai sketch was directly drawn from Caesar's " gibberish man" sketch. The influence of Caesar must be also credited to his writing team. Writers for the series included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin, and Carl Reiner. Larry Gelbart wrote for Caesar's Hour, and Woody Allen worked on several Sid Caesar TV specials.

sid caesar 2002 ap 606

Your Show of Shows was the inspiration for The Dick Van Dyke Show. Your Show of Shows also inspired the great Peter O'toole 1982 movie My Favorite Year, produced by Mel Brooks, and the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor written by Neil Simon. Saturday Night Live is almost a clone of these shows. Especially in the early years.

Enter Harold Ramis. There was no direct connection with Sid Caesar. Perhaps Ramis knew nothing of Sid Caesar, perhaps he never even heard of him. Yet Sid Caesar was the foundation of the comedy style Ramis so perfectly practiced.

Ramis, and many of the Saturday Night Live cast, were veterans of the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, He was a writer for SCTV and wrote or co-wrote the scripts for the films he directed like National Lampoon's Animal House , Caddyshack, "Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Analyze This.

His films often stared veterans of the National Lampoon comedy recordings, Saturday Night Live and Second City TV. And quite often stared Ramis' old Second City colleague Bill Murray. 

He also directed the strange and dark The Ice Harvest. And Ramis was a ground breaker as well directing several episodes of the cutting edge TV show The Office.

He acted as well. He played Bill Murray's friend in Stripes,  and a doctor in As Good as It Gets. But, he is best known for playing 'Dr. Egon Spengler' in Ghostbusters.

The classic Animal House remains a favorite film discovering a new audience with each generation. Frat houses still throw toga parties. (Ramis insisted it was a more or less true story from his collage days) Caddyshack also remains a classic with a devoted following. But Ghostbusters has achieved cult film status. Costumed fans turn up at screenings, conventions and perhaps police stations.

While Ramis is one of the kings of silliness, Groundhog Day has a thoughtful theme, forces the audience to think, to examine their own lives, and laugh their but off. Ramis was able to work both sides of this street while never being pretentious, never a dull moment, and is even able to make attempted suicide fodder for funny. Bill Murray played the part perfectly, and the union between actor and writer is like a dance. Ramis and Murray were almost a comedy team. This is also true in Analyze This. Murray was at his best when Ramis's words were coming out of his mouth.

So its been a tough week for comedy. Or not. After all, it will always come out fine in the end, as long as we never, ever cross the beams.  May both these comedic geniuses rest in peace.


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Diary Of A Feature Film: STEVIE - D by Chris Cordone

My path to filmmaking is not uncommon.  When I was living in New York City in the late 1990s, everyone wanted to be a part of the independent film movement that was reaching its height.  I had already been exposed to the great American cinema of the 30s, 40s and 50s through my father, a major film enthusiast.  I also had a beloved Italian teacher in college who was mad about Italian cinema, and thus had the opportunity to study the great Italian neorealist films.  Combining these influences along with my own desire to create, I enrolled in my first filmmaking classes in night school at NYU and the New School.  I had also been studying acting and since that was opening more doors for me at the time, I decided to return to filmmaking when I had developed more of my own stories and had furthered my career as an actor.  

Fast forwarding to many years later and now living in Los Angeles, I realized that not only had I not achieved what I wanted to as an actor, but I had also moved very far away from my original dreams of telling stories through film.  I committed myself to writing and began working on a father-son story that I hoped would allow me to work with an actor, John Aprea, who had been mentoring me since I moved to LA. Read on

Diary Of A Feature Film: Hybrids by Peter Wooley

"Hybrids?...What the hell are you talking about, Tony? We both drive a Prius. What else do you need to know? The world does not care to know how, what, when, where, or why a car got built in script form, yet. Tony, take a rest. Go home to Italy, and look out on that Terranian Sea and write something about two old men wanting to make a movie. Now that’s something we know something about.”

Tony Schweikle, my partner in crime was telling me about this half-assed idea he had for a script. “Listen, Dummy, this is a good and current idea, and I’m gonna’ damn well write it. Play this on your piano: Brother and sister-late teens, early twenties-their father is a vampire and their mother is a witch. They live in this old, cold castle up inna’ mountains. They are home schooled and rarely get an opportunity to mingle with the masses, and they have the abilities of both a true witch and a true vampire.” Read on

 Keep checking back for frequent updates to Production Diaries...








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Olga Kay
Internet Superstar

By Tina Valin

Olga Kay is an internet superstar!  She was one of the first people to become a multi-channel YouTuber sensation and has embarked on creating satellite enterprises which keep on building her imaginative media empire. It was a pleasure to have an in-depth interview with her and learn about her many ambitions and passions that drive her hard to succeed.


Tell me a bit about your background and how it led you to establishing such an impressive internet career.

I grew up in Russia, so when I was 16, I came to America to perform with the Russian circus.  I was a juggler in the circus and I traveled.  I didn’t speak English when I came to this country, it was a very difficult time for me, but I was 16 and I was really eager to discover everything.  I traveled for a good two years with the Ringling Bros Circus and then after that I did a little contract with family circuses and I think at around that time is when I realized that I probably should not be in the circus anymore and, at the same time, stay in America and see what else I can do here.


I moved to Los Angeles when I was 19. I was a really good juggler for a female, because there’s not that many females out there and I decided to audition for lots of TV commercials, trying to get TV gigs as a juggler.  I booked, I think, five commercials within a year and a half, which was great.  So that’s how I started making my money outside of the circus and around the same time, well maybe a few years later, is when I discovered YouTube because some of my juggling friends would force me to go on that site and favorite their videos and comment on them.  I had no idea what YouTube was, I just went in and signed up, just so I could help out my friends.  After being on it for a couple of months, I realized that  it’s a community and there are lots of people with awesome personalities and they just talk to cameras and I had no idea what vlogging is.  I actually didn’t know how to use a camera or edit or any of that.


I didn’t have enough money to buy professional equipment. All I had is my laptop.  I think I had a MacBook at that time and MacBook had a camera, an iSight camera that is built in.  So that was my camera for the good first two years on YouTube, which was hilarious.

You had nobody helping you, not even someone to hold your computer at least?

No, no, I had nobody helping me.  I just ran around town with my computer.  Literally, I was on a tropical island, there’s a video of it, me running around with my computer filming videos, trying to document everything that I’m going through in my life.

That’s really amazing!  Did people question you, like who is this crazy person running around with this computer talking to it?

Yes, people questioned me for those reasons, but then even after I would explain that I’m just making YouTube videos - they also would question me because I started when YouTube launched back in 2006 and nobody really knew YouTube.  YouTube was the platform no one yet respected, I guess, and understood.  People questioned me on many different accounts, even my friends.  They did not understand what I was doing with my life and why I was wasting so much of my time trying to make YouTube videos and trying to learn how to make them.  It was a struggling time for people, but I didn’t know where it was going to take me, but for some reason, I believed that this is my place and I should really work hard at it and something will happen eventually.  For the first three years, I wasn’t making money.

My channel was growing, barely, and all I did every morning is try to figure out how to be a YouTuber and one of those things was me discovering that YouTube actually has little gatherings throughout the year.  I had heard of one in Los Angeles and I just went there and I've met, I think, maybe ten other YouTubers and while I was there, they talked about all these other gatherings that were coming up and I didn’t have enough money.  I opened lots of credit cards so I could travel all over the country to the different YouTube gatherings.  


I think I went to eight YouTube gatherings in the next two years.  I went all over America and I went to Canada and I just literally met everyone that helped me shape my YouTube career from that time on.  I mean, YouTube is a place where you have to collaborate and create projects together and then you swap the audience back and forth. I don’t know if I got really lucky or if I was really smart at that time, but that’s what I did. I met everyone who was at my level. I mean, they were very small YouTubers and it just happened that, fast forward a year and a half, all of those people became really really popular and I was one of them as well.  So it was just good timing and just constantly trying to create content with other people, because I always say, nobody does it alone.  Everyone needs help at some point.

That’s so true. People who resist collaboration are left in the dust.

Yes, so we helped each other grow.  Now, all the people that I met back in 2008, they’re all gigantic moguls. They started large companies and watching my friends grow made me want to become a businesswoman.  Because at first, I was just playing, having fun, seeing where it’s going to go, but now, you know, over time, I became a businesswoman and it’s exciting and frustrating at the same time.

Right.  Now how did you ultimately learn the technical side of the business?

I did it all myself.  While I was running around playing with my computer, it was pretty easy because it would film directly into my editing software and then I just literally watched tutorials every day on how to edit and I remember I used to edit just picture slideshows and then slowly I started making videos and they were really bad because creatively, I didn’t understand what makes a compelling video.  So they were very boring long videos, but slowly I started learning how to edit better and be more creative and understanding my audience, what they want to see.  I literally just did everything myself.  I would just play with my footage all day long and meanwhile I was still growing my audience. YouTube had this feature before, and they still have it but it just doesn’t work as well, where you could go and comment on people’s pages.  Every time I would get a notification that somebody subscribed to me, I would go to their page and I would thank them for subscribing.

I would thank at least 1,000 people individually a day while watching movies or talking to my friends and, I mean, I ruined lots of my friendships, not going to lie, but it was great because I would thank those people and the same day, at least 20% of new subscribers would subscribe to my channel because they would by accident come across other people’s pages and they would see my message on numerous pages and they’d start to wonder, “Who’s this Olga Kay girl?  We need to go and watch her videos and see what’s going on.”  So I did a lot of marketing from the beginning of my YouTube.  I would always go to events and would give them my business card with my YouTube all over it and I was one of the first ones who did that and it’s really funny how everything progressed because every time I go to a YouTube gathering now, ten year old kids come up to me with business cards with YouTube all over it.  So a lot has changed.

[Laugh] Well, you sort of started a movement there.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not even going to be modest, yes, I think I did.


It’s terrific to be an artist, but in order to develop an audience, you have to be able to market yourself in some way.

Yeah, you definitely have to learn how to do that, it’s not just fun and games and it’s not as easy as people think.  It’s really like running a business and if you don’t have a sense of what business is, I mean, it would be really frustrating and difficult to succeed.

Yes, I understand.  With your editing, did you use any particular editing software to edit your videos and what do you use now to do it?

In the beginning I used iMovie and I think I used it for a good three or four years while being on YouTube and then everyone was talking about how I should be using Final Cut and making it more professional.  I had bought Final Cut and I didn’t use it because I was terrified.  I was so afraid of this professionalism, for some reason, so I didn’t use it for the longest time and then finally, I think there was a girl that came up to me and she was like, “Oh yeah, I use Final Cut” and I was like, “Oh my gosh, if you can do it, I can do it.”  It was just one of those realizations and, yeah, so I started, the same thing, I had nobody to teach me how to use it.  I just signed up for some online courses and I did it all myself and it was trial and error every time.

I’m glad Final Cut worked out for you. It’s a great way to be creative and you can do a lot on iMovie too.

Yeah, I still use iMovie for my second channel because I do have four other channels as well.  When I do just everyday vlogging, I use iMovie.

What are your other channels and how are they different from each other?

OlgaKay is my main original channel and I create sketch comedy on it.  OlgaKay2 is my lifestyle channel, where I show a lot of behind the scenes from my main channel or everyday life kind of videos.  Then I have OlgaKayGames.  On that channel, I play video games and I do commentary as I play.  My new channel that I launched last year is Mooshville and that channel represents fashion and beauty.

I’d love to hear your definition of the word moosh.

Oh, moosh is very unique and a word close to my heart. Back in 2008, I was doing lots of livestreams with my fans where once a week I would catch up on what’s been going on with me and we would just have a conversation back and forth online.  I remember asking them for a specific word that would represent our – I make jokes of it – I don’t want to say our brand, but it’s more of our cult.  We have a very positive cult, which is the Moosh Army.  So what word can we use for it?  I have a cat; her name is Mooshka, and every time they would watch my show, I would constantly say, “Moosh Moosh,” to either tell her to come over or to leave.  So it just kind of organically came into my online world and somebody said, “Why don’t we just use moosh?”  I said, “Oh yeah, that would be great.”


Originally we used moosh to replace bad words because a lot of young kids watch my videos and my videos tend to be a little more vulgar.  So I would say, “Shut the moosh up” and all of a sudden, then [Moosh] for nice things, like candy and rainbows and fluffy pillows and it didn’t really mean anything bad. We started doing that just for fun and then we started replacing many other words, like “I really like to eat moosh potatoes.”  It just became our internal joke and I think the more people who watched me, the more they started calling themselves mooshers and then, because there were so many people watching at that point, I think at that point I had, it was 150,000 people that were watching me.  Then we became a Moosh Army and they started calling me Moosh Mommy and I think that’s when I realized that moosh is actually my brand and I need to branch out using moosh.  I had to actually go and trademark moosh so it’s mine and nobody can have it.

That’s fantastic how it evolved. And to sum it up, if this word moosh was in the dictionary, give me a sentence that would describe moosh, if you can.

Oh my gosh…

Ok - it can be more than a sentence.

Moosh is a community of young people that is honest and fun and I am the mother overseeing them and maybe moosh is something that brings people together.

It sounds like moosh nurtures a person’s true self all in positive ways, whether they’re creative or techy or spiritual or just doing good things.

Exactly, yeah. I would definitely agree with that.

Let’s go deeper into your upbringing – it had to be very special in many ways – you just suddenly didn’t become a juggler in the most well-known circus in the world.

I actually grew up in Ukraine by the Black Sea.  My mother’s a psychologist and my dad worked various jobs. He was a very hard-working man and I also have a brother.  When I was young, I lived in a village of 400 people.  We only had one or two grocery stores.  I remember my life being very poor but my mother always made sure that I had lots of cultural activities.  I went to music school but my mother was obsessed with the circus.  Everything she knew about the circus, she would teach me as much as she could.

Did she also have a special skill that she passed on to you?

My mom always wanted to be an aerial artist and she actually never ended up doing anything in the circus because of her heart condition. So she actually never got to fulfill her dreams, but her twin sister was in the circus already. She was in the circus her whole life. To me, growing up as a little girl, I always wanted to run away with the circus when I grew up with my uncle and aunt. I was also born two months premature and I was supposed to be mentally slow and not a very strong child. My mother, knowing all of that, did lots of physical therapy with me and she just made sure that I was very strong physically and then mental strength would come. I remember myself in school, it was really hard for me to figure out how to read and write. By the time I was two years old, I think, I already did splits and I was trying to flip upside down. I was always doing handstands and all of those things, but juggling, I became really good at it. I was 14 when my family became really really poor and we just had to leave our village and find a better life. We joined my uncle and aunt in the circus just to help them, to clean up after animals or whatever other jobs were available. So I was 14, which is a very old age for somebody to start in the circus, and I wanted to do lots of different things like aerial acts and so many different things but I couldn’t because I was older. So juggling was the only thing that kind of stuck with me. I remember practicing eight hours a day right after school. That became my act, I never wanted to be a juggler, but it was just the only thing left for me. I just wanted to be in the circus regardless.

I think being Russian in general and then being in the circus just gave me this work ethic. YouTube is a 24/7 job and it doesn’t scare me.


What an incredible life! Do you feel you lost your childhood?  In this country, in America, kids are often more babied along at 13, 14, 15. It seems like you were thrown into the fire of growing up very fast. Men must have been hitting on you in the circus – your survival skills had to be very sharp.

Yeah, originally it was pretty awesome. It’s what happened after was a little more, you know, difficult, like family circuses, but Ringling was amazing.  It was a very easy job.  It was the easiest circus job that I've had.  Everything was taken care of.  I had my social security.  I was making money.  I was 16.  It was great.  But as far as did I lose out on some childhood, I didn’t know any better.  That’s how I grew up.  My mother made sure to keep me occupied and busy at all times. After I left when I was 14 and then I went back home when I was 16, I think, just to meet up with classmates and see how their lives changed and literally within those two critical teenage years, they all became either alcoholics or they were doing drugs and I’m glad that I never got to participate in any of that because I was so busy doing all of my other things.  My mind never went to the place where I’m bored and I need to medicate myself in any way.  I was actually happy and I get very upset knowing that in America, there’s so many opportunities and people don’t know what they’re going to do with their lives and they just sort of go through life until they’re 35 not knowing what needs to happen. This is the only country that you can do practically whatever you want.  This is one of the few countries where you can turn YouTube into your full time job.

I’m working on so many things right now and it’s always been my thing.  Honestly, I don’t know how to live any other way.  If I’m not doing enough, that’s when I’m unhappy.

It sounds like you’re totally a creative person and you’re finding new directions to use that talent. You have some other very important skills for making the creativity work for you and you’re just always passionate and when you’re passionate, you can’t turn it off.  I call it an addiction. [Laugh]

Yes, exactly.

Although to some people, it can also cause harm because they’re not able to monetize their creativity and it could bring families down because they can’t give up what they’re doing or find a way to make it work. There are young people who are just coming out of their teens, who are very passionate, very driven, and are suffering from fear of trying – of being afraid to fail.  You are the other side of that, who is like, “I’m going to try this. You guys should be trying things.  Don’t be afraid of failure.”

Yeah, absolutely.  I rarely read, but when I read books, it’s always about how to better myself as a creator or individual.  It’s always books about how to succeed or what does it take to be successful and over and over, I read the same things where if you don’t fail, you can’t really learn from it.  So the more you fail, the faster you’ll succeed.

That’s very wise.

A young audience watches me and if they can take away this message that they can do anything, every time I come across teenagers, the only question I ask them is, “What do you want to do in life? Oh, you don’t know. Think about it. Figure out right now so you know how to make that dream a reality because it will take a while to accomplish something.” I always inspire all the teenagers to just figure out, just know what you want to do.

Yes and it’s very sad when somebody can’t figure it out and that’s why it’s important to have mentors or people like you or hopefully what we’re doing with Reap, where they can tap into experiences and sound advice because they might not get it from their family or friendship circles or teachers, but there are other ways to acquire a passion for a career and life.

Oh absolutely and I feel like, I mean, I get stuck as well where I’m doing everything that I’m doing and I feel like there’s more to me and I don’t know how to branch out or do something to get to the next level.  Even last year, I decided to start reading this book and the name of it is,The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and I literally read that book four times in a row and my brain just rewired and I just came up with all of these new ventures, which one of them is Mooshworld.com and I’m designing knee-high socks right now.

You’re designing what?

Knee-high socks.


How cool – love knee-highs! [Laugh]

Yeah, they’re going to be amazing and it’s just like all these ideas piled into my head and all of a sudden, I have this new passion for everything that I’m doing.

Your energy is contagious!  I also wanted to talk a little bit about your team - do you now have a team of people who help you produce your videos and also help inspire ideas and organize your hectic schedule?

Good question. I've been doing this for seven years. I only had one cameraman a year and a half ago for five months and then I just realized that, ooh, all I’m doing is creating more content now just because I have a cameraman and it was not very creative.  So I had to stop doing that.  So no, I actually don’t have a team per se.  I still do most of it myself.  I do have a couple of people that help me, for example, on my gaming videos. I upload twice a day seven days a week, so that’s 14 videos in a week, so I have people that help me upload.  When I shoot regular videos on my beauty channel, I don’t really have anybody.  I just film myself for the most part and then I edit myself whenever I have time.  So I don’t have a team, but I have people that join me here and there when I really need somebody.

Like I have a show that I’m producing on my beauty channel called “What’s In My Purse?” and so for that show, I usually go into the studio and I film everything myself.  I go to a YouTube studio and I film five episodes in one day and then I just take all the episodes and give them to my editor.  So she would work on that show, but everything else I’m doing, I do myself.  If I have bigger projects where I definitely need a camera and a sound person, then I’ll just hire somebody for that day and that’s about it.  I’m wishing, I’m hoping that one day, the only thing that’s holding me back right now is having bigger budgets so I can actually get people onboard and have a team, actually make my business bigger and also not be as stressed out as much.

Well, it’s absolutely mind-blowing that you’re able to do the quality, the ingenuity, the non-stop creativity, the technical, and marketing - everything!

Oh, I’m crazy, I’m telling you. I barely have a life. I don’t know how I do it. Looking back, like I’m slowing down right now a little bit, just because I’m realizing that I can’t be creative if I’m doing so many technical things at the same time. I’m trying to see what’s really important and trying to create better content, but not as much content that I used to. It’s really tough and it’s really expensive. With creating content, sometimes you get rewarded well and other times you don’t. It’s a constant struggle and every time I do a little better financially, I either launch a new channel or I launch a new website or I want to branch out and make knee-high socks!

Interesting. I’m in awe of you, I have to say. How do you get all these ideas? What is your creative process like? Do you dream and you get ideas dreaming or sitting on the toilet and ideas come to you? I consider myself a very creative person also, but there’s no way that I could do what you do!

Well, first thing I wake up every morning thinking how I’m not creative enough and I just constantly beat myself up. That’s the first goal in life is never be unsatisfied and then you constantly want to prove yourself wrong, but how do I get ideas? My life and my YouTube life, breaks down in a couple of segments. I think back in 2010, a lot of my videos were literally from my real life. I would hang out with friends, they would say one phrase that would inspire me to make a video about it because they either made me laugh or made me angry or just created some kind of emotion. I would then sit down and just fantasize, “What if that happened? What else could happen?” I made lots of videos doing that. Then I created a character, her name is Razor Blade and she was based on all the comments or just teenage behavior in general and she actually helped me become really popular on YouTube because she was this very relatable character for all the teenagers, so everyone started watching. Then sometimes I ask my audience, “What should I do next?” so they would give me ideas and they would literally give me a sentence and then I go, “Ooh, this could be good” and then I turn it into an idea.

That’s such an innovative way of creating – having your audience as part of the idea pool.

Now I've met so many people and I always feel guilty asking people to help me because I know how busy I am, so I always feel bad asking other people to help me, but the truth is, a lot of people want to help and obviously I can offer a lot of exposure at this point of my career, so sometimes I just get together with friends and we just sit around in a circle and try to brainstorm some ideas and usually come out with something.  I work amazingly well with a group of people because bouncing ideas for me is like the most creative way of creating content.

It’s great that you use brainstorming amongst friends and you’re helping each other out. The more minds on something, the better something turns out in the end, as long as you stay true to yourself.

Exactly.  I’d like to do more of that.

I would like to ask you some question about your animals.  How important are animals in your existence?  Are they equal to humans, are they different?  Are they an inspiration?  If you didn’t have them, what would your life be like?

Yeah, well I grew up with animals. My mom and my dad and my brother, we always had at least three dogs in the house and at least three cats and we lived in a village, so they just roamed around on the front yard and it was just good times.  So we always loved animals.  I think I always had a cat. So when I moved to LA, even when I was in the circus, I remember staying in the circus, I was living in this little house and this cat just ran up to me and I just adopted it. My boyfriend and I had a couple of cats together and that’s how Mooshka, the whole Moosh Army started.  Obviously it’s very important to me.  I named my whole brand after my cat. My cat, Mooshka, is absolutely amazing. She’s like a dog. I never felt like she was a cat that never paid attention to me.  She was always like a dog with me.  She would follow me everywhere.  If I didn’t juggle for longer than a day, she would bring me juggling balls into my room to remind me.


Then last year, I decided to get a dog of my own and I never thought I’ll get a dog unless I have a backyard where she can run around, because I’m so busy, I just don’t have that time for a dog, but I got a dog regardless and it’s been the most amazing time ever.  Immediately, as soon as I got the dog, I started training her.  There’s actually amazing videos online of her doing lots of tricks.  But yeah, so I don’t just have a dog for decoration. My dog does tricks and entertains people. I guess my whole life just surrounds entertaining people and shocking people with the talents that either I could acquire or my animals can acquire.


And now you are entertaining people in even more ways - you have recently launched Mooshworld and it would be great to hear more about that new venture.

Mooshworld is an umbrella I’m creating that is outside of YouTube but incorporates everything that I love into it.  So it’s not only lifestyle.  Writers write about technology and gaming, fashion and beauty, funny things that are happening on the internet.  What else do I have?  Film and music. I started as an actress before I actually started doing YouTube videos.  I love film and I love creative filmmakers.  I love food.  I love beautiful pictures of food, so I created a category for food to share places in Los Angeles or just to share my favorite recipes, because when I do have time, I actually cook.

Wow, you manage your time beautifully.  So this is an all-inclusive, everything you love in one package and people contribute to your website.  You mentioned acting - did you get formal training as an actor and where are you with those acting goals?

I started as an actress and I got lucky to do lots of commercials and not many TV shows because I was super, super Russian back then and then I decided to stop acting as far as auditioning goes and I decided to concentrate on my channel because I figured if I created my own resume, I would not really need anybody and I would not need to knock on anybody’s doors. I spent the last three or four years building my brand and creating and I can do whatever content I want.  If I want to do drama, I do drama.  I do comedy.  I can write my own scripts and I can create my own characters. To be completely honest - I want to do TV work.  I would love to be in films.  I think that’s very creative and so many films are so beautiful and just live on forever and I would still love to do that and I think what’s going to happen, I’ll probably end up making my own movie in the next five years.


But my other reason that I really want to be an actress, and it’s a very practical reason, is I want to collect my pension. I’m in a professional guild, so I just want to collect my pension and my insurance plan.  Honestly, fulfilling my passion as an actress, I’m doing it already; I don’t need to be on TV. It doesn’t matter where you showcase your talents as long as people are watching.  I don’t really care if I’m on TV or in a film or with thousands of people watching on my own channel. It’s the same thing.  It’s the same audience, but the longevity is created, for me personally as an actress, would be created in film.

Do you do any screenwriting or treatments for television shows that you’re actively out pitching when you have time in-between everything else that you’re doing?

No, I don’t do that. You know, I've seen lots of my friends go through the process and unfortunately we’re not in the place yet where YouTube is fully respected and understood that this is your piece of ID.  As of right now, I've seen too many of my friends put their whole lives on hold trying to pitch a show and then trying to secure so many different things and the next thing you know it’s been a year and a half and the show is a go but then it just doesn’t get picked up.  I don’t have time for that.  I have to concentrate, I mean, I do everything myself, so I have to concentrate on what’s important and then if a good opportunity comes around, because what happens now, and it’s getting a little better but it’s still a big problem, where if you’re a YouTuber and you’re selling a big TV show, you either have to alter your idea to please other people because that’s how that world works or you have to put on hold your online career because obviously if you have a show on HBO, they have to make sure that you don’t do anything that might jeopardize their brand.  It’s still a big disconnect and I create so much content, I can’t put myself on hold, so for me, it’s really tough to go back and forth until it’s at the place where I can just call the shots, which might take a couple of years.

Last Halloween I released this special and it’s called “My Better Half.”  There are two twins in the video and I met them through a mutual friend at Relativity Media.  Companies come to me now because they see the power of marketing through me because I have this audience, which brings me again to another point.  If I’m an actress in any movie, they can only benefit from it because I already have a built-in audience.

You come with a lot of loyal support – a huge fan base.  That’s an extremely valuable resource.

Yes. After I created “My Better Half,” which I co-wrote with the twins, it was just one of those things, I saw a production set and this idea was born in a very weird way. I knew it was Halloween, I knew I had to do something trippy, and I met these twins a couple months before I saw the set. The hallway of the set, which was at the YouTube space, which is the YouTube studio that we have here in LA, and it reminded me of The Shining. I knew that I had to have twins and I got together with them. They’re great writers and we just ping-ponged the idea back and forth about this Halloween short. I am a big fan of psychology; my mom being a psychologist, so I understand human behavior and what people go through.

We created this very psychological Halloween special that is very deep and very heartbreaking. I definitely write. I write a lot better when I’m writing with partners and, after creating that, because I also directed it and bringing everything that I wanted out of my actors and creating this piece of work that a lot of people responded really well to, it just made me realize that even if I don’t do acting work, I have so many other things I can offer. I can direct. I can co-write a movie with somebody. I can definitely produce. I know how that world works. That’s one of those things that I never thought I would be even talking about. I was even invited to speak on a panel for the Producer’s Guild of America, which is mind-blowing to me because, like I said before, when I was an actress, I was hoping to meet those people so maybe they could put me in the movie, but now they’re asking me for input on how to produce for online media and what is it like and how to build an audience. So definitely the world changed and it’s a self-made world. I knew nothing about it. I just learned as I went along.

Life is so ironic. Olga, are there any social causes, philanthropies or anything in that realm that you would like to see yourself either be more active in or become active in?

Well I have a very soft heart and I’m very sensitive and I respond very emotionally to a lot of things, especially people that are living in poverty.  So last year I teamed up with The Thirst Project, which is a guy that I met at a movie premiere.  He was just, by chance, sitting next to me and we started talking about everything that he’s doing and he travels all over the world, mostly third world countries, building wells for people that don’t even have clean drinking water and it was just so emotional.  His goal is to bring awareness not to just people, but to really young people.  He actually goes to the schools and he gets people educated at a very young age, which is exactly what we do on YouTube.  It was a really good fit.  So this year, we were at one of the biggest YouTube conferences and we were just talking about everything that we’re doing for the organization.


My involvement is very simple as of right now and it’s spreading awareness and talking to my audience about it and telling them where they could donate if they want to or participate because, you know, he talks to students all the time and it’s very difficult.  I was on the stage, we were showcasing the video that we put together explaining what the whole organization is about and I was just crying on the stage.  It’s very difficult for me to participate in things like that because I’m very affected and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I lived so closely to it, even though I don’t think about it every day. It’s still in the back of my mind, that my life was not all that great.  My water was getting turned off.  Actually my water and electricity when I was growing up would be turned off from 5PM to 5AM. That just was my lifestyle.

Did you ever come to a point in your young career that you wanted to quit and give it all up?

Oh, all the time. Actually, right before I became very popular on YouTube, the reason I almost quit was because nobody really understood what I was doing, which means I didn’t have much support, and every time I was doing something, everyone would just question instead of embracing it. It was very difficult for me to move on and grow and I was actually dating a guy at that time who supported me but not really and he would tell me to get a job because he doesn’t understand what I’m doing and he was a hard worker, so he was making the money and I was just kind of helping to make money and, interestingly enough, we broke up and that’s when I became really successful, because nothing was holding me back at that point. Before all that happened, I almost quit because it was just not going anywhere and I was working 12 hours a day with no results and I literally went to a YouTube gathering and I saw all of my friends and I saw how much passion everyone has and I saw, most importantly, my fans who would come up to me.

They knew who I was. They knew my life story. They’d been watching me for years and they were so thankful that I exist, which made me go, “Oh my gosh, I’m being so selfish trying to quit.  People wake up just to see my videos sometimes.  Even if it’s only one person, I affected somebody.”  So I think at that time is when I realized, oh, I just have to push through and see what happens and that happened to me. I mean, now obviously I don’t have the thoughts of quitting, but I have thoughts of maybe I should do something else because now I've just built such a big brand, there’s no quitting here.  But I feel like that at least three times a year and, luckily enough, three times a year at least, I go to YouTube events where I get to relive the purpose of why I’m doing it in the first place and that just kind of brings me back in every time.

So your audience reinvigorates you, re-inspires you?

Yeah, mm-hmm.

That’s great that that happens. Is there a dark side to Olga, like a really dark side we don’t get to see in the videos?

Dark side, I wouldn’t call it a dark side, but I have a very sensitive spot for betrayal. It’s not really dark, but if you betray me, it’s probably not going to be a good time for you.

Loyalty is important?

Yeah, loyalty is very important because I am very loyal and the people that I let into my life, they have the best friendships with me because I just am not selfish. I’m very giving and I would share my wealth and popularity with many people that I let in and I try to help them. It’s always been my thing. If I feel some kind of disloyalty, yeah, that affects me a lot. I become a different person.

That’s a flashpoint for me as well. Let’s just say the internet didn’t exist and it’s not going to exist, okay, what would you do as a profession if no talent was beyond your reach?

Okay, well there’s always the circus. If I didn’t discover all these other ventures, I would probably still be in the circus and circus is a very difficult career and I've done a few years in the circus, but I've got to say YouTube is the hardest and the best job I've ever had. But if I wasn’t doing that, I don’t know, there’s just so many things that are happening now because I’m thinking I could definitely be a blogger.  I wake up every morning and type up all of my videos. I love writing for my website. I love writing it. I go to my analytics to see how many people are reading my articles and it just gets me so excited.  We live in a place where we can actually do that for a living as well. So I would probably do that, but it’s always going to be something creative.  I tried to get real jobs, 9 to 5s, and nobody would give it to me and I’m so glad that nobody gave me those jobs.

Or we would’ve been deprived of your creativity, so I thank them too. What do you see in your future?

I’m going to be the next Oprah of YouTube. [Laugh] I always say that. I have to aim high. I have gigantic goals for my website. I finally feel like I created something that 40 years from now is still going to be a business that is profitable and represents the teenage community of the world, not just the United States. Creating a website obviously is going to be my next big thing because nobody has to see my face [age].  I’m behind a website and I still am relating to the teenagers. Then I want to get more into designing. My knee-high sock line, depending on how it does, and I’m doing everything myself for it, I’m not teaming up with any companies. It’s just my own thing.

Are you producing the socks in the United States or are you having it made elsewhere? How do you go about doing that?

Yeah, so I found somebody here in LA, which is lucky, which I’m also understanding is a little more expensive, but I am a control freak. I need to know,I need to touch my product, I need to make sure it meets my standards and I have to be here. My goal is to release new designs every three months. So that’s like running a business in itself.

Yes and there could be other products as well?

Yeah, eventually.

Any words of wisdom to the members of Reap’s audience who are inspired by all that you’ve done on YouTube?

The main thing I always say is just do it. Don’t worry what people think because if everyone likes you, you’re doing something wrong. So just create something that you love. Make sure it’s not a money-driven venture because, I mean, YouTube, it takes years to prove yourself before you even make money. So as long as it’s passionate and as long as you’re willing to commit 24/7 to your craft, YouTube is for you  I would just say don’t do YouTube because it sounds cool and somebody accomplished a lot of great things on it, because it’s hard work and it’s very tiring physically and mentally and on many accounts.

Great advice. So, no pun intended, but you are juggling so many projects - how do you deal with stress, do you have any secrets or tips for people?

My friends know me well enough to just let me vent when I need to because all I need is just to talk over everything I’m going through when it’s stressful. I used to work through stress and then I would just crash, which made my business suffer, so now I try to put less pressure on myself and realizing that I do everything myself and if something is not ready by a specific deadline, it’s okay.  I can just relax and wake up with a new fresh head and finish it. I started to do that and I actually had a good conversation with Felicia Day, who is someone that I look up to.  She’s somebody who created this gigantic empire and she did a lot of it by herself in the beginning and I asked her the same question, “How do you do it?” And her answer was very similar.  She said, “At one point, I realized that my health is very important to me and I just learned how to delegate.”

That’s another thing. I’m slowly getting interns and people that can help me.  So learning how to delegate some of your work to other people is very helpful. Other than that, I’m only stressed when my content is not performing well enough because the truth is, if it does really well, I don’t care. I’ll stay up for five days if I need to if it does well. The only time I get really stressed out is when it’s not received a certain way, but that also pushes me to do something better next time.  Friends and I go to Shape House, which is this sweat house. You just lay in the bed and watch TV and sweat and you’re so exhausted that you just sleep so well afterwards

Sweat = sleep.  I’ll have to try that.  Olga, thanks for sharing so much time with me. You are a great inspiration to people of all ages!  And I wish you the best of luck with all of your new exciting endeavors!

Thank you, Tina!

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Sacred Space: Venice Arts
Interview With Elysa Voshell

By Mende Smith

A few blocks from the Venice Walk Streets and nearby Abbott Kinney shopping district, Venice Arts is tucked among the refurbished storefronts of Lincoln Boulevard and the façade of the art center building looks much like all the others to non-local visitors. 

VeniceARts.new store

As a part of Venice Arts’ anniversary celebrations, Reap Mediazine honors the steadfast supporters, organizers, founders, and mentors of Venice Arts.  Awe inspired by their story, we caught up with VA’s Associate Director / Gallery & Public Programs Director Elysa Voshell.


Every kid in Venice knows the name Venice Arts (VA); the art school and production gallery facilitates creativity, encourages community, and has served thousands of low-income kids for 21 years. For Voshell, this is not just a job. It is a daily opportunity to celebrate the work she does for the legion of emerging artists of one of L.A’s most famous neighborhoods.

Without the center’s dedicated creative staff, community supporters, and teaching artists, it may as well be just another dollar store; electronics repair shop, or expensive clothier. But this is a sacred space, the school and gallery make artists out of urban street kids, providing the classroom, the gallery, all materials, and modern tools of the trade equal to any privileged education tuition free. At Venice Arts, the only fee for this opportunity is dedication and the willingness to learn and to create assorted media.

Venice Arts Kids At Work

“A lot of the kids that go through our program can go for free, about 95 percent pay nothing at all. Our program is free for low-income families and we serve about 400 students a year—it is really exciting to see the new students trickling in again for our spring classes right now and to see what everyone’s working on.” Voshell says.

It is clear that Voshell loves her job. In the five years since she has been with Venice Arts, she has been at the helm of its gallery to watch the Center grow. Now they have nine fulltime staffers as well as eighteen part-time teaching artists and over thirty volunteer artist mentors, all of whom work together in a sacred space to make this program possible.

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 “We also have a lead filmmaker and a lead photographer, who are both fulltime staff and they oversee the art mentoring program, “Voshell says. “We have a paid lead instructor in every class, they oversee the curriculum—ours is pegged to the state visual and performing arts standards—and they come up with everything from the syllabus to our teaching methodologies.”

Voshell manages Venice Arts' exhibitions—those hosted onsite and at other venues, and touring shows—develops related public programs including film screenings, panel discussions, and even workshops for adults. Prior to joining Venice Arts, she was the Staff Writer at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, the Exhibits & Events Board Chair of the Philadelphia Center for the Book, and an Associate Editor at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. VeniceArts.jpg

She holds an MA in Book Arts from Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London, and an MLA in Visual & Curatorial Studies and a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania. 

“It has a special place for me being here,” Voshell says. “It has been really great for me to witness in the last five years just how vital this program and other programs for kids are. And I grew up New Jersey and I participated in a state-funded photography program, it was a subsidized program where I was able to attend for very low cost and it was a lot like this program where I got my start as an artist. I can also see in myself that after the opportunity I gained the courage and the power to really spark something in young person’s lives and that is the passion I have for our program.“

Voshell went on to college to combine art and photography with writing and book making. She credits the outreach programs like Venice Arts with rising to the task of giving communities the undying support that is vital in urban environments. She has dedicated her career to coordinate for young artists who would be unable to share their work and to develop economically.  Voshell is also teacher, organizer, and mentor—making use of her own creativity with the next generation of Venice Arts’ students ever more as the program grows.


“In terms of community outreach and opportunity, our program really has worked hard to expand to meet community need,” Voshell says,” “We have adult class offerings and we have an advanced studies component to our mentoring program so not only are the students gaining skills in class, many of them move on into internship programs that lead them to college as well as careers.”

One gallery project dear to Voshell’s heart is titled 1993: Venice Arts Is Born. This gallery, which was exhibited on their website, tells the birth story of Venice Arts from ten kids in a donated basement to their current facility serving hundreds of youth each year. Fostering the biggest dream of all: to create a vibrant arts center for low-income youth. 

Twenty-one years later, VA’s award-winning Art Mentoring & Education program, has reached thousands of low-income youth, providing meaningful, media-based programs that encourage creativity, literacy, and provide at-risk youth with trade media, arts and technology knowledge and skills. 

Venice Arts Mentoring Program

“Free media arts workshops for middle and high school-aged students are in short supply in most urban areas,” Voshell adds. “We have been posting a lot of the student’s past and current multimedia projects on our website, some of these are videos or photographs by students, some are videos of students talking about their experience at Venice Arts.”

Projects vary in style and intensity from a popular comic book design workshop to a changing roster of exhibitions that highlight exemplary documentary photography and new media, to youth-produced video chronicles like I'm A Mom Now.

“The talented artists that we have contributing to the program are just amazing. There are many links to youth projects on our website at venicearts.org. People can go there and see how much our program brings to the community of Venice.” Voshell says. “One of our student filmmakers, Jocelyn, made a film about the challenges her autistic brother Jason faces. Her film, Dear Jason was selected for the 2013 Tower of Youth Festival.”

And upcoming Six Shooters: A Photographic Conversation brings together work by the original Six Shooters - Nancy Baron, Noelle Gilbert, Cat Gwynn, Heidi Lender, Aline Smithson and Ashly Stohl and the current Six Shooters - Nancy Baron, Noelle Gilbert, Cat Gwynn, Bootsy Holler, Aline Smithson and Eleonora Ronconi. The collaborative exhibition weaves a visual narrative based on subject, color, light, gesture, or concept between the artists’ works, which are created through a daily practice of response to one another’s images. The Opening Reception for this collaborative exhibition is Saturday, March 1, 5–8pm showing through Saturday, May 3.

Venice Arts always welcomes new volunteers! Professional photographers, filmmakers, and multimedia artists, as well as art students, are the backbone of any sacred space. Art Mentoring is a wonderful way to share your skills, grow as an educator, and connect with a community of artists interested in working with youth.

Voshell says there is always room for more support as the community need grows. Volunteer opportunities also exist in the gallery, office, or with events. If you are interested in volunteering at Venice Arts, download the appropriate Volunteer Application Form here.

Just recently, Venice Arts found out that Angela (shown sorting through their photographs on the image on this page) won the Gold Award from Young Arts (a National Award) which gives her $10,000 toward her college education. Another student won the Silver for $5,000.00. More proof that Venice Arts mentoring program really works! Check out the full story on their website here.

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Life As Improv

By Christine Brondyke

The beauty of improv is that we are  constantly challenged to find a way to say "yes" to whatever is tossed our way. Whether in comedic realms or jamming in a musical session, improv is all about flowing with the moment--receiving what's been offered and then responding.

Such can, and should be, the practice in all of life. When we approach life as an opportunity to play, invent, and to say "Yes!" to what shows up, it becomes Art. Sometimes it's dramatic, sometimes comical, but always fresh and new.

Imagine...you walk in the door after a long day at work and your loved one heaves a big sigh and immediately complains about all the bills that came in the mail today. How do you respond? Could you find a way to say "yes" to this toss from the Universe? Or would you instead choose to avoid a scene and/or reject the offering because it didn't come in the right way? Seeing all of life as an improv allows us to ask how we might respond creatively and begin living life as Art instead of feeling burdened by a life that constantly challenges or victimizes us.

As with any art form, we get better with practice. If you look closely, you might find lots of places in your life where you've said "no" to your life's experiences.

"I don't want to be broke."
"I don't want to be depressed"
"No. I don't care to talk to you right now."
"I don't want to have to try again"

All human suffering comes from rejecting what's happening in the moment. Saying "No" to what is reality. We do it so often we don't even realize that we've become slaves to our experience instead of playful, powerful, improvisers capable of transforming ourselves and our experience through the power of Yes!

We can choose to respond playfully, instead of as a victim--Choose to honor the truth instead of telling myself things should be different--Choose to recommit to the Art of Living well--instead of rejecting, complaining, and avoiding.

Life is giving you all of the material you need to make beautiful art. Will you say "yes!"?

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