Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ActNow Profiles...


Celia C. Peters is an avant-garde director and award-winning screenwriter creating compelling stories filled with diverse, authentic characters. Peters is a member of New York Women in Film and Television and Women in Production and the Writers Guild of America. Her work has been broadcast nationally and shown in festivals and galleries in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit. Currently, Peters is developing her first feature film, an exploratory sci-fi project entitled Godspeed, as well as writing, directing and producing an illustrated multi-media sci-fi/fantasy Web series called Allevon and writing a live-action science fiction Web series called “Temporal”.

What led you to create "Breakthrough"?

I had a terrifying nightmare that I was riding in a car with my cousin Phyllis (who I get along with great, BTW) and she drove us off a cliff into the ocean. A huge wave rose up and was about to bury the car….everything was so realistic that I was convinced that it was real life. I mean, I consciously thought about it in the dream. As soon as I made peace with the fact that I was about to die, I woke up in my apartment --- but I had no idea where I was for a good 5 seconds.

How was the editing process of "Breakthrough"? Was it difficult to omit certain scenes?

The editing process was tricky because there was a disconnect between the footage and the script --- I realized this in hindsight, of course. The first rough cut of the film was based on the script but then I made adjustments to it (many, many adjustments) to try to get to the experience I wanted to create. Then, about a year or so later, I had a second editor trim the cut and tighten it up. The biggest challenge was realizing what I should have shot after seeing what I had in the can.

What impact do you think this film will have on audiences at the screening?

Overall, I hope the film will take the audience on a little trip out of the box. I am very much a fan of surrealism and “Breakthrough” was an attempt at telling a story in the surrealist tradition. Also, I expect (I hope!) that the interaction of the women --- especially the relationship between Sapphire and her cousin Phillis --- will make people squirm. At the very least, I think that women will recognize the kind of non-physical warfare that we are so ready to get into with each other….and I hope they’ll think about that.

What approach do you take when creating character driven stories?

My approach to creating character-driven stories is really one of exploration. My background is in clinical psychology, so I’m always in my characters’ heads…looking at what motivates them and how they act. I’m fascinated with how complex the human psyche is. I really get into how people feel things and how those feelings drive them…. Especially because it’s so different from one person to the next ---- and it always surprises me how those feelings translate into unexpected and dramatic actions.

What sparks your creativity?

Life sparks my creativity. Or I guess I should say my view of life…and the human existence in particular. Science and spirituality are major, major, major sparks for me.

What keeps your motivated?

The fact that the more I learn, the more I realize there is for me and all the rest of us human beings to discover. That excites me more than anything in the world and it propels me forward.

What can you tell us about your feature film Godspeed?

Godspeed will be my first feature film as a writer/director. It’s an exploratory sci-fi story about a woman who thinks she’s going crazy---but discovers she’s not human. As it turns out, her ‘insanity’ is the key to her redemption. It’s definitely speculative, because I’m looking at a scenario that’s entirely possible.

How would you describe your writing style?

My writing style is inspiration-driven. (Thank God it comes often!) When story ideas or characters come to me, it really is like something is streaming through me and I try my best to get it all out as fast as I can. Then I go back and refine, refine, refine. Aside from that, my writing is psychologically driven; I did graduate work in clinical psychological and almost became a therapist. In terms of technique, I try to read as much about dramatic writing (story, character, etc.) as I can. Reading and enjoying the arts --- watching film, going to theater, going to art galleries, going to see dance and hear music --- all of that is critical to my process. It’s my way of getting the nutrients I need to continue creating.

And what advice can you give to writers struggling to complete a project?

Don’t give up! Getting over the finish line is *so* worth all the pain and angst and struggle, but the only way you accomplish that is to keep on moving. If you stop, you definitely won’t get there. Think of some work of art that inspired you and imagine how different things would be if that artist had given up when they got frustrated….if you’re really an artist, and you’ve been blessed to experience the joy of creating, you owe it to the artists who’ll come after you to share your unique gift. And not for nothing, but in the worst case scenario, even if you end up leaving that particular project in a desk drawer, the act of completion is critical to artistic growth. When you finish something, no matter what else transpires, you’ve accomplished something huge. You’ve created something. Definitely keep your eyes on the prize and never, ever stop going for it, because whatever you truly believe is what will be.

Finally, can you name a film that changed your life?

That’s not fair---I can’t name just one! I watch movies all the time, almost every day….and certain films have changed me a lot at different points in my life. If you asked me this question 5 years ago, my answers would be different than today, and if you ask me 10 years from now, I bet I’ll have different ones. Here’s a dozen or so that will always be up there:

Blade Runner (Dir. Ridley Scott)

THX-1138 (Dir. George Lucas)

Carmen Jones (Dir. Otto Preminger)

Chameleon Street (Dir. Wendell Harris)

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Dir. John Cassavetes)

Eve’s Bayou (Dir. Kasi Lemmons)

The Killer of Sheep (Dir. Charles Burnett)

ChungKing Express (Dir. Wong Kar-Wai)

Portrait of Jason (Dir. Shirley Clarke)

The Godfather (Dir. Martin Scorsese)

Stormy Weather (Dir. Andrew Stone)

Nothing But a Man (Dir. Michael Roemer)

The Night Porter (Dir. Liliana Cavani)

Persona (Dir. Ingmar Bergman)

A Raisin in the Sun (Dir. Daniel Petrie)

2046 (Dir. Wong Kar-Wai)

Check out Celia's "Breakthrough" Wednesday August 11 @ Littlefield. And check out Celia's website: www.artisticfreedomfilmart.com

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