Living a life of nerd-dom & geek-ness in NorCal
Our Jonathan Thompson has been diving into the world of geek-centred independent films. The central channel for many such projects is GeekFest Film Festival; a travelling film festival which established an annual presence at Comic-Cons in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Recently, Jonathan was fortunate enough to sit down with the lead actress in of our more recently reviewed films – Virtual Hitman.
Along with being able to watch and review the amazing film Virtual Hitman, I was able to correspond with the cast and crew to see what went into making the short film.
Amanda Joy plays Lily, the main character of the film. She also plays Selene Hart in an awesome web series about actually being in a role playing game (RPG) called Trapped in Terra.
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Amanda is a very busy woman, being a contributing writer on shows for Nick Jr., Teletoon, and Disney Channel, on top of working on a film called Magpie Bridge through KEME Productions.
In her real life, Amanda is a fan of RPG type games and third-person games that make you think. Along with an impressive list of the games she plays, which included SimCity, Pokemon, and Assassin’s Creed among others. She sent a picture of a bag of games that made this writer envious.
Lily and Amanda are both competitive women, though Amanda is more competitive with herself and wanting to be better while Lily likes to humiliate other people in games. One reason Lily is so good at video games is, as Amanda states, “She comes alive when she competes.” My favourite line in the entire film is when Lily yells about putting her “balls” in someone’s face. When she channeled Lily on set, director Phil Borg let her improvise her own lines and they got to be crude until they reached things had to be calmed down.
When asked why she wanted to play Lily, Amanda said she understood Lily from the beginning. With her Dad, Lily doesn’t know how to be herself and is unsure of how to interact with people no matter how much she wants to. Behind the screen of a computer or with her best friend, Terri, she is the exact opposite. Like many of us, it’s easy for Lily to be gregarious and bold in certain situations but, most of the time, she feels as though she is watching a dance she doesn’t know the steps to. The outgoing, bold, and respected version of Lily comes out when she’s gaming and that’s the version she likes and wants to be all of the time. But she can’t game her entire life and if her father doesn’t understand her and the achievements she earns, then they feel empty. “I think it’s a feeling we can all relate to,” Amanda said. “Whether it’s our parents, friends, or significant other, all of us have someone we yearn to bridge understanding with.” Amanda also pointed out that whether it’s conscious or not, our personal lives play into the pride of our professional lives.
Another aspect of Lily that Amanda liked was how she embodied the separation between “old world” femininity with “new world” femininity. With her father, she is a docile and determined student while she swears like a sailor and doesn’t take $#!% from anyone when she’s online.
With the story being about communication, I wondered if Amanda had experiences like what Lily went through. She said that Joy Regullano, the writer of Virtual Hitman, wrote the story from not only the father and son in China but from her own experience about telling her parents that she wanted to be a screenwriter. It made sense when she added that a lot of people that want to go into the arts have lived through this type of situation. Parents want what’s best for their kids and taking a career path that can be so unpredictable is scary for a parent. Amanda did point out that most every other industry is unstable so there is greater risk now with every career path someone takes.
Her choices of which projects to take on have gone from not being picky to the realization that she is contributing to a larger cultural narrative. Is the character reinforcing stereotypes or is the character challenging them? “As basic as it sounds, I love three-dimensional characters; as a woman of color you rarely get to play them.” Weirdly enough, though, is one of her favorite characters is a one-dimensional girl that parodies Japanese stereotypes and shows the audience how absurd their perception is by blowing the stereotype way out of proportion.
If given the choice between doing big budget blockbusters or independent films, Amanda would choose to do independent films if both were equal in viewership. Unfortunately, there is a stigma around independent films that they are pretentious or inaccessible. Yes, some of them are but a lot of them aren’t. “I strongly believe the formula we see a lot in mainstream American cinema is not the only formula for clear narrative.”
There is also a closeness when making an indie film because the writer, director, and producer are often together from the get-go and stay together through the entire process. The teams are small and decisions are made in the interest of the project rather than what would be best for pure profit and demographic appeal. There is more freedom with the stories, as well. They can be more subversive, more experimental, and just more challenging in general. There is a spirit and flexibility with indie films that are sort of lost in big studio films.
Amanda also adds that sometimes, due to the prices of permits, shoots can happen in unusual places that makes it feel like your camping “with all of your grumpy friends that need sleep and burritos. It’s a really good time. A really good… cold… time.”
Being American, I wasn’t familiar with her work. She suggested a horror film called Devil’s Mile, which had a select release in the U.S. but it available on demand and DVD through Amazon. It garnered high-praise in Europe and Canada so if you enjoy horror, this one may interest you.
If you prefer satirical web-shows, she is Logo Cola in Anxietyville, which is available for on-demand download through Vimeo. If you don’t recognize her, don’t feel bad. Apparently her father didn’t recognize her under the wig.
Finally, since I am writing for ComiConverse, I asked her if she read comics. Amanda pointed out something that plaques some people that want to get into a comic book: there are so many universes and so many reboots that you’re unsure where to start. She does love graphic novels, though.
If you get a chance to see any of her work, I suggest you take it. This is a funny actress and great writer. The reason the interview was done through email was that there can be a stark contrast between physical, human communication and the written word. As Amanda so perfectly states, “In one medium I’m a competent human being, while in the other I sound like I switched bodies with a turtle and now the turtle is trying to make real words happen.”
An unfair self-criticism. Amanda Joy is a compelling writer and actress and we thank her for taking the time to ComiConverse with us.
Jonathan Thompson is a Contributor to ComiConverse: Follow him on Twitter: @Jon_Toast