Marc Halsey/ Playwright/TV Writer/ The mouse in the chicken coop

Marc Halsey/ Playwright/TV Writer/ The mouse in the chicken coop

What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Marc Halsey. I grew up in Burnsville, Minnesota. Now I live in Los Angeles.

What are you working on here at SPACE?
I’m working on a new play about people and resources. My dad is an ecosystem designer. He travels the world helping indigenous communities and Third World countries restore their lands, designing strategies to fundamentally change their ecosystems to support the people there for generations. As a result, he hangs with a crew that is, like many of us, very worried about the direction this planet is going in. And that got me thinking about how much we’re willing to sacrifice today to save ourselves tomorrow. And what a future might look like, not too far off, where we actually fixed everything. At a cost.

What’s next for you and your project?
As for the project, hopefully it’ll continue to evolve and you know, we’ll see what happens. Then I’ll get back to the LA where I’m about to start writing for a new tv show. So that’s kinda my deadline.

Are there any ensembles or groups you tend to work with there?
Before heading West, I kinda worked around. Guthrie Theater, Lookingglass, Chautauqua. In L.A. now I see as much theater as humanly possible. Circle X and Chalk Rep are a couple of my favorites.

Do the theater and television communities there ever cross-pollinate?
Oh for sure. In addition to all the amazing playwrights working in tv, theater people are everywhere. I feel like a lot of us grew up wanting to do the school play or musical and loved it, maybe chose different work paths for work but ended up being an exec or designer or gaffer or accountant on shows. Because we all share that love of telling stories and remember personally how much of an impact a story can have on you, whether it’s an escape or opening your eyes to something.

Where have you been spending most of your time on the farm?
The chicken coop. Newly renovated. Lambs adjacent. Very pleasant. Though some days I’ve just stayed in my room upstairs in Kay Hall where it’s air-conditioned and I can put post-its all over the walls without anyone thinking I’m nuts.

If there’s a question informing your work right now, what is it?
I think it would be, “Why are we all spending our lives like this... and is there a better way?”

If you were reincarnated as a farm animal, what animal would you be and why?
The mouse in the chicken coop. He’s small but he has big dreams. He never stops moving, always running around for his life, adapting to new surroundings. But I think he really just needs to chill. The worst thing that could get into the coop is like a breeze or a bug. No one’s gonna eat him. Everything’s gonna be fine. Well, everything except the planet, I guess. Maybe that’s why he’s so freaked out. He knows something we don’t. Hmm I think I went too deep, didn’t I? Let’s just say we look alike.

Interview by Maggie Gayford

Anu Valia/Filmmaker/a little cow

Anu Valia/Filmmaker/a little cow

What is your name and where are you from?
       My name is Anu Valia, and I’m currently living in Ridgewood and I used to live in Brooklyn. I’ve been in New York for ten or eleven years now. But before that I lived grew up in Indiana.

Oh a Midwestern girl! Me too!
       I know! A lot of people are from the Midwest here (at SPACE) and I can feel that midwestern, kind, open energy. I miss it. People there are so nice, and I forget when I go into the city and people are not like that. It’s just not the same. Being here reminds me of Indiana…well the parts that I like.

What project are you working on here at SPACE this summer?
       At different points of working on a project, sometimes I will focus on one thing, or I will flit around between a couple different things. And when I heard about this residency, I had a few projects that I wanted to work on, that I’d just never had the time away to concentrate on. So I’m in the middle of finishing a lot of things, which is nice. I was writing two short films that needed some tweaking and fleshing out, which was about a day’s worth of work. So I worked on those lightly. Then there’s this TV show that I’ve been putting together, that I just needed to see the world of. Just take time to think about characters and where they were going to go. Less like putting words on the page in a script, and more like thinking about the world of this television show. A world that is actually very similar to a town in Indiana. So it’s been so nice being here, thinking about the world of this small town, while staying in a small town.

And what is this show called?
       The show is called We-Koko. It’s about this small town in Indiana, a fake town called Sloth, Indiana. And this mysterious, weird, huge, movie production comes to this town to film. The tone is like absurd ‘Twin Peaks’ meets the dark comedy of something like Baskets. It is a dark odd show where all the characters are real, they act how people would act but they’re all kind of weirdos. So basically what the show’s first season is about, is how this town is affected by the movie’s production. You don’t actually get to see the movie. That’s not the point of the show. It’s more about how they are affected by this seemingly amazing thing coming to town. It’s kind of like when a Wal-Mart takes over and shuts down local businesses. This movie acts as a metaphor for that. It just grows and grows, becoming this amorphous mass in the town. It’s also about how people are affected by this seemingly exciting boon to their economy but its actually more insidious than that.  And then at the end of the first season, this ‘Apocalypse: Now’ style movie, has started to take over houses and its become a sort of disease. But then the movie is finally released at the end of the season and it’s become this huge hit. The town becomes a tourist town, and it changes their economy. The show itself is actually about how a town changes over the course of forty years. And at the beginning of season two the town has been renamed We-Koko, after the movie itself.

Where have you been spending most of your time while here at SPACE?
         God I love this place. When its nice outside I love going outside, there are some really cool hidden spots. What I love about SPACE is that it feels like this magical land where you can sit in little spots and no one will find you. And you can just go disappear. And it reminds me of being a kid, when you were kind of looking for these hidden doors. I noticed that no one was really sitting in the gazebo, and it was awesome. There’s a little plant there and I thought they probably change this little plant every time and no one’s ever sitting there! I got some good writing done there. I love that there’s a little hammock out back. I loved the fact that I could go out on the lake in the paddle boat, that was really helpful for when I needed to get out and stop working. I think that’s what’s different about this space, is that there are these great walkways and paths, because you can’t just sit in your room all the time. Sometimes you need to go out and go chill with some animals. It really helps to go look at the cows. I mean it really really helps me. I wonder if people subconsciously put things from Ryder Farm in their scripts. I wonder if everyone’s script will have a horse or a cow in it now because of what we are seeing.

       But I have been using Kay Hall a lot. I think because of the weather I haven’t been utilizing the other house as much. But I do think I want to try out one of the weirder rooms. But for the most part I’ll sit in Kay Hall or in the garage. But when it’s nice I try to be outside. Because I could be inside anywhere! But I’m here on this farm and I want to be out there.

What’s coming up next for you and this project? Where do you see it going next?
        As I mentioned before, one short I’m working on we are filming in July, next month. So that short actually needed to get fixed. Because we’re filming in a couple weeks. Oh god. So much has to be done for that. But I had a couple monologues to fix and things like that. That project is a part of this omnibus of shorts, in collaboration with these three production companies who put out a call, looking for six or seven filmmakers to make shorts about Bushwick. And it’s going to be a Bushwick series, or a series about Brooklyn. I submitted a pitch, and we are all making our own shorts, but not in collaboration with the other directors. We are all creating our own little things. Then this other short is totally a departure from what I normally write, it was an exercise of a bunch of scenes I wanted to write.  So that’s a surreal absurdist short that I’m not sure will ever get made. And then this TV show, I am just starting to work on the pitch document. My goal is to have this document finished by the time I leave here because I would not normally devote time to a pitch document in this way. They’re not my favorite things to write. Maybe some people like writing them but I don’t, it feels like writing a bad essay.

The directing field is overrun by males. As a female director yourself what are some words of advice you would give to young aspiring female directors?
       The truth is, it is a lot harder for women, and it drives you insane. Sometimes because you’re a woman it feels harder and sometimes you think am I crazy? Did that guy not listen to me in that meeting because I am a woman or because it was a bad pitch? I think, unfortunately, whenever you are the minority in a situation you have to work harder. And the only good thing that comes out of that is then your material is better. If you work harder because you’re forced to, your work will be better. That is wonderful. That is a wonderful positive spin on an industry that is very unfair, stacked against people of color and especially women of color. I am a big believer in the idea that you can’t fail if you don’t stop

If you were reincarnated as an animal on this farm who would you be and why?
      Can I tell you something I was thinking about just this morning? I was thinking that being an animal on this farm must be so pleasant. The animals seem so happy and they don’t do anything.I got a look at those cows, and I think I would love to be one of them. They just go wherever they want. I feel like they have a lot of room, and no one bothers them. They look really happy. I would love to be a little cow.