An interview with Michelle Arthur | Fate's Shadow | VMA19 BEST PRODUCER | September Edition
Having memories of past lives is something that many people claim to have experienced. But having feelings of past hard relationships with the same man/woman, and having the strength to manage and overcome them, is something extraordinarily uncommon, as well as the fascinating story behind Fate’s Shadow, a short film by Michelle Arthur.
Inspired by true events, this film - winner of three awards at the Vegas Movie Awards, and starring Golden Globes actresses - takes us into a psychological world made of hallucinations, painful memories, search for inner strength, with a powerful final message.
We got the chance to talk with Michelle Arthur who has written, directed, acted, and taken care of every step in the making of this really challenging film. Here is the story of this incredibly talented filmmaker.
• Hello Michelle, it’s a pleasure to meet you for this interview. You won two Awards of Excellence as Best Producer and Best Original Score, and an Honorable Mention as Best Actress at the September edition of the Vegas Movie Awards. Being Fate’s Shadow is your very first film, How do you feel about these remarkable achievements?
Although I have a producing title on 3 other projects (LOVE AND OTHER LIES, DETECTIVE STORIES, SCORPION GIRL), those are other filmmakers' shows or films. I was simply investing and/or offering general support. So in a limited consulting capacity, those were different experiences altogether. It is true that FATE'S SHADOW is my own first endeavor.
Our short film has far exceeded my expectations. I knew it had strong potential because of the unique story idea. Nothing else on the market is quite like it. But I also realize some festivals receive thousands of submissions. It is a very competitive race, especially when most filmmakers have been in the biz all of their lives.
I was ecstatic to know we won the VMA awards!!
• Have you ever thought of having this success in the entertainment industry while studying journalism at the Indiana University School?
When I was about 6 years old, I pinned a blanket on a clothesline at my parents' house and made that the backdrop to a make-believe stage. I pulled up some chairs from the garage then ran to the neighbors asking them to attend my play. I put our Pomeranian Tina and my little sister Kim in it. No script, no costumes, just us pretending to act out some made up story.
That's when I had an inkling that I wanted to create films. But when you're living in Indiana as a kid, so far away from that Hollywood sign, it just did not seem like a real possibility.
Although I had a cousin on my dad's side, Todd Miller, who was a tap dancer and he ended up in some Doris Day movies, like THE WEST POINT STORY, my family certainly did not encourage me to go into show biz. So I opted to follow in my uncle's footsteps at IU's School of Journalism. Researching a topic then finding the words to present a story to the world...THAT really appealed to me. Since my uncle was a Reporter then Columnist, he somewhat paved the way for me. As a girlie teenager though, I was wrapped up in fashion magazines, so that is the publishing division I pursued and worked for many years.
When you are a first-time filmmaker, everything is so new. I've been on almost a 100 other films and TV shows, either as a Speaking Actress or Background Artist. But until you are in the driver's seat as the Producer, you just don't realize how every little decision can have major consequences.
• What was the turning point to come back to filmmaking after another extensive career in editorial, advertising, and modeling?
It was the year 2000 and I was on a magazine advertising sales appointment in LA when I had to walk through a commercial set in order to get to my meeting. A Background Artist spotted me and started chatting. He was booked on a TV show the next day, FAMILY LAW, and suggested I go too. I wasn't on their call sheet, of course, but called in sick at the magazine and showed up on set for that show. They put me in costume and in a scene, and I loved it!
So I got my feet wet with Hollywood between 2000 - 2002. But I listened to naysayers, became more immersed in my media career, and eventually moved back to NYC, the magazine capital.
In 2014 I had just broken off an engagement with a mentally abusive man, and felt I could no longer deny my deep-rooted desire to be a filmmaker. It was a real push/pull time in my life that catapulted me back into LA's limelight. As soon as I returned, I enrolled in acting & filmmaking school and threw myself into both careers until the Hollywood work won out. • Let's talk about the making of Fate’s Shadow. What was the most challenging aspect of making your film?
When you are a first-time filmmaker, everything is so new. I've been on almost a 100 other films and TV shows at this point, either as a Speaking Actress or Background Artist. I would absorb everything I could to try to learn as much as possible, sometimes from the most award-winning talents of our time. But until you are in the driver's seat as the Producer, you just don't realize how every little decision can have major consequences -- the ripple effect. So I was very cognizant of that thinking about all ramifications before making decisions.
The challenge was definitely being new. It was my first time to fill out SAG paperwork, for example, for my cast. It was the first time to book a historical landmark for a location. It was my first time to watch timecodes with headphones while listening for every itty-bitty sound.
• At what point in the producing of your film did you know you had accomplished your goal?
We just wrapped on the shoot for the last scenes of the short and our Story Editor Stacy Newton ran over to me with tears in her eyes. She said, "Oh my God, Michelle, you've done it. That was amazing!". I was really taken back because I had just been totally focused on what we had to do -- you know, the lines, the who goes where, what footage we had to get in the hopper. Nothing else mattered that day. I hadn't realized the effect of our work. Being able to tune out everything else when I'm on set is a gift, I believe. So I thank the Higher Power for the invisible helping hand on that.
• The subject behind Fate’s Shadow is quite complex, and very intriguing. The film raises awareness about multiple past life possibilities with the same person, showing how those scenarios can overlap into present day to give clues about their past. How and when did you come up with such an original story? Where did your inspiration come from?
FS, as we call it, is based on a true story involving a man I dated on and off from 1994 - 2004. Synchronicities kept occurring. At the very least these coincidences were baffling. I felt a deep connection to him, yet he wasn't committing, which made me question what was happening. A psychic was in town, and I'd never been to one, so I tried it. He said I had a past life with that man, that is why I had certain feelings, and that is why we were seeing an overlap in this life. Well, I had that validated by about 10 other psychics. They were all saying the same thing, although they added to our "story" with other past lives. People shy away from psychics, so I changed the wording to "hypnotherapist" in the movie.
When we broke up I wrote an anthology about the relationship and gave it to him. I was going to write a book about it, but decided to go Hollywood due to my interests in film.
• In the cast of Fate’s Shadow we can see Kat Kramer, former Miss Golden Globe, and Karen Sharpe, Golden Globe winner, respectively daughter and widow of the legendary Producer/Director Stanley Kramer. How did you manage to get celebrities of such caliber on board?
I learned of Kat for the first time on the red carpet at the Golden Globes as I was there representing ANGELENO magazine. She was there with Karen. Then I bumped into Kat again at the LA Art Show on that red carpet, again at a screening for Sangita Iyer's film GODS IN SHACKLES, and then again on the night of a shoot for James Franco's award-winning film THE DISASTER ARTIST.
I believe it is no accident that I bumped into Kat so many times so quickly. She and Karen were perfectly cast for the short film version of FS, and we'll be using unseen footage of them for the feature.
All along I have felt divinely guided to tell my story to help lift the veil on spiritual matters and empower other women or men to leave unhealthy relationships. Perhaps He knew that having Kat and Karen on board would help me do that, so He put them on my path. Once again, I give a nod to those above.
All along I have felt divinely guided to tell my story to help lift the veil on spiritual matters and empower other women or men to leave unhealthy relationships.
• The global issue described in your film is specifically aimed at women, and at their constant battle against abusive relationships. Fate’s Shadow, however, wants to deliver a great positive message. What’s the most important lesson you are hoping to convey to all the women in the same situation as your character Eva?
If you feel there is a strong bond between you and a man, there probably is for a reason -- multiple past lives, 4 children destined to be, future business partner that will make a big impact on the planet...whatever the case may be. If in this lifetime, or at any given time, he is not treating you right or with respect, change the situation best you can or simply leave. As much as someone has a hold on our past or present, it does not mean that he can control our future. For all you know, there could be an even brighter future for you. You won't know until you make the jump.
• Which other projects you did hold the most significance for you and why?
I'm so passionate about this field that all the projects I've worked mean a great deal to me. A couple of them really stand out though.
One is the feature film PATH TO WAR. Donald Sutherland won a Golden Globe while Michael Gambon, who played President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Alec Baldwin were nominated.
It was with my first round in the biz and I had a flu bug day of the shoot. I didn't want to miss this opportunity though, so I went. First I played a Congressman's Wife then a Journalist who rushed to a podium. They had put my hair in a 60s updo and being so sick, I put my head down for a few minutes to rest. It wrecked the updo and we were on limited time. Thanks to those HMUAs who can work magic with hairspray and a little lipstick!
Alec Baldwin was on set and we locked eyes for a minute between takes. That was interesting, I thought, since he was a Star and I was an Extra as we were called then. We didn't speak that day, but years later we were on the same flight from NY to LA, and I recognized him in first class. I wrote him a note and gave it to a Flight Attendant to hand deliver. Hours later, he walked back to my economy class seat to say hello. So there was my opportunity to talk. I froze though, not knowing what to say, and we simply locked eyes again with him saying a few polite things.
To play a Journalist gave me the chance to portray my first career while being in my second. The subject matter of the film about Vietnam is important too. I enjoyed being in an HBO production of such significance.
Lastly, when I was a baby, President Johnson spoke in Downtown Indianapolis and my mother took me with her to hear him on the steps of Monument Circle. After his speech, he reached out to shake hands with the audience. When he reached us, he bent down and kissed me on the forehead.
• Looking back, is there anything in your career that you would do differently?
My graduation gift from high school was a trip to Los Angeles to visit my uncle who was working at the LA TIMES. Instead of flying back to Indiana to go to college there, I would have stayed in LA and pursued acting. My entire life would have been different if I'd started fresh out of high school instead of over these last few years.
• Would you like to share a bit about the other films you are creating right now outside of Fate’s Shadow? Where people can follow your forthcoming work?
Another story idea came to me while I've been doing behind the scenes work on FS. It empowers women too. I'm just as excited about that as I am FS so that will someday make the screen, we hope! It's entitled RINGS OF THE UNPROMISED.
I'm listed on IMDb with my own page as well as pages for all 3 films, including the short and feature for FS. Also, I have Facebook fan pages for both productions.
• Michelle, thank you so much for this interview, and for being a part of the Vegas Movie Awards. Is there anyone you wish to thank?
I would love to take this opportunity to thank God for giving me the good health necessary to do this kind of work. I would also like to thank James Franco who founded my acting & filmmaking school, Studio 4. It was through that school that I developed as an Actress with my teachers the late Carmen Argenziano, Michael Bradley, Sean Barnes, and Anthony Montes. It is with David Garrett's screenwriting class that I started the FS scripts. It is Ryan Moody's producing class that enlightened me to the challenges of being a Producer. Special thanks to the amazing FS cast & crew who enabled us to bring home the VMA awards, especially our Composer R. Kim Shultz, my acting partner Kathleen Randazzo (a former Studio 4 instructor), and the producing team of Jeff Vernon, Natalie Rodriguez, and Surinder Bamrah.
Lastly, a big thanks to the VMA Staff.
You've been a pure joy!
WATCH THE TRAILER:
IMDb (Michelle): http://www.imdb.me/michellerarthur
IMDb (Fate's Shadow): https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5358164
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/Fates-Shadow-1740569536240364