Getting to Know Angel Katherine Taormina Actress, Filmmaker, Author, and all-around Go-Getter

(this is the full interview, compiled from various Q and A's from February and March of 2020, as found in the book "The Saints of the Rue Scribe- The Complete Film Companion")

Let’s start with this because it’s funny. Height?

5’2

Weight?

Whatever you need it to be.

Hair?

Whatever you need it to be.

Okay. Do you drive?

Not yet. The New York mentality still hasn’t fully gone away, I guess. I do plan to get my license, though, eventually. I know how to drive, so I might as well- eventually. I like Jeeps. Perfect for the beach.

Favorite kinds of music?

Is it weird that I’m a BeeGees fanatic? Queen. Elton John. Charles Gounod. Frank Sinatra. The Four Seasons. Bon Jovi. I’m all over the place. I’m loving Alma Deutscher right now. And I’m glad that Beyoncé, Backstreet Boys, and Justin Timberlake are still making hits after all these years and proving their longevity.

How did you get the idea for “Saints”?

It’s a true story. I’ve known their story my whole life because what they did in their lifetime is so closely linked to what came about in my lifetime. I knew I had to share their incredible story in any way I could. Usually, an idea forms inside of me and I run with it from there. But here, it was already right in front of me, already running, and begging for me to catch it. And so I did, and here it is.

Who do you thank, or who were your biggest influences during the process?

I thank my mom and dad for letting me follow my heart, never trying to suppress me, and always supporting, loving, and being there for me. We make a great team. My mom is a retired teacher and her expertise was literature- so she reviews anything I write. My dad studied film in college, always loved it, is a retired psychologist, and is my producing partner. My biggest influence during the film was the story itself. I immersed myself. I lived in the world they lived in. In a sense, I let 1881 Paris and Sweden influence me- so much so that, when we were finally wrapped, it took me a while to realize I could wear modern clothes again. Then I ran to Anthropologie and went binge-shopping.

When did you start doing what you do? And where have you been all these years?

Does “the moment of conception” count? Seriously, as long as I can remember, I knew it was my passion in life, and so I did it. I’ve been working. Getting my head on straight and working. And then I look up and its 2020 and I find myself asking my friends questions like “what’d I miss?” and “so, what are the trends for this year?” I love my life. I love my work. It’s the perfect combination of solitude and collaboration- which is perfect because I love my alone time but I absolutely love being with people and creating beautiful things.

Why choose now to publicize yourself and your work?

I’ve been doing what I do for 23, going on 24, years now. I had a choice- publicize myself immediately, or do what I do and get it all done so that I would have my body of work established and would have something tangible, stable, and something I was proud of, to publicize. Basically, it came down to “talk about doing it, or do it.” There was no time for both. So I did it. And now I’m very happy with what I have done and the foundation that I have built, and now I am ready to share it all with the world. There is a right time for

everything. This is my right time to publicize.

What kept you going through the process?

Iced lavender lattes. Whole milk. No whip. Just kidding. Actually, it was trust. Total trust. I’m making this film. I’m on this journey. It’s taking on a life of it’s own, I’m along for the ride, and I’m excited to see where it brings me. And I am very HAPPY with the result.

What is your favorite part of doing what you do?

Creating reality. For as long as I can remember, I have always had these richly visual ideas and when I see a film come together and other people start seeing in reality what I’ve been seeing in my mind, it’s my favorite part. And, I always say, my fantasy is my reality. So that fits right in with my style. I never fantasize about doing something unless I am going to do it. Thank God for letting me see how that was possible, or else I’d have all this stuff in my head and heart without knowing what to do with it.

Can you describe your directing style? Or your style for this film?

I put the actor first. Because I know that, at the end of the day, the actor is who the audience is seeing, and you have to trust that they are in character, being the character, and making choices in the character, and that this will shine through in ways you might not have anticipated, but it will be right for the scene. So rehearse, keep everyone fully informed, set it up, and release it to the film. I let what I do as writer be taken over by what I do as director for that same reason. Even though all three are me, they are still three separate times, separate mindsets, and separate tasks. The “Saints” cast calls me an “actor’s director” because I give everyone all the written and spoken information they need, discuss the scenes, work out the scenes, answer any questions, but then step back and let it be. If even I feel strongest when I’m free to fly, how much more my colleagues. So I give that freedom to them. Freedom to the characters to be who they are and live- and then it’s better for the film because the moment is truth.

As far as the stylization of the film, picture the concept that any event in time could occur at any time within time. We are not bound by time because we never think about time. Picture all time occurring all at once. And where are you? You’re here. But you don’t define yourself by time. You don’t wake up and say “I’m in the year 2020, so I’m going to do and say this”. No. you just live. Whatever it is. And that’s your truth. It’s the same with “Saints”. They are living their lives and it is as though a documentarian took a camera to 1881 and filmed in their present moment- but with 2020 technology, and no one minded- various vignettes of a part of their life where they happened to display heroic virtue and courage- and kindness, and love, and strength, and aiding of others, etcetera. The past is not past. It is present. It is happening. It is here. We can see it. That is the gift of film- that people can see things as such. And, here, with “Saints”, they can. Here’s their movie. Here’s their story. Here’s their reality. Ta-da! I shoot a reality so audiences can enjoy a reality. Now. Right now. Always present. Always true. Always now.

When did you shoot the prologue, “Courage Over Fear”?

Still during the filming window of “Saints”. It was November 2019. I remember going crazy afterwards looking for an everyday sweater to replace my winter shawl, which I had ended up using in the film and which had thereby become a costume piece that I could not wear in public. Also, if you notice, in the Prologue, the poster for the “Showbooks” series is actually a modified version of the cover of my “Stagebooks”.

There are always differences between a novel and its film adaptation. Not to give anything away but, there is one particular difference at the climax of the film. What made you decide to go for it?

The answer is actually in the question. It IS the climax. I saw that we had this insane window of opportunity of doing something I never even imagined and I went for it. I re-wrote the scene the night before we shot the sequence. It felt right. It felt like the perfect way to define the victory of each character based upon the visual journeys the audience has gone with them on. It solidifies your identification with the characters and your love-or hate- for the characters. It is definitive as to who you’ve seen them become, and it highlights and satisfies the completion of their character arcs in ways that can only be SEEN on film. They are simultaneously at their most surreal and their most human- and their most triumphant.

What advice do you have for people who want to make films?

Make films. Do it. Do it because you can’t NOT do it. And just keep doing it because you love it. Be creative and, odds are, at some point, something will resonate with the heart of the public- and then take that resonation, share that creativity, and keep going. Keep growing yourself like a stunning rose. Always be true.

Who are your favorite actors- living or dead?

Kate Winslet. Meryl Streep. Viggo Mortensen. Robert Downey Jr. Charlie Chaplin. Fred Astaire. Judy Garland- oh my God, please tell me this isn’t supposed to be in order- it’s not. Um, Frank Sinatra in “The Man With the Golden Arm”- just wow- and in “From Here to Eternity”, come to think of it. Al Pacino, Robert De Niro- living legends and still doing their best work.

I love everyone. There is not an actor out there now who hasn’t done something that just makes me sit back and go “whoa, this industry will have no problem reaching its fullest potential in its current generation”. It is a VERY good time to be in film. Idris Elba can do anything and it works beautifully. Henry Golding- I’m starting to love him. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt- is there anything he HASN’T done.

And Chris Evans- Grayson, my co-star in “Saints”, inspired me to take a closer look at him, and now I absolutely love his work. People often miss the fact that he can convincingly play any kind of character you give him. Okay- I really liked “Before We Go”. Please tell me that doesn’t make me sappy. But then again, sap is good. But, then again- again- he went from everyone’s favorite hero to everyone’s favorite villain in the same year. And, yes, I am going to watch “Defending Jacob”. I would love to see him pushed to the extreme in a no-holds-barred kind of role and see what he does. He seems to me to be a real “director’s delight”.

Okay, one more thing. Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in “Bowfinger”- when you’re first starting out and you’re a super indie filmmaker, you have those days that just feel crazy, and that movie makes everything you do feel more normal. Hysterical.

What are your plans for your next project? (this question was asked prior to Angel's making and release of the short film "Everything")

I would definitely like to do something with “The Window”- a drama about suicidal thoughts, and “The Complex”- a romp of a comedy. And I am definitely planning a full Cinétage Stagebooks Homage to Joseph and Marie Charpentier. But, as far as my next feature film, I have my eye set on doing “The Anniversary” as a film. When I wrote the novel- (I formulated the idea in 2018, wrote the novel in 2019, and did a soft-release {pre-release} of it in September of 2019 but didn’t do a full release of it until February 14th 2020 because A: Saint Valentine’s Day for Valentina and B: I wanted the full release to come after I finalized the finished screenplay, which was officially January 31st 2020)- the 20th anniversary was a thing of the future- something I got to be creative with in one way. And now, we’re actually approaching the real anniversary in 2021. So, as a film, we will get to work with the creativity in contexts of past, present, and future dynamics. It will make for wild creativity- more than I, or my team, could have ever anticipated when I first wrote it. I feel that all of this contributes to making the timing being just right.

Without giving anything away for people who haven’t read the novel, the novel- and thus the film will be- is about healing- these two characters finding what they really need. And that is something that is as “now” and as relevant as ever- the theme of “it’s time to heal”, and going out and finding that healing- no matter how mad, dark, trying, scary, cathartic, and crazy-wonderful that journey may be. Jace and Valentina are just trying to deal with their own problems and keep each other alive and yet, in what they do there is a universal truth about every person’s right to seek out sanity and peace. They find themselves at the center of something so much bigger than themselves and have the chance to use the opportunity given to them for the aid of others as well as their own and- It’s good. But I’ve said too much. Enjoy the book. The film is coming soon. I get passionate.

What are your favorite movies?

Different movies for different reasons. Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” and “The Gold Rush.” And the Robert Downey Jr. “Chaplin” movie. The Marx Bros.’ “A Night at the Opera”- hilarious! Almost anything with Fred Astaire- just to watch those perfect dance scenes over and over and see how his movements rewrote the rules of how a camera could follow an actor- okay, “Top Hat”. I grew up on Scorsese and Tarantino- two totally different styles but both absolute geniuses. “Citizen Kane” gives me nightmares in the best way. “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” inspired me that ANYTHING was possible in film. Here’s where I get geeky- “Days of Wine and Roses”. The greenhouse scene. Jack Lemmon. Is there anything better. AND perfectly photographed. I love it when film and stage marry well- the “cine” and the “étage”.

Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk”- okay, I was born and raised in New York (even though I am a Florida girl now) and I am part French, so I may be a bit partial- best usage of visual effects I could ever think of! I am inspired every time I watch it, even though I still do cry every time I watch it. I love it. Definitely a favorite. And I love all the Rocky movies- and now the Creed movies, too- yes, they are inspiring, but they also bring back memories of me as a little kid watching the Rocky VHS tapes with my dad and him teaching me all about “movie magic.” And “The Artist”. I love that film. And I love the “Before” Trilogy. I love a good dialogue, and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are effortless.

I’m that girl at the movie theatre you never want to sit next to because, if I’m enjoying myself, I’m constantly commenting on the film, praising it, pointing out things no one else notices or cares about, and saying things like, “Well played. I’d love to work with- insert name here- one day.” So many great films! I love it.

What movie or TV show are you currently watching or streaming?

“Knives Out”. For about the 20th time. As a writer and director, I love watching a movie and seeing it go exactly the way I’d want it to go. A “perfect” film is so satisfying to me. Rian Johnson hit it out of the park. It is everything I could have wanted it to be and more. I derive so much pleasure from seeing everything go right and good people getting the good they deserve. As for TV, I’ve always been a big “Law and Order” fan. And, as far as streaming, the last thing I binged- and thoroughly enjoyed- was “Truth Be Told”. Incredible performances.

Any other Fun Facts about yourself?

I really enjoyed being able to swim and horseback ride in the film because I used to do it when I was a kid. In fact, we all did our own stunts in the film. Okay, fun fact- my favorite color is cerulean blue- not just blue- it has to be cerulean blue. I made this important decision after studying an entire crayon box as a toddler. I picked up cerulean blue, and I haven’t looked back since. Cerulean blue is also the color that the Atlantic Ocean was on the day we filmed after the sun rose. Also, another thing. I am not allergic to lavender. On the contrary, it is my favorite flower and I use it for everything. I bake. You should try my lavender brownies. They’re good. I also make Godiva/Ghirardelli cookies. Secret recipe. And I love roses, too.

What was your favorite scene in “Saints”?

My favorite scene to direct was the scene where Cyrus confronts Joseph at the ladder. To work it out with everyone and then be able

to stand back and see it all come to life was surreal.

What are your favorite stories from the set?

The “hero” story has to be my favorite. Grayson was late to the set. It was the second day of filming and he calls me and tells me he’s late because there was a car accident. I asked if HE was alright. He gets to the set and tells us that the accident was IN FRONT of him and that he had to stop to pull the two victims out of their car and stabilize them until the ambulance arrived. He was pumping with adrenaline. He’s a certified EMT. We all had profound respect for his work after that day. That was the day we shot some of the really heightened emotional and physical scenes and it was very easy because, on a scale from one to ten, everyone started out that day at about a twenty.

And the story of the party. After we finished filming the part where Marie performs for the guests- I just started crying. I looked over at the cast and crew and smiled and said “It feels so good to finally tell the truth.” Being Marie in that scene in particular helped me to overcome a lot of past issues and to be grateful for them and more loving of myself.

And then, also, the beach story. After we shot the end scene of the film, my crew and I went for breakfast on the boardwalk and then drove over to Zeno’s for ice cream in Daytona Beach. I LOVE THEIR ICE CREAM. Keep in mind, we’d all been up since 3am because we had to get the shot right at the apex of the sunrise- which we did. So we are OUT OF OUR MINDS with elation and exhaustion. Chevy is driving down the highway and I’m hanging out the window, shoveling Zeno’s ice cream down my throat after a week of “Marie starvation” and practically screaming Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” along with the radio in total abandon and delirium. We were going totally “Wayne’s World”. It is one of my favorite memories from the film.

Just for reference about “Marie starvation”- that corset I’m cinched into in the film is 18in and closed all the way at the cinch-point. I LOVED doing that! But, yes, I made sure I did everything healthily and was never in any danger.

What was that magic moment for you in the film- the one where everything fell into place?

There were a few. Without giving anything away- the bird scene, the scene with the lightning strike, the confrontation in Sweden, and the entire climactic sequence- oh, that amazing sky! Oh, that amazing light! Love it! Love it! Love it! And there’s this moment where Marie reaches up and- actually, nope. Not gonna spoil it for you.

Speaking of movie magic- would you like to address what ISN’T magic? Your performance scenes are all real.

Yes. I figured out that it doesn’t distort when you use the camera’s microphone rather than an external when you’re filming. The camera’s mic just picks it up the same way it picks up dialogue. It hears it, captures it, and doesn’t distort it, and you just film it like any other scene and, like any other scene, what is going on in real time is what is captured in real time- voices and images. Letting cinema be cinema.

How did it feel to go back to the house where you shot so much of the film and do this photo shoot? (this question was asked after the photo shoot for the "The Saints of the Rue Scribe- The Complete Film Companion" book)

Triumphant. We will never underestimate what a gift- a treasure- this journey has been.

What did you do afterwards?

Food! We went over to Pizzeria Valdiano and Marble Slab Creamery- my local FAVORITES and my favorite celebratory foods. And boy did we celebrate!

Any final thoughts on what people can expect from “Saints”?

A ride. A journey. Love. Welcome to my world. Enjoy!

Will you leave us with your “Filmmaker’s Creed”?

Absolutely.

“My Filmmaker’s Creed:

When I’m creating something, the writer begins, then the director takes over, then the acting commences. When it gets to that point, I always remember that the writer gives way to the director who gives way to the actor. At the point of filming, everything must be geared to serve the needs- mental, physical, and emotional- of the actor and of the actor in their character so that a world can be created wherein they can safely give their best performance and just “be”, and not be judged, and be sincere without being stopped or “pulled out” from the moment- it’s a world of mutual trust, a world unique to the creation and creativity of the artist, which must flow forth and be respected at all times- and be able to exist in the moment without rush or worry, do what they do in its purest form without any distractions from themselves or from without- the only voice is the voice of their character and their character/s is/are the only one/s who exists. And then they are given space to be and do and experience as the character, but are also given the space to, when they finish, come safely back out into their own selves and mindsets and feelings and emotions, etc.

It is primarily important to help the character live every moment of their journey truly while also helping the actor to remain a whole person without feeling like they are getting stuck or hurt or losing themselves. Kindness is key. And mental, physical, and emotional health. These are human beings with a treasure of a gift. It is to be treasured and not toyed with. It is to be handled with love and care so that, in the end, the film is the best it can be, everyone on the project can be happy, and each individual person is the best and healthiest they can be. “Productivity” is a byproduct of love and care for oneself. Nurture people in an environment of love and care for themselves and for one another so that they can be happy and be their best selves. And then, out from that, comes everyone’s

collective best giving of their treasure- out of love- because it is their gift that naturally flows forth from their well-being. Nurture what is truth. Nurture what is there. And truly love your fellow human beings. Joy begetting joy. And love cannot help but bear the fruit of more love. As a filmmaker, my creed is to listen- to listen to the truth.

Everyone has something they do best. It’s my job to bring out the best in everyone I work with. Find that perfection of the moment. When I cast, I don’t care what they’ve done or haven’t done, or how they are perceived by the public. I just want to know if they are the character. Are they the “whoever”? And then go from there. The idea is to bring out the best of that actor in that character and to let them shine. Push them to their best. Push them in a good and helpful and positive way. There are no limits. Help them fly. Fling them out of the nest and then jump right beside them and then fly to the truth of the character and be and do something beyond your wildest dreams and better than you ever knew could be. Help them to be fearless, safe, and free. Let them shine.

The idea is to protect and help each part. The writer protects the director by giving a solidly foundationed story for to be directed. The actor, whose job and natural inclination it is to do whatever needs to be done, is protected by the director who will never exploit the actor or the arc of the character or twist things wrongfully and harmfully or leave the actor lost and on their own or ask something of them that is hurtful and harmful and non-beneficial to them and thus hurtful and harmful and non-beneficial to the project as well. The primary aim is for the good of the human being. The writer makes the director feel secure. The director makes the actor feel secure. And the actor makes it all come together at the moment of truth- the project’s “point of vision”. But only when all parts are sincerely helping each other. It must truly be a “safe space” in which to create and explore. That’s why I never ask my actors to do something I wouldn’t do, or haven’t already done in the process of the project. You don’t take advantage of a treasure. You respect it and take care of it and make it be the best it can be. You let it be. You let it shine. It is invaluable. There needs to be total trust in a collaboration in order for it to be of any value to anyone.

The most important thing I want to hear from an actor is “I have an idea”. I love collaboration. I desire it. I prefer it. Come to me with your ideas about the character- tell me what you see. If you see the character, it means you care about the character, which leads to an even better realization of their truth, which leads to a better film. So, talk to me. I’m listening. Let’s collaborate. Let’s do this together and make something truly great. Be excited- I’m excited, too. Excitement is a good thing. Never tire of your passion. It is who you are. Explore it, grow with it, and find some amazing new aspect of it everyday that makes you just go “wow” and makes you remember and be thankful for what you love and what you do in this beautiful Art.

I love people. Maybe to a fault. Maybe not. But I love people. And I want to see everyone be their very best selves. It brings me joy to see them brought joy. It’s a beautiful world when everyone is happy. And that is the truth that Art reflects. Thus let us always be our best.”

A Timeline of Angel Katherine Taormina

1989- Born in NYC, NY
 

1993- Wrote, directed, and acted in a play for the local children

 

1996- Performed “The Star Spangled Banner” as opening act for a Janet Paschal concert

1998- Was an extra in the Denzel Washington thriller “The Siege”

 

2001- Was runway girl for an *NSYNC concert at Nassau Coliseum and first conceived the idea for what would become “The Rose Princess”

 

2003- Moved to Central Florida and wrote, directed, and acted in an educational children’s video as a secret princess who teaches children how to love their lives, began writing “The Rose Princess”, and began historical explorations for what would later become “Cinétage”

2004- Began writing “The Porcelain Doll” and “Oriana, or The Secrets of the Rain” and was an extra in the blockbuster “Spider-Man 2”

 

2008- Was nominated in the San Francisco Short Film Festival for “Guilt” as writer, director, and actress

 

2009- Began writing “Carving A Life” and made and released the feature documentary “The Grand Era” as writer and director

2009-2017- Made and released ten more short films and documentaries as writer, director, and actress

 

2010- Began writing “On the Eve of Maye”

 

2012- Wrote and released “The Saints of the Rue Scribe” and wrote “Laurina, The Maiden of Myrdine Manor”

 

2013- Wrote the screenplay adaptation of “The Saints of the Rue Scribe” and wrote “Evelyn’s Orchard”

 

2014- Released all novels written to date, that had not yet been released, and adapted all novels written to date, that had not yet been adapted, into screenplays

 

2015- Filmed footage of red-winged blackbirds that would eventually end up in “The Saints of the Rue Scribe”

 

2016- Finalized “Cinétage” and wrote and released the “Stagebooks” for the “Cinétage” “Stagebooks” series, wrote and released “Love Me Forever- The Journey of Erika Bayliss” and adapted it into a screenplay, founded Rose Room Productions, and started pre- production for “The Saints of the Rue Scribe”

 

2016-2017- Wrote and released the new “Cinétage” “Stagebook” for “Golden”

 

2016-2018- Wrote and released “Clementine and Olivien” and adapted it into a screenplay, and released several photobooks and photographs

 

2018- Cast “The Saints of the Rue Scribe,” and added new scenes into the screenplay for the newly cast, insanely talented, lead actors

 

2018-2020- Made “Courage Over Fear” and “The Saints of the Rue Scribe”

2019-2020- Wrote and released “The Anniversary” and adapted it into a screenplay, wrote and did a reading of “The Window”, and wrote and did a reading of “The Complex”

2020- Wrote, directed, edited, and released the short film "Everything", in which she played the role of Maggie

2020-2021- The journey continues.

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