As the winner of Summer Movie Bingo 2013, Melanie Killingsworth, blogger of Mehls Bells, is not only a fabulous lady, the winner of a $15 gift card to Amazon.com, but also receives a glamorous, celebrity style interview via the Internet.
Melanie Killingsworth enters The Roman Candle Pizzeria, wearing jeans and a literary tshirt and a blazer and boots. And a scarf, because it’s getting cold out. This is pretty much the same thing she wore when a starving artist, only now the jeans are tailored to her short stubby legs and the scarf doesn’t have stains from where she dunked it in her coffee last month.
She sweeps into the booth and orders the pestoral pizza. Her bodyguards are at the door, warding off the hordes of fans drawn to her luminescent presence, and we begin the interview.
L.Palmer: Tell us about yourself.
MK: I work in TV and film. I will take any amount of money given me, including zero, and make it a movie. The more money, the prettier the picture, the better the crew will be fed, and the less likely I’ll be busking on a street corner for gear rental.
L. Palmer: Why did you begin your blog, Mehls Bells, and why do you continue blogging?
MK: I began mehlsbells after my old blog, may she rest in peace, was torn asunder by too many interests. I wanted to focus on TV and film, as opposed to TV and film and politics and how I fixed this old bike and why vodka makes the best pie crust and the awful customer service the phone company gave me. You see why that wasn’t particularly interesting or helpful.
I continue blogging because it’s fun, because people tell me they enjoy it (bless their hearts), and because readers leave great comments and interesting conversation. Most importantly for me as a writer, the blog forces me to critically break down TV shows and films, dissecting how and when they work and why. The blog has been invaluable as I work on scripts and future projects.
L. Palmer: I was looking at your about page, and was impressed with the work you have done. How did you get into your field?
MK: My goal in high school was to go into journalism, but a series of quick disillusionments changed my ideas. In the meantime, I was working for a communications office which offered me an open-ended slot to do any creative work I wanted. The first time I stepped behind a camera and then into the editing bay for a narrative piece, I was completely hooked.
L. Palmer: How did you become a tandem-bicycle riding stunt person?
MK: This is the result of having a teensy budget and big dreams.
We were a three-person crew shooting a low-budget documentary about homeless people in Madison, WI (www.streetpulsedoc.com). The director wanted to follow a couple home on their bikes. I am a fairly avid biker, and the shooter [Randy] never says no to anything which risks life or limb, preferably both. We called a bike rental place and asked if they would comp us a bike in return for film credits. Not only is asking for comps a common practice for grassroots filmmakers, it ensured we did not get their top-of-the-line tandem model.
Neither I nor Randy had ever ridden tandem, so we took it out for a spin the night before on a calm, flat street with minimal traffic. Piece of cake. The next day, Randy and I picked the bike up and rode it almost entirely uphill to where our subjects were finishing work and getting ready to bike home. I put on the backpack carrying the audio gear (lavalier microphone receivers, field mixer, etc), and we set off.
It was now rush hour on a Friday in Wisconsin’s capitol city. Randy isn’t so much biking as wriggling around while operating the camera. Oh yes, and a quarter mile in, our subjects reveal they don’t obey traffic laws. My job isn’t to stop at red lights. My job is to keep up with the subjects and keep the ride smooth for the camera. Not dying is optional.
Here’s a pro-tip: don’t ride a tandem bike with anyone you want to be in any sort of continuing relationship with. It’s a small miracle Randy and I are both alive, and still friends. Never again!
I mean, unless there’s a really great story . . .
L. Palmer: If you don’t mind sharing, why did you move from Madison, WI to Portland, OR?
MK: The complicated answer involves Wisconsin ending all its film tax credits, and there being more reality and doc work than narrative work going on in the state, and my having grown up on the West coast, and the public transportation system, and Wisconsin winters. The simple answer: Portland’s unofficial tagline is Books, Bikes, and Beer.
L. Palmer: In the course of completing Summer Movie Bingo, what were your top and bottom movies and why?
MK: My top would be Much Ado About Nothing. It’s not as necessary to see it on a big screen as something like The Great Gatsby, but it was really gorgeous and surprised even me (lover of all things black-and-white, anachronistic Shakespeare, and Whedon) with how great it was. Seeing it in an old cinema really brought a special feeling to the screening.
Bottom is a tie. Pacific Rim was a perfectly fine movie but probably the least important of things I saw. Upstream Color was beautifully shot, but the theater was actually more of a distraction than anything. Both should have been much tighter in the edit, and that’s what brings them to the bottom of the list.
L. Palmer: Since you are a filmmaker and writer yourself, what types of stories are you most drawn to?
MK: I’m drawn to stories which dabble in moral ambiguity, preferably which subvert norms and play with tropes. I’m drawn to stories which have sharp, rapid-fire dialogue, from to His Girl Friday to Gilmore Girls to In The Loop. I like modern films which borrow from classic and foreign cinema – both stylistically and plot-wise – which is why I’m such a fan of Rian Johnson. I love stories with complex women characters I can relate to, and I’m drawn to noir, and anything that conflates the two – Veronica Mars for example – is going to be my catnip.
L. Palmer: Is there any project you would like to shamelessly plug?
MK: The apple of my eye is my film The Lilith Necklace. It’s still submitting to festivals, so unfortunately there’s nowhere you can see it yet, but you can check out trailers and more at www.thelilithnecklace.com, and hopefully see it soon.
Since you can’t enjoy that in its full splendor just yet, I’m going to cheat and pimp another thing: check ou twww.tvquila.com. TVquila is a project one of my best friends and I started, and somehow talked really awesome people into joining. We review TV shows and episodes, and the site also has several topical essays upcoming, from nature v nurture and mythology in Orphan Black, to how Sherlock changes and remains true to its source stories, to people with disabilities getting more prevalent roles in TV.
L. Palmer: Why are these projects the most amazing projects in the universe?
MK: The Lilith Necklace combines noir and women and mystery and snarky comments and anachronism. If you’re not into that, there’s some murder, too. And, as my DP and cinematographer are ridiculously talented, it’s very very pretty to look at.
TVquila has (so far) nine uber-talented, geeky writers who cover TV shows from Masters of Sex to Sean Saves the World to Hannibal. No judging, lots of drinking and television, what could be better?
L. Palmer: If the biography of your life was being made into a superhero movie, who would play you, what would your super powers be, and who would be your trusty sidekick?
MK: Lizzie Caplan would play me, because she could nail the awkward and also bring across as the snarky, sexy vixen I am in my dreams. My superpower would be doing anything without tripping. Idris Elba would be my trusty sidekick. I don’t care what his powers are, I don’t even care if it’s Idris Elba As Himself.
(Lizzy Caplan, Idris Elba, save the world in an upcoming superhero biopic)
L. Palmer: Anything else you would like to share?
MK: If you need an editor/writer/producer/director/Jill of Many Trades for paid gigs, look me up. I work in Portland or anywhere which includes room and board. Contact information and reel are at www.b-windmedia.com.
Melanie glides from the table, without tripping, and exits the restaurant. She waves to her adoring fans before climbing onto her bicycle, and peddling into the sunset.
Thanks, Melanie for participating in Summer Movie Bingo 2013, and for this interview.