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Skyler Cooper, Director/Writer/Actor: HERO MARS

February 25, 2014
Director Skyler Cooper. Photo by Sidney Erthal.

Director Skyler Cooper. Photo by Sidney Erthal.

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of HERO MARS, from concept to financing.

Hero Mars is inspired by a performance piece that originated from a stream of consciousness writing exercise written almost 14 years ago.  My intentions were to revise it to a 60 minute one person show.  I found someone to direct the stage performance, who also happened to be a screenwriter. We talked about it and began developing the project for the stage again. Then an idea sparked, I thought maybe this can be short film instead.  I contacted the director/screenwriter (now my mentor)  if I could make this performance piece into a screenplay.   She told me I already have the spine of the story, I only needed to develop scenes to go around it.  I began writing the script.

Slowly the story of HERO MARS began to emerge as I explored the themes of this piece and set it to a world. I thought what better world than the world I love and know well…theater! What was once my performance piece became the backbone of the story for HERO MARS. Within 4 months I had my first screenplay!  I wanted to shoot it!! I set out to find my cast and crew including a producer, director and the lead Hero Mars.  I found awesome producers and filmmakers. However finding the lead was super hard and important to the success of the film!!  I couldn’t find the actor in the short amount of time I had set for myself. Reluctant to play Hero Mars as I knew it would certainly indicate this story was very close to home.  I wrote HERO MARS because I believe there are people out there that have struggled and will continue to struggle with their identity in a society that is vastly asleep about gender expression.  It was during the process of producing HERO MARS that I realized I would need to cast myself as the lead.  It made sense because of the physicality of the role.  Not that I couldn’t find an actor to do it. It just would have taken a lot longer.  Now getting closer to crewing the film all I needed was a director.  I approached several awesome directors and just about all of them said first, “Why don’t you direct?” Truth be told I didn’t want to direct for fear that I’d send  a message  I was making  some sort of a self-serving film  or even worse  a film of pity-me.  Which would be wrong for viewers to believe.  To send that message would strip away the validity, honesty and vulnerability of HERO MARS. I didn’t want to risk that by directing.

I began searching for the locations, cast and crew. And I didn’t see this coming… I had just left a location and I could not stop thinking about a scene. The film just started unfolding to me. I was in downtown Oakland when I pulled over and called my mentor. I told her I should direct HERO MARS. She was waiting for me to say that and she said it made sense. The stars began to align and all that was needed for this film I received.

Financing for HERO MARS has come in a numerous ways- donations, contributions, in-kind, and cold hard cash! Financing is still ongoing because festival fees are on going and add up quite fast. A terrific effort went into finding the financing we did get and its shows in the film. That said, I’m ready to deliver to my supporters again and again and again!

2Q: You have several previous actor credits, but this is your first time as filmmaker. We have talked before about how making a film is like giving birth. How do you feel about presenting your “baby” to the world? What do you think the audience reaction will be to HERO MARS?

HERO MARS is my baby, my first kid. I am ready to show it, share it.  I made sure that the story remained pure and honest. HERO MARS is a gift.  A labor of love to express to the world.  The story came together artfully, as if this was meant to be. I know now that things that were meant to be cannot be stopped by positive or negative reactions. It is what it is and if all the things I have paid attention to and heard from so many “walks of life” is true, then I think HERO MARS will resonate. The film touches on common struggles to us all. So I don’t think the audience would feel far from identifying with the story, rather close to it, and some maybe even closer than they thought. I have to say though that the Fusion-OUTFEST programmers ROCK! Thank you!!

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making HERO MARS?

I really enjoyed the process of finding my cast and crew! The relationships you build along the way. The things I learn about myself. There is such a rich connection when artists of different skill sets merge together to create a visual story. I love the connection or at least the process of finding those you want to collaborate with.

The worst experience is losing people and/or losing scenes. Whether it’s having to tell actors that the scene they shot didn’t make it into the film or having to part ways because the production schedule doesn’t fit any longer for my people. I know both can’t be helped it’s just the nature of the business. It still sucks.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

HERO MARS takes you on a journey with an unconventional actor navigating her way through a conventional society steeped in the binary paradigms of gender expression. Down-and-out, Hero must find a way to overcome misconceptions, hostility and ignorance in her quest to gain acceptance to a prestigious theater company.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Best Short Oscar for HERO MARS. Give us your acceptance speech.

Wow…..(takes a deep breath)  Wow!! Thank you. What I’m feeling can’t be put to words….so I’m just going to feel this moment.  Thank you.  I remember hearing a director say once, “there are no failures, you just have not found your audience yet.” I can say with certainty that I finally found my audience and it’s such an honor to meet you. Thank you to my fans, my loving family, friends. I want to thank my mentors, Cinthea Stahl, Veronica Duport, Jörg Fockele. You all are to blame for this! I want to thank the phenomenal cast and crew of HERO MARS you know you ROCK!! Deep appreciation to my donors, thanks for your support. Thank you Dawn, Dorian; Thanks to the Lannings for feeding me after 9pm.   This is so AWESOME!!  Mom, I did it.  I did it!!!  Thank you! Wooooohooo!!

See HERO MARS at Outfest!
Watch the Trailer!
Please help with Donations!
“Like” them on Facebook!
Follow Skyler on Twitter!


From → Interviews

One Comment
  1. David J. Moore permalink

    Skyler’s energies, dedication, and keen understanding of the collaborative model was an inspiration.
    Team Hero was a pleasure to work within.

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