By Rich Henrich
Every so often, a piece of creative work grabs your attention and won’t let go. Thus is the case with Orphan is the New Orange, a brilliant homage to “Orange is the New Black,” and “Orphan Black.” If you are a fan of either of these works, you will appreciate an actress that takes on almost every role in this wonderful film playing as part of Geek Fest which is part of the inaugural Comic Con Palm Springs this weekend August 26-28th. I had the pleasure of interviewing the talented Jennifer Sorenson, the actress who dazzles on screen with unparalleled range and director Alethea Root who turned this technical challenge into a modern masterpiece of pop culture cinema. Meredith Riley Stewart and local producer, Kim Waltrip, produced the film.
CV: Why did you want to do this film?
AR: Meredith Riley called and said this project needs a director. I read it and loved it! I love both shows and got the jokes. She wanted to make it for very little and well, we expanded the budget to meet the vision.
JS: I wanted to make this film, because I am a huge fan of both “Orphan Black” and “Orange is the New Black” and I thought it would be fun to recreate something that I admired so much. I also knew it would be a huge challenge and push me in ways I wouldn’t normally get to experience as both an actor and producer. I also felt that this was not a job that someone would hire me for, especially since I am a, relatively, “unknown” actor. So, like many artists I admire, I created my own work so I could show the world (and myself) what I was capable of.
CV: What was most challenging about playing all the roles?
JS: The turn around time between roles was the hardest. I sometimes had minutes to change wardrobe, make up and wigs and then go perform in a different accent, body and intention. At the same time, the time pressure helped me stay out of my head, because I couldn’t think. I had to just “do”. Filming in a live prison has its challenges, too. No daylight, for instance.
AR: With an actress playing nearly all the parts, it was a real technical challenge to figure out how to not only make it engaging but also keep the lines clean (the physical lines) for editing the final cut together. Nothing could touch. Fortunately, we had an awesome editor!
CV: Which of the characters are most like the real you?
JS: Probably Allison, the suburban, psychotic housewife! Which is funny, because I’ve heard Tatiana Maslany say that she is most like Allison, too! And, I never understood that until I played her. But, there is something very honest about her and she is very focused and gets sh** done! She should probably run for president.
CV: How does creating fan films differ from original dramas for you?
JS: With fan films, you are very aware of your audience. You want to do the fans proud. I purposely made sure every single clone (to date) was either talked about or appeared in our film. There are also so many fun opportunities for “Easter Eggs”, which I always love. For instance, our license plate in the first scene is Cosima’s tag number. I feel like, although you’re restricted to another world you didn’t create… There is so much freedom to create within that world.
AR: This really is our “love letter” to Tatiana!
CV: Who are you most excited to see at Comic Con?
AR: Stan Lee! I worked with him once as a Production Designer for an Activision promo. He played the janitor! He was really sweet.
JS: Our friends from the film festival we are in, GeekFest Film Festival. It’s a great group of filmmakers. Meeting Stan Lee would be fun, too!
CV: So, I heard you (Jennifer) almost died in Prison…what happened?
JS: Almost died, is a slight overstatement! Knocked out from being tasered, is more like it. While we were filming, my costumes were the actual prison uniforms they used in the prison we were filming at. I turned the corner walking to set one morning and a police officer jumped back and went for his taser. I yelled, “It’s me! It’s me!” Which seems dumb now, because what the hell did that mean? But, it worked! He relaxed and let me walk by.
AR: We filmed in a “live” prison with real inmates. She could have died.
CV: What do you want people to know about this project?
JS: I want people to know that this project was, truly, a grass roots production. Alethea Root (our director) and I had no idea where the money and people were going to come from to make this film. We were just going to do it. She made me set a filming date. And, we did, at our first meeting. I thought she was crazy. We had no money, no equipment, etc. Two months later we pulled into a live prison and began filming. Everything just showed up (with a lot of hard work)! But, we did it and it’s changed my life.
AR: Keeping the lighting consistent for the length of the scene was tough! We would set the lights in front of real inmates, not actors and then would be ready to shoot 9the scenes) but then would have to reset due to the prisoners lunch break!
CV: I loved this film! Congratulations and continued success. Thank you for your time today.
AR: Ah, thanks!
JS: Thank you!
For more information on all the films screening at GeekFest at Comic Con Palm Springs, please go to: www.comicconpalmsprings.com. Filmmakers panel at 11 am on 8/27 and “O.I.T.N.O.” screening at 10:30 am on 8/28. Panels and screening will be in the Mojave Room inside the Renaissance Hotel Palm Springs.