In our continuing tradition of interviewing performers, writers, and artists from different genre, Tahyna Tozzi-MacManus tells us about her new film project – Oren (“From The Mud Grows the Lotus”), the inspiration behind it, and how it is all finally coming together.
First of all, tell us about Oren itself – the basic plot idea, the characters, the size of the production, etc.
Oren follows the story of protagonist Emile and a special encounter she has with a homeless man named “Oren.” Emile is in the deepest darkest place of the human condition, and the story follows how her life is forever changed through these encounters. This film has grown
beyond my original expectations already. On a production level, it will be smaller than most big blockbuster films of Hollywood but my team around me - including my incredible executive producer Kai Lillie, my cinematographer Larkin Donley, my editor Nicholas Monsour, and my
amazing lead actress Tabrett Bethell - will no doubt bring full creative force to the final film. This is still considered a “short” film but with full narrative to hopefully draw, hold, and inspire our audience.
We would love to hear about the creative process behind the film. In other words, where (or when) did you get the inspiration for it, and how long did it take for the vision to transform into a screenplay and then into a viable film project?
I perhaps wasn’t in the best state of mind when I originally came up with this idea. I had this inner monologue on repeat in my head, and for some unknown reason it was actually something my husband said to me that inspired me to write down those dark thoughts. It was kind of terrifying and liberating all at once.
I wrote through this character Emile and every thought she was feeling. I gave her routine. I really wasn’t sure where I was going as it was coming out of me, and then I remembered something profound that had happened to me in the past and hence Oren was born. From that moment it didn’t take me long at all. I let a few trusted friends read my first draft and everything kind of snowballed from there. As far as the actual film process, I really had no legs to stand on at all. I knew I wanted to make this film and tell Emile’s story but lucky for me my now producer Kai read the first draft and gave me the confidence and belief in myself that I could do this. I also annoyed anyone and everyone I ever met in the film biz and picked their brain apart.
Writers, as artists, create in different ways. What about you? How do you create your art? Are you one of those who write/create when the inspiration hits you or do you set a schedule for yourself that you strictly adhere to?
Um - I don’t know. I am very much a time management person and like to think I can plan out my day creatively but that’s a lie. I seem to write and get inspired at the most odd times. Usually when I see something tragic or something dark happens - isn’t that awful? But it’s the truth….. On the flip side, the more I immerse myself in other people’s work - whether that be music, dance, film or written - the more I am inspired in my own.
Do you have other projects in the works – either in the preliminary planning stages or perhaps just requiring some finishing touches?
I have two feature film scripts that I would like to get off the ground this year - one’s a comedy. Believe it or not I do have a sense of humor. The other is years in the making with another friend who is an actress and looking to branch out as well. It’s still a very female driven plot. I think that’s my theme - haha. I am also working on another feature concept with another Irish writer, Karl Harpur; Tristan has been throwing in a few ideas too. Constantly working on different things!! We have a super group of creative friends around us - another is Marc Cleary who Tristan has been working with a lot. We have been discussing several ideas to put into motion.
Finally, tell us about the Kickstarter campaign and how supporters of the arts can go about helping with this project.
Kickstarter is an amazing platform for artists to have their work seen and supported. It’s a big wide world out there and often in filmmaking or the world of entertainment decisions are made by head honchos, and art that was once yours is no longer. I guess Kickstarter and other such platforms are a rebel’s way of creating. Any support is appreciated as it just brings us that little bit closer in the belief of our own voice and work.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Oren Team
Writer and Director: Tahyna Tozzi-MacManus
Starring: Tabrett Bethell
Producer: Kai Lillie
Cinematographer: Larkin Donley
Editor: Nicholas Monsour
Production Designer: Govind Rae
Art Director: Dustin Wright
For more information on Oren – “From The Mud Grows the Lotus”
Kickstarter Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2036175796/oren?ref=email
In six seasons of Dancing With the Stars (one with the troupe, five with a celebrity partner), pro Tristan MacManus has worked his way into our hearts. He took on Season 12 with his positive attitude and fun approach and was such a standout that we didn’t doubt for a minute that he would be a Season 13 pro. In those weeks with Nancy Grace, we saw him become a star in his own right. He was a teacher, nurturer, choreographer, artist, and most importantly, a friend. We became part of MacGrace, and we fell a little bit in love with our now favorite pro.
As Season 13 began to wind down, this website was already in the works. When Season 13 ended, MacManiacs.org was born and things started to happen. We spent the off-season getting things going and getting things right, and Tristan was the first to cheer us on and offer his congratulations. We were delighted to hear that Tristan would be back for Season 14 and we loved his relationship with the beautiful Gladys Knight. They were funny, entertaining, and adorable, and Tristan’s respect for Gladys endeared him to us even more. The season ended way too quickly for our liking but we were delighted that he performed many more times during the season in dances that included the Trio Cha Cha with Mark and Katherine and Design A Dance, the special performance which he and Chelsie Hightower won through fan votes. When he announced that he would be performing in Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas, many of the MacManiacs flew or drove there to see him perform, and it was pure magic. His knee injury put a stop to that run but he was back in fine form for Season 15. It was also in the summer of 2012 that Tristan did his first major interview with MacManiacs.org – the first of many.
We looked forward to the fall season with great anticipation, and yes, we were disappointed that he and Pamela faced an early exit but we had wonderful pro dances to enjoy, and if you listened to Tristan talk about it, you would think it was the best season yet because with him it is always about the positive and never about the negative. During the break between Seasons 15 and 16, Tristan taught, appeared in Ballroom With A Twist and traveled to Princeton for his DublinDown330 fundraiser for Grassroot Soccer where he entertained us with his wit, humility and knowledge of his craft. It was fascinating to watch this man teach two complete dance novices to do a respectable Cha Cha in less than 30 minutes. Now THAT’s a pro, but even more, it was amazing to see him interact with his supporters and each of us became his friend for that evening. More on that later.
The partnership with Dorothy Hamill was a dream come true and even in Week 1’s contemporary dance, we saw the potential there for greatness. Sadly, the following week they had to withdraw due to injury, but Tristan’s positive attitude never wavered, and his fan support just kept increasing. The love and affection continued to pour in for Tristan and this website is your proof. The site views added up at an astonishing rate, and it was the norm rather than the exception to see hundreds and hundreds of site views – even on the slowest of days for any other website. It didn’t matter what day of the week or what holiday it was. Tristan’s fans stopped by to read, comment, or discuss ways to support Tristan as they interacted with new friends who had one thing in common – Tristan.
In the summer of 2013, Tristan participated not only in two of Holland America’s Dancing With the Stars: At Sea cruises but he met fans at other performances that included Life’s A Dance in Pensacola and Ballroom with A Twist in many locations all over the country. A quick note to him was all it took to get his agreement to do photos for this website at the Patchogue performance in Long Island. He took the time to talk to each of us personally, and he was the first pro to welcome the visitors to the Meet and Greet. He took care of some special requests that we communicated to him, and he remembered those of us he had met previously and greeted us all by name. Now THAT’s impressive. we don’t think that he ever forgets a face because we have heard this story over and over: "I met Tristan at a Meet and Greet last year and he remembered me when he saw me again on the cruise” or “I met Tristan at an earlier BWAT show and he recognized me immediately months later at another show.” Those are just a few of the stories. Is there any reason his fans support him so strongly? We have heard the same from the fans of other pros who have met Tristan. He was always a gentleman, he was always gracious, and he treated each person he met like he had known them for his entire life.
Then there were Valerie and Tristan. We had hoped for a young ringer for Season 17 but we couldn’t have been happier with Valerie. She is a legend. She is a star in the true sense of the word and Tristan was her staunchest defender when an Irish Central editorial dared to suggest that Valerie shouldn’t have done the show and that Tristan should have refused to dance with her. Nobody could have been more eloquent in his defense of her, and his words still echo on this website. We will never, ever forget that. Tristan probably wouldn’t like the attention we’re giving him right now because he’s never in it for attention or accolades; he’s in it because he’s a good guy and he loves to teach, dance, and entertain, an the journey is always about his partner and never about himself. But like it or not, Tristan, you earned superhero status for your willingness to step up and take a stand.
We looked forward to Season 18 not just because of DWTS but because it was the opportunity to see this amazing man perform again on a regular basis. He had a busy off-season that would force most of us into retirement. He prepared for his wedding, he taught in Hawaii, he did two DWTS: At Sea cruises with Holland America (and gained hundreds of new fans there), he married the beautiful Tahyna Tozzi in Australia and then came back to LA briefly before heading off again to Ballroom With a Twist. We began the waiting game for Season 18, and the rumors started to fly and lately the rumors have gone down an unusual path.
Whatever the reasons behind any DWTS decision, it’s not our business and we probably wouldn't agree with them anyway, but it won’t matter because his supporters are the best there are and support him unfailingly no matter whether it’s DWTS or something else. Tristan’s fans are supporters of Tristan more than they are of DWTS. In a recent interview, he described the MacManiacs as “Loyal, O-mazing, Vocal, Epic, and Devoted.” You do the math; that came from Tristan. So if he’s on Season 18 for no episodes or for 10, it will be just fine because his fans are the best there are – and it isn’t because he’s a handsome devil with a sexy accent. It’s because, as one MacManiac said just yesterday on our forum, “Tristan is a good soul.”
He is one of those rare pros who is extraordinarily fan friendly. We heard stories from Life’s A Dance where fans stood in long lines but he made and kept eye contact with each one, making sure that each person who wanted to meet him had his full attention for as long as it took. He spoke with each person waiting and he graciously took pictures, but he also made them laugh. As one supporter said yesterday, “You’re two folks standing there talking, kind of like friends do…that's part of why people support Tristan so ardently, because in a way it's like a little family we've got going here."
He answered questions we sent him for the DublinDown330 series of videos that promoted the fundraiser and he graciously thanked the MacManiacs publicly several times. In an interview with Stuart Brazell a couple of years ago, he once again expressed appreciation to the MacManiacs and mentioned and how much this site had done for him. Heck, we haven’t done anything. He’s the one doing the giving.
Let’s talk about the interviews. Since July 2012, Tristan has done more than 20 extensive interviews with this website. He answers all the questions, no matter how difficult or silly. By the way, the silly questions were his idea, so we keep sending them and he keeps answering each one, whether silly or serious, with careful thought and his own unique perspective. And then there is the sense of humor that keeps us smiling all the time. But there's more. He thanks us when we reach milestones and when there are special requests sent here or to the Facebook fan page, he does his best to accommodate all that he can, and considering his schedule, that is amazing in and of itself.
The bottom line is that this is a bit of a public statement, an editorial if you will, but it’s also a love letter to Tristan from the fans that have inspired us to write this through their stories. He’s the reason his supporters devote huge number of hours to maintain this site, the Fan Twitters, Fan Pinterest, Instagram, and the Facebook Fan Page. He’s the reason that our forum - MacManiaLand - has more than 416,000 views and our other site pages have many times more than that. He's also there are more than 100 blog posts on this site alone on various Tristan-related topics, So whether Tristan dances in Season 18, 19, or 35 or whether he faces a career as a dancer, teacher, choreographer, artist, actor, or comedian, it will be just fine because he will still be himself and nobody else.
Rumors are rumors and as Tristan often says, “It is what it is.” Here’s hoping that we all get to see the MacManus Magic back on the dance floor in Season 18, in Ballroom With A Twist, on Dancing With the Stars: At Sea, in more music videos, and in films, television, and on the beaches of Tahiti, if that’s what he wants. He’s the pro’s pro and as his good friend Sasha Farber once said in a 2011 interview, “He’s just such a nice guy. I don’t think there’s anyone out there in the world who doesn’t like Tristan.” And as posted on Twitter just today, “He’s a huge draw, a top talent, with heart…he deserves high praise as a top dancer and sweet human being.” Amen.