by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
Even some women may not know as much as Allison Volk about how to handle this Pandemic and pandemonium we are living through, especially in the Age of Social Media. C’mon, have you ever checked your ex’s Facebook page? Perhaps thumbed through their Instagram, or hit them up anonymously on Snapchat? Of course not, who would do that? Volk, who is known for her films and working with City Shakespeare Company in Santa Monica, wrote and stars in DEANY BEAN IS DEAD, which you will have a chance to watch for free after this interview.
But for now, this Pandemic pro has a few tips for surviving the void, the avoid, and the inevitable collision in the digital space with fellow internauts. Yes, there is no such word, but there should be, as we are all scattered into digital encounters during the lockdown, including scrolling through the interwebs as avatars looking for a connection, context, and some contextualization of this strange time between us all, mostly in relation to each other, but also in search of our higher selves, or the opposite.
Hit delete on that next outburst email, text, or post, and absorb this…
Do you think more women are stalking their ex’s because of lockdown and the Pandemic?
ALLISON VOLK: Oh this question made me laugh! Well, I can imagine that loneliness and boredom are running at an all-time high right now, and it would make sense to me that people are wondering what their exes are up to. So, yes, you’re probably right! The only thing is that obsessing over someone’s “highlight reel,” aka, the images and videos they choose to post on social media, is mostly a recipe for more misery. We all make ourselves look so much happier and more interesting over social media. Don’t be fooled! Everyone has their ups and downs, no exceptions.
Was this film drawn from personal experience – yours or somebody else’s?
ALLISON VOLK: I’m happy to say that the specifics of Deany’s murderous behavior in Deany Bean is Dead are NOT drawn from personal experience! But as to the emotions Deany experiences — rejection, loneliness, sadness — I can certainly say I’ve experienced those to the extreme. And I have definitely felt very deeply the pain of losing someone that I love. Most of us have at some point in our lives.
Why do you think people stalk their ex’s in general, and is Facebook the main lurk-spot?
ALLISON VOLK: Oh, I think “stalking” might be a harsh word for looking someone up on social media. To me, if you put information about yourself out into the public view, it’s not necessarily stalking for someone else to, erm, do a little “research.” However, driving to their house in the middle of the night and staking it out with a pair of binoculars — now that is some bonafide stalker activity!
I think it’s really normal for people to be curious about an ex after the relationship ends, especially if it ended in a way that didn’t allow them to feel closure. I can relate to that; I had a boyfriend once end the relationship without ever telling me why. Trying to figure out what happened can dominate your thoughts, that’s for sure!
Has Social Media made lurking and stalking more fun?
ALLISON VOLK: It’s certainly made it easier. It’s amazing to me how much information people willingly share about themselves on social media. I see it even more so with younger people, and I think it’s becoming the “new normal” to share just about everything that’s happening in your life online.
When should someone call the cops, lolz, as soon as any actual planning is detected by a friend?
ALLISON VOLK: Oh my! Well, I think if someone suspects they are being stalked, they should inform authorities right away. We’re sort of laughing about stalking in this interview because the movie pokes fun at a woman who keeps close tabs on her ex-boyfriend, but if someone ever feels that they are in danger due to a stalking situation, tell the authorities right away and take it seriously. And I definitely do not recommend posting private or sensitive information about yourself on social media.
Women as murderers are usually portrayed as poisoners, hey, it’s a stereotype; did this influence your dramatic choices as a writer?
ALLISON VOLK: It probably did; it’s funny, that stereotype is pretty deeply ingrained in the Western psyche, so I’m not even sure if that registered as I was working on the script. However, I will say that Deany makes several attempts at foul play, and she employs varying tactics, including some that don’t include poison. She’s a modern woman, breaking the mold!
If you’re known for Disney or “family” projects, can you take a stab at Suits (executives) or is that a career-killer?
ALLISON VOLK: I honestly have no idea, though I would hope that our depiction of a corporate boss (Maxine, played by Wendy Wilkins) is not a career killer for anyone and is received with the light-hearted spirit in which it was written. But the truth is, if you’re overly cruel to any group of people you will see consequences, that’s for certain!
What made you decide on this storyline, and casting (in other words: did you audition others for lead)?
ALLISON VOLK: Thestoryline came together really naturally, and was the product of several things: a limit on the locations where we could shoot, actors I had in mind specifically that I wanted to work with, and an idea for the lead character, Deany, who would stop at nothing to get her way. Mikael Kreuzriegler, the director, and I agreed that we wanted to make a feature film that would shoot at locations we already had available to us, which included a house that had a backyard. I thought to myself, “what is the most interesting thing that could happen in a house and in the backyard?” Over the course of several months I developed the story with input and feedback from my trusted colleagues, and soon Deany was even kookier than I had initially anticipated.
Like I mentioned, some of the roles were written with specific actors in mind (that’s one benefit of being friends with a screenwriter!). Others submitted audition tapes. I always knew I was going to play Deany, there was no question about that, and I’m very glad I did. It was a total blast.
Any boyfriends past or present who might have to worry about getting engaged?
ALLISON VOLK: Ha! No, you’re off the hook, fellas, I’m happily married now, and don’t give a hoot who you become engaged to! 🙂
Why do people always identify women with our writing, even though men seem to often get a pass on this question? 😉
ALLISON VOLK: Hmm interesting thought. I can tell you that after many a festival screening, people have joked to me that I must have killer tendencies, or that I must be a stalker, or “does your husband worry about making you mad?”
To be completely honest, I think that anytime we write, we’re expressing something within us that hopefully others will relate to.
So, on some level, they’re right to crack those jokes and identify me with my writing!
Not that I’d ever go so far as to hurt someone intentionally, but I am human, after all, and I have felt strong anger and the desire for revenge. I have also felt deep love, appreciation and generosity, and a wide spectrum of other emotions.
The script for Deany Bean is Dead comes from having experienced those feelings and wanting to poke fun at them.
And I agree that generally, women experience more criticism and are given less authority than men (especially in this industry). I think people feel more leeway to comment on a woman’s character than they do a man’s, for exactly that reason. It’s definitely something many of us are working against, as we strive to make space for women to hold more leadership roles — in all industries.
Meet Allison Up Close
Allison Volk is a writer/actress/director based in Southern California. A prolific and enthusiastic playwright and screenwriter, her feature film script DEANY BEAN IS DEAD (comedy) premiered in Hollywood, CA at the Dances with Films Festival, directed by Austrian filmmaker Mikael Kreuzriegler.
Though many of her short films and plays have been produced in New York and Los Angeles, Ms. Volk finally made her directing debut with the short fantasy/drama WHAT KATY DID in 2018 and is eager to direct her first feature film.
Her dark action comedy feature script TIGER WOMAN won Best Screenplay at the Utah Film Awards 2018 and was recently adapted into a comic book published by Clover Press in 2020.
Ms. Volk also co-founded The City Shakespeare Company in Santa Monica where she served as co-artistic director for three years.
Now go see DEANY BEAN IS DEAD, on VOD, and feel much better… Enjoy.
And don’t complain about the ads on this link, ps, this is a FREE screening!
TY Allison 🙂
# # #